Women in AI: Julia Aymonier
Julia Aymonier thinks it’s possible we’ll soon live in a world overburdened by data. The only solution that can spare us from this information overload will be AI. Julia, most recently the Chief Digital Officer of École Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), is a pioneer in deploying AI use cases to make information discovery and management more efficient.
At EHL, the world’s most prestigious hospitality management school based in Switzerland, Julia deployed IPsoft’s Amelia as a digital concierge to help students learn about the programs offered by the school and to book school tours. Amelia supports the EHL admission process by serving as the first point of contact for prospective students. Additionally, Amelia helps manage guest Wi-Fi access and reset student passwords.
The journey to becoming an AI trailblazer started with Julia’s father, a former Hewlett-Packard employee who inspired her to take an interest in math and computing. As a college student, Julia studied computer science, but initially struggled in the subject area.
“I struggled for the first year and thought I would never succeed,” she told IDG Connect during a 2018 interview. “However, I buckled down in Glasgow University's reading room and that's when something clicked. I couldn't understand why I didn't see the logic before.”
Once it clicked, it really clicked. Julia went on to serve as a software engineer for HP in their R&D Lab in Crowthorne in the UK. She then moved to Geneva in 1993 to work for J.P. Morgan (Suisse) S.A. on a new private banking system.
In 2012, Julia decided to dedicate herself to socially impactful work, taking a job with Hospice Général in Geneva, a role which allowed her to deal with issues such as social welfare and immigration. Two years later she joined Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne as CIO. “They wanted a female CIO, which is extremely rare in Switzerland,” she told IDG.
A Vision for AI and Education
Today, Julia is a champion for deploying AI in education settings for societal benefit. She believes AI can be used to predict potential student success or failure, and help identify students who may be struggling with their course loads. She also sees AI as a potential tool for advising students on career-related decisions based on academic performance data.
While Julia advocates that AI should be used for social improvement, she acknowledges many are fearful of a world dominated by machine labor. She uses her position as an industry leader to educate executives on how AI can free human workers from mundane and repetitive work, rather than utilize AI solely to replace people for cost-savings. “AI is there to help people do their jobs,” she says. “It will take over boring things employees don’t like to do.”
She also believes AI will create opportunities for women in the industry that may not have been available to previous generations. New technology will shift the current “tech world that’s men with their machines” with a system that rewards those who have skills that are more in line with AI-based work, such as low- or no-code software development.
“The need for systems engineers will decrease,” she explains. “The new roles coming will be far easier to get for women who already have the skills [to do the job].”
When asked what advice she’d give to young women who are interested in a career in AI, Julia says, “Don't be afraid to take control of a situation and prove that you know what you’re talking about. Show people what you know and speak up.”