Leadership Question | “Working in technology isn’t just coding”

This week, Nathalie Le Prohon, president of IBM Québec Technologies, answers our questions about leadership

Over the past year, technology companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft have reduced their workforce. What is going on ?

On the IBM side, there have been announcements of cuts, but our chief information officer (CIO) is very clear: the total population will remain the same. We have a redefinition of tasks which allows us to automate some of the functions. We have put generative artificial intelligence (AI) to support all our human resources. We were therefore able to be more efficient in supporting our employees and our directors, like myself, and thus be able to reduce our human resources teams. The idea is not to disinvest, but to reinvest in software development or others. That’s the situation at IBM. As for other companies, my opinion is that we will see the same thing elsewhere. There are going to be some cuts when a company automates and uses its own technologies to be more efficient. In return, the business side is growing. I believe there will be other investments that will offset some of these cuts. I am very positive about the technology sector. There may be a small readjustment taking place, but we are in a sector that is clearly growing.

Do you believe that artificial intelligence will have an impact on gender parity in the technology industry?

I hope so and I believe so. Parity depends on two things. We need women to be hired, women who want to come and work in technology. Then, there must be companies that focus on diversity and inclusion, that ensure that women can succeed and that have a good number of women on the executive board. The challenge we have is hiring. I think that technologies and in particular AI can make a difference. Our young people are very competent in technologies. Girls see how AI can influence their work, change their community, change the business world. They will therefore be more interested in this sector than those who are currently on the job market. It’s really at the entrance that we have to concentrate, because we are really not at parity.

What needs to be done to attract women into technology?

We still see many role models of successful men in technology. We need more female role models. We need to make them more visible. We must also democratize all portions of technology. We still have the impression that it is a very technical job. Yes, you must have a passion for technology, a taste for learning, because it is a field that is always changing. But today, with AI, we are getting closer to the business domain. Working in tech isn’t just about coding. The new roles are not pure Java coding. We have people who work with customer affairs teams. They will find solutions, for example, for a client who is looking to improve their customer service in an automated way with AI. It takes women who have a taste for solving a business problem using technology. There’s still some coding, but a lot less than before, and generative AI makes it a lot easier.

In your opinion, what can be done to integrate artificial intelligence into businesses in a responsible manner?

First, you have to give a lot of training. Companies must train employees on the potential of technology, but also on the risks. When certain tools were released publicly, there was a lack of care in companies. However, they quickly said: we cannot use these tools created for a very large audience within a company which has confidential data. Second, it takes processes to govern the use of AI. It must be used responsibly, wisely, managed to ensure that it continues to do what it has to do well, ensure that there is no bias or bad intentions that are inserted. It is also necessary to check whether it is explainable. If anyone wants to know how AI achieves such a result. It therefore takes sound governance around the models. Third, it takes good security and good data management, because these models use data that can be sensitive, and we don’t want to be exposed to threats.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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