windmills on a curved road, Autonomous Enterprise

Where do we go from here? Autonomous Enterprise | Didem Un Ates

windmills on a curved road, Autonomous Enterprise

What triggered AI to take off at such scale, all of a sudden? What are the latest trends in AI? What will the future of work look like? What impact did COVID have?

These are just a sample of the thought-provoking questions on responsible AI and the future of work that came up during Accenture’s ‘UKI Alumni Network Data & AI Webcast’ with 108 alumni on July 8. These questions inspired me to convert the exchange into a blog because we all need to embrace these changes and manage the potential risks as we build ‘windmills.’ Just like good citizens in a democracy need to protect their democracy or they end up bearing the consequences, we all need to upskill ourselves so we can understand and embrace technology to better manage its risks.

As most of us — at least those on channels such as LinkedIn and Medium — are aware, the advances in cloud technology, accumulation of massive amounts of data in our organizations and the recent innovation in AI/ML have ignited an infusion of AI everywhere — every industry and function. Similar to how our five senses empower our brains and bodies, AI/ML and robotics have become more competent with their new “senses” — vision, speech recognition, reading and comprehension, dialogue, context awareness, sensor insight and, of course, machine teaching.

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Didem Un AtesAbout Didem Un Ates

Following my Electrical Engineering and Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, I started my career with management consulting at Capgemini and then Motorola. After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, I continued my career at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY), British Telecom, and Microsoft in London, UK. In my current role, I lead Accenture’s Data & AI business for our Microsoft Business Group in Europe.

As a passionate Diversity & Inclusion and STEM champion, I led a global team of volunteers to host ‘Girls and Women in AI’ hackathons and boot camps to improve gender diversity in AI/ML, starting at Microsoft and now expanding to Accenture. These efforts brought me several awards, including TechWomen100 Champion, Future Leaders Award, Diversity Role Model, and Top 50 Most Influential Turks in the UK.

I am a Non-Executive Director on the Board of ‘Creative Education Trust,’ which oversees 17 high-schools and 16,500 students in underprivileged regions in the UK.


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Didem Un Ates

Didem Un Ates | Microsoft

Didem Un Ates

Following her Electrical Engineering and Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Didem started her career with management consulting at CapGemini and Motorola.

After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, Didem continued her career at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY) and British Telecom in London, UK.

Her passion for technology led her to join Microsoft’s Information & Content Experiences Group where she and her team signed c. 1,500 partnerships across 60 markets. She held other business development and partner management roles as part of Microsoft Accelerators and the Business AI teams. In her current role, Didem is focusing on scaling Microsoft’s SaaS AI solutions such as Dynamics Customer Service Insights and Virtual Agent.

Didem has 20+ years of multinational leadership experience in business development, management consulting, and product management in executing international roll outs, implementing new market entries, and building new revenue streams from disruptive technologies in EMEA, APAC, and LatAm.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Responsible AI efforts:

As part of her Diversity & Inclusion related social impact work, Didem organizes global ‘Girls and Women in AI’ hackathons and bootcamps to increase female participation in AI/ML technology sector:

  • Girls in STEM AI Bootcamp – Athens, Aug 27-31st.
  • ‘Girls in AI’ Global Hackathon – London, Oct 13-14th.
  • ‘Teens in AI’ NASA Global Space Hackathon – London, Oct 20-21st
  • Code:First Girls Conference 2018 – ‘Women in AI’ talk, London, Nov 10th.
  • MSFT DigiGirlz UK – Reading, UK Nov 20th
  • TEDx Shoreditch ‘Women in Technology/ AI’ Event in May ‘19
  • ‘AI & Careers’ Sessions at Schools

Didem is currently a member of Cloud & AI Women in Business Applications (WiBA) Leadership Board and [email protected] UK.
Externally, she is a member of the Women in AI network.

Blogs:

She has also written numerous blogs on Diversity & Inclusion in Tech and Women & AI:

  • Reflections on a Rigorous Year in AI
  • Mindful Optimism for Women in Life 3.0
  • Grace Hopper, Burning Man, and Choices
  • Diversity & Inclusion – Call to All Princesses and Princes

Training & Awards:

  • Didem is currently pursuing the ‘Microsoft Professional Programme for AI’ and has been awarded with Women in Advertising and Communications’ (WACL) Future Leader Award in 2019 for her work in inspiring female high school students to embrace and to join AI/ ML sector.
  • Previously, her MBA was sponsored by her employer, Motorola Ltd.
  • She has numerous other awards, scholarships, and sponsorships that can be viewed on her LinkedIn profile.

