IBM VP, AI Tech
University of Maryland MSc & PhD, Computer Science
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Aya Soffer on Mon Jul 20 2020
a long journey, so I'll try to hit on some major points. First of all today, I am vice president for A I Technologies and IBM Research. The journey to this job started with a bachelor's degree in computer science. And after that degree, even though I kind of knew and was conditioned because both my parents have PhDs that I would one day one to get a phd, I still really wanted to go out there and work in the real world. So I got a job as a,software engineer and I worked for four years and really enjoyed it. I worked in a medical imaging company in Israel, and after about three years, I decided that I did want to indeed pursue a research career and get a PhD and decided to go to the to the U. S. I was in Israel. I live in Israel. I decided to move to the U. S. And indeed pursued a Ph. D. at the University of Maryland in computer science. Coming back when I finished my PhD, it was a question of do I want to stay in academia into research or eep anemia or go into or the industry world. And at the time I stayed for a while a supposed stock and a little more work. I worked in particular in collaboration with NASA Goddard Space Center on and found that I liked that mix of doing research but still being very grounded by real world problems that somebody cares about and maybe be able to deploy well. So when I came back to Israel, had the opportunity to join IBM Research and and found that that mixed was a good point on that, so I made it. So I get research I've been with. I've every search over 20 years on the next step, and maybe the lemon will get into more details. Waas. Do I stay deep in one area of research? Or do I brought in and go more into the direction off management career within research, which is what I eventually did on, and at least for me, I found it very rewarding to be able to. I'm buying, understanding what the world needs and what the business needs are was where we should and how we do deeper research and but I eventually continued on that path and today have ah responsibility across a very large area and IBM research working many, many talented researchers around the world.

What responsibilities and decisions does one handle in a job like yours? Tell us about weekly work hours, including the time spent on work travel and working from home.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
uh, executive in this role in research in a research organization. Ah, a lot of my decisions around what we do and where we should spend our time and what are good ideas for research. On the one hand, it's then on inspiring researchers that this is a good problem, that they should work, huh? And it's also working the other way around. So people who including myself, who follow the latest the developments in the world, ask ourselves How can, for example, in my area is natural language understanding and recent years have seen a lot of progress in Transformers language models. How can that really transform the types of problems that our customers care about? It was really matching those two in terms off hours. It's a global organization. I sit in Israel's of my Hours are typically long in the morning. I've tried to take it easy a little bit in the early morning and then have my vocal work with my team here and I file afternoons typically will have more work also people in the US But there is a lot of flexibility. On the other hand and in terms off travel and work from home. We now know that you can order ceremony all the time and never travel and everything's fine. But by Herzegovina I would travel about 1/4 soul combination of client visits, customers working with my teams across the world. And in the last few months, a lot of that has been done.

What are the challenges in a job like yours? What approaches are effective in dealing with these challenges? Discussing examples will help students learn better.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
I alluded to some of the challenges on, and I'll talk about soft challenges around soft skills. On the one hand, being a manager, you deal a lot with people, and therefore some of it is really around. How we and inspire researchers how we can make sure people are happy and interested in what they're doing on the one end and still working on the types of problems that we care about is along. Um, that's That's one of the challenges, you know. How do you and especially since most of our employees in themselves are being cheese, everybody has an idea of what they want to do. So really happen. You bring all these guys together. Uh, is one thing another saying is because I lead a very global organization. You have a lot of internal competition. Ah, and repetitions or team in India, for example, maybe working on something that it just so happens that Steven Hi follow was already doing, but they have a new or idea the team in California and so on. So really, how do we don't want him left? Sometimes it's good you want to have, you know, many flowers bloom and try out a few ideas. But on the other hand, we need We need people to work together. So really getting people to want to elaborate toe understand that trying to someone I'll beat sometimes even like we do in research on Leaderboard for things like that. Um, is this long challenge like this? Yeah. And then, from from typical perspective, those were more soft issues from a practical perspective, working in such a big company, IBM, you really need to understand the business. And I thought it was a challenge, but especially and really understand where and how you can make that difference. But moving the needle of the company so challenge is not true. Uh, one hand. And the other thing is, I have an idea. How do I promote it in this? You know, I am a way we do. It is a lot of it is networking. Ah, combination of being knowing a lot of people, both of the development side on the product side, um, having conversations, having informal and formal conversations with some of it will be brains for making or buying confessions. And some of it just be kind of informal hair. Have an idea, and that's I would take on a high level there many little challenges when I would say the big challenges.

