Brianne Mulvihill, Accenture's Centre for Innovation
Brianne Mulvihill, Accenture's Centre for Innovation

From civil engineering to tech: a day working at the cutting edge of AI innovation

3 Mar 2016

There are roles in the tech sector of which most people have at least a vague understanding. Others are a little more shrouded in mystery. Brianne Mulvihill, who works in open innovation at Accenture’s Centre for Innovation, tells us about a typical day in her role, giving us an insight into what it’s like to work at the cutting edge of innovation in artificial intelligence.

What is your role within the company?

I work in Accenture’s recently opened Centre for Innovation, in the area of open innovation.

Our team is responsible for seeking out the ‘next big thing’ and bringing these innovative solutions to our clients’ businesses. We essentially act as a bridge, connecting the start-up community to our global clients.

The start-ups get the opportunity to partner with some of the largest companies globally, while at the same time our clients are at the forefront of the latest emerging technologies – it’s a win-win for everyone.

Here in the Dublin open innovation office, we are mainly focused on artificial intelligence (AI), seeking out mature global start-ups and investigating how their technology can be applied to either automate or augment activities within industry.

Can you tell us about your background?

I completed a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, followed by a PhD in biomedical engineering, both from Trinity College Dublin.

Following my studies, I began my career in early-stage technology development, working closely with clients to bring early-stage technologies from concept to market, before progressing into IT consulting with Accenture. I’ve recently returned to my R&D roots, having transferred into Accenture’s Centre for Innovation.

What steps led you to this role?

With a background in engineering, I’ve always been interested in technology and, in particular, its disruptive effect on society.

When we look back even 10 to 15 years ago, our lives were completely different. It’s hard now to imagine how it was possible to meet up with friends without our mobile phones, or even find out anything before Google.

Artificial intelligence is similar to this and has the potential to have a huge impact on our lives. With my current role at Accenture, I’m involved in driving these changes by working with global clients to bring the latest AI technologies to industry.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in your job?

Every day is completely different, which is one of the reasons the role is so interesting. It can consist of anything, including meeting up with new start-ups, delving into the technology itself and understanding where it fits in.

There is also the business aspect, where I carry out a thorough review of the technology so clients can be assured that any solutions we bring to them are of the highest standard. The next step is to engage with the various industry leads within Accenture, to form partnerships and bring these opportunities to clients.

While a lot of my role is working with global start-ups, I also engage heavily with the Irish ecosystem (universities, innovation hubs and the start-up community) to understand the technologies that are being developed locally and to support these opportunities.

There are lots of aspects to the job, so I’m kept busy.

What types of projects do you work on?

We might look to carry out a proof of concept of a new technology, either internally or partnering with a client. These projects not only act as a form of validation of the technology, but also to showcase the benefits that could be realised from its introduction.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

The main skills I use are analytical and research skills, which allow me to understand the technology itself, and futuristic thinking to understand how the technology can be applied or how it can be disruptive.

Being a good persuader also helps, as I need to be able to help and steer Accenture clients on their technology strategies.

Do you have any productivity tips that help get you through the working day?

Not sure if it’s a tip, but I like to write a checklist at the start of every morning, prioritise the activities and, depending on my calendar, divide these into time slots as to when I’m going to carry them out.

You can’t always forecast what time you’ll have free during the day, but at least it helps me keep track of everything that has to be done and of their delivery timeframes.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I enjoy learning about new technologies and this job allows me to gain an oversight into the latest trends and emerging companies.

The pace of technology change is accelerating and it can be difficult at times to keep up with it. The job is very varied, so I’m continuously meeting new start-ups and learning new technologies. That can be quite challenging, but that’s also what I really like about it.

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