Q&A With Jessica Popp: Ada's Chief Technology Officer

Imagine a world where you can reach out to the brands you love at any moment, from anywhere, on any channel, and instantly have your questions answered. 

Imagine that, upon your next interaction, that brand knows exactly where you left off and presents you with relevant information, reminders, offers, and solutions that address your individual needs.

Imagine then, regardless of your relationship with this brand, you’re treated like a VIP. 

We’ve all had brand experiences that don’t live up to these expectations. That’s why we’re on a mission to give people what they really want from the brands they love. And our technology leads the charge.

As we continue to usher in a new framework for how brands provide truly VIP experiences using automated brand interactions, we couldn’t think of a better time to introduce the tech visionary behind this approach.

Jessica Popp is a seasoned executive leader with expertise in software development lifecycle, with experience ranging from IT and enterprise solutions up through HPC systems development. As Ada’s CTO, Jessica leads the strategic vision and approach to our product roadmap. 

With 25 years of experience in software solutions and development, large program execution, risk management, operations management, and employee development, she’s a treasure chest of knowledge on how to lead successful tech initiatives. 

We sat down with Jessica to learn more about her journey to Ada and the ingredients that make someone a great leader.

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What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An artist. I took every art class I could get my hands on from the time I was about five until college. 

How did you get your start in tech?

I didn’t get my start in tech until college. I studied fine arts and realized it should probably be changed to a minor — I didn’t want to wait tables for the rest of my life. My love for art exceeds my skill level.

I’ve always enjoyed math and business, so I switched to information systems. The mix of engineering and enabling technology in business was a perfect fit to satisfy my curiosity, which tends to be more broad than deep. 

How have your past professional experiences prepared you for the role of CTO at Ada?

In a nutshell, by having a variety of experiences over a period of over 25 years. I’ve been an engineer, a tester, project manager, led a contact centre, worked on government contracts, and led global teams. And done so in increasingly larger roles over time and across a variety of companies — from seed stage startup to over 100,000 employees. Every day, I pull a bit of experience from something that I have lived previously to inform my decision-making. 

From your experience, entering Ada as a new leader during a period of hyper growth, what advice do you have for technical leaders in similar situations?

Flexibility. Set a strategy and a plan by understanding priorities and how you want to approach  the work, but be comfortable with the fact that things will often change during hyper growth. Focus on where you can stabilize processes or outcomes. Give teams clarity and room to maneuver and make decisions, but be watching for additional change and be able to lead your teams through that change management curve.

What are some qualities that you think makes someone a great leader?

Servant leadership or leading in the service of others, rather than in pursuit of accruing power or taking control. 

Humility allows you to admit mistakes, take ownership, embrace differences, allow ideas to emerge, and have an open mind. The opposite, arrogance, allows you to assume you’re right, close your mind to new ideas and stop learning — which is exactly what your teams will do in response.

A clear vision and operating principles. Setting a vision gives direction for your team. Just as important is clarifying how to successfully operate within the organization to achieve the vision. Confusion in any form decreases effectiveness of teams. 

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Sarah Fox
Sarah Fox

Sarah Fox is a scuba-diving, animal-loving journalist turned content marketer. In her career, she’s covered stories on development, written profiles on notable philanthropists, and interviewed celebrities with a passion for giving back. When she’s not producing content for Ada, Sarah’s likely fawning over her dog somewhere in the woods.

More info about Sarah Fox: LinkedIn

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