Moving Beyond the Buzzwords

Moving Beyond the Buzzwords

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, big data, digitalization… shall I keep going? It seems like no matter what your organization or industry, you cannot escape these tech buzzwords.

I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas a few years ago and listened to a panel discussion on computer vision. As I waited for the panel to start, I began to network with the people around me. The two men to my right worked at a bank, the woman in front of me was in the automotive industry, and the man on my left was employed at a museum.

I was intrigued that one panel discussion could be applicable to so many different job functions and industries.  I started wondering how the other attendees planned on using computer vision technology in their varied fields.

This interest eventually took me to Carnegie Mellon University, where I pursued a Master’s degree that allowed me to begin the deep dive into learning how to implement those things I used to refer to as simply “tech buzzwords.”

What I have come to learn from my collegiate and corporate experiences is, oddly enough, that high-tech solutions are not always the answer. Here is what I recommend for anyone trying to figure out how and when to turn these buzzwords into actionable items.

Note: My examples reference artificial intelligence, but you can follow the same steps for any technology you are looking to implement.

1. Follow a tutorial and actually implement an artificial intelligence solution

I have had many friends reach out saying “I have a great idea; will you program it for me?” I used to think programming was rocket science, until I finally went “hands on keyboard” and built my own solutions.

Once I programmed my first artificial intelligence solution, I immediately thought of all the ways AI could have made my previous job more efficient. Writing code and implementing what I learned about AI theory brought me to the realization of how impactful the technology can be.

Here is a tutorial for beginners where you use AI to classify zoo animals:

2. Identify what problems you want to solve

Now that you have a better understanding of what artificial intelligence can do, you can start thinking about which of your problems can be solved more efficiently using the technology. I phrased that sentence carefully because an important component of implementing these high-tech solutions is that you are not implementing the solution for the sake of using the technology, but instead implementing them because you are solving a need.

To identify where using a new technology could be most beneficial, you should ask yourself these questions about your day-to-day job activities:

    • What tasks take the most time?
    • Where do you typically encounter the most inaccuracies?
    • Where do I have enough data available to support the data requirements for these solutions?

3. Build a value proposition for how this technology will add value

To create a value proposition, you need to clearly explain why one solution is better than another. You should consider things like time saved, implementation costs, resources needed, and the importance of accuracy. This is a key in deciding whether to implement a particular solution that is available, because sometimes the level of effort out weights the impact of the results.

4. Socialize your solution

Building a solution is great, but it is only half the battle. You must have buy-in from users and stakeholders, and ensure that they understand and accept the proposed technology. In this final step, you should be able to answer questions like:

    • How does it work?
    • Why should we trust this?
    • Is this process scalable and sustainable?
    • What happens if it breaks?

In the end, these tech buzzwords will continue expanding to all companies and all job functions. To identify how to gain the most value from these technologies, you need be able to move off the buzzword bandwagon and demonstrate how to turn new technologies into plans of action for driving business results.

Your job or company may not be ready or willing to implement these ever-emerging technology solutions any time soon, but I recommend personally exploring how they might apply to your daily activities.  Try Step 1, get your hands on the keyboard and see the technology in action. If you do, I  guarantee you will see the future and become very excited about becoming a champion for action every time you hear one of these buzzwords being tossed around.

Paige Kassalen loves to put her creativity to use by solving problems in emerging technical fields, and has been an IEEE member since 2012. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015, Kassalen began her career with Covestro LLC. in 2015, and soon became the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in GlamourFast Company and the Huffington Post.

After Solar Impulse, Kassalen helped Covestro develop its strategy for materials for the future of mobility, and shared her work at conferences around the United States. In 2020, Kassalen received a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and now applies her problem-solving skills to the finance industry, where she works with teams to develop big data strategies and implement innovative technologies.

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