Anne Aaron: The Beauty and Brains Behind Your Favorite Netflix Shows

January 31 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Where's the Remote?

I saw somewhere that we should raise our children to be curious. I think one reason to do this is so they become curious adults who crave learning throughout their lives. That might be why documentaries have been picking up increasing steam, because they give us grownups a chance to acquire knowledge. I recently watched the Netflix documentary The True Cost, which is about the damaging effects of fast fashion, and it’s already informed my purchases. You don’t need to be an expert with a PhD to be smart in a subject. Start with a documentary. If it inspires you, listen to a podcast about the subject, talk with friends about how it made you feel. Do something.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 100 Million Hours

I’m not one of those people who pretends she doesn’t watch TV. Back in the day, peeps bonded over tuning in at the exact same time for the exact same show, but now, we’re bonding differently. There’s a crazy amount of content out there, making it hard to avoid spoilers and connect with others over the same thing. But since there’s so much content available, you can often find your new ride-or-die at a party if she, too, loves that offbeat flick you love. You’re bound to find a fellow fan; in 2015 alone, viewers spent a hundred million hours a day watching Netflix.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Anne Aaron, Director of Video Algorithms at Netflix

Netflix has blossomed into a mega-sized company. Long gone are the days of waiting on my Sex and the City, season 3, disc 2 DVD to arrive in the mail. Now, our viewing is only as fast as our remote clicking or curser pointing. One of the revolutionary features Netflix developed that we’re all so used to now is curated content: that is, recommendations based on other movies and shows you’ve watched.

The strong female lead behind this kind of feature is today’s Woman to Watch, Anne Aaron, who is director of video algorithms at the digital media giant. For the last seven years, Anne has hung her hat at Netflix, where she started out as a senior software engineer. In the past couple years, encoded video streams have accounted for a huge percentage of the download traffic in North America, and it’s all thanks to Anne.

We want our personalized content and we want it now. Anne’s helping make that happen, too. Girls and women look up to Anne, who Business Insider named one of their most powerful female engineers in 2017. Anne’s story resonates with so many, as a Filipina who studied physics and chemistry in school before diving into the male-dominated industry of tech.

Even though Anne had all of the excellent training her peers accrued, there were times she was underestimated. For instance, when Anne interviewed for an engineering position, she was denied and was instead offered a managerial role. It was as if Anne, being a woman and a woman of color, “was still not technical enough for them.”

I wonder if those interviewers are shaking their heads now. There’s a photo of Anne on the Internet that caught my eye: She holds her laptop, with stickers from shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt attached. Beside images of her fave characters and programming sits an American flag. She is quite truly the American dream, in part because of her diligent work, but also due to the male allies in her life.

When Anne talks about how she could hang with the boys while pursuing a career in STEM, she thanks strong male allies, like a professor at Stanford and a manager at Netflix, for giving her opportunities to flourish. She believes the responsibility to foster an inclusive environment rests on both men and women. Now, Anne encourages other young Filipinas not to shy away from pursue careers in tech. Well done, Anne.


Chinese-born American businesswoman Weili Dai said:

"When I was young I was very interested in science and technology, and my dad brought home the first computer. ... By learning to create technology, girls learn to speak up."

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