Lisa Nichols, CEO
Women in Technology Recap
I believe that one of the best ways we can grow as individuals is to surround ourselves with people who have subject matter expertise in areas where we don’t and who have varied backgrounds and experiences. On the morning of April 18th, Technology Partners was honored to host a Women in Technology (WIT) event at our office. There is so much to be said about the impact that women are having in the technology field — and more specifically, Artificial Intelligence (AI). The topic for the morning was exploring the “Magic, Myths, and Must’s” of AI with a panel full of educated and passionate experts. I would love to re-cap some of the wisdom and highlights from that morning’s engaging conversation.
Artificial Intelligence truly impacts our daily lives in areas we may not even fully recognize.
For example, in healthcare, AI is being used to increase patient satisfaction by automating mundane tasks for healthcare professionals. This gives the healthcare professional the margin to be more patient-centric. A single touch of our phone can initiate a stream of connected algorithms to do everything from ordering an Uber to activating the powerful AI in our virtual assistants. Couple these examples with companies like Tesla, with their predictive self-driving technology, and Netflix, and their use of customer data to suggest movies based off the reaction of the user, and you have a culture that is permeated with this technology.
One of our panelists, Charles Aeh, VP of Customer Experience and Innovation for SmartAction, says that “AI is all about automating processes” and I do not think that he could be more right. And to go along with that, Senior Vice President of Business Operations at Mastercard, Kimberly Simon, says that they engage AI for “more meaningful data monitoring that leads to beneficial decisions and ease for their customers”. Our good friends at Jane.ai use automation for an overall improved employee experience with access to company-wide information, as well as integration with websites for around-the-clock customer support, and even lead generation and sales enhancements. AI is being used in so many different proverbial corners and is becoming essential to the future of how we do business.
It seems like every new breakthrough in technology is followed by a slew of rumors and speculations. What I think is important though, is to distinguish truth from fiction and to identify the heart of a matter. I’m sure by now, we have all heard things that sound like they are straight out of a science-fiction novel or movie, so I think it would be worthwhile to take a look at some of these myths.
Myth: AI is on the horizon but we’re not really there yet.
While there is some truth to this, AI is not new– it has been around since 1939. However, it is being used across more disciplines and industries now, so you are hearing the buzz more. As panelist Ed Corno, Chief Technology Leader for IBM says, “We need to embrace it because it is not going away…by all predictions, it will eclipse the impact of the internet 100x”
Myth: AI will eventually replace human beings
Many of the repetitive/mundane tasks will go away with the use of Robotic Process Automation, however, this will allow those professionals performing these tasks to focus on more challenging/strategic work. Harvard conducted a study of companies using AI, and replacing workers was not the primary objective of the majority nor was it the most optimal outcome. Human beings are always going to be a part of the equation, it is simply about learning new and better ways of working.
AI is here to stay and if you are not thinking about it, I guarantee you that your competition is.
Therefore, it is important to adopt an AI strategy. Look for the low-hanging fruit first. It doesn’t mean that you have to immediately boil the ocean but look for those areas where you can possibly automate processes by using RPA or automate frequently asked questions with a tool such as Jane.ai.
Another must as a leader is to help your people evolve in these skill sets. Problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills are skills that will be necessary in any role no matter how the technical landscape may change. Jim Swanson, Global CIO for Bayer Crop Science says that one of the best things he can do for his people is to skill them up so that every company in town would want to hire them – make sure they are marketable. The challenge as a leader then becomes to build a culture where even when your workforce is called upon, they don’t want to leave your organization for another. Artificial Intelligence is meant to be an aid to the workforce with people behind it– and you will never be able to replace that. People are still an organization’s most valuable asset and investing in them is paramount to the organization’s sustainability.
Lastly, panelist Julie Chang, Data Scientist at Jane.ai had great insights around the ethics of AI. “Because we are a third party, we are putting an algorithm in the hands of other people and it is our responsibility to make sure that the tool is being used fairly”, states Julie. We need to approach the technology with eyes wide open and understand that without proper governance and attention, AI can introduce biases and discrimination into the equation. It is not the end all be all. Human beings are still going to be needed for oversight and governance.
I see a very bright future for the use of Artificial Intelligence. The opportunities to improve individual lives as well as our world at large are endless – we are just getting started.
I want to extend a huge thank you to Kimberly Simon, Senior Vice President of Business Operations at Mastercard; Julie Chang, Data Scientist at Jane.ai; Charles Aeh, Vice President of Customer Experience and Innovation for SmartAction; and Ed Corno, Chief Technology Leader for IBM. You all are some of the best in the industry and I couldn’t have asked for more for our event!