In the rapidly developing field of artificial intelligence, Jane Neumayr Nemcova is playing her part to ensure that ethics will influence the emerging technology.
“I find it ironic that many of the people who are starting to form some kind of industry best practices and ethical standards don’t have any background in philosophy or ethics,” said Nemcova, 40, a vice president and general manager of global services for machine intelligence at Lionbridge, a global language services provider.
Today’s global demands necessitate principled skill
Nemcova travels abroad extensively offering her expertise in the language localization industry, specializing in linguistic support for machine learning and artificial intelligence. Her field is extremely technical and requires the practical skills she developed in completing three master’s degree programs in business and simultaneous translation.
But it was her classic liberal arts and philosophy education at Thomas Aquinas College — a Catholic liberal arts college in Santa Paula, California — that gave her the intellectual foundation to make sense of how future technology will impact human societies.
“The more technical our world becomes, the more critical it is for people to, on a practical level, understand how to reason,” Nemcova said. “Some of the smartest people in artificial intelligence have started to figure that out.”
Ethics-ethos rooted in family, sports and schooling
Before she was a talented and respected business executive, Nemcova grew up as the sixth of seven children in a devout Catholic family. Her father, John W. Neumayr, was one of the founders of Thomas Aquinas College and served as the school’s first dean.
“I grew up in that environment and I certainly developed my life around that,” said Nemcova, who played sports in school and had several siblings attend other colleges on athletic scholarships. By the time she was 16, Nemcova started to imagine life beyond high school.
“I was thinking about how to look at education and what I really wanted to get out of life, in the context of my faith and understanding why things were the way they were, deepening that and having a sort of well-formed education for the purpose of continuing on my path,” Nemcova said.
After enrolling at Thomas Aquinas College, Nemcova met classmates who were dedicated and passionate about not only their faith, but also in seeking truth.
“Whether people would put it that way or not, they were trying to find the answer to why things were the way they were, digging deeper into the reasons for things and learning how to think,” said Nemcova, who described her undergraduate studies at Thomas Aquinas College as the most formative years of her adult life.
“Not only do you meet many of your longtime friends, people who share similar values to you even if they have other interests, but you also are very much connected in having a similar outlook on the importance of your education and your faith,” Nemcova said.
Faith-and-reason blessings on career and clan
After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1998, Nemcova went on to study for her master’s degrees in France and at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California. She later began working for Moravia, a translation and localization firm based in the Czech Republic where she rose to become an executive vice president and chief sales officer.
She met her husband, Andrej, in the Czech Republic, where they married and lived for a time after their wedding. They now have three children and live in her hometown of Thousand Oaks, California.
Nemcova laughed when asked about work-life balance.
“Does that really exist?” said Nemcova, who travels frequently for her job and says she has really never taken time off from work.
“I’ve just found a way to make it work, and I have a good support system at home,” she said.
Nemcova said her Catholic faith informs how she works with a team that comprises many individuals who live in several countries and come from very different cultures.
“I’ve learned to employ empathy and I try to be a good representative of my own ethics and standards that I grew up with,” she said. “I think when you’re working with a truly diverse workforce in business, you really have to learn how to work well with people.”
Catholic education colors business outlook
Nemcova has also learned that the liberal arts education she received at Thomas Aquinas College has turned out to be an invaluable asset for a business career.
“It’s not only a nice thing to have, but it’s very important for the future,” Nemcova said. “Especially because artificial intelligence is going to put a lot of pressure on people to learn how to learn. I think Thomas Aquinas provided an outstanding education for that. When people start to realize what happens with artificial intelligence in the job market, and how that’s going to affect how people educate themselves, I think that is going to be a huge thing.”
BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.