Commentary

Where To Find Your Next AI Leader

Companies are always searching for ways to improve their own understanding of their customers and translate that knowledge into tangible business opportunities. One obvious trend has been increased investment in artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to automate and optimize routine practices, and create consistent communications and brand messaging, especially within the marketing setting.

With Gartner reporting that 29% of total marketing budgets are devoted to marketing technology, it’s clear that AI is here to stay.

Marketing departments now require leaders that understand the value and breadth to which AI capabilities can help their organization meet and exceed their goals. But where might these AI-savvy leaders be found?

Where AI Leaders are Today

For companies looking to add AI competencies to their executive team, large tech firms provide obvious pools of experienced talent within corporate research academies and product groups – Google DeepMind / Brain, Tencent’s AI Lab, IBM’s Centre for Open-Source Data & AI Technologies, and Microsoft Research AI, for example. 

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It’s not always the case that these leaders spend much of their career within these mammoth organizations. Many of those already in the software industry are bred in-house within start-ups. Companies like Persado, Amplero, and Conversica have their own R&D, data science and product engineering teams led by executives that possess a blend of early career roles in software engineering, application development, and data analysis. 

Some AI experts have upbringings in research, often early career work in academic institutions or at think tanks. One successful strategy in hiring AI leadership is recruiting experts who not only understand the technical facets of the tools, but the specific task or domain a product is built to facilitate. 

The Leaders of Tomorrow

Although AI has been around since the 1950s, and arguably in its third iteration today, the supply of experienced AI leadership is still relatively thin against demand. 

Fortunately, tech-conditioned millennials are providing an influx of computer and software expertise to the industry for years to come. Universities like Carnegie Mellon, University College London, and Georgia Institute of Technology boast top-tier AI programs. Governments are pledging new investments towards funding research grants, educational courses in machine learning, and the development AI incubation units, all prime catalysts that can nurture a new entrepreneurial and educated generation of AI connoisseurs. 

Gender Diversity

Diversity in management remains a challenge across industries, especially in AI. Our research shows that around 11% of AI start-up and industry leaders are female.However, Department of Education data shows that between 2012 to 2017 the number of females that received a Masters degree or Ph.D. in Computer & Information Sciences in the U.S. has increased by 148% and 21% respectively, providing optimism that a greater amount of experienced female candidates with the relevant skillsets could be available sooner rather than later.

Ultimately, there is no single place to look to find AI leaders. Marketing departments should search broadly, honing in on those with career journeys that display a balance of academic foundations, experience applying AI or machine learning processes in a commercial environment whether in large corporations or small start-ups, and domain knowledge specific to the function and/or company’s industry.

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