Suzana Tadic, AI Programme Lead at BNP Paribas, has been interested in science since she was a child. “I loved all things sci-fi as well as science-oriented stories,” she says.
Suzana has worked for BNP Paribas Securities Services for the past 14 years. She spent the first 10 years on the operational side of the company and worked her way from account manager to the manager responsible for processing. For the past three years, she has been the AI Programme Lead, overseeing the creation of virtual agents for BNP Paribas’ portals.
“Without doubt, the knowledge of the business has been a plus in my current role. It proved to be helpful to develop effective use cases for our virtual agents, as it requires a good understanding of the business, how the company works, its strengths and areas of improvement,” says Suzana.
In Suzana’s department at BNP Paribas, they research, source and develop applications for AI initiatives. They have also integrated other AI fields, such as Natural Language Processing, within their data research, translation tools and their mature RPA programme. “We continue to leverage and develop new features to potential areas of growth and interest within the banking and finance arena,” she explains.
Suzana says that seeing BNP Paribas Securities Services’ first virtual agent project in production made her feel like she was living in a future time. “When you finally see it all working, with the virtual assistant that you developed answering client queries and getting feedback […] it’s then that you realize how much of a difference AI and new technologies can make.”
One reason Suzana enjoys working in the AI industry is because she can leverage the technology to help others. “I am driven by helping people do their job in the easiest, most effective way possible,” says Suzana. For example, she has helped BNP Paribas’ account manager teams by developing a virtual agent solution to support them throughout the client journey, freeing account managers to focus on “more complex issues.”
In the future, Suzana likes the thought of living in a world where AI helps people in their daily lives, giving humans “more time to do the things that we love.” However, she warns that AI needs to be more sustainable moving forward. “There are a lot of fields where AI consumes too much energy, so we will need to be very careful with how we use it,” she says. “We need to work on the creation of solutions with low-energy requirements.”
Suzana thinks that there are two common misconceptions about AI: it is neither a technology that will become uncontrollable, nor a “magic tool” that requires little human input to work. ““There are fears we need to cope with but there are also unrealistic expectations that we need to manage,” she says. “As far as (BNP Paribas’) virtual agent is concerned, we are dictating everything the agent says and how it behaves.”
When explaining her AI projects to non-technical friends and family, Suzana describes how a virtual agent replies to clients’ and users’ questions, and assists with administrative topics. “Generally people understand the basics because chatbots are increasingly a part of everyday life,” says Suzana.
Pursuing a Career in AI
Although many people connect with mentors for help with their career growth, Suzana encourages others not to worry if they can’t find one mentor. “You may be able to find the qualities you admire and want to emulate from countless colleagues and influential people in your life,” she says. For example, at BNP Paribas, Suzana says there are several “authentic people that have many admirable qualities,” with traits that she has integrated into her own professional and personal life.
To encourage more women to join the AI field, Suzana says there are tremendous possibilities, as creating AI involves several types of roles and skills. “We need developers, but also project managers, business analysts,” she notes. “We need people that embrace technological change and evolution.”
Suzana says that, in the past, there were “barriers for women that would have blocked the appeal of a career in tech.” Fortunately, at BNP Paribas, she says women are well represented: “There are several other women working in AI and in the digital field.”
For women who are pursuing a career in STEM, Suzana has some sage advice. She encourages women to share their passion for their chosen field, “be persistent, take risks and motivate others to do the same,” and always maintain a sense of humor. Never stop learning, she says, and be “sure to listen and share thoughts and experiences.” Finally, she asks women to “help us to dispel the fears around AI so we can continue to gain interest in the tech industry.”