Women of Watson Part 1: Meet Jennifer Sukis

By and Caitlin Leddy | 3 minute read | March 8, 2019

Today on International Women’s Day, we’re thrilled to roll out a four-part Women of Watson series. To commemorate Women’s History Month, each week in March we will highlight a woman working at IBM Watson who has helped to shape Watson as the AI for the business professional.

Meet Jennifer Sukis, Design Principal of AI and Machine Learning for Hybrid Cloud. Jennifer began her career with Watson and used her experience and knowledge of AI to propel her into a new role with Hybrid Cloud. In addition to her work at IBM, she is an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin, teaching an AI program she helped to roll out last year. Get to know Jennifer and her work at IBM with her profile below:

Tell us a little bit about your current role at IBM:

When I joined IBM in a creative direction role for Watson core services, the question we were getting from executives during every playback was, “What’s cognitive about this?” Research and testing led to a model for human-to-machine communication that gave us a guide to the specific components of cognition a computer needs to simulate in order to understand, reason, and learn like a human. We patented this model and it became the foundation for a new series educational tools and design thinking exercises that product teams use to go from zero to a fully vetted AI vision in two days or less.

I’m now a Design Principal of AI and Machine Learning for IBM’s Hybrid Cloud division. I work across the organization to provide education, design, and technical support to all of our teams as we’re working to infuse AI and machine learning into all of IBM’s products and services.

The transition has given me the chance to learn more about data and multicloud platforms, as well as connected me more closely with OM, sales, and marketing. There’s definitely been a learning curve, but I love learning about strategy and technology, and it’s been made easier by the fact that the culture of Hybrid Cloud is so open, collaborative, and supportive of new team members.

How are you always trying to learn new things? What excites you?

I learn by watching and listening, so I do what I can to meet people who are doing interesting work. Luckily, there’s an endless supply of brilliant individuals and teams at IBM exploring fascinating aspects of research, design, and engineering. I get to meet people every week who I’d love to spend days shadowing and learning from their talents and expertise.

If you weren’t working in AI, where do you think you would be?

If I wasn’t already working in AI, I’d be doing everything I could to change that. I’m completely enamored with being a part of this industry at this historic moment.

Is there one thing that keeps you up at night about AI?

That we can’t get AI built fast enough to work on the dire, complex problems we need it to help us with, like climate change. Simultaneously, that it’s happening too fast for us to foresee and prepare for the inevitable consequences it will have on our society.

What advice would you offer to the next generation?

To the future women in technology, I’d tell them that there will be times when you’re up to your ears in megabytes and GitHub issues, but remember to take pause and connect with other women you admire and want to learn from. On the flip side of that, make time to support the women who are looking up to you. In my career, developing a circle of female mentors and mentees with diverse perspectives and expertise who understand the realities of each challenge and accomplishment has made all the difference in my own confidence, success, and happiness.

Looking for more International Women’s Day content? Check out Watson CMO Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek’s blog on confronting the tech gender gap here. Michelle will also be featured as a part of the Women of Watson series. Stay tuned!

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