Welcome to this week’s employee spotlight, featuring CognitiveScale’s Client Executive, Chris Tomaselli! During my chat with Chris, he shared a bit about his background, his thoughts on the growth of AI, and more about his life that I’m so excited to share with you.
What field did your studies begin in and how did you wind up in this role?
I’ve always had a penchant for history and studied that in university. In essence, history is the way we objectively look at past events and hopefully understand what was good, bad, and ugly. We then communicate that context to prevent falling into cycles of insanity. This lens of the past gives you insight to what the future could be. Some coined this viewpoint of the ‘what could be’ as futurism.
So, to answer your question, it’s kind of a funny story. As I recall, I watched this TED Talk when I attended university about how AI was going to change the future of work and displace millions of jobs. It was very provocative, and I was interested in how I could apply past learned economic behavior to embrace the AI for good. I was so enthused that I shared all that I had learned from this TED talk and other white papers with my family at a dinner with my grandparents. They all looked at me like I was totally brainwashed by some SciFi movie or talking about joining a cult. Many years of determination and discipline led me to the fortunate opportunity of working at CognitiveScale, where my vision became a reality. AI is no longer a taboo topic at family dinners.
Wow! It’s amazing how differently the whole topic is viewed nowadays with so much new technology. On that note, is there a particular application of AI that intrigues you the most or that you see a lot of potential in, for humanity?
I’m particularly intrigued by the disruption of traditional banking processes via FinTech. I say that because I grew up and became more aware of the current economic system around the time of the financial crisis. Growing up in northeast US, where a lot of individuals worked in banking, I observed processes that led to exposing several flaws in the traditional system. I saw the positive effects and outcomes of technology and its applications. There’s more data than we know what to do with, and there’s a ton of noise between exchanges in the individual investor. So the implications of AI will transform the ways we bank and the way we engage with markets. As we continue to democratize AI, I envision us having a more improved, more decentralized, and more intelligent system that can be trusted by the individual citizen.
That is really interesting. Do you see the future of AI continuing with the rapid growth that it is in now? Does its potential to get irresponsibly out of control scare you?
I am bullish on the commoditization of the machine learning tools and techniques that we use to generate predictive intelligence. What I mean when I say that is that models will become more robust as the skilled labor force improves in quality and increases in size. We’ll soon be able to reduce the cost of machine learning and outsource it—think of what happened with web design during the dot com boom or app development during the mobile app wave.
With that said, I am bearish on any Skynet scenario due to data and compliance restrictions and regulations that influence the span and depth of AI’s power to operate. Not only are AI leaders putting regulatory technology into AI solutions, but governing groups and business leaders are also staying abreast. Think of it in simpler terms: the FDA exists in the US to mitigate the risk of salmonella outbreaks by assuring that food products are safe and sanitary at their source. A restaurant’s kitchen has a line of chefs to ensure that a consumer’s food is properly prepared. Will that entirely ensure you don’t get salmonella? No. However, it will ensure that the entire population does not fall victim to a salmonella outbreak. In a similar sense, AI companies will ensure model regulation at the source, while governing bodies and business leaders will be responsible for properly handling and preparing the ingredients while they bake a solution for the everyday citizen. I’m intrigued to see how offerings like CognitiveScale’s Certifai will intersect with regulatory policies such as HIPPA, CCPA, and FHA to both protect our citizens while also creating a more robust AI-powered experiences.
That was such a thoughtful response! Thank you, Chris. During my summer here, I’ve been reading a lot about compliance in healthcare and data privacy, and I think your analogy to the FDA is particularly interesting. I’m so curious to see what the future of AI will hold.
Me too. It’s exciting to work at a company like CognitiveScale, who are proactive and trying to tackle these issues.
For real! Okay, for fun: what do you like to do in your free time?
I’m really passionate about growing the sport of lacrosse. I’m the Program Director for the Texas Tomahawks and sit on several boards in Austin.
When I’m not doing that, I’m usually trying to chase down a challenging hobby. I try to become proficient at something I previously dreaded or thought was out of the realm of possibility. A few examples would be hot yoga, playing the guitar, skydiving, CrossFit, or Ultrarunning.
I’m inspired to try something new even just hearing about all of that. What is your dream vacation and your dream job?
Well, for dream vacation, I would say Madeira. Fresh seafood, trail running in the clouds, and the island time. What could be better?
Dream job…honestly, I think probably a Venture Capitalist or some sort of investor. I would love to have gotten in on the round for the Premier Lacrosse League with Paul Rabil and his brother. I think that what they are doing for the sport and the athletes is fantastic. Actually, one of my good friends plays in the PLL, and we were having a conversation about this last night. He’s getting healthcare, which his former league did not provide, as well as equity in the league so that he has control over the outcomes of his performance—a really cool concept.
Having the ability to invest in something that grows the adoption of the sport that I’m super passionate about at scale would be a tremendous opportunity. That said, I’d probably want to balance out my portfolio with some other tech companies as well. But yes. VC is definitely a dream job.
Fantastic. Such a cool way to be heavily involved with a passion. What excites you most about your job here at CognitiveScale? Oh, and maybe explain what exactly your job entails day to day?
I’ll dial on two points here. The first thing that’s most exciting ties into the journey that lead me here. I’m interested in helping business leaders change their cultural perception of AI and job displacement. At CognitiveScale, we view AI as “Augmented Intelligence.” Like any other tool that’s commoditized and improves the rate of speed in task completion, AI helps humans become better at their jobs while saving them time to learn and improve new skills and creativity to impact an organization. By roadmapping an AI journey with a client and all other parties involved, I’m able to encourage AI adoption across an enterprise. I influence the ways in which employees who are impacted can evolve as they put on their Ironman Jarvis Suit with AI.
The second point, hopefully equally as exciting—at least it is to me— is because I’m a true philomath. Having professional relationships with leading blue chip executives comes with many perks. Every time I work with a client, I am granted the opportunity to expand my aperture alongside industry leading minds for the survival and innovation of leading corporations. To a further degree, these leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and exist in very different industries. I appreciate the opportunity to enhance my business acumen across banking, insurance, media and entertainment, health services, digital technology, and e-commerce to name a few verticals.
Awesome. I love that. What’s your biggest challenge?
I would say just that time is a limited resource—a common one for many of us.
So true! What did you think you would be doing with your life ten years ago?
That’s a funny question. I thought I’d be in the heart of the rat race on Wall Street. To loosely quote Robert Frost, I have taken the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.
Lastly, what has inspired you through this journey, or what inspires you today?
The power of the mind and the freedom that exists to apply it. I think it’s easy to forget, but it’s so important to stop and remember that you are granted the freedom every day to maximize your potential for the good of humanity.
That really is an easy thing to forget in the midst of life sometimes. Thanks for joining me today, Chris. I appreciate your time and loved hearing about all of your passions and how you incorporate them into your life!