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The hottest job in corporate America? The executive in charge of AI

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

In September, the Mayo Clinic in Arizona created a first-of-its-kind position in the hospital system: director of artificial intelligence.

Doctors at the Arizona site, which has facilities in Phoenix and Scottsdale, had been experimenting with AI for years. But after the release of ChatGPT in 2022 and the frenzy around the technology that followed, the hospital decided it needed to work more with AI and find someone to coordinate the efforts.

Executives therefore appointed Dr Bhavik Patel, a radiologist specializing in AI, to the new position. Dr Patel has since piloted a new AI model that could help speed up the diagnosis of a rare heart condition by searching for data hidden in ultrasound scans.

“We’re really trying to foster some of these data and AI capabilities in every department, every division, every work group,” said Dr. Richard Gray, chief executive officer of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. The Director of AI role was created because “it helps to have a coordinating function with deep expertise.”

Many people have long feared that AI will kill jobs. But the rise of technology has instead spurred law firms, hospitals, insurance companies, government agencies and universities to create what has become the hottest new role in corporate America and the rest of the world. beyond: that of senior executive in charge of AI.

Credit reporting agency Equifax, manufacturer Ashley Furniture and law firms like Eversheds Sutherland have appointed AI executives in the past year. In December, The New York Times named an editorial director of AI initiatives. And more than 400 federal departments and agencies sought AI officials last year to comply with an executive order from President Biden that created safeguards for the technology.

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A total of 122 people with the title of chief or vice president of AI joined a forum last year on Glassdoor, the company’s review site, up from 19 in 2022, Glassdoor said.

AI leadership positions are emerging because organizations want to harness transformative technology, said Randy Bean, founder of consulting firm NewVantage Partners, which advises companies on data and AI leadership. At the same time, he added, “organizations want to say, ‘Yes, we have a head of AI,’ because that makes them look good.”

Other leadership positions have been created in response to major technological and financial changes. In the 1980s, advances in computing power led to a boom in the number of chief information officers and chief technology officers, who typically oversee how technology is used within a company or develop it . After the 2008 financial crisis, Chief Data Officers were appointed to comply with new regulations and manage how companies used data.

With leadership roles in AI, companies and organizations are looking for someone to help them manage the risks and potential of the technology and how it could change the way people work.

In May, health insurer Florida Blue promoted Svetlana Bender to the new role of vice president of AI and behavioral sciences for this very purpose. One of its first AI projects involved piloting an internal chatbot that could help write computer code and analyze customer data.

Dr. Bender, who previously served as director of technology solutions at Florida Blue, said his team would train the chatbot on customer data and open it to all employees. This month, she hired an AI director to help her with the work

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“We want to move forward as quickly as possible” in using the technology, while ensuring that customers’ insurance data is protected, she said.

Accenture, a consulting firm, added an AI leader in September as clients became more interested in the technology. The company promoted Lan Guan, who has worked on global data and AI, to the role of advising clients on how to integrate AI into their businesses. Accenture also develops AI tools, particularly for the insurance sector.

The new role “underlines our ambition in the market and our optimism about what we see as the enormous potential of our customers in the AI ​​space,” Ms. Guan said.

At Western University in Ontario, Mark Daley, professor of computer science and chief information officer, took on the new position of director of AI in October. While he still teaches, he left the position of director of information.

Since then, Dr. Daley has focused on implementing more than 30 AI pilot projects, including working with the Research and Finance team to automate audit processes and collaborating with faculty from humanities to develop new courses.

“We’re in a time where the best approach to generative AI is actually exploration and experimentation,” he said.

Some experts said technology is evolving so quickly that it could soon overtake roles. A Harvard Business Review article Last year, co-authored by NewVantage’s Mr. Bean, argued that AI and data executives were doomed to failure because the jobs were “a high-pressure balancing act with technology that offers enormous risks and opportunities.

Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at LinkedIn, said AI will also evolve from a cutting-edge technology to something integrated into everyone’s work. “RN will fill many roles, and it will be so entrenched that the specific job title of RN will start to disappear,” she said.

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Some AI leaders said their work is sustainable. Dr. Patel of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona said much of his new work involves communicating with other doctors and regulators like the Food and Drug Administration and identifying how AI can make medical work more efficient .

“Modern health care still has many gaps,” he said. “This is where I think we can intelligently use artificial intelligence to close that gap, or at least reduce it.”