While people would consider Patricia Faura’s job as Senior Cognitive Engagement Manager at Amelia as “technical,” she believes this will change over time. “As using MS PowerPoint is not a technical function as it once was, AI is going on the same path,” she believes.
In her job at Amelia, Patricia’s work involves many areas of business, including client relationships, sales, project management, finance and more. Currently, she is working with partners to help their employees develop their own personal virtual assistant. Patricia is also working on a project to use AI-based voice functionality to “serve thousands of clients” 24/7, year-round.
Patricia explains how Amelia, the market-leading Conversational AI, has capabilities that exceed the capabilities of a single human, such as the ability to speak in multiple languages. When designed well, AI also can eliminate biases from decision-making processes. “AI can be designed to ‘neutralize’ factors to help remove the fog of human judgement that can taint or cloud appropriate decisions," says Patricia.
Patricia has been interested in technology ever since she was a young girl, and her parents are her mentors. Patricia recalls how childhood experiences with technology sparked her lifelong interest in the field. On one occasion, Patricia remembers being 8 or 9 years old when she and her dad were in Brazil chatting with someone from Latvia who used ICQ, an instant messaging computer platform. It amazed her that she was able to communicate with someone so far from home, in another language, while still being in the comfort of her own. She also remembers interacting with the Microsoft Word assistant, “Clippy,” which further sparked her interest in tech.
“It was an intertwine range of interests that brought me to tech but those early experiences marked me to embark in this international, cross-cultural, bold, communicative and curious world of tech,” she says.
One of Patricia’s favorite things about the AI industry is that it is always changing. “I like the fact that we have to keep ourselves informed at all times with the interesting features and capabilities of the technology and how that can influence my life,” she explains. In the future, Patricia looks forward to when information becomes accessible to all, so that people can easily communicate with one another, regardless of language.
Many people still feel nervous, or even fearful, about AI and automation technology. However, Patricia believes these fears can be addressed by presenting technology in a way that is easier to understand.
When Patricia explains her AI projects to her non-tech family and friends, she says she provides them with a familiar use case. “I usually start with a familiar example like calling their cable company and instead of pressing ‘#’ for support, a person will pick up instead,” she says. “Except it is not a person, it just sounds like a person, who already knows your name, all your bills, your favorite shows, if it is sunny in Mumbai and can talk Spanish if you so prefer. Besides, it probably knows why you are calling in the first place.”
“The tough part is when someone [doesn’t] want to understand, when their fear or false expectations (sometimes self-induced) is more comfortable than opening one’s mind for something different,” says Patricia. “In that case, time and understanding can bring people onboard,” in addition to success stories that show how AI can “transform and elevate” jobs instead of taking them away.
STEM Careers for Women
As a woman who has worked in the technology and finance industry for most of her career, Patricia has often experienced being the only woman in a room full of men. “I think those experiences are necessary to bring the awareness and adaptation needed for a conversion as time will bring more women into those industries that are lacking female representation,” Patricia says.
Patricia has two recommendations for addressing the underrepresentation of women in STEM. Her first recommendation is a short-term approach, which requires companies to acknowledge and address the gender gap that exists within their organizations. “Develop a KPI to reduce the gap by 10% [per annum] and communicate to ensure accountability,” she advises.
Longer term, Patricia suggests increasing girls’ exposure to the STEM field from a young age. “STEM fields need to be exposed to raise interest while creating memories and connections during the time women are developing ideas for their careers,” she says. “For example, this can be done by bringing children to work — expose them to what we do and how we do it.”
Patricia’s advice to women who are pursuing careers in STEM is to know their own strengths and continue studying. When faced with unfair experiences, Patricia encourages women to confront them head-on. “Don’t take it personally, take it to HR,” says Patricia.
Despite the significant gender gap in STEM, Patricia wants women to remind themselves of the following: “Remember that what we underrepresent in number, we out-represent in courage.”