Interview with Andy Teoh Part 2

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I notice that you are a data scientist by train, started your career as a data scientist, and now, a leader in the commercial side, could you share with us your experience and how does it help you to make a tangible transformation in an organization.

So a few years ago, I actually wrote an article about the career development pathway for data scientists. What I saw back then is that eventually there are two paths for data scientists. Number one is you become a super geeky and super technical data scientist, you know, that works in Google, Amazon, coming up with other fantastic algorithms breaking the frontiers of data science. The other path is that you become the data scientist who is so, so, so good at commercials. If I were to see you, I would think of you as a commercial person, as a marketer, as a Business Unit Director with a strong background in data. Two or three years ago, I saw a lot of people who are struggling to find where they want to go in terms of their career development. There are data scientists that don’t want to go too technical as it is not something really interesting to them. And yet they also have concerns about moving into business.

That was back then. I made a choice to be extended like this. I go all the way out to the business, to the commercial you need. And that actually helps a lot. And it’s very consistent with the previous questions as a business has a strong need for people in commercials to really understand data.

The IT department is able to do a lot of fantastic work. But we also need someone in commercials who understands some of the technical details in order to bring that value and translate that into business.

In the past, as a data scientist, I used to think that it is difficult to run a business? You talk about business acumen. Now, I think I know a lot about business, but I would say that you can never be too confident that you know the business until you are being put in a position of managing the power of the business.

As a part of my previous role, I was both the business unit director. I run a multimillion-dollar business sales and marketing teams. At the same time, I got the responsibility to lead up the Digital and Advanced Analytics team in the organization. And I see that being put in that position right smack in the middle. It actually helps me to really appreciate how difficult this situation is, but it also opens up the perspective that enables me to really put some reality into the analysis that we do, not the ideal use case. When I’m in the business, I tend to also get to understand a little bit more about the pressure, whatever insights you gain, it’s a multi-million dollar decision. You are being measured on PNL (profit and loss) as well. So any mistakes that you make are going to be billions of dollars and being put in that position is difficult, but it actually helps to appreciate and understand the challenges from both sides.

Are there any issues that trouble you in relation to AI’s impact on society going forward?

So right now, due to the nature of our business, we may not be using a lot of AI at the moment. But if you talk about AI in health care, then I think there are quite a number of issues as we talk about precision medicine, about helping AI to run diagnostics. 

So the thing about AI is that it is a very powerful tool enabling a lot of decision-making in the healthcare sector. It can actually help doctors in many ways. But we are dealing with health, something that’s so so important. And there are still issues about AI being explainable. We heard about explainable AI, we heard about responsible AI. I think when it comes to AI in society in the area of healthcare for this region, there is still a concern about how should we actually harness this particular piece of technology and put it right to really improve the lives of people. 

I know that a lot of governments right now in this particular region, especially with this pandemic situation, accelerate a lot of transformation they want to take place. However there is still remain a lot of questions, like how can we really put AI into part of the healthcare ecosystem to improve the lives of people? But I can see a strong potential value in utilizing AI in healthcare.

Finally, how different might the business landscape be in 2030?

I think we are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, and if you were to study the characteristics of the past three revolutions, the society, as the world goes through each of the revolutions, always produces winners and a disproportional amount of losers in the game. And I would say that by 2030, we would have been, what, maybe 10 years into this fourth industrial revolution. I think it will be an era where business really, really needs to get ready to harness and leverage the power of data, digital and technology. As you can see that right now, everybody’s talking about 5G. You hear people talking about edge computing. The 5G and edge computing are going to be a game-changer for many, many of the businesses. It opens up a lot of possibilities. It’s even possible that next time, your iPhone or Galaxy or whatever smartphone you use can run a neural net with the phone and you have all the data at your fingertips. So 10 years down the road, definitely, the way we do business, the way that we think about how the world is, the way that we consume the products and services is going to be so, so, so different. It’s going to be based on this wonderful technology that’s disrupting a lot of businesses.

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