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Women Leading The AI Industry: “ I don’t think that we should portray AI as the “magic wand” that will resolve all our problems; we must be honest with ourselves and society that there are potential downsides.” with Karen Way and Tyler Gallagher

We must be pragmatic in our pursuit of AI…it’s all about the balance. We must be able to demonstrate the benefits of the application of AI, while ensuring the proper guidelines and safeguards are in place. I don’t think that we should portray AI as the “magic wand” that will resolve all our problems; we […]


We must be pragmatic in our pursuit of AI…it’s all about the balance. We must be able to demonstrate the benefits of the application of AI, while ensuring the proper guidelines and safeguards are in place. I don’t think that we should portray AI as the “magic wand” that will resolve all our problems; we must be honest with ourselves and society that there are potential downsides.

As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Way, a Global Practice Lead for Data & Intelligence at NTT DATA Services who works with and supports healthcare organizations to transform their business and IT practices. With over 25 years of experience in healthcare and IT, Karen believes that healthcare organizations must advance their data management, analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities to remain competitive in the constantly evolving marketplace. Prior to joining NTT DATA Services, Karen was an Executive Director, Business Development for an organization responsible for healthcare provider compliance, CEO/Managing Principal of her own consulting company, and Director of Data Quality & Innovation for a population health organization.


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?

Thank you for including me Tyler; I’m honored to have been chosen to participate in the series. I guess you could say I was part of the STEM movement before it was a movement. I’ve been interested and involved in the sciences since I was young and went on to get my undergraduate degree in biology, with thoughts of going into environmental research. In my first job out of college, I was involved in the implementation of a new laboratory information management system that automated the collection and calculation of environmental sample analyses results. From that point on, I was hooked on finding ways to utilize data to tell better stories and gain greater insights. Shortly after that first system implementation, I moved into healthcare as I found I had a knack for working with healthcare data. I’ve been in this industry for over 25 years now and have worked with all types of healthcare organizations. As you can see, I didn’t really have a plan to pursue a career in data, analytics and AI, it has just evolved over time.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

There are always opportunities for growth and you shouldn’t limit yourself. I never imagined myself working in the AI space when I started out, much less in healthcare. Just because you started out on a specific path doesn’t mean that you can’t make choices that may lead you elsewhere.

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

Currently, I’m leading a team at NTT DATA that is working a new solution that incorporates multiple facets; multi-model data sources, a data hub framework, predictive modeling using machine learning to name a few. Our goal for this offering is to provide health plans with a componentized solution from which they can pick and choose the pieces they need to help them move along the data, intelligence and AI maturity curve. While this may not sound overly exciting, you need to remember that healthcare is at least a decade behind other industries in the adoption of AI technologies, especially when it relates to data and intelligence.

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?

I’ve been fortunate to have had a good support network made up of many people; family, friends, teachers and colleagues. Therefore, it’s hard to narrow it down to a single individual. There are two people that are top of mind: my grandmother and my husband. My grandmother was part of the generation of women who went to work during WWII and continued to work afterwards. She taught me perseverance…that I could do anything I wanted to do; the choice was mine to make, not anyone else’s. She also taught me the importance of continuing to seek out ways to meet my goals regardless of the barriers I encounter. She was always there to provide encouragement and support.

My husband has always been a great sounding board and supporter. When our two boys were in middle school, I made the decision to go back to school and get my graduate degree. At the same time, I was involved in a huge project at work; development of a new platform for care management that included decisioning tools for clinicians. I was working long hours then coming home and studying to late into the evening or early morning hours. Without the support of my husband, it would have been exceedingly difficult to continue with both my education and my career.

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

1. AI is really the intersection of two areas — data & intelligence and intelligent automation, thus providing a wide range of opportunities for people wanting to follow an AI career path. You can focus on the data, the technologies that manage and manipulate the data, or the solutions that utilize the outputs to improve business processes through automation. These are just a few of the possibilities in the AI space, no matter what industry you are in.

2. There is still so much to explore with AI…developing new ideas and the art of the possible. I find myself always asking the question, “why?” Working with data and AI allows me to learn more and (hopefully) find the answers.

