Personas Behind the Brand
Today’s featured leader: Steve Berrey
Welcome to another scintillating edition of ‘Personas behind the brand’, Onix’s leadership blog series, where we bring you exclusive perspectives from top Onix leadership icons.
Today we shine the spotlight on Steve Berrey, Global Head (VP) of AI & ML Solutions at Onix.
Steve is a seasoned technology entrepreneur and executive with expertise in Cloud Technologies, Retail, Hospitality, and Digital Media industries. His skills include Cross-Functional Team Building, Python (Programming Language), Conversational AI, Machine Learning, Generative AI, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Product Management, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Steve was previously working at Google as the COE Lead for Cloud AI Solutions. Steve is a strategic futurist who excels in driving innovation and creating new markets for emerging technologies.
Q. Tell us about your journey in the technology industry and how you arrived at your current role as Global Head of AI & ML Solutions at Onix.
I have spent most of the last 30 years in predictive technology, though back then we did not call it machine learning or artificial intelligence. I worked then in quantitative analysis for airlines and General Electric – finding things that could be predicted and writing software to predict them. I migrated into the hospitality & media industries, and as the volume of data and power of compute accelerated, ultimately found myself in machine learning and consulting at Google. Wanting to share that knowledge and my experience with more businesses and industries, I left Google after 4.5 years to join Onix and grow a team and expertise to leverage the quickly emerging technology of Generative AI.
Q. Can you discuss some key trends and developments in AI and ML that you’re currently most enthusiastic about?
The opportunity to transform every industry and every segment of those industries with AI is mind blowing. To me, I see the most value today in conversational AI. Chatbots and natural language interfaces to unstructured knowledge are very quickly giving people time to focus on more innovation, and less toil. I can research 10x faster, and summarize and generate content for topics that used to take me weeks – letting me focus on bigger and faster innovations for the world to use.
Q. What methods do you employ to guide businesses through digital transformation and keep them competitive in today’s fast-paced technological landscape?
As the old saying goes, “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” I tend to emphasize this approach in huge transformative strategies. Setting the transformative goal is a good first step, but then we need to create a plan for the thousands of little steps between here and there, and determine which steps are easiest to take with the largest transformative value to the organization. Many times we learn a lot along the way, and need to be agile enough to pivot from those learnings. So we do not want to have wasted a large amount of effort in something we may no longer find is valuable, or that has been replaced with a newer, faster, smarter toolset.
Q. Given your expertise in Conversational AI and Generative AI, how do you envision these technologies transforming industries and use cases in the near future?
While each industry has their own specialized use cases that can create efficiency, and certainly each of these can be transformative in its own right, where I see the cross industry commonality is in Chatbots and Enterprise Search. Every industry has customers and employees, and the combination of these two tools universally can reduce time spent on common tasks, and increase the the satisfaction of customers or employees in engaging with common processes. From customer-facing services bots, to internal tools helping employees find information and act on it, I have seen dramatic reduction in efforts and time with Conversational AI interfaces.
Q. As a strategic futurist, how do you see the landscape of AI and ML evolving over the next few years, especially in the context of Google Cloud services?
Vertex Conversational AI is integral. Being able to talk to your data, and ask questions, is just the beginning. We are using that sort of logic to make very complex comparisons that used to take advanced statistical tooling to get the same result. I see these tools being able to make great leaps of logic in the future, finding correlations and causality in complex structured and unstructured data, and explaining the results in your own language.
Q. Beyond the world of technology, what’s your favorite hobby or pastime that helps you unwind and recharge?
That totally depends on the time of year. I love to mountain bike, fly fish, and snow ski. All three take me to some of the most scenic parts of the world and get me outdoors.
Q. Can you share a memorable “aha” moment in your career when you realized the transformative power of AI and ML in a real-world situation?
I have these every day, it is such a fun field. But my first production prediction was at an airline – we used historical data of aircraft part records to create a predictive maintenance model, allowing us to schedule repairs at night before a maintenance issue could arise and delay a flight. Those same repairs allowed more airplanes to be in use daily, with marked improvements of on time flights and more revenue. The job required a mainframe the size of my house at the time, and ran for days.
Q. We all have a guilty pleasure when it comes to technology or gadgets. What’s yours?
Does binge watching Netflix count? If not, then probably home automation. Every light switch and most other electronic devices in my house are tied to some sort of routine or event, and all controlled by Google Assistant.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of ‘Personas behind the brand’! We’ll be back soon with another leadership blog bringing you the latest insights and industry news from Onix.