The last characteristic one would probably expect Kathy Trimble to mention as a key to her success is “balance.” Kathy, the VP of the Council on Competitiveness, former Defense Department Advisor, and Georgetown and National Defense University graduate, has credentials that would make any technologist jealous. But her success hasn’t been earned strictly by working longer hours than everyone else, which she’s absolutely done, but rather through a constant mental and intellectual calibration.
“Understand what balance means in your life,” Kathy says, explaining the advice she gives to young women starting careers. “There’s a balance between personal, professional, friends and family, and a need for continued learning. There’s a lot of information out there and one thing AI can’t necessarily manage is your time. So, what does balance mean to you?”
For Kathy, balance has been an ever-increasing curiosity, which has stimulated her ability to invest herself in more than one discipline, and allow herself to be open to diverse viewpoints. “You don’t always need to necessarily agree or be persuaded,” she explains. “You just need to be open to hearing different perspectives.”
Diversity in thought and perspective is what drew and continues to draw Kathy to AI and emerging technologies. Between the economists, technologists, and regulatory advisers with whom she works, Kathy says she learns something new every day, a job perk that also happens to be a job requirement. As the VP of the Council on Competitiveness, she explores the challenges of U.S. innovation, including how to drive America's innovation policy for the 21st century and how to do it in a multi-disciplinary way.
“We have three key pillars in the work that we do,” she says. “The first one is developing and deploying disruptive technologies at scale. The other two are exploring the future of sustainable production at work, and optimizing the environment or the national innovation ecosystem.
“To have a discussion about AI is not in itself going to really lead to a lot of innovation activities,” she continues. “The topic of AI is multidisciplinary, it's really a question of how we should understand AI going forward.”
In her role, she often converses with business leaders and associates who don’t have her technical acumen. Rather than preaching about the benefits of AI, Kathy relies on her indefatigable curiosity to guide the conversation. She says she tries to ask business leaders about the problems they would like to address. Whether they’re trying to accelerate the speed of information or the processing of large data sets or just reduce costs, she finds that problem-solving often is a natural segue to AI. After hearing executives’ challenges, Kathy offers a balanced but assured response:
“Well, AI can help with that.”
Even when discussing the topic of women in STEM fields (or a relative lack thereof), Kathy doesn’t offer an inflexible solution, but rather a critical question: “How do we start to think differently about multidisciplinary perspectives and why they’re needed to advance STEM fields?”
“I think there needs to be a different conversation about STEM and other perspectives,” she explains. “These conversations are needed to see what the Future of Work really is. We're seeing that other disciplines need to be incorporated like the arts, the creative perspectives, the liberal arts perspectives and how that dovetails with a STEM pipeline.”
Kathy is optimistic with regards to how often she witnesses people and the organizations for which they work asking these critical questions. “I'll say that there already are numerous efforts across the nation to do this,” she says. “You see it either at the federal government or state level, you see it in universities, and public and private partnerships.”
As an afterthought, Kathy offers an opinion that is sincere and decisive, but as is her signature, she does so with emotional and dogmatic balance: “Any extended communication or education on these activities would be beneficial.”