Q&A Series – Next Generation Leaders: Jennifer Chen

Q&A Series – Next Generation Leaders: Jennifer Chen

29th April 2024

Over the past few years, the rise in anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, combined with a global pandemic have made normal, everyday life difficult for the AAPI community.  By sharing stories and insights from those in the Chinese American community, Committee of 100 hopes to shed more light on the issue and help celebrate the amazing accomplishments from within the Chinese American and AAPI community to the world at large. 

The staff of Committee of 100 sat down with one of our Next Generation Leaders and asked them about their careers, what the past few years has been like and their hopes for the future. Committee of 100’s Next Generation Leaders program focuses on young leaders who are passionate about the organization’s mission to promote the full inclusion of Chinese Americans across society and advance the betterment of U.S.-China relations. The program was first established in 2017. 

This month, we spoke with Jennifer Chen Hong, President and Chief Revenue Officer. She currently runs a $100M+ global video and advertising technology business called Connatix, headquartered in NYC. Connatix’s mission is to help publishers grow by delivering successful video experiences through technology, monetization, and content. She holds general management responsibilities in sales, marketing, global expansion and business and corporate development. 

Before Connatix, Jenn started her career at Lehman Brothers, went to AppNexus as an early employee, and become the VP/GM of Programmatic at Sizmek, where she scaled the global programmatic business over 5x to above $150M, while driving the integrations of several strategic acquisitions. In addition to her accomplishments in the digital space, Jenn is also the Co-Founder and President of Givology.org, a nonprofit platform which connects donors to students in developing countries. In her free time, she tries to wrangle in her 3 young kids, cook, play tennis, and plan for a future tour around the world.

Connect with Jenn on LinkedIn here.

Committee of 100: As a Chinese American, what are some of the challenges you have encountered to become a leader in your respective field?

Jenn: I have struggled to feel “in my own skin,” as a result of looking around and not seeing many people who look or present like me. This may not just be due to being Chinese-American, but also due to the a combination of being a minority, female leader in a Technology / Start-up space. Being adaptable has always been a strength and weakness as a result. While adaptability is usually a big plus, when I adapt so much that I lose my own voice or suppress discomfort, it can lead to subduing feelings and thoughts that should be voiced.

Committee of 100: There are more than 6 million Chinese Americans in the United States today and it is one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. Do you feel that Chinese Americans are well represented in government, business, and other parts of society?

Jenn: I do not. Or put in other ways, if we are, I am not as aware of it. In business, I have seen an increasing number of Chinese-Americans start companies, rise to the top in Finance, but there are more in the upper middle ranks vs. C-Suite. In government, I suspect we are far more under-represented. I think while civic duty has been extremely revered in ancient Chinese history, as evidenced by the traditions of admitting only the nation’s top scholars into the dynastic governments, it is not held in high regard in modern times. This is likely also relates to the upbringing many of us had; especially as immigrants to America, my family would always discourage being in the public eye and becoming a target of the “majority Americans.” 

Committee of 100: What do you believe needs to be done so that more Chinese Americans feel empowered to follow their dreams and push forward to create the programs/businesses/position they want?

Jenn: I find it interesting that the word “create” is being used here. Creation is often associated with the American Dream. When it comes to entrepreneurship or breaking down red tape to create in the public or non-profit domains, I think we should encourage more networking, more funding, and more structured community-building to spark collective inspiration. We’re at an inflection point where the generations before us trailblazed and accumulated both wealth and knowledge to give back and help the next waves leap-frog. Separately, when it comes to advocating for promotions and positions, I also think it begins with building internal allies and advocates, professional mentorship and guidance, as well as not being afraid to push back (respectfully) with data. With the rise in DE&I awareness, we’re also finally benefitting from social pressure on businesses to be held more accountable to subconscious and conscious biases in the systems.

Committee of 100: What moment or learning experience inspired you to work in your professional field?

Jenn: I was inspired to work in online/technology and leave my career in finance because of the more open culture and willingness to change. The fast-paced nature of technology forces people to act and react to everything faster. It tends to attract younger generations, who are often the ones introducing new ideas. In comparison to other industries, technology is also much more of a meritocracy, regardless of age or demographics. As for one moment in time…While I initially took my investment banking job at Lehman to check a credibility and competency box, as well as to seek stability at a storied bank, I learned quickly in 2009 that I wanted to shift my career priorities. I started to speak to entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists, and peers of mine who chose tech out of school, and I realized that it offered an equally fast-paced but more dynamic, fun, learning environment.

Committee of 100: For those Chinese Americans and AAPIs who just recently graduated college, what advice would you give to them?

Jenn: Following my answer to the last question, I’d encourage them to broaden the types of conversations they are having to 2nd and even 3rd degree contacts, and not succumb to the pressure of what on-campus recruiting jobs are posted. Try to go to many industry conferences and just listen to the content, chat with the people there, and vibe out where you feel the most comfortable.

Committee of 100: What do you most want to be remembered for in terms of making your mark on this world?

Jenn: I hope that in some small way, I can be remembered for setting a good example for my kids, my immediate community, and virtual communities/cohorts – as an individual, a mother, a wife, and a member of professional and non-professional communities. This would be through having my work and actions tangibly help correct inequalities and improve individual lives.

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