Jenny’s path to the d.school was a circuitous one. As a college student she left the U.S for the first time, traveling with a friend to Israel and Egypt. The trip ignited a passion for international development that still keeps Jenny up at night, but it took her about a decade to fully turn her attention to it. At the time, she was studying engineering and physics at Berkeley, trying to wrap her head around quantum mechanics.
After a brief post-undergrad foray into management consulting for the tech industry, Jenny spent four years working on strategic projects for Google. There, she focused on building its business and operations internationally, and traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents (ask her about the time she flew from Mumbai to Sao Paulo). Jenny left Google in 2008 for Cambridge, Mass., to finally geek out on economics and international development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She spent her master’s degree internship working in the President’s Office in Liberia, where she learned first-hand how difficult it is to get things done in the poorest public sectors on the planet.
Though she was initially skeptical about the importance of technology in places like Liberia that lack adequate roads and electricity, Jenny kept getting pulled into tech-related projects because of her experience at Google. Ultimately, she began to value technology, not for it’s own sake, but rather as an enabler for creating new systems. She believes innovation is critical to addressing the challenges of international development: “Instead of looking at what’s working in higher resource environments and trying to replicate it,” Jenny says, “we should look at the outcomes we’re trying to achieve, the environment we’re working in, and define new solutions that work in that context.” Her husband’s startup subsequently introduced her to human-centered design, and she’s convinced it could have an immense impact on the problems she cares most about.
As a d.fellow, Jenny is working with Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Weinstein to develop the “Governance Collaboratory” — an effort to harness design thinking to generate creative and disruptive innovations that improve governance in developing countries. The Governance Collaboratory will equip local innovators from the developing world with the expertise and technical resources of the Silicon Valley. Together, they will cycle through the human-centered design process to engineer solutions to make governments more open, more effective, and more accountable.