Behind the code: Meet Mitch Mason
Photo credit: Ashley Maxwell
Mitch Mason is Senior Offering Manager for IBM Watson Assistant, a cloud service that allows developers to build and train AI chatbots, or “virtual assistants.” Mitch has been recognized as a leader in the chatbot space and is guiding an effort to help businesses integrate conversational interactions into their applications with Watson. We took some time to chat with Mitch about his work and learn more about trends in AI and technology.
What is your current role at IBM? What are some of your responsibilities?
I’m an Offering Manager for Watson Assistant, which means it’s my responsibility to oversee strategy for building out the dialog skill in the tool. I work with customers to understand their experience and help implement new features to make as many people as possible successful with the product. My team also monitors how Watson Assistant fits into the overall virtual assistant market, highlighting what differentiates us from competition.
Tell us about your background and why you decided to pursue a career in tech.
I was born and raised in Silicon Valley, so I assumed I would work in tech, but I earned my degree in finance. While working in banking, I met a customer who was planning to launch a company centered on chatbots, and she asked for my help. The company’s two largest customers were banks, and they were building bots that essentially automated what I did! I sensed this was going to be a disruptive technology, and it was. The work offered a perfect alignment of my skills in finance and my dreams of being in tech. Eventually IBM acquired that company, and the rest is history.
We know there is no typical day, but can you tell us what a day at IBM entails?
A major part of my job is simply making sure the design and development teams have everything they need to do their job. I work with a ton of customers to understand their needs and challenges, monitor usage metrics to see how the service is performing as a whole, attend meetings with customers both internal and external, and work on strategic planning around design and development of Watson Assistant.
What’s one of your proudest professional achievements to date?
I was named number 84 in the top 100 people to watch in the chatbot space a few years ago by VentureBeat. I also produced a number of tutorials on YouTube. It was really a grassroots effort to get out there and get exposure both for myself and for Watson.
What trends do you see emerging in tech?
The biggest trend right now is getting AI and machine learning (ML) into the hands of business owners and startups. We’re moving from the early adopter phase to mass market. People at every level of the business want to get their hands on data and make decisions based on what they can learn from it, but historically many haven’t had the skills to access and work with data at this scale.
Why are you passionate about working with Watson?
I truly believe that IBM and Watson are here for the right reasons. Our mission is to build powerful applications that help people get things done. From top to bottom, we’re helping people make great products that create value. And Watson is impacting business in so many ways, pioneering interest in AI and ML across many industries and use cases. I believe that Watson will be a cornerstone of AI technology, collaborating with and competing against others throughout all levels of business.
What are your passions outside of your role?
I play competitive hockey twice a week — and would play every day if I could. I also enjoy playing guitar and bass. Most of my free time is spent hanging out with my wife Megan, our dog Bella, and our friends and family.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to enter the industry?
The technical skills that many people might assume they don’t have, or can’t learn, shouldn’t be a blocker, because it’s easier than ever to quickly learn the basics of writing code or how applications work. These are essential skills if you want to develop software or any kind of technology. You don’t have to master any of it, but it really helps to understand the basics.
This article is part of our “Behind the Code” series.