‘Almost all industries are trying to harness the power of AI’


10 Sep 2019311 Views

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Alex Fly. Image: Quickpath

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Quickpath’s Alex Fly talks about the importance of AI and machine learning for businesses, and how ‘great teams think differently’.

Alex Fly is co-founder and CEO of Quickpath, a Texas-based machine-learning engineering and ops platform that bridges the gap between the data science analytics environment and the operational environment.

Fly has more than 20 years of experience in the field of enterprise data and analytics, and is now focused on helping businesses make better use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) within their organisations.

‘I help companies achieve more AI value while avoiding much of the traditional AI complexity’
– ALEX FLY

Describe your role and what you do.

I’m a seasoned AI/ML specialist, focused on enabling businesses to make automated, intelligent decisions throughout their organisations using machine learning and artificial intelligence.

I’m a speaker, thought-leader and an industry expert in the applied data science space, specifically data-science factory enablement and leveraging machine-learning models to automate business processes and customer interactions. I help companies achieve more AI value while avoiding much of the traditional AI complexity.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I use my calendar aggressively to allocate time for the various sets of activities that I need to address each week. That way, I ensure that I have dedicated time with the right people for all the important activities that often fall off the back of the calendar when you let other people grab time on your calendar first.

Tools like Slack and Google Suite allow me to keep a pulse on the activities of our various team and allow me to chime in where I need to set direction or help course-correct, or just passively stay up to date on our work streams when the team has things running smoothly without me.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Right now, many businesses face the challenge of moving AI to production. Enterprises build machine-learning models, but they can’t actually use the models because of skills gaps, lack of tools etc. This means the machine-learning models never make it to production (or face long delays) and businesses cannot extract the value of AI.

We offer a solution to businesses faced with this challenge. Our platform can connect AI models to the production environment and embed them into applications.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Almost all industries are trying to harness the power of AI. We’ve worked across marketing, retail and finance to help businesses utilise this technology for strategic, data-driven decision-making.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I’ve worked for over 20 years in the enterprise data and analytics industry. I co-founded Quickpath in 2005 to help companies effectively leverage data and advanced analytics to both increase revenue and decrease operational costs. After years of delivering custom solutions through our expert consulting organisation, we developed and launched the Quickpath Platform.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

Not asking for help! I’ve since learned to surround myself with supportive friends, family and advisors that will both cheer you on when you’re getting it right or need support, as well as give you constructive advice when things aren’t working.

Even if you are working on an innovative solution that will transform an entire industry, there are people with experience blazing those types of trails who can help you be more successful in your journey – find and listen to those that have gone before you.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Create a culture and framework for experimentation within your organisation. Whether it’s product design and finding product marking fit, or just finding and tuning your marketing message, the ability to try new things and measure the effectiveness of them by carefully designing for measurability is critical to your initial and ongoing success.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Unfortunately, yes. We’ve got a fairly diverse team in terms of geography and race, but we’d love to see more women in our space. We’re moving upstream to develop our hiring pipeline by working with universities and coding/data science bootcamps to ensure that everyone knows of the huge opportunities available in our company and the industry as a whole.

It’s especially important to have diversity of thought and background in the AI space as we’re building the next generation of data and analytic products that will only act as they’ve been trained to act. Great minds may think alike, but great teams think differently.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

My co-founder, Trent McDaniel, and the whole team at Quickpath. Working together, we’ve led the enablement of a data-science factory model at one of our Fortune 500 financial services customers, where we created a highly repeatable and easily managed path to production for ML-enabled applications.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I’m currently reading AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee, which is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. We need our citizens, politicians and business leaders to be much more aware of the capabilities of AI and how it will shape our future and the world in the near future.

On a personal development level, I love The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood by William Bennett, and have been revisiting different sections of that book for years. In the era of terms like ‘toxic masculinity’, it’s a great reminder of the noble definition of what men should strive to be at work, school, community and home.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I’ve already mentioned Slack for team communication and G Suite for online collaboration and Google Calendar for scheduling. We also use a mix of Trello for task/project management and execution, and Jira for the same for software feature and bug tracking.

Finally, I’m a rabid reader and lifelong learner, so I love Medium for keeping up with industry leaders and bloggers, and audible/podcast apps for learning on the go while commuting.

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