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Ashley Kramer of Sisense: “Every corner of the world can use AI to be more efficient and productive”

I think one of the first things is to ensure exposure to opportunities within the industry early, even as early as elementary or high school. There are some cool things going on within AI but too often women don’t think they are qualified because they discovered it later on. Training programs are important but visibility […]

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I think one of the first things is to ensure exposure to opportunities within the industry early, even as early as elementary or high school. There are some cool things going on within AI but too often women don’t think they are qualified because they discovered it later on. Training programs are important but visibility and supporting passion for this industry is a required first step. I’m living proof that pivoting your career is possible but would’ve loved to have discovered some of the opportunities earlier. It also goes back to women supporting other women and not letting our background, experience or even gender define us.


As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Kramer.

Ashley Kramer is the Chief Product & Marketing Officer for Sisense. She leads the company’s product and marketing organizations, setting product and go-to-market strategy and vision to drive the value of Sisense’s analytics platform. Previously, as SVP of Product at Alteryx, Kramer led the transformation to a data science and analytics platform and as Head of Cloud at Tableau led the transition to a SaaS, cloud-first company. She has held various technical, product and marketing leadership roles at Amazon, Oracle and NASA. Kramer uses a customer-first mindset to scale product and marketing teams to meet the growing needs of Sisense customers and the rapidly evolving market.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?

I was a computer science major who doubled as an athlete, playing soccer in college. Earlier in my career I was a software engineer at NASA and Oracle. I quickly realized that I am better suited talking to people rather than computers, so I pivoted into a product-focused role with Amazon. What was really impactful during my time at Amazon was the focus on the customer and using data to drive the business. That really built a solid foundation of using analytics to drive better outcomes as an emerging product leader, a foundation that I’ve used throughout my career.

From there, I moved to Tableau because I had experienced for myself how analytics can be utilized to save time and money for companies. I was fortunate to be a part of the early cloud movement and led the move of Tableau to the cloud (Tableau Online) which was a pivotal part of my career journey.

I knew there was more to analytics than descriptive analytics, so I joined Alteryx to usher in the next era towards data science with predictive and prescriptive modeling within their platform. I am now excited to be part of the Sisense team because we’re on the cusp of entering a new generation of cloud analytics that blends descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics together in a unique way. The Sisense AI-driven analytics platform goes beyond the dashboard to infuse analytics everywhere. We empower people with actionable intelligence to drive better outcomes — that’s at the core of everything we do.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

Throughout my career, I never hesitated to make bold career decisions and as a result, I feel like I ended up in the perfect role. I always tell people, don’t be afraid to try something new. Just because I was a computer science major didn’t mean I had to write code for the rest of my life. Writing code wasn’t my passion, but there were elements of building a product that led me to speak to people in different types of roles, from product to marketing to sales, and concluded I am a product person at heart. Taking the time to step outside of your comfort zone and network to hear other people’s experiences is an invaluable part of any career journey.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

We’re currently in the midst of a huge company evolution with a focus to help organizations around the world move into a new era of analytics. We’re planting a stake in the ground as the leader in AI-driven analytics with a mission to infuse analytics everywhere — whether that is to drive more value to their customers, optimize their businesses or innovate new products and create revenue streams. We do this by going beyond the dashboard with custom analytic experiences and embedding them in their customer and employee-facing apps and workflows. Businesses can now infuse actionable intelligence wherever people spend their time rather than requiring them to go track down the data needed to make a decision. The amazing results from our customers make the long days worth it!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

For me, understanding the importance of data started while working at Amazon. However, it was Christian Chabot, the co-founder and former CEO of Tableau, that really made me believe in the power of analytics. He built his company based on his passion and created a mission everyone believed in. He inspired me to think differently not only about how analytics could help customers, but also how important it is to be part of a mission you believe in. I was attracted to Sisense because the company is also built around a strong mission of taking analytics into the next generation and driving change in the world with analytics.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

I think AI can really change the way we live for the better. First, AI is particularly good at automating mundane processes and tasks out of our life, saving valuable time that we can spend on more important things. AI can extend our own human capabilities to allow someone with limited knowledge about data to make robust predictions about the future. While I do not see AI replacing humans as intuition is a big part of the decision-making process, it also helps people of all skill levels make more intelligent decisions by automatically highlighting what is happening and giving guidance on next best actions to take. Finally, one of the most exciting things about AI is the expansive use cases from manufacturing to healthcare to financial services — every corner of the world can use AI to be more efficient and productive.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

The major concern is making sure we are all following ethical and responsible AI practices. This is broad and ever evolving as AI continues to expand and become part of our daily lives. We’ve seen examples in the past few years where AI has gone rogue or highlights biases we may not be able to fix overnight. We also want to be careful not to remove human intuition and creativity from too many places; we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the human brain. Not everything that can be replaced with AI should be, so we need to ensure there is balance because there will always be a need for human connection. And finally, we must remember, AI is far from perfect so we must still have humans overseeing it, validating and keeping it in check for safer outcomes.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

You know, I can understand both sides and just like any new innovative era, there are huge upsides and downsides. It’s still early in this game but because development is ongoing, now is the time to ensure ongoing discussions about ethics in this industry to mitigate the risks.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

I think educating the public about what AI actually is and the use cases that are solved is a great first step. I’ve met a lot of people that hear AI and immediately think about The Terminator so there is a lot of work to change perceptions! As I mentioned above, building and following ethical, responsible AI practices will be critical.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

I believe it’s important to share your knowledge and support the next set of leaders on their way up through mentoring. I never turn down opportunities to speak at events such as Girls Who Code and universities.

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?

I would say, be fearless in your pursuit and don’t get discouraged if you’re the only woman in the room. Secondly, reach out to other leaders in the industry and seek out a mentor to be a sounding board based on their experience. Finally, never stop learning as it can be tough to thrive in a fast-paced industry. By keeping your skills sharp, not only will you strengthen your confidence, but it can increase your credibility with others too.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?

I think one of the first things is to ensure exposure to opportunities within the industry early, even as early as elementary or high school. There are some cool things going on within AI but too often women don’t think they are qualified because they discovered it later on. Training programs are important but visibility and supporting passion for this industry is a required first step. I’m living proof that pivoting your career is possible but would’ve loved to have discovered some of the opportunities earlier. It also goes back to women supporting other women and not letting our background, experience or even gender define us.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

It’s a Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I can think back to many pivotal interactions with leaders where I never remember the words but I certainly remember how I felt in the moment and that impact stays with me years later. How we make people feel — in life and in business — is what matters most.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

What if one day we can identify and prevent diseases before they occur because of AI? That’s AI for Good.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Twitter at @ashleyekramer.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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