What are the job titles of people who someone in your role routinely works with, within and outside of the organization? What approaches are effective in working with them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
IBM research. I worked with, uh, people somewhere. My superiors, right. So would be the manager off. The whole area of AI can be research. The head of research, uh, isn't within my own organization. And I also work alone with the product people. So these will be the development managers, the general managers for the portfolio, offering managers with people who understand the business better. And they can come in all you know, in different ranks. Basically, uh, depending on what their own is we work with, the city owes a lot, So I work also customers. Typically, this is where the seat Eos will bring in research to talk more about upcoming technologies and thanks a lot. And, ERM Selva approaches affecting working with them, I would say, Generally speaking, no matter who it is the approaches to understand the goal of the person who you're working with them, what they need to achieve and try to make sure that whatever you want to discuss with them is in the context of helping them achieve their goals. It's the sea Tito and they work with the customer than I need to understand the types of issues customers are facing If it's the head of research than I need to understand, like you know, what are how can I help expands the overall goal?

How would you describe your management style? How has it evolved over the years? Can you tell about experiences or books that influenced your management style?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
I do a good question. I'll tell you all start with the how it evolved over the years. Uh, I in the beginning, it was very hard for me to let's go, right. So I think my management style. When I started being a manager, I had to control things. I had to know. Uh, you know how, what we need to do what everybody is doing and get updates. You know, he really, really, really on top of things. And in the beginning, it was also usually a smaller team. And I felt like, OK, this not me. It's my responsibility on that was my style at the time. Over time, as my responsibilities grew and as by job description expanded, The one thing I really, really have to learn is to let go and to cross people who work for me that you know, they know what they're doing. And that's really what I need to do today is to empower them, be very clear, provide the clarity on what needs to be done and why we need to do it and then empower them to get the work done and really see myself more as, ah facilitator and someone who has helped them road blocks. And really, the discussion becomes not tell me your progress, but tell me where I can help you, that that's been a very big change for me in terms of book looks. You know, I read about Steve Jobs in recently, Second and Ella's book, which I really, really like, obviously being an IBM Lugar's. There's okay Elephants how to make elephant Dance inspired me a lot because he really turned the company around. I think I like if I if I look for a common denominator, it people who turned the company who may have been able to come into a company and change the culture almost a company, different people, that means the alma.

How do you manage conflicts within and across teams? How do you promote trust, openness and a healthy work culture? Sharing stories will greatly help.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
I leave. The main main thing is transparency. And to give you an example, I can share a process that we've recently been going through an IBM research, and it also relates to conflict. Oh, uh, big organization, lots of talented people across the world. And we usedto have not have a good way of being very open and sharing what everybody was working on. So you learn about these things because you end up coming to a review. Will some executive let's say in the business unit and you're presenting and all of a sudden somebody else presents Let's a different platform Ireland and discover a zit. I said before that we're working on the same thing. For example, that creates a lot of public. We've moved in the past two years to a platform which now that it set up seems very trivial. But getting everybody in research to that Riker was not trivial at all. Where all the projects that we're working on globally across the world or shared on we call it a challenge portal. It's a place within IBM research that you can just simply go and see the portfolio of all the projects. What people are working on. What are their goals? What are there milestones? Do I need help? It's also kind of changed the mindset of rather than no kidding putting it out there and saying Hey, I need people with an LP skills. Can you come and work on my project? That is helped really a lot in terms of wolf managing conflicts, as well as having more openess and healthy, much healthier work culture.