Didem Un Ates featured

Inspirational Woman: Didem Ün Ates | Senior Director, AI Customer & Partner Engagement, Microsoft

Didem Un AtesFollowing her Electrical Engineering and Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Didem started her career with management consulting at CapGemini and Motorola.

After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, Didem continued her career at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY) and British Telecom in London, UK.

Her passion for technology led her to join Microsoft’s Information & Content Experiences Group where she and her team signed c. 1,500 partnerships across 60 markets. She held other business development and partner management roles as part of Microsoft Accelerators and the Business AI teams. In her current role, Didem is focusing on scaling Microsoft’s SaaS AI solutions such as Dynamics Customer Service Insights and Virtual Agent.

Didem has 20+ years of multinational leadership experience in business development, management consulting, and product management in executing international roll outs, implementing new market entries, and building new revenue streams from disruptive technologies in EMEA, APAC, and LatAm.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Following my Electrical Engineering and Strategic Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, I started my career at CapGemini and Motorola. After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, I continued at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY) and British Telecom in London, UK.

My passion for technology led me to join Microsoft’s Information & Content Experiences Group where my team and I signed c. 1,500 partnerships across 60 markets. I held other business development and partner management roles as part of Microsoft Accelerators and the Business AI teams. In my current role, I am focusing on scaling our SaaS AI solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics Customer Service Insights and Virtual Agent.

As part of my Diversity & Inclusion and STEM related social impact work, I have been leading a global volunteer team to host ‘Girls in AI’ hackathons and bootcamps to increase female participation in AI/ML technology sector worldwide. I am including a few videos and blogs for those who might be interested in replicating these events or collaborating in future ones:

Videos:

Blogs:

Podcast:

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Of course. With every job or team change (which happens roughly every 12-18 months), I re-evaluate my path and potential career options following my latest move. I check my thinking with my mentors and trusted advisors every 3-6 months.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

As a diverse talent and immigrant working mother in tech sector, ‘career challenges’ have simply been part of life. As such, I do not even label such situations as ‘challenges’, ‘problems’, etc. I visualize the lotus flower during these periods – it grows in the smelliest, muddiest, most disgusting waters but is still able to be beautiful and to radiate positivity to its surroundings.

So whenever I face such a situation, I ask myself: “How can I raise a lotus flower in these circumstances? How can I turn this situation upside down and make it an advantage (as opposed to a hurdle) for me and my career so I land in an even better place?” I think of these incidents as potential spring-boards rather than handicaps or crises. If one takes the time to look inside and think creatively, there is always a solution.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have been fortunate to make notable financial and business impact to all my employers and teams in terms of scaling disruptive technologies, generating new revenue streams, launching new products and markets, expanding partnership ecosystems, etc.

All of these achievements, especially when they involved building new teams and creating win-win solutions, have been fascinating and extremely meaningful for me.

The most fulfilling and rewarding achievement in my mind though, has been with my recent volunteer work on ‘Girls in AI’/ ‘Alice Envisions the Future’ bootcamps and hackathons, where I lead a phenomenal team of volunteers at Microsoft to host these events globally. We have successfully demonstrated how effective and impactful these hackathons and bootcamps are, so now numerous teams in the company are scaling these efforts worldwide. If we can improve that terrifying – and declining - %12 diversity figure in AI/ ML to a more acceptable figure, I will be a very happy person. 😊

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Perseverance combined with hard work.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Think of the Lotus. See challenging situations, people, projects, etc. as opportunities for growth and think about how you can use them as spring boards, as advantageous opportunities to progress in your path.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Sadly, the answer is ‘of course.’ I would strongly recommend the book Brotopia for a comprehensive study of these barriers and potential mitigations. My humble view is we should start by enhancing diversity in our sector so that barriers can actually be un-earthed and acknowledged. If 90% of the workforce does not ‘see’ any barriers or ‘feel’ any of the pain, you have a much steeper mountain to climb. Sadly, 10%’s pain and the negative consequences in the business are misinterpreted are ‘just noise.’

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

We have to work on both sides of the diversity and inclusion equation.

