Women in AI: Andrea Mandelbaum
Being a visionary doesn’t always equate to instant success. For Andrea Mandelbaum, the CEO and Founder of Mc Luhan Consulting, bringing live chat customer service to Latin America in 1998 was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the industry wasn’t quite ready for such (at the time) at nascent technology. Despite this unsuccessful endeavor, Andrea is always on the lookout for the next amazing technology, and she believes AI will open incredible possibilities.
“The personal attribute that I’ve always had is to keep an eye on new technologies,” Andrea says. “I founded my own company when I was very young and the business model I created was very unusual at that time, so I had to investigate. I studied a lot and risked even more, with successes and failures, but with a very positive final outcome.”
Prior to starting Mc Luhan in 1996, Andrea worked as a market researcher. She has also served as a direct marketer, a business intelligence professional, an advertiser and as a contact center consultant. Her experiences, failures included, have provided her with the understanding that she must educate clients about technology before asking them to trust her to adopt the technology.
“That’s why with AI, the first thing we did [at Mc Luhan] was present at conferences and conduct training within companies to teach what AI is about before offering any solution,” she explains. “Today we have a large number of ongoing implementations because we knew how to accompany our clients in the adoption of new technologies.”
This experience also has helped her detail how AI works to business leaders in simple terms, from AI’s functionality and benefits, to explaining complex concepts such as progressive neural networks, deep learning, machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), augmented analytics and others.
“I think that having one foot on the IT side and another foot on the business side has been very beneficial,” she says. “For me, it’s very satisfying that [clients] can fully understand what they are hiring [with AI] and for what it will be applied.”
The same education-based approach she’s employed for consulting clients would also benefit diversity within the STEM industry, she believes. In order to encourage more women in AI, Andrea says women who are already in the field need to be more vocal.
“We have to generate spaces where we can tell our personal experiences live or digitally. We need to promote this change through social media, providing information on technology in general and AI in particular, highlighting the contribution we can generate to the world to prevent the development of AI with gender biases,” she says.
She suggests starting girls as young as five years old on STEM-based work. She also thinks it’s crucial to attract women from other fields as well.
“On my team I have linguists, specialists in EX, UX, psychologists, sociologists and HR specialists who we have trained and who work on a daily basis with AI, and who never imagined that they would end up working with AI,” she says. “I think it’s important not only to promote STEM careers, but to invite those who don’t come from STEM careers, to open the AI door so they can expand their knowledge and specialize in this field.”
As with live chat two decades ago, Andrea knows it’s only a matter of time before AI becomes a ubiquitous facet of our daily lives. So the time is now for women in AI to get involved so that they’re one step ahead of their peers when the rest of the world catches up.
“Everything is going to be immersed in a digital world, all devices are going to be embedded with AI, and those who are better positioned in AI will be the ones that will get the most rewarding positions,” she says.