What indicators are used to track performance in a job like yours? Think of the indicators such as key performance indicators (KPIs), objectives & key results (OKRs), or so on.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
way are using okay, ours in ivy and research that is also view, and part of our change in also being more transparent has been being more meticulous about defining what are P results. What? Our objective, first of all, and then how we're gonna measure ourselves along the resolve they very and they will, very depending on your job. If you're a researcher working on a project, your key result of your measurement maybe a scientific measurement which could be a combination of some specific scientific goal, for example, I want to improve accuracy of someone older than by 30%. Or I want to reduce the performance. You know, the CPU time for some algorithm, by whatever percent, as well as things that are accomplishment, like polish this many papers or right these many fat, loots or contribute to a product you know, the aid or work with. So these are the types of, um, measurements that we will measure our researchers myself as an executive. You know, it's more about managing the portfolio. It could be around, so business goes, we also need to know how we're impacting the idea. Is this in my eyes? But we do have method to go on, really measure our impact if we contribute to a product and the product make so much money in the market. But try Mr May, what was our impact on that business inside IBM on and as a senior executive, I will be more measured on. You know, things along those lines, However I impacted. What is the culture? You know, we have something which we call an engagement. Also inside the Wallaby measurement measured on the level of engagement on my feet.

What qualities do you look for while hiring? What kind of questions do you typically ask from candidates?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
I look for? Look, you look for our skills, right? So there is obviously ah, starting point, which is Do you want to believe that the person that you're hiring has the skills, the technical skills that you're looking for? Typically, that will happen in some technical interviews and so on. So when they get to me, Azan example, they typically already passed many of the technical interviews and therefore I would focus more on a few other things. Uh, from a team. Being a team player is very, very important. So I will ask questions depending on if they already have some work experience. And I will ask questions that will help me evaluate whether persons a team player. I don't usually do this by asking for examples. Can you give me an example where there was a conflict and how you solved it? And, you know, can you give me an example where you didn't agree with your manager and you know what happened? You know, things like that, which I what kind of show me how this person will handle such situations. It's a team player is one thing, and the other one is innovation. So in our business. A lot of it is we have to invent things. We have to invent new picnics left and maybe new products. And in that case I will try to evaluate as much as I can in a conversation with Candidate. How innovative they are typically do this also about just asking them for examples or questions on, you know, let's say they work in an area of machine learning and work with some tuning. So from your experience, working with these machine learning tools, what is the biggest thing that's missing? And, you know, how could you solve that or, you know, things that kind of helped me stay, whether within their environment, are able to really think about new ideas and direction.

What helped you to stand out in your hiring process? How should someone prepare for an interview for a job like yours?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
my delicious that one thing that at least helps me a lot. That I think when I interview people you see this as well is to be passionate about what you're doing. So I heard this feedback also from people, uh, who interviewed me, whether for a job interview or do a lot of press interviews and other things as well, is they? But I didn't get excited because I'm excited, right? So I think it's the same thing. Well, from my perspective, when you're talking to somebody who was interviewing you again, whether it's ah, journalist or whether it's a potential job position is really to show that you're passionate about what you're doing, that you understand why you're doing what you're doing. And it's not like, Oh, I came to work and I did this. Listen, listen, But really, uh, you know, distinguishing yourself by being someone who really cares and understand and have a lot of passion what they do and leaves us to how you can prepare for an interview. For a job like mine, it's it's doing some homework. But if I would come and go interview down another company who definitely spend time to understand their business and their product, and you know what it is that they make Arab on. So I can arsenal eyes a little bit when I come and talk about my experience often to what is relevant to eventual oh interviewees that the and then generally you need toe. You know, you need to be very clear about what you're doing, any three confident and you should. Also, This is also something I believe in across the line open management and everything I do is it's OK to say, when you don't know something, it's better to do that. In my opinion, if you're asked them, someone is to just say, Look, there's something I would be rather than trying to make it up that usually doesn't work. People appreciate honesty and open it.

