If AI is coming for our jobs, many Americans are hoping to get out in front of it. Regular people are using AI at work, and tech workers are rebranding themselves as AI experts. And those in leadership are chasing the hottest new job title: AI leader.
Outside of tech, the job of head of AI largely didn’t exist a few years ago, but now people are taking on that title — or at least its duties — everywhere from Amazon to Visa to Coca-Cola . In the United States, the number of people in AI leadership roles has tripled over the past five years, according to data from LinkedIn, bucking the downward trend in tech hiring overall. And while the head of AI job descriptions vary widely by company, those with this new responsibility are expected to do everything from incorporating AI into businesses’ products to educating employees about how AI to use in their jobs. Companies want the new role to keep them at the forefront of their industries amid the AI disruption, or at least keep them from being left behind.
“This is the biggest market in a decade, and it’s hugely overhyped,” said Peter Krensky, a director and analyst at Gartner who specializes in AI talent management.
Like anything new in technology, the AI revolution can take on a bit of a gold standard. AI is one of the few areas where companies are actively spending money, as they see it as the inevitable future and a way to improve their bottom line. At the same time, the parameters of the AI job title – and even AI itself – are not very clear, and the pivot of this site may appear. Remember Shingy, AOL’s Digital Prophet?
The thing is, while everyone seems to agree that companies need AI stewards, the nature of the new technology means there’s a lot of uncertainty about what that stewardship means in practice. In addition, we are not sure who exactly should be the new stewards: the people who have been working on AI for many years or those who have introduced the latest crop of consumer products to AI and understand how to use the it’s another part of us. . We’re also not sure how big AI disruption will be and how fast that disruption will happen.
Those are just some of the reasons why companies are hiring AI leaders. And if they don’t already have an AI leader, most big companies will have one soon.
“If I was talking to a CEO a year ago, and I was like, ‘You’d be a fool not to have an AI head.’ They’d be like, ‘Come on, give me a break,’” Krensky said. “And now they’re like, ‘I know, that’s why I have one.’”
Krensky estimates that about a quarter of Fortune 2000 companies have dedicated AI leadership at the VP level or above. He expects it to be around 80 percent per year from now on. While the situation will be more common at large companies – especially those in banking, technology and manufacturing – it is also being seen on the rise by mid-sized organizations and government agencies.
Typically, the person taking on what Kensky calls a “cool and sexy” job title — one he says is often “a hat, not a role” — comes from an existing technology leadership position such as chief data officer or chief information officer. But due to the accessible nature of AI generation tools and their potential use across industries and jobs, people in non-tech roles like business and marketing are also catching up.
And because AI is supposed to be more transformative and profitable than technological fads like Web3, experts think that the head of AI will also stick.
“This is a role that will remain there for a while. It is not a transitional role,” said Beena Ammanath, executive director of the Deloitte AI Institute. “It is vital.”
What any given AI leader does varies, especially depending on the type of company. Generally, that breaks down into AI leaders at digital companies working to incorporate the technology into their products, and at non-tech companies figuring out where and how to use existing AI technology to power their models improve business. Everyone, it seems, is trying to get the rest of their company to start using AI.
Mike Haley, SVP of research at Autodesk, says he is the company’s de facto head of AI, having guided the architecture and engineering company’s AI strategy for more than a decade. In addition to leading the use of AI within the company, Haley is invested in using AI in Autodesk products to “dissolve the interface” between users and the software. That means AI could help people use “natural modes of speech” like English or pencil drawing, for example, to create detailed blueprints.
“Suddenly this complex tool that requires all kinds of learning and parameterization becomes more accessible to more people,” explained Haley, who has a background in computer science and applied mathematics.
Bali DR, head of AI and automation at IT services consulting firm Infosys, is helping clients leverage AI as they seek to use it to “enhance human potential” across Infosys, from recruiting to sales to software development.
“Every part of the value chain, we’re seeing how we can do it better, faster, cheaper,” says DR, who moved into the AI role from another management role, and started his career in the company 30 years ago i. software development.
FICO’s chief analytics officer, Scott Zoldi, has led the data analytics company’s AI efforts for the past seven years, also without the title of “global” AI. It is primarily focused on incorporating AI into the company’s products, including using consumer spending patterns to detect credit fraud or when a customer is falling for a scam. He also spends a lot of time thinking about how AI can be used responsibly so that it doesn’t offend regulatory bodies, corporate governance, or consumers by, for example, using AI that is likely to flag a certain group of people. commit fraud. .
Zoldi, who says he has written more than 100 AI patents, thinks the job of “head of AI” should go to someone with a technology background.
“You really have to be an expert or you could be setting up the organization for failures down the road because it’s very complex,” Zoldi, who sees the position as a kind of watchdog, like a leader security.
While Gartner’s Krensky estimates that about 80 percent of AI leadership comes from a technology background, another 20 percent, of course, do not.
That’s the case with Coca-Cola’s global head of AI generation, Pratik Thakar, who previously led the company’s global creative strategy.
Pratik is using AI to streamline and augment the company’s advertising products. That included the recent use of AI to about 15 percent of a commercialwhich sliced the production time from a year down to two months.
Conor Grennan, dean at NYU’s Stern school of business, who recently took on the additional title of head of AI generation, sees the title as more of an initiative and thinks it’s similar to chief learning officer or chief productivity officer. In this position, he pushes people across NYU, from students to professors to administrators and recruiters, to use AI to be more efficient and better at their tasks.
Grennan, who has an MBA and previously studied English and politics, thinks it’s actually better for many organizations if their AI leadership doesn’t come from a tech background so the person can explain its benefits to a wider audience of one. mortals.
“You don’t need to know the software your iPhone runs, just order an Uber,” Grennan said. Instead, what’s important to the role, he says, is creativity with language and breadth.
“They have to be excellent communicators, they have to have a view of the whole business, at least the 30,000-foot view. And also it has to be someone who really understands what generative AI can do,” said Grennan. “You don’t take everything by putting it in the technology department.”
No matter where the leader of AI is within an organization, the fact remains that it is a new frontier that will change dramatically as technology and our understanding of it evolves. And like any new technology, there will be a mixture of true innovation and true swindling.
AI is happening, and it’s going to be huge. But their full effects – and exactly what they are – will be rolled out over many years, so we may have time to figure things out.