3. How AI can be applied to healthcare, an industry that is lagging other industries:

– Influencing member/patient behavior through artificial intelligence

– IoT — using the data gathered from medical devices

– 30% of data generated in the world is healthcare related, but it’s the industry that is years behind others in adopting AI

4. Collaboration between industries to leverage learnings/experiences in AI

5. Putting the power of the data into the hands of the business users/decision-makers (democratization of data via AI)

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

1. One of the things that I’ve seen over the course of my career, is the lack of diversity within the data and AI space. While there have been great strides forward with various initiatives to increase the number of women in STEM careers (e.g. STEM based badges for Girl Scouts) there remain gaps. As a result, there is a potential influence on AI — there was a recent article in the Chicago Tribune that talks about this and how machine learning and other AI could return results that are biased based on this lack of diversity.

2. Appropriate use of AI

a. How much is too much (Big Brother concept) — Where do we draw the line at data collection and usage in AI? In healthcare, there are statutory limitations as to what data can be used and how it can be used. There are ethical issues that will also require consideration…

b. Are we (as humans) ready for all that we might learn through AI? I’ve been reading a series of books (Breakthrough series by Michael C. Grumley) recently that have triggered these thoughts for me; they are fictional, but not far from the realm of possibility.

3. Willingness to compromise

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?

There is no easy answer to this question as there are valid points on both sides of the debate. I do believe that we need to be thoughtful in how we proceed with AI, but also recognize that there are ways in which AI can be very beneficial, particularly in healthcare. As I noted previously, I’m not sure that we are prepared to react to all that we might discover through the application of deep, unsupervised learning. There will continue to be ethical questions raised that will need to be addressed; each will need to be evaluated carefully with an eye toward both the individual impact as well as the impact on the overall population. Yes, there are risks…but where would we be today without innovation and a curiosity about the unknown? Would we have a cure for polio? Would we have walked on the moon? We must be able to satisfy our thirst for knowledge while balancing the potential risk, as we have in other industries.

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?

We must be pragmatic in our pursuit of AI…it’s all about the balance. We must be able to demonstrate the benefits of the application of AI, while ensuring the proper guidelines and safeguards are in place. I don’t think that we should portray AI as the “magic wand” that will resolve all our problems; we must be honest with ourselves and society that there are potential downsides.

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

While I’m no Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, I’d like to think that the work I’m doing now with NTT DATA relative to the Business Insights Engine will bring some benefit to the healthcare industry and subsequently help to improve outcomes for patients.

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?

Keep trying — you may not find success with your first foray into AI. This doesn’t mean that it’s not the right fit for you. It’s all about finding the right combination to open the locks, no matter what they may be comprised of.

Knowledge of the industry (e.g. healthcare, manufacturing, banking/finance, etc.) in which you are applying AI is extremely valuable; it will provide you with a perspective that others may not have.

It’s ok to be passionate about your work. I’ve found that I get more satisfaction from my job and from the work I do when I allow myself to express my emotional intelligence.

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

It’s not too late — you may not think that your background or previous experience lends itself to the AI space, but since AI can be applied in any industry there are many available opportunities. Also, you don’t need to have a PhD to work in AI; I’m proof of this. I have a passion for digging into the data and using AI to be able to tell healthcare stories. If you have a similar passion, there’s a place for you in the AI space.

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

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” — Robert Frost

As I noted earlier, my original career roadmap didn’t include AI or healthcare. However, along the way I made career and life decisions that changed that roadmap and took me on a different journey than others may have taken to get into the healthcare AI field. It has led me to where I am today….and that has truly made all the difference.

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. 🙂

I’m not so sure that I’m a person of great influence; I can’t even get my son to keep his bedroom clean. In all seriousness, though, the work that I’m doing now relative to finding ways to improve healthcare outcomes across the healthcare continuum is extremely important to me. While it’s already underway, there are so many areas of healthcare in which we can dig deeper and learn more; I want to help keep that movement going.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @KarenAWay1

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/karen-a-way-mha-aaa7126

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


About the Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and United Arab Emirates focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. Prior to founding Regal Assets, Tyler worked for a Microsoft startup led by legendary tech giant Karl Jacob who was an executive at Microsoft, and an original Facebook board member.

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