For the past few years, companies have been shifting their rhetoric from what they’re making and selling to what they’re doing to benefit their community and their employees. But, many were just paying lip service to the cause.
Not at Appen. We put our actions where our mouth is, starting with the hiring of Chief People Officer Andrea Clayton in February 2022. We brought Andrea in to focus on the people who work for Appen, with Appen, and are affected by the work that Appen does.
Throughout her life, Andrea has moved around a lot. She was born in Toronto, raised in Ottawa, and finished school in South Texas, receiving a bachelor’s in International Management and an MBA with a specialty in International Affairs from Texas A&M University. After graduation, Andrea lived and worked in 5 different countries, including France, the UK, and Australia.
Now in Austin, Andrea is back to her Texas roots and gets to enjoy the amazing outdoor spaces that Austin has to offer with her husband and two children. Whether it’s participating in a 10k run in Austin or rowing through the middle of Sydney Harbor, Andrea likes to stay active and spend time with her family. Family sing-alongs are a common occurrence at home, especially when accompanied by her daughter’s violin playing.
Putting the People First
From the beginning of her career to today, Andrea has focused on putting people first. Starting at age 10, Andrea began delivering newspapers every day for the Ottawa Citizen, ensuring that the people of Ottawa received the news promptly at dawn and on weekends.
Like many of us, Andrea lists her career path as meaningful wandering, moving from recruiting to telecom to HR. No matter her role or the industry, her focus has always been on taking a job where she can make a meaningful impact on people.
When Appen recruited Andrea, what attracted her to the role was Appen’s focus on removing bias from AI data and the potential part she could play in that mission. What Andrea sees is the long-term and daily impact of AI data.
As AI data is implemented in more and more daily activities, from something as simple as applying for a mortgage, she sees the effect it will have on people. If we’re not careful, our current biases will be baked into AI, and the world will be no better off than it was before. Andrea wants to be a part of the difference, and as Chief People Officer of Appen, she can be at the heart of putting people first.
Let the People Lead
According to Andrea, “My role at Appen exists to listen. To synthesize employee feedback, and to be a catalyst for building a magnetic culture. When employees speak up and share their voice with me, I do a better job.” One of her first initiatives at Appen was an employee feedback survey, which had an 80% participation rate. In response, Andrea says, “I hope everyone will keep sharing their voice so I can help shape all of our employees’ experiences so we can become the destination of choice in our industry.”
Andrea has named her leadership style of following her people as humbition, equal parts humble and ambitious. “I believe the best answers come from teamwork – I am attached to finding the right answers, and that doesn’t have to come from me,” says Andrea.
In a previous role, Andrea started an initiative that she’s incredibly proud of and the basis of which she’ll carry on into her role at Appen. At her previous organization, Andrea was able to implement diversity initiatives that improved inclusion at the company. She was able to improve benefits packages to include paid parental leave for all parents, including those who adopted, fostered, became a surrogate, or lost a pregnancy. She also increased representation within the company by increasing:
- The number of women in vice president roles from 25% to 58%
- From one female executive to three
- How many people of color were vice presidents from zero to 18%
At the end of her term in this role, the company was recognized by InHerSight as the #1 company in the industry for women to work at.
Where the People Will Take Us Next
With Andrea’s focus on people first leadership, she knows that it’s the people who work at the company who will take it to the next level. While the future can sometimes look bleak, she predicts an optimistic future. She says, I see a future where “People will be able to participate more fully, more equally in society, regardless of the community, country, or state that they live in, because AI supports that. And I think Appen is at the epicenter. My prediction is that we’re gonna get there because of the amazing people we have at Appen. I get very excited about this sort of HR side of the house, because I think so many people come to Appen because they care about that aspect of AI and because of the people of diverse backgrounds at Appen.”
While many people would focus on awards and certificates, when asked about her greatest career achievement, Andrea promptly responded, “What really makes me love what I do is when I get to be a part of someone’s story because of the work I’ve done. I remember getting employee feedback that our health benefit for IVF did not cover same-sex couples, so I worked with our health insurance to change that, and a year later, I had that same employee tell me their wife was pregnant via IVF with a baby girl. That employee said to me ‘Thank you for hearing me. For driving change. I am getting a baby girl because of it.’ That was in January 2015 and was the best day of my career.”
We couldn’t be more proud to celebrate our people and our Chief People Officer, Andrea Clayton, who is going to help us take our mission of making AI data better and more diverse to the next level. We’re so glad to have you as part of the team, Andrea.