Trends and Profiles

Women of Watson Part 3: Meet Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek

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We’re thrilled to bring you the third installment of the Women of Watson series. Last week, IBM Watson CMO Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek was the keynote speaker at Elevate: AI and spoke about the advances of AI. You can watch the replay here. Get to know Michelle on a more personal level and learn more about her journey with Watson and what the future holds for her and our brand.

How did you end up with a career in tech, and what lead you to IBM Watson?

I believe, oftentimes, we follow in the footsteps of those who have inspired us most. For me, the woman who has influenced my career is my mother, Betsy Veneziano. She was a pioneer in the field of technology, first programming on IBM machines for NASA, and then building an executive technical marketing career at companies like Docutel, Olivetti, and MemorexTelex. And she hasn’t slowed. Currently, she works for Tyler Technologies, in their courts and justice software solutions division.

IBM’s Think 2019 conference took place last month in San Francisco. What were the highlights for you?

It’s clear from the stories we heard that AI is changing the game for enterprises. They’re able to unlock their data in totally new ways, allowing them to drive more meaningful outcomes for their business – whether that’s improving the customer experience and satisfaction, reducing tasks that once took hours down to minutes, or truly transforming business models and identifying new revenue streams. And we saw that in the client examples that were shared from companies like the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), KPMG, and the New Jersey Courts.

At Think 2019, we saw the announcement of Watson Anywhere. What does it mean for Watson to be available on any cloud?

We know that companies are holding off on their AI journeys or limiting their experimentation because of concerns around data and insights ownership, trust in AI, and compliance related concerns. With Watson Anywhere, companies that store data across hybrid cloud environments have the flexibility to apply AI to their data wherever it is stored, which will accelerate adoption. Companies are already putting Watson to work for their organizations and realizing true business value. Watson Anywhere will enable more companies to take advantage of the power of Watson.

What excites you most about AI and the future of IBM Watson?

Our clients, without a doubt! It’s amazing to see the various ways in which they are putting Watson to work to solve real business challenges. I happen to be speaking at Adweek’s Elevate: AI this week and have the opportunity to share four different client stories all told through a common lens: how organizations are leveraging AI to deliver improved customer experiences and increase customer satisfaction.

I’m also proud of the work we’re doing to ensure companies trust their AI systems. Many of our clients want to be certain that the outcomes their AI is generating are both fair and explainable. At IBM, we strongly believe that safety, security, and trust in AI systems is critical for driving widespread use of this technology for real business applications.

In honor of Women’s History Month, what advice do you have for young women looking to become leaders in the tech industry?

I will offer the same advice I give to my teenage daughters: find purpose in what you do, be curious, and always look for the “why.” Yes, in this day and age, technical skills are so valuable, but they are not enough. It’s important to derive meaning from what you do and never be afraid to ask questions. At IBM, we are solving some of the world’s greatest challenges – from natural disasters to human trafficking; from early stage disease detection to cybercrime. It is an honor and privilege to work for a company that defines what it means to have purpose.

Next week concludes our Women of Watson series. Stay tuned!

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