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AI Is Not Just A Jargon Anymore: Anshuma Singh, Applied Materials

AI Is Not Just A Jargon Anymore: Anshuma Singh, Applied Materials

  • Digital transformation is the application of technology to improve productivity, making businesses more effective and efficient.
Anshuma Singh

Anshuma Singh began her journey as a software engineer in 2004 and moved up the ranks to lead software product development. Currently, Singh is serving as the deputy director (IT) at Applied Materials India. In her current role, she leads solution delivery, identity, security and authentication domain, and program portfolio, among others. She also led the collaboration and communication for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning COE for IT. Apart from daily duties, Singh is well known to guide young professionals, especially women, in excelling in their professional careers

Analytics India Magazine caught up with Singh to converse about the present and future of the IT industry.

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Edited excerpts from the interview:

AIM: Digital transformation has been the buzzword in the industry today. Every company wants to transform as soon as possible digitally. What is your take on it?

Anshuma Singh: Digital transformation has become a prominent buzzword in today’s time. In simple terms, it is the application of technology to improve productivity, making businesses more effective and efficient.

Typically, digital transformation evolves through three stages – first is an initiation stage with unorchestrated experiments, where leaders are involved in an intense exploration of new ideas and new digital business opportunities. The second stage is the acceleration phase or the phase of formalising digital leadership. It is a period when business leaders drive digital transformation in the organisation. The third phase is embedded digital leadership, where every part of the business has ‘digital’ ingrained into it. This is also called the equilibrium phase, where one has the right mix of traditional and digital assets and capabilities to ensure great business outcomes. 

In the post-pandemic era, adaptability, flexibility, and openness to accept digital transformation are essential. While many businesses are well along the journey to digital transformation, others are just getting started. The key to moving digital transformation forward is digital dexterity, where you build an agile and flexible workforce. It is important to understand that digital dexterity doesn’t happen by having only digital literacy in place but also by aligning talent and business strategies and leveraging whatever digital capabilities one has. For an organisation, the focus should be on the three areas of digital dexterity: digital ambition, digital foundations and organisational alignment.

AIM: COVID-19 has affected all facets of life and work like never before. Few companies could bear the shockwaves, while others were left crippled. What, according to you, is the best way for the industry to be best prepared for any situation like this in future?

Anshuma Singh: An ideal way to be prepared for possible future disruptions is to modernise and secure your digital foundation. By that, I mean modernising your infrastructure to make it scalable and self-serviceable, enhancing development platforms with DevOps/RPA tooling and low code no-code solutions, integrating with ecosystem platforms, and leveraging data and analytics. Building fusion teams with cross-cutting collaboration, strong communities of practice and ensuring it’s all cyber-secure will be extremely helpful. It is also good to have in place the organisational change and processes that will enable businesses to become resilient. The future of IT requires dynamic investments. Modern delivery with the right kind of foundational services, data, adaptability to the evolution of technology and upskilling are essential aspects that will enable IT to help businesses flourish. 

AIM: How has development in AI and ML helped advancement in the IT sector?

Anshuma Singh: Today, every aspect of the IT sector has been touched by AI and ML. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used for better capacity planning, resource utilisation, optimisation, and storage management in the infrastructure space. 

In the information management space, AI is used for cyber security, such as anomaly and threat detection. Intelligent monitoring, intelligent storage and automated support are other areas.

Application development is seeing improved coding, better application deployment and improved quality. The latest concept is AI for IT Operations (AIOps), which connects performance management, service management and automation for continuous improvement. This shows the significant role that AI is playing in today’s IT sector.

AIM: The AI field that has been gaining much traction is AI-assisted coding. With innovations like Copilot, the world seems to be heading closer in that direction. What do you think about it? Will softwares like this replace human developers?

Anshuma Singh: Whether it is automation or AI-assisted coding, the ultimate objective is to help humans become better. I believe such tools are going to make our lives easier and better, allowing us to focus on the quality of work. 

AI and automation will certainly bring about changes in the way we work. There will be a rise in newer types of jobs that will not be mundane but will require the application of human emotional intelligence.

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AIM: Do you think that AI is truly driving innovation at tech companies, or it is just used as jargon?

Anshuma Singh: Speaking in the context of my organisation, AI is truly driving innovation in technology companies and has been positively affecting many areas, including in our organisation. AI is not limited to a single product line or innovation within that product line. 

The use of AI can range from security to automation in finance and to HR for training, simulations and recruitment. AI is also being deployed in engineering and manufacturing. AI is not just jargon anymore; it has touched every aspect of an organisation and business.

AIM: You have often assumed mentorship roles for young aspirants. According to you, what are the skills most lagging in aspirants wanting to join the IT workforce?

Anshuma Singh: In my opinion, technical skills can be acquired, but the “soft skills” count for aspirants joining the IT workforce. When we look at hiring people based on workforce requirements, along with the skills, a large part is determined by how good a fit they would be in the company culture. But yes, the question that is commonly asked by individuals who plan to join the IT industry is, “What are the required skills to get hired?”

The IT industry is thriving with much talked about technical skills in AI, ML, cloud computing, RPA, IoT, cyber security, quantum computing, blockchain, pure coding and more. However, there should also be a large focus on acquiring soft skills that will help one propel forward. One example is curiosity – as is said, curiosity for emotions drives empathy, curiosity for ideas drives imagination, curiosity for solutions drives creativity, curiosity for influence drives communication, and curiosity for results drives leadership.

The other important aspect is agility. We have all seen the disruptions caused by the pandemic, and being able to adjust to new ways of working and collaborating is important. Therefore, agility and adaptability are essential skills, as are writing proficiency, collaborating and working in teams, and being open-minded to different perspectives and ideas.

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