Anita Ali is a Digital Product Manager at Wells Fargo, a leading financial services company. In her current role, Anita is responsible for leveraging hyperautomation and AI to improve the employee experience. “We’re using agile ways of working to pilot, build, and innovate across functional teams and drive change in a systematic and integrated way,” says Anita. “All of this work is being done with an eye toward creating personalized employee experiences.”
Earlier in her career, Anita worked on a multi-lingual marketing automation platform for global IT channel partners for Fortune 100 companies. Anita then turned her attention to the life sciences industry. “I developed a multi-sided platform connecting pharmaceutical suppliers and buyers from 120 countries to create the most comprehensive digital supply chain experience for pharma solutions,” describes Anita. “Throughout my career, I’ve used data to uncover insights and solve the greatest problems customers encounter with traditional solutions.”
Anita has also gleaned invaluable insights from several industry leaders throughout her career. “As I progressed from hands-on to leadership roles driving major transformations, mentors played a vital role in helping me materialize ideas and strategies into concrete roadmaps, and then guiding me throughout the execution stage,” recalls Anita.
In addition to her mentors, Anita draws inspiration from several technology leaders, such as IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty. “Ginni positioned cognitive computing at the helm of IBM strategy, bringing IBM into the future rather than relying on software products,” says Anita. Another one of her role models is Dr. Fei-Fei Li, Co-Director of the Stanford Human Centered AI Institute. Dr. Li inspires Anita for many reasons, but especially for her work as co-founder of the nonprofit organization, AI for All, which is aimed at increasing diversity in AI. “There is a gender gap in STEM careers, but her focus to bring diversity not only to STEM, but specifically to AI, is noteworthy,” says Anita.
As someone who has spent her entire career working with technology, Anita says the best thing about working in her industry is the “ability to innovate.” In the financial services industry alone, she highlights how there are unlimited opportunities to innovate with AI. “AI can be used from task automation to loan underwriting and fraud detection,” she says.
Digital transformation in banking is also becoming imperative for survival. Anita explains how banking customers' growing reliance on digital tools is putting pressure on the industry to deliver 24/7 digital financial services across multiple channels. As the banking industry evolves, she looks forward to seeing how process automation, virtual assistants and AI-powered lending and risk management will improve the industry's operations and experiences.
Anita also wants AI to continue transforming the healthcare sector. “Going through the pandemic and seeing how biopharmaceutical companies used AI to accelerate drug discovery and delivery was definitely a gamechanger moment,” she says. “Hopefully with the use of AI, researchers will bring cures to market faster, and make it more affordable and readily available to consumers.”
Even today, there are technological advancements that surprise her. “Top of mind is the metaverse. The ability to bridge the digital and physical world is a realization of the future,” says Anita. “These concepts were previously known in sci-fi movies or books — however, they are now reality.”
Despite the endless positive applications of AI, Anita recognizes that some people are still wary about the technology, especially when deployed in the workplace. However, she firmly believes the technology will enable people to reach new heights, both now and in the future. “Using digital labor to accomplish repeatable, mundane tasks provides humans with the opportunity to work on high-value innovative work,” she says.
Closing the Gender Gap in STEM
As a strong advocate for women in STEM, Anita shares her recommendations for driving diversity in the tech field. “Firstly, we need to create and cultivate a network of role models who can offer immersive experiences to young women starting in middle and high school to fuel the STEM pipeline. The conversation must begin in early years,” she says.
Anita is personally working toward making this recommendation a reality. “I’m currently working with a non-profit focused on strategic initiatives to help solve the lack of women in tech fields. We are partnering with single-gender middle and high schools to provide technology-specific leadership curriculums and mentorship,” she explains.
Her second suggestion is to invest in women employees through shadow programs, especially for women who are re-entering the workforce. “This could be an amazing opportunity to redirect talent,” she says. Finally, allies need to “show up, develop and sponsor women in STEM.” Events such as the annual MetLife Triangle Tech X Conference, which Anita helped create, play a key role in encouraging women to pursue STEM careers and providing them with the necessary tools to succeed.
Anita’s advice for women currently pursuing careers in STEM is to discover their purpose. “Finding your purpose will guide you in your professional and personal life. To me that’s number one, find what excites you,” she says. In addition, Anita urges women to keep learning throughout their careers and collaborate with others. “Collaboration promotes good work experiences and respect for one another.” She also suggests finding mentors and sponsors, as they often share experiences and perspectives that aid in career development.
Lastly, Anita wants women to be “relentless” in the pursuit of their career goals. Starting a new or different career path can cause apprehension, but as she says, “when you take time and decide ‘this is what I want to do, and this is how I’m going to do it,’ you have yourself invested.” And when someone is deeply invested in pursuing their career goals, like Anita, they will become an unstoppable force.