Can you discuss career accomplishment(s) that you feel good about? Please discuss the problem context, your solution, and the impact you made.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
good. Um, I'll talk about two things. What is most recently is we did a project that I'm very, very proud of. It got a lot of, uh, impact externally, a lot of press and also is now bringing impact with clients and customers and the projects called Project Debater, hoping some of the people who are watching this have heard. And it's not I urge you to go in Google it project later. It's a grand challenges and IBM grand challenge in the spirit of previous grand challenges and IBM, like deep blue chess and, uh, watch in flight Jeopardy. Uh, there was a call inside research for what should be the rip. The grand challenge of a team in Haifa had come up with this idea. Can we build a, uh, gene that will debate. And for May? At the time, I was the senior manager, and it was not of my employees who came up with this idea, and we really took it together from a idea that was one of maybe 200 candidates ideas to. First of all, it took about a year process to just get to the point that it was selected one And to do that, you have to prove that on the one hand, it's an interesting problem. It's hard, but not impossible. And should you solve it, the world would care and IBM would care and so on. So that was just to get to the point that we were selected was already an accomplishment. And, um, it took us several years to build this thing, the team who built it and myself more as supporting them as the executive who, as I said, you know, make sure the team has what they need to make it work, making all the connections inside idea outside IBM to get everybody possible. Finally, a little over a year ago, we had it on stage in a very big IBM conference, competing with the world champion debater, and, um, that was obviously a highlight of the career. Just to have that opportunity to do something that was so exposed recently won a innovation award. And in the last year and 1/2 since that event, we've been very, very busy applying this technology to some problems inside the company outside the company and more to come. We're working on more things

What responsibilities and decisions does one handle in a job like yours? What are the challenges? What strategies are effective in dealing with these challenges?

Based on experience at: Director, Information Management Analytics, IBM
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
I alluded to some of these before. Uh, you know, generally speaking, uh, it's about deciding what you work on. Let me let me raise another one, which I didn't mention before, and I think will be very interesting as well for people because I think this is one of the hardest problems we have is when do you stop something? Eso We talked about deciding what to start, and that's interesting and challenging and that many, many ideas. And you need to decide which ones you're gonna bet on. However, being in the research organization, if everything we do succeed, that means we're not being officious out. That means we're not aiming high enough. So if you do start something and it's not succeeding as much as you like, given the goals that you set forth, you may be tempted to say, Well, maybe we went down there, you know the wrong path, and we should just go down another and let's give it another year. Or if the problem is that we have a great idea and somehow we're not seeing the business impact of it, you can just tell you well, story. It was a bad idea Let's not do it anymore or you can say, Hey, let's wait another year And making that decision is the hardest one. I honestly don't think we are at a point that I can tell you that I know how to do it. It's very, very difficult to make this do up on one end, and it's very painful. On the other hand, to say no year after year and say, Oh, we thought this would be the year on of and get it still, isn't I? I can give you even a complete example. It's not just us, you know. This is like the world augmented reality example. It's an area or Google started with glasses, which was more for consumer and we an idea. I have been looking at applying invented reality in the context of business for many years, and it's every year you like. This has to be, you know, like there. There's so many good reasons that invented reality. You needed particular nations you needed for this. You need it for this and you have one customer to, but it doesn't. It doesn't really scale so, like our am I early enough or is this just technology that's never It's just a very, very tough decision

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: MSc & PhD, Computer Science, University of Maryland
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
Uh oh. I think the best thing that the school does is it you how to do research and help to learn? Sometimes you're fortunate enough that maybe specifically the thing you did in your PHP happens to be What you thought you do later on clearly is something in developing a knee shawaryn area that you're an expert in. However, along your lifetime in along your career, things will inevitably change. Now the whole world changes in the basic rate of change these days is much higher than it even used to be. And therefore, in my opinion, the best thing that the university's prepare us to dio is to think and to learn. It's to define, like, what is the hypothesis, what it is that you want to do in your PhD. And then how do you go about doing How do you learn that area? Because it's a you weren't it? Or how do you define what is a problem that you should go after? And also it's a good experience. I mean, often times during your PhD, you will hit some places, as I alluded to before you try something, it didn't work, so it builds resiliency. Also, I think the whole process off getting the PhD helps you build the resiliency that you Nader needed in the workplace, too. Whether it's an academic career or ah, career industry to really know how to deal when things that don't bow is exactly as you expected to go in terms off. You know that working alone it, that's all that I was good, it's Oh, it's not gonna be an enormous network, but it's Ah, it's a beginning And and IBM, for example, I was surprised when I joined IBM. I met in several places. I met a woman, A of University of Maryland, and it was just, you know, I would tell somebody that guy went to Spooky. She went to school. Have pretty is like, I don't know, University of Maryland had so many graduate, So it's definitely good, especially when you join Ah, a new place and you find some people that may walk down to you scores, references and things like that. But predominantly is the opportunity to really hone on your learning skills and on adopting, and I'm building Brazilians

