Within a decade of tossing her cap with the rest of her undergraduate class, Jill Applebaum had built an exciting career, moving from Google to a small tech company, then back to academia where she launched a successful start-up.
But Jill was ready for a new challenge, one that would enable her to not only take on state-of-the-art tech projects but also make a positive impact on the lives of people around the globe. Here is Jill's story—and why it led her to Johnson & Johnson.
Learning the Ropes
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Communications and Hispanic Studies, Jill began her career at Google. Getting her foothold with the company's online advertising team meant she spent a lot of time chatting with small-business owners. "I really came to appreciate how much new technology was enabling these small-business owners to succeed," she said.
From there, Jill moved to StumbleUpon, when it was still just a start-up, where she focused on partnerships and business development—skills that would go on to serve her well with Johnson & Johnson. But the experience also reignited her lifelong interest in education and learning. Having decided to pursue an MBA, Jill matriculated at Harvard Business School soon thereafter.
"I think the natural trajectory at that point for me was to pursue an entrepreneurial role next, and at Harvard Business School, I found the resources to support that," Jill recalled. In 2015, she co-founded Spruce & Co—a provider of natural, plant-based cleaning products—alongside Jillian Ressler, a classmate who quickly became her close friend.
Instead of pursuing a more traditional internship path during her first summer of graduate school, Jill decided to dedicate her time and energy to growing her new business. Soon, the company was thriving. "My co-founder and I eventually reached a point where we were successful,” Jill said, “but we had to either scale up and build a much larger team, or else move on to opportunities elsewhere and let the company continue to run in sustain mode."
Together, they decided on the latter—Spruce & Co is still up and running today—and Jill found her next challenge: a chance to make a positive impact on a much larger scale, with the resources of the world's largest broadly based healthcare company behind her.
How Do You Do Things That Have Never Been Done Before?
At Johnson & Johnson, Jill serves on the health tech team that drives digitization across our three lines of business: pharmaceuticals, medical devices and consumer products. Her primary work involves identifying outside companies to partner with and creating standards on which to base the decision to partner.
"My role is to pitch the value that technology Partner X brings to the table," she explained. "I also work reciprocally with the partner, to make sure they understand the value that Johnson & Johnson brings to the table, too, as a partner."
She added: "The exciting thing is that a lot of the work I do at Johnson & Johnson is unprecedented. How do you do things that haven’t been done before? How do organizations become comfortable taking risks—and how much risk? These are the kinds of questions that we're answering."
And what value, specifically, does Johnson & Johnson bring to the table? In Jill's words: "130 years of experience, unrivaled consumer insights, in-depth regulatory expertise and scale that means you can touch a billion lives every day."
Making an Impact Through Mentoring and STEM Initiatives
"I've been connected with senior leaders and had a host of mentorship opportunities," she explained. "Johnson & Johnson is just a very friendly company when it comes to meeting and connecting with people."
One of the highlights of her experience so far has been participating in programs like Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS and the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers. Through JLABS, for example, she has had a chance to mentor other entrepreneurs as part of the JPALS mentoring program, which connects entrepreneurs with experts and resources at Johnson & Johnson that can accelerate their growth. She's also served as a judge for one iteration of JLABS QuickFire Challenges, a competition that challenges start-ups to develop breakthrough solutions for real-world problems.
Finally, she's spearheaded initiatives to get students excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing and design (STEM2D)—most recently by partnering with a local school and leading in-classroom science and engineering activities.
Today, Jill is hard at work on a host of exciting projects in health tech, many of which deal with opportunities for virtual reality (VR) products to drive better patient outcomes. She's exploring potentially transformative applications of VR that could help patients with physical therapy and pain management.
Wearables is another focus area that she believes can be used to detect diseases earlier. Ultimately, she said, the goal is to use technology to find more effective and efficient ways to get care to patients who need it. To do that, she's actively pursuing partnerships with leading telemedicine companies.
Some Pleasant Surprises at Johnson & Johnson
Since joining, Jill has been frequently surprised and delighted by many things, including the sheer breadth and diversity of Johnson & Johnson's business. "The scale of our businesses empowers us to do amazing things," she said, "Consumer brands are just one small part of it."
She added that the size of the opportunity with Johnson & Johnson is an important differentiator. "We're putting tremendous resources behind innovation," she explained. "We're thinking critically about what the next 10, 20 and 30 years of healthcare will actually look like and the role technology will play in driving transformation."
Join Johnson & Johnson Today
Women have been blazing trails at Johnson & Johnson since 1886—and employees like Jill, Lara Hamade, Wanda Bryant Hope and many, many others are continuing in our proud tradition. Nearly half of our employees worldwide are women, and we're committed to fostering a culture where everyone gets the resources and support they need to thrive.
At Johnson & Johnson, you'll have an opportunity to change the trajectory of human health—and your next move could be the next big health breakthrough. Check out all of the ways you can join us today.