Learnings Of Being A Chief AI Architect

With over 20+ years of experience in the IT industry, Sripriya has worked for key Fortune 20 clients globally on both large bids/solutioning and delivery. She believes that as an architect, one must keep learning to stay updated with today’s fast-paced technology.
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Analytics India Magazine interacted with Sripriya Venkatesan, Chief Architect at Capgemini who provided us with an in-depth insight on the current trends of Cloud and AI applications and their implementation in industries. 

With over 20+ years of experience in the IT industry, Sripriya has worked for key Fortune 20 clients globally on both large bids/solutioning and delivery. She believes that as an architect, one must keep learning to stay updated with today’s fast-paced technology.

Life as a Chief Architect

Sripriya begins with narrating a typical day at work as the Chief Architect in Cloud and AI. She further explains that in the current, fast-paced environment, it is crucial to keep abreast with the latest technologies and continue participation in key industry forums. “At Capgemini, all our colleagues including Chief architects maintain work–life balance and deliver on a lot of end-to-end transformation projects which include solutioning, delivery architecture and innovation. A typical day would include customer interactions: understanding their task, ensuring the solution meets their business outcomes and helping them transform in their AI and Cloud journey.”

Sripriya Venkatesan, Chief Architect, Capgemini

Her main areas of focus are Cloud, Java, and AI related technologies, specialising in solutioning and innovation for new-age digital enterprises and end-to-end architecture for complex application landscapes. 

Sripriya works on large, end-to-end or niche, AWS transformation programmes—helping clients on their cloud journey.  She is also involved in innovative PoVs and PoCs, as it helps the group create niche assets and accelerators to help the company’s projects. “Having a holistic view is important—it’s a happy mix of solutioning, delivery, innovation, working on large bids, working on analyst RFIs, working on niche PoVs on AI: what an excellent learning experience!”

Trends in AI application in organisations

Few years ago, the chief architect led an initiative for AI in her group, working on key topics that were of interest in the European region. She says that it ranged from conversational UI to image processing and recommendation engines, making it an exciting journey to work on interesting and varied topics for automotive, manufacturing, retail and healthcare sectors. 

Moreover, one of her teams’ assets got the AWS hackathon award as well. “AI is fast moving and interesting, however it is no longer niche. AI is everywhere and organisations must adapt to it with the right approach and standards to ensure appropriate adoption benefits when using AI at scale.”

She emphasised that the team follows a well-defined approach in Capgemini, especially in solving AI/ ML projects. “The biggest challenge is data and cleaning. Working with the well-defined process using home grown tools and those provided by hyperscalers helps tackle this in a scientific manner. Over the last few years, we see a lot more maturity from hyperscalers also on varied topics e.g., sustainability. It is important to keep those factors in mind.”

As the pandemic entailed a shift in work styles in the industry, Sripriya says, “Change is the only constant. Yes, this black swan event has brought many changes across the organisations and among our customers. With a hybrid model of working, many employees and organisations are reaping benefits of better work–life balance, managing day to day priorities along with frequent in-person interactions with teams.” The team with frequent touchpoints and rituals balance multiple projects and priorities, along with spending quality time with family and taking personal commitments.

Sripriya states that AI is majorly implemented by companies at a large scale to bring business outcomes. “AI is everywhere. Organisations need to embrace it and start looking at AI in scale. We are no longer seeing small PoCs, PoVs or MVPs, rather organisations are now looking at using AI and Cloud to lead large programmes that can bring in business outcomes, help them reach their goals and also help in important aspects like sustainability.”

‘Glass ceiling exists but can be broken’

Sripriya is an active participant of several hackathons in the AI space, out of which the last one was the AWS hackathon where her team bagged the runners up position. She also leads the Women in Delivery ArchX initiative within Capgemini to assist other women architects on their technical journey. “I am passionate about women in STEAM and regularly mentor and participate at events like Society of Women Engineers, Women who Code, Women in Tech Network, Anita borg GHCI, Open Group, Association of Enterprise Architects—many topics related to AI and Cloud.”

Sripriya shares some of her key learnings of being a Chief Architect:

  • Mentor—always mentor upcoming talent who are open to learning and ready to move up in their career ladders.
  • Stay humble. It is of utmost importance to stay grounded. Leaders don’t have to show their power and authority. It is always helpful to empathise—understand why someone is not able to stay late, understand their personal backgrounds and limitations, help the new mom who has just come back from her maternity break, support the dad whose kid is sick and keeping him awake all night, the tenant living in your house also deserves basic courtesy and respect. A leader who is understanding and humble will always go a long way in getting the team’s support.
  • Ethics—always uphold the highest standards in Ethics. Give people their due, lead by example. And even if no one is looking, do the right thing and be prepared to stand-up for it. Leaders should always stand up for what is right, even if it means you are doing it alone. This is particularly true of women leaders who are role models for others and need to lead by example.
  • Respect everyone—sometimes even juniors can come up with innovative solutions regardless of their age and experience. We often assume that consultants don’t know much but they too have a plethora of knowledge. Let everyone share and voice their opinions freely, and not just the opinions you would like to hear.

She also states that Capgemini has a vibrant architect community with a strong focus on diversity. “Overall, in the industry we do see gaps in women technologists—many drop out due to personal reasons, lack of childcare in particular. It is also observed that many women move to non-technical roles, as they cannot keep up with the constant need to keep ourselves updated on technologies in today’s ever changing world of AI and cloud. Glass ceiling exists but can be broken.”

Being one of the few women chief architects globally, she shares that she is proud and fortunate to have been mentored and supported by senior architects within the ecosystem. “Anything is possible with the right platform, training and opportunities along with focused mentoring to help women technologists.”

Addressing gender inequality

Sripriya has served as woman in delivery ambassador at Capgemini for the last three and half years. She leads the ArchX initiative—a platform to grow and connect to the outside world—that aims to take employees to the next level by providing opportunities on speaker slots, guidance on writing blogs, contribution and participation in external forums at various levels and more. “I also regularly mentor colleagues including customer architects on their technical journey. I am leading this initiative for my business unit as well—we regularly meet other colleagues, understand their concerns. It is important to have work happening on the ground to ensure we are able to bring an impact to women colleagues.”

Sripriya shares a few steps on how organisations can tackle gender inequality which, according to her, is a difficult area for varied reasons:

  • Support for working moms and new moms is a must—not just via policies but also empathy and emotional support within their respective teams.
  • Show women colleagues the right role models. I once met a lady who had 100 patents and she spoke about her kids. That really hit close.
  • Mentoring goes a long way. Speed mentoring and focused mentoring can do wonders when it comes to personalised attention and support.
  • Help women employees build a brand—work with them on topics that are of interest outside of their day jobs: publications, speaking externally, hackathons, writing blogs, mentoring other women, participating in open source programmes, organising meet-ups, networking outside of work. This helps employees meet other fellow colleagues outside of work, network and get to the next level.
  • Organisational policies must be supportive of women—this is a given and without which a healthy gender balance is difficult to achieve.

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Bhuvana Kamath
I am fascinated by technology and AI’s implementation in today’s dynamic world. Being a technophile, I am keen on exploring the ever-evolving trends around applied science and innovation.

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