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: B Sc, Computer Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
bachelor. Chris, I believe, gave me more of the basics, which my case was computer science, and I I'm still old fashioned in the way that I think you need those basics of computer science. No matter what you do in it, eventually you go and become a software engineer or programmer. Maybe now they two scientists, whatever I think the underlying foundation of the theory of computer science and, like, you know, getting also the breath of the area build a very good base for me to then go and go out to the workplace and get more specific experience or eventually go and expand by my learnings. I think that really I do think is giving you the based knowledge. You know, you need to have, uh, versus your advanced degrees, which are more about learning how to learn and how to explore

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? Please discuss the stories behind these lessons, if possible. Stories could be yours or observed.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
so I would say is following you. No one is the story I already shared, which is this story that if you want to grow, you need to help others grow. So your only way to grow in your own career is if you are able to groom other people and to grow an organization and to grow skills and to grow people. So it's really about the combination off having the answers yourself, but also knowing how to tap into other people that can help you grow. So the other one, I would say is Follow your passion. I think you can Onley succeed if you're doing something you like. If you're in a position where yes, maybe you can get promoted or you can have something that sites in a sales position, and I just don't like selling rights and I had opportunities. I have cases where somebody said, Oh, I need you know, somebody. Maybe I wasn't even an executive at the time. I need an executive in a sales or in a services organization. For me, it waas that's not me, and therefore I just didn't think I would make I would succeed, but I wouldn't like what I'm doing. So I think you have toe be passionate about what you're doing and stick to it. And, you know, I believe that you'll have your opportunities and you'll be able to grow your career within those areas. Okay, Now, the 3rd 1 I will say, is to dovetail What I just tell you and told you and may be contrasted a little bit is to go outside your comfort zone. Oh, still thinking to what you really believe your passion is You do need to be very open and to challenge yourselves, uh, two jobs and positions or tasks that be a little bit uncomfortable it for So they shouldn't be something that you feel is impossible or that you don't believe that you have the skills or the tools to perform. But it definitely should be and unique to throughout your career, no matter what, wherever you are all the time, feel that you're working on something that you're not sure that you can succeed in and you don't really know, and it's really going to challenge you that keeps you continuously learning and continuously improving yourself and also challenged and not getting bored things along those

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 20 2020
it should be a job where you'll be able to develop your skills. It's a job where you'll have a little bit of independence, I would say, and a job than you think you'll be proud off when you go and look for your next job, I would say Eso really think about it in that sense, Is it a good job for me? Well, I enjoy coming to work. Will it give me new skills that I need? You know, moving forward? Will I succeed? Obviously want your first job to be somewhere where you know you'll feel satisfaction. We'll feel that the organization a fishing Teoh and so on. Oh, so that, I think, is, um is important. It shouldn't to be something that oh, this is like the person Perfect match. I have eggs. Exactly. I could be wonderful in this thing because then you may not be in a position where you're learning new things, and when you start to, you especially need to not be in a position to throw your skill set and growing you experience on in terms of parting advice. My parting advice would really be to follow your passion to not you know, be afraid of making changes along your career. If you find that too are not necessarily where you want to be and to believe in yourself. I think that's, you know, very, very important for everybody, but especially for women, I want to say a year, uh, where I found over my career that women in particular often times will discount themselves in some ways and really not believe in themselves and therefore turned down opportunities and things on those lines. Also, I would just say, leaving yourself but of your passion and be proud of what you're doing.