Meet Asst Prof Jessica Santana

Technology Management Welcomes New Faculty Member, Jessica Santana

Jessica Santana joins award-winning faculty in advancing the practice of Technology Management at UCSB. Jessica earned her PhD and MA in sociology from Stanford University after receiving a Master of Information Management and Systems degree at UC Berkeley, with certification in the Management of Technology from the Haas School of Business. She has also worked in industry, as a strategy and management consultant, entrepreneur, and product manager. 

Q: Welcome to UCSB. What attracted you to UCSB and the Technology Management Department?

JS: UCSB plays a significant role in advancing research across the fields that fascinate me, including quantum computing, social network theory, digital gaming, and artificial intelligence. Part of what attracted me to the university is the interdisciplinarity of these fields on campus. Technology Management is especially poised to bridge these communities and contribute a novel perspective to the theory and application of Technology Management through curriculum and research in organizational behavior and theory, entrepreneurship, technology strategy, and other critical fields.

Q: Why did you choose to conduct your research within Technology Management, and how do you think your research will complement current faculty efforts?

JS: My background is in sociology, with expertise in organizational theory, economic sociology, and network science. Sociology helps inform Technology Management by accounting for the relationality of technology, that is, by evaluating the impact that technology has on society and society has on technology, and by considering the role of social structure and agency in technology. Along with my research and teaching in entrepreneurship, I am eager to build out the computational social science (including data science) program. This includes network science and text analytics, as well as machine learning, computational modeling, online experimentation, and other emerging methods.

Q: What is the focus of your research, and what are you working on right now? What are the potential implications on Technology Management and society?

JS: I primarily research the role of networks in innovation and entrepreneurship using computational social science and other methods. My current research focuses on how entrepreneurs use rhetoric and their virtual peer network to recover from failure. Most entrepreneurs fail, and they need to know how to deal with failure when it happens.From a sociological perspective, entrepreneurship can be a powerful channel for mobility. However, there are privileges inherent in entrepreneurship, including who is allowed to fail and what types of failure are considered acceptable. Management science, which describes how people can learn skills to manage their organization effectively, often distinguishes successful entrepreneurs and executives from fl ashes in the pan.

Q: How did you become interested in this area of research, and where do you see it going in the future?

JS: My interest in entrepreneurship grew out of my own experience as an entrepreneur. While studying information management and systems at UC Berkeley, I built a company that used mobile augmented reality to unveil hidden information about retail products. I became interested in computational social science after I joined Electronic Arts, where I was the core product manager for social and mobile games. Part of my role was to identify, track, and test game metrics to acquire, retain, and monetize users. It frustrated me how throttled access to this data was, and how precariously the analytic system was thrown together. This experience gave me valuable perspective on how to use social psychology and data science to build and test theories, as well as the limits to these methods and datasets. I believe that the next stage of research in management and organizational theory will be people analytics —using internal big data to study employees and make better management decisions. The next stage of research in computational social science will be ethical design and, perhaps, a new fi eld of quantum information science that addresses topics like data anonymization, blockchain, and security in a quantum era. And the next stage of research in entrepreneurship will be virtual entrepreneurship, including distributed teams, peer learning, and crowdfunding.

Q: What other areas of study or advocacy are important to you, and why?

JS: In a new program of research, I investigate the relationship between innovation and ethics in contexts such as synthetic biology, clinical trials, and cryptocurrency investment. In one project involving an international team of interdisciplinary scholars, we use text, network, biological innovation, and judging data from an international genetic engineering competition to identify the relationship between innovation and ethical boundaries, and to predict the emergence of ethical codes and violations in innovative communities. Innovations, including gene-editing technology, high-frequency trading, and artificial intelligence, are often initially denounced by society as unwieldy and unethical. It is important to understand the conditions in which innovative deviance can benefit or harm society. Finally, I would add that it is especially important for women and students of color to study technology management. Much of the bias reflected in AI and other technology today is the result of poor representation in the field. Addressing this underrepresentation requires studying the science behind technology management, including social psychology and organizational theory.

Welcome to UC Santa Barbara, Jessica!