On the diversity side, the key is to ensure diverse talent has hope of career progression and plenty of job opportunities. On the inclusion side, we need to ensure they feel included and treated fairly when faced with discrimination, bias, etc. so that they can survive and stay in the organization.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Education system – inspiring girls, especially 7-18 year olds, to embrace and make the most of technology regardless of their passions. In the end, even if you want to be a dancer or artist, you will be a better one if you know how to use technology. We have to land this message and enable girls to be digital natives as well.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Trainings:

  • Public speaking training – the best quality you can afford…
  • Coding trainings, AI hackathons/ bootcamps, online courses (Please see the blog for details)

Books:

  • Brotopia, Emily Chang
  • Playing Big, Tara Mohr
  • A Life of My Own, Claire Tomalin
  • Inferior, Angela Saini

Podcasts:

  • Women in Tech, Marie Wiese

women in life 3.0 featured

Mindful optimism for women in life 3.0 | Didem Un Ates

women in life 3.0
MICROSOFT ALICE
San Francisco
June 09 2019
www.mekanism.media
www.laurentiugarofeanu.com
+40734184800

Article provided by Didem Un Ates, Microsoft

“When the wind of change blows; some people build walls, others build windmills.” - Chinese proverb

Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence stretches one’s mind and imagination on how life could be, not just a few decades from now, but billions of years ahead.

By Life 1.0, the scientist refers to our biological evolution based on DNA. Life 2.0 is about our current ‘cultural development’ stage where we can remodel much of our ‘software,’ e.g. learn a new language or pick up a profession. The main focus of the book is of course "Life 3.0" where artificial general intelligence may someday, in addition to being able to learn, be able to redesign its own hardware and software. I strongly recommend the book if you have not read it already. What is missing for me though, is what happens to minorities and underrepresented groups - especially women - in Life 3.0.

Bias, discrimination, inequality and similar issues have been perturbing our societies for centuries, probably thousands of years. And it is indeed uplifting to observe the progress we have made from generation to generation, notwithstanding occasional twists and turns on the way. However; having been a technology enthusiast all my life and working in one of the leading firms and teams as we collectively progress towards ‘Life 3.0,’ I know these issues will get even more exacerbated and amplified if we continue not to have the diverse workforce (and data) needed to foresee and flag such problems from their unique perspectives. Amazon’s recent challenge with their AI recruiting tool being biased against women is just one example of many data sets and AI tools that adversely affect women and minorities. In this case, Amazon’s new recruiting system ‘learned’ that male candidates were preferable and penalized resumes that included the word “women’s” such as “women’s chess club captain.”

On a related note, let’s not forget, there is also the jobs front: According to the World Economic Forum, women are employed in jobs that face the highest automation risks. For example, 73 per cent of cashiers are women, and 97 per cent of cashiers are expected to lose their jobs to automation.

I genuinely believe that we can shape Life 3.0 in a way we would like it to transpire, if we can have diverse teams, especially women; directly involved in building, implementing, and using these technologies. However, the current picture and trends look grim: According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, women accounted for nearly 37 per cent of all computer science undergraduate students in 1985. 33 years on, this figure is now only 12 per cent. According to a recent WIRED & Element AI study, the diversity of leading machine learning researchers also happens to be only 12 per cent women. We truly have to work harder than ever, to welcome more women in technology, especially AI.

So what can be done? A LOT. To begin with, we can start with ourselves; e.g. pick up coding courses (online or in person) or training in AI. (All possible free of charge, by the way.) Women’s networks such as Women in AI are also powerful forums to encourage and galvanize wider audiences. Third; we can help other women, girls, and minorities with their upskilling efforts and inspire young ones to consider technology and engineering as a complement, if not a key ingredient, for any passion they may choose to pursue. To this end, I have taken immense pleasure in hosting and volunteering at a number of events:

  • Girls in STEM AI Bootcamp – Athens, Aug 27-31st
  • ‘Girls in AI’ Global Hackathon – London, Oct 13-14th
  • ‘Teens in AI’ NASA Global Space Hackathon – London, Oct 20-21st
  • Code:First Girls Conference 2018 – London, Nov 10th
  • ‘AI & Careers’ sessions at various secondary schools

It is fair to say I probably benefited from these initiatives more than the participants; given the joy, satisfaction, and positive energy I received in return. I am also delighted to have a new passion to scale these efforts so that we can increase that disconcerting 12 per cent figure. Deep at heart, I would much rather work on creating a fascinating ‘Life 3.0’ than retrieving and/or being intimidated by potential doomsday scenarios.

With respect to jobs in Life 3.0, some actually argue that the future is bright for women – provided we prepare to grasp the opportunity. “Empathy, listening, multi-tasking, intuition, collaboration and patience are qualities that will get more prominence as automation takes over the workplace,” states Kate Levchuk, “Both by nature and by culture, women are better placed to benefit from automation. The inherent presence of empathy and collaboration skills makes women perfectly positioned to navigate the complex post-industrial world.” It may be premature to conclude women will be better off in Life 3.0, but there is a good chance to create a historic opportunity from a potential crisis. “Mindful optimism,” is the term Max Tegmark uses to suggest we can and should be optimistic, as long as we plan and work for the future we would like to have. I could not agree more. So back to my Python lab.