Artificial intelligence (AI) attracts a wide range of talent from a multitude of industries. Smart professionals from all over the world are often lured away from their initial career path to pursue AI — and once they come to this field, they never go back.
Three years ago she began working at TeamWork to concentrate on AI-focused projects that were more involved than merely teaching the subject.
“No one was doing AI in TeamWork yet,” Virginie says. “They did more classical IT things, but not AI.”
Virginie had thought about pursuing a career in AI much sooner but learned that few companies were interested in her talents and skillset when she earned her PhD in 2007.
“It was quite difficult for me to say to my students that in AI you can do a lot of things and it is wonderful,” she recalls. “Yet here I was, teaching and grading exams, and it’s extremely boring to grade exams. I wanted to do more AI, not teach AI. When I went back out there searching for companies, I didn’t go back to the ones that rejected me all those years ago. I didn’t want to work with someone that told me ‘no.’”
For Virginie, the best part about working in AI is the fun associated with creating something.
“We are starting from scratch, it’s a nonexistent program,” she says. “In AI, when a customer comes to us saying, ‘I have a problem and I don’t know what to do,’ we examine your problem and think about the best solution, which could be that we write you a program or software to resolve your issue. This is an incredibly stimulating and different part of my job.”
Virginie also enjoys managing and building a team of talented individuals.
“I try my best to remove any impediments that may arise in the team,” she adds. “That’s my main goal. I don’t tell them what to do and how to do it, they know what to do. They will come to me and say, ‘I can complete this work IF…’ and that ‘IF’ is my part. Whether that may be (training), webinars, passing certifications, etc. This is the more human aspect of my job, more human facing.”
But not everyone understands AI. Those outside the industry seem to believe the hype of movies like The Matrix and I, Robot, which tell stories about robots that make their own dangerous decisions against humankind.
“What we are doing is not sci-fi,” Virginie insists. “We are not working to make a computer that will enslave us or kill humans. We are facing this notion every time, and we have to correct it. AI is just software that simulates intelligence, there is no intelligence within the software, so don’t be afraid of it. We are not doing Terminator. In France, there are a lot of people who don’t understand AI. Consequently, they are afraid of it and think it is something dangerous. In actuality, it is a tool and can be very useful.”
Looking ahead, Virginie isn’t excited for just one aspect of AI but she says she would love to be surprised.
“I want it to make me exclaim, ‘Wow, AI can do that? Very cool! I never thought AI could do that!’” she says. “I hope to see something new every year that shocks me and shows me possibilities that are beyond even my wildest dreams. Young kids are surprised by everything and everything is wonderful to do, and I want to emulate that feeling in my job.”