“The more we program computers to quantify outcomes, the more resilient we become as humans.” with Windy Garrett and Tyler Gallagher

The more we program computers to quantify outcomes, the more resilient we become as humans. So many areas of life, community, and business are attempting to simplify and align to best practices. AI feeds our nature to create order and streamline processes by putting the numbers to use. As part of my series about the women […]

The more we program computers to quantify outcomes, the more resilient we become as humans. So many areas of life, community, and business are attempting to simplify and align to best practices. AI feeds our nature to create order and streamline processes by putting the numbers to use.

As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Windy Garrett, Vice President, Cloud Partner & Sales at Atos North America. Windy coaches a strategic partner group focused on the dominant cloud companies, in which their goal is to help Atos’ largest clients transform their legacy IT environments to hybrid and multi-cloud estates. Garrett is focused on the future of data. In partnership with Google Cloud, she is responsible for Atos’ artificial intelligence lab in North America where customers can experience workshops to build and implement their AI initiatives.

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?

Pursuing a career path in AI was an accident. I was working in a jewelry store at 19, attempting to go to college but not having much success. A gentleman walked into the store to buy a simple necklace for his wife, but he unexpectedly left with earrings, a bracelet, and a two-carat diamond. He came back a few days later to ask me to interview at his company, a regional long-distance company. I started working for him the next day, selling DS1s and Access.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

There is no perfect path to success. I started selling technology at 19 and didn’t go back to college until I was 32. With four young kids at home and serving as an account manager at a telecommunications company, I pushed through my bachelors and master’s programs in a record four years. Everyone’s path is their own. No matter which obstacles are in the way, if you want to achieve something badly enough, you will find a way do it.

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

Atos’ joint venture with Google Cloud to create an AI lab in Irving, Texas is certainly one of my current interesting projects. The lab offers our clients three days of a hackathon type of environment to properly get started with their AI journey. Alongside Google, we are providing our customers with access to joint thought leadership on how to implement AI projects, and also helping them jump-start their AI initiatives sooner rather than later.

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?

Diana Einterz, CEO Americas at SITA. I worked with Diana for several years when she was the head of Americas for OBS. I watched her presence and admired how she captured audiences by being honest and transparent. Diana was tough with the business, but still very feminine in her approach with people. Diana offered great advice throughout the years, especially when we shared a stage together at customer events. She is an expert orator and helped me hone my presentation skills, which has been a strong asset to me over the past several years. She carries herself in a very regal manner during adversity and that, in my opinion, is a skill many women struggle with. Diana thrives in these circumstances.

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

Here are the five things that most excite me about the AI industry:

1) AI empowers humans.

AI has many definitions: artificial intelligence, augmented intelligence, and artificial intuition. However you define it, the key driver of AI is to free humans from manual, menial tasks, giving people more time to think, strategize, and innovate.

2) AI elevates healthcare.

One of the many exciting impacts AI will have in the near future is with medical advances and applications that will predict — with great accuracy — diseases known to be curable in the early stages. By applying predictive analytics with preventative maintenance, we can extend our lifespan, and with that, improve our life experience by better managing overall health concerns.

3) With AI, community is key.

Socially Responsible Applications will provide for a better, more efficient environment, which will lead to more altruistic creativity. Referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can eliminate obstacles in the lower levels (physiological and safety) which will allow more humans to move up the stack (i.e. love, esteem, self-actualization). These applications will ultimately breed innovation and progress in various areas of community and our way of life, including:

a. Farming — Maximizing crop yields and minimizing the use of limited resources offers us a chance to feed the hungry and elevate as a society.

b. Social safety — AI can predict social unrest by mining chatter and social posts which will ultimately save lives and make our world a safer place.

c. Improving accessibility for the disabled — AI can offer the disabled community freedom from their handicaps by improving mobility through autonomous vehicles, fostering better communication by offering the hearing impaired augmented text and interpreted voice, and giving the visually impaired virtual readers for written content.

4) With AI, the truth will come out.

At its base level AI automates processes and records data. This simple tool unveils truth. Massive amounts of data reflect the realities of global warming and status of economic growth and decline, as well as things like healthcare population wellness and the efficiency or deficiency of school systems. Never have we been able to record truth into history as much as we can now. Individuals are being held to a higher standard because they must stand up to the facts. Think of a politician giving a speech, while simultaneously, an AI agent applies voice recognition to check facts and facial recognition to scan for indications of dishonesty.

5) AI will bring out the best in us as human beings.

The more we program computers to quantify outcomes, the more resilient we become as humans. So many areas of life, community, and business are attempting to simplify and align to best practices. AI feeds our nature to create order and streamline processes by putting the numbers to use.

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

Here are the five things that concern me about the AI industry:

1) AI can prompt social irresponsibility.

On the other side of the social responsibility ledger, AI could, of course, be used to divide rather than lift us. This is truly concerning. Nations with wealth, power, and skills could create weapons technology and other military assets that incorporate machine learning to do harm with hyper-efficiency and further separate those with and without power. AI is becoming such an essential tool that we need to guarantee equitable access to artificial intelligence education to ensure algorithms and platforms are accessible to all. To do otherwise would be socially irresponsible.

