Our meetups just keep getting better and better — we just wrapped up #4 here in San Francisco and it was a blast: “AI & Product Development: Trends, Gaps and Challenges.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and product development is a pretty broad topic, allowing for a fantastic panel of people from all different backgrounds and experiences. As a result, the conversations that emerged were both rich and fascinating to everyone who decided to attend.
We ended up hosting our meetup at the awesome headquarters of Galvanize, which is very well located in central San Francisco. (Thank you, Galvanize!) Pizza and beer-fueled the conversation and the overall atmosphere was very inviting — even people from nearby meetups were dropping in to see what was going on!
So, like I mentioned, we were fortunate to have a diverse set of panelists. Nir Kaldero is the Head of Data Science and Vice President at Galvanize. There, he works with companies from startups to Fortune 500 companies to adopt good practices and processes to reap benefits from their products in a very intelligent way.
You can guess how quickly AI and Data Science have risen to the forefront at a company like Galvanize. Clearly, this is where Nir’s experience proves invaluable, making a huge impact on the growth strategies of the companies he works with.
Paola Santana is a lawyer and tech entrepreneur. She is also founder and CEO of Social Glass, a company that uses Artificial Intelligence for improving government processes. There’s great impact to be made there, too, with everything it implies for citizens and the social good. Hence, Paola is focused on the ethical and legal ramifications of AI and how it can drive forces of both good and evil. In short, she’s interested in exploring how real people are impacted by AI.
Our moderator was Marisela Garcia Marquez. She is founder and CEO of Iberus, which spans Latin American, European and North American tech markets. She is also the founder of the Global Women in Venture Capital Initiative so you can definitely say that she has insight into how companies struggle to find their way with new technologies and in new markets. Marisela was the perfect moderator for this meetup.
Finally, there was me — and I am mostly technology-oriented with experience mostly in product development and solution architectures. I’ve been with Making Sense for a long time now and we’ve encountered all kinds of situations related to product development and company growth, both from our experience and our partners’ experiences.
I’ve been to lots of meetups that focused on AI and Data Science and they usually become very technical (not that I mind!) and very boring very fast. This is the perfect recipe for leaving people out of the conversation. It also keeps people from learning about AI and its potential. Worse yet, those types of discussions skip over what I consider to be some crucial discussion points, such as how to adopt AI and where to get started.
No so with our discussion! In fact, it headed in the opposite direction. We started out discussing some of the obstacles that companies face when they’re new to AI and Data Science. Nir brought in the perspective of a big company, whose main challenges centered around culture, people, and data. Paola added some great perspective on governments and transparency, benefits and risks. I added a few details on how companies usually start out thinking too big instead of starting small. I added that when going all-in isn’t feasible, a gradual approach can work.
“We are living in an era of wealth of data, we need to trust the technology to make this world a better place”.
Next, the discussion turned to what the impact of AI might be on user experiences and what it means for not just companies but end users too. The conversation quickly turned into what it means for companies to drive user experiences and how improvements can quickly turn into privacy risks.
We also touched upon ethics: how AI needs to be used wisely. The conversation became passionate at that point. You could tell how each different panelist gave different levels of importance to each of these varying aspects according to their background and experience. This is what makes such a complex technology so incredibly valuable.
“The pure goal of AI should be to augment humans”.
Attendees jumped in, too, asking about bias in AI and about how companies can adapt to these new processes if they aren’t really prepared.
A Great Audience
Even the audience was diverse. I had the chance to talk to a few people and learned they were from all types of diverse contexts and levels of expertise. There were lawyers, interns, investors, project managers, developers, and researchers. Some of them had just heard about AI and wanted to find out more about it. Others were experienced but wanted to hear ideas about growing their companies using AI.
As a panelist, I think it was exhilarating to find so many varied opinions. We even had some (healthy) arguments! It was great to find out we all value different aspects of this complex technology. It was truly an experience to remember (and learn from).
All in all, meetup #4 wasn’t just a great discussion with great people… it was simply a lot of fun and we all got to learn something by sharing our experiences. I’d say that’s the true measure of success! We’re already thinking about Meetup #5 and look forward to having you there. Stay tuned for details! But if you weren’t able to attend to this one, here’s the full video and photos. Enjoy!