Are you frightened or excited?

Are you frightened or excited?

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In 2022, Forbes named Sol Rashidi (Sol Rashidi, first appointed Chief Data & AI Officer (in 2016), Patented Inventor and Former CDO/CAO) as an ‘AI Visionary, Leader and 21st Century Maverick’ – with good reason.

Sol helped launch IBM Watson, and was one of the world’s first Chief AI Officers. And she’s soon launching a Substack to share her wisdom (we’ve subscribed, and we think you probably should too).

We caught up with Sol before DeepFest 2024 to find out what she’s most excited about in AI right now. Here’s what she told us.

Could you briefly share your career journey so far, and any pivotal moments along the way that drove your interest in the AI space?

“My journey into the AI space was an interesting one. I was a data lead at IBM in the early 2000s, then when Watson beat Ken Jennings in Jeopardy in 2011, IBM decided to take Watson to market. Well you can't do AI without Data, so off to Watson I went.

“My job was to fly around the world, help establish AI-based use cases for the early innovators, then work with the product managers and engineers to develop the capabilities. It was the perfect mix of solution architecture, business development, product management, and engineering. I got to know the ins and outs of AI projects from concept to deployment, to support and maintenance. Something very few folks have experience with – and that's when I fell in love with the rewards and challenges.

“Fast forward to 2024, I have done over three dozen AI deployments, before the craze of GenAI hit us – so it’s great to see the space grow.”

What do you think needs to be done in order to enable a more gender-diverse workforce in AI?

“Honestly, my focus has never been to be gender diverse, but to be competent centric. And it just so happens that a lot of women are very capable and very competent – but either short-change themselves because they feel they don't check every box on the list (which is a mistake), or they get overlooked because of some of the biases that occur.

“In both cases I coach a lot of women and help hiring managers to see the candidate and their competence, versus who is willing to brag about their abilities better on a CV or in an interview.”

What are you most excited about in terms of AI development right now - and on the flipside, is there anything specifically that worries you?

“The pace of change is both exciting and frightening.

“For those of us who have been in the space, the pace of change is the fastest we've seen it and without proper guidelines, principles, protocols, regulation it can rocket launch into unbelievable innovation while also creating havoc on humanity if the caretaker of the inventions and AI capabilities don't have good intentions behind what they are creating.

“After all, everything is being trained on data, data we create, generate, and trained on, so if we're feeding it fiction vs. fact, we have the potential of creating a very precarious situation for us.”

If you could tell all businesses to do one thing now in order to prepare themselves to leverage AI technologies in the future, what would it be?

“Don't just focus on hiring new talent, please up-skill existing talent. Don't leave this workforce behind. They are needed for business continuity and have insights and context into the business that no one has, so we need to be thoughtful about Re-Orgs, creating new job descriptions, establishing meaningful roles, and helping people become comfortable with the change that's inevitable.”

Finally, why are events like DeepFest valuable to you?

“For many reasons, events like DeepFest are beneficial. Outside of practitioners being able to connect and collect a global understanding of how the world is viewing AI, you get to see advancements in other markets, channels, industries, and functions. Businesses that would have never spoken before now get to contribute, collaborate, and establish connections that would never have been provided before. “

Thanks to Sol Rashidi at The Estée Lauder Companies. Want to learn more? Join us at #DeepFest24.


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P.S the DeepFest agenda is now live on our website. Mark your calendars with the sessions you'd like to attend and the speakers you'd like to see on stage.

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