2) With AI, we need to stay sharp.

While AI has the ability to more completely educate us, its conveniences also have the power to make us intellectually lazy. Although its initial charter is to enable humans to think beyond small tasks and become more highly creative, there are risks if we rely too much on the data to make decisions. It’s concerning to think that artificial intelligence could put simple problem-solving out of business.

3) AI will outpace its creators.

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is defined as the ability to accomplish any task a human can without human intervention. Quantum computing, which is on the cusp of a new evolution, will enable us to create structure out of chaos in ways that can’t be processed by the human mind. But when AI exceeds our ability to manually prove an outcome, how will we know that the outcome is valid? We will have to rely on the computer which means creating AI agents to monitor and fact check the AI agents we originally created. And while humans still have the power to stay ahead as we control the “why” factor that requires emotion and intuition, artificial intelligence is starting to be built with these qualities in mind.

4) AI will reduce US employment opportunities.

As AI increasingly supplants human-powered functions, it will create jobs in some areas and replace them in others. Jobs defined by repetitive tasks will be at risk of elimination. Recent reports predict hundreds of thousands of net jobs in the United States will be created because of AI, but just as many could be lost. This is a cause for concern and will require reskilling our workforce to close that gap.

5) AI can change the power structure of societies.

In direct opposition to the Industrial Revolution which stimulated a rise of unskilled labor in the late 19th century, AI will trigger a rise in skilled labor. If AI resources and access to education are not managed appropriately, this labor pool will have access to tools that will correlate directly with economic advantage. With that, we could witness a larger, more dynamic divide by country, nation and, even at the city and town level.

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?

I think humanity is smarter than we give ourselves credit for. Yes, AI has the potential to become self-sufficient and with that, the potential to become self-serving. But we as humans create the code, which means we are responsible for ensuring there is a series of checks and balances to keep the worst from taking place.

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?

Like with any new systems, regulations set checks and balances to keep concerns from elevating into real problems. Technology is no different, and it’s important we realize the same within AI. In fact, we’re already creating AI agents to monitor AI programs. One has a purpose for business outcomes. One has a purpose to supervise. And we have control over both.

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

I’m passionate about introducing young girls and women to pursuing STEM with regards to their interests and careers. Working with the Women’s Alumnae Association at Georgia Tech, we provide scholarships and opportunities for girls to see a career path in tech or simply to augment their liberal arts or business degrees with the understanding that tech is and will be more prevalent as they progress in their respective careers. By helping to understand the basics of STEM and taking away that fear of the science, we help young women embrace technology in whatever field they eventually follow.

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 highly advise women to continually learn and grow their knowledge base. I have two business degrees. I’m a sales person focused on people first. I’m not a technical person, not a data scientist or mathematician. I don’t think in bits and bytes. But I learn about everything I can, including reading the latest thought leadership, listening to podcasts on relevant subjects, and engaging individuals who know more than I do, so I can in turn be a sponge to their knowledge. The moment we stop learning, we stop growing.

Alongside growth, another good piece of advice is to understand the “why” behind all things. I’m a big Simon Sinek fan, and he’s quite famous because of this tip. Many times in the tech industry we start with the “how” because the challenge is a big portion of the fun. But understanding the “why” behind what drives a business tremendously helps all tech functions. Businesses seek impact that enables end users, customers, parents — humans. The “why” factor matters to us and should therefore be applied to the tech. Keeping this in mind will up level every project you’re working on.

Lastly, trust your instinct and speak up as a consumer. Let’s face it. Women are good shoppers. We know what works and what is actually smoke and mirrors. We can sniff out the flaws and understand what drives people to buy, whether its price, product or emotion. Use that innate nature to state your opinion and contribute to overall success.

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

We have to take away the fear of technology. What comes to mind for some people when they think of being technically qualified is a coding champion who builds applications on their weekends. Really, working in technology is about simple problem solving for business outcomes. To remove this fear and misunderstanding, it’s important to help women relate to technology in new ways. Take AI for example. If we take moments to explain the inner workings of AI, it becomes more familiar and the fear is ultimately removed. For example, Zillow uses AI to learn about what online visitors are searching for in terms of location, home interior, and amenities, and applies this knowledge to each home search. AI is making online experiences intuitive based on known preferences. It’s through practical applications like this that tech fears can be removed and familiarity can be inserted .

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

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life” — Winston Churchill. This emphasizes to me the notion of be bold and don’t fear the reprisal if you know you’re right in the first place.

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. 🙂

STEM education for everyone would bring an incredible amount of good to humanity. I’d love to create a forum for world access and STEM education that aggregates access from global providers, disseminates that access to underdeveloped areas via satellite or whatever medium we have available, and then offer unbiased, uncultured, online STEM education to help elevate and stimulate peoples’ desire to learn more.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on Twitter at @wgarrettatos

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

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