AI is a game changer

AI will continue to work its way into the products and services that we consume‘ says Dr. Gavin Shorten, IBM Ireland Lab Innovation Program Leader

14th April, 2021
AI is a game changer

How long have you held your current position?

I have been in my current position for about 2 years now but I have been working within the IBM Ireland Lab innovation mission in one way or another since I joined IBM 8 years ago. We started a team called the Innovation Exchange to engage an ecosystem of partners that has grown to over 250+ today looking at use cases for AI and Cloud technology in health, public safety, customs, 5G etc. During those 8 years I have had the pleasure of working as a project, business development and team manager across almost 20 different projects which has been an incredible experience and allowed me to grow and develop new skills along the way. My current position has two streams, firstly I lead the commercialisation efforts for our team where we have built a framework and culture that streamlines the translation of innovation back to services and product to maximise the impact it has on and differentiates our go to market. Secondly I have a broader role looking at the end to end of Innovation in our Lab, evolving our approach in line with the market, our corporate strategy and figuring out how to position ourselves to most effectively help our partners and clients to deeply transform their businesses and drive growth using AI and Hybrid Cloud.

How would you describe your daily work routine?

I am sure everyone will say the same thing but my routine has certainly changed a lot over the last 14 months! I used to spend my days moving from meeting to meeting and joining calls with our project partners that are globally distributed. Sometimes this was certainly fun, often having one meeting on the opposite side of our 100 acre campus than the next. I don’t miss that part of being on campus but I certainly miss the face to face interactions, white board brainstorming sessions and water cooler chats where in my experience many of our challenges were discussed and solutions agreed. Recently everything takes place at my desk, similar calls and conversations but from my make shift office here in our sitting room. I count myself lucky that our mission could move online almost seamlessly and that our team are bought into virtual collaboration. We still try to keep our social connection using all of the great tools at our disposal. I am looking forward to getting back to the office while keeping the best parts of our old and new routines when the time comes.

How would you summarise your professional background prior to your current position?

I am an Engineer “by trade”, with a degree in Electronics and a PhD in biomedical device design and signal analysis. When I graduated I wanted to enhance my software development skills and took a role as a release engineer in an Irish start-up. I did a lot of scripting and web development and our team sat between the hardware, software engineering teams and the client which was very cool! In this role I knew that I would most enjoy a career in ICT sitting in that niche between the technical and business worlds. Interacting with the development teams but understanding the operations, strategy and of course most importantly managing the client and partner engagements. I rely on my colleagues that work in highly technical roles to help me keep in touch with technology du jour, taking an hour or two to understand the latest JavaScript frameworks as often as I can and I am part of a patent team. I am lucky to work for a company that knows innovation is the root of its success. As a colleague once put it “IBM has all the doors, you just need to go and open them for yourself”. My background before my current position has hence been varied and interesting at every step.

How would you describe your life outside of work?

We are blessed with two kids aged 4 and 2, so most of our free time outside of work revolves around them. We live in the countryside and fill our weekends with trips to feed the ducks on the canal, playgrounds and games on the green outside our house. On those dark and wintry evenings, especially during the pandemic we love a good box set or a movie with the kids. We love to travel and can’t wait to get back to showing our kids the world once we can travel again. I also love music and managed to keep my collection of guitars and harmonicas when we bought our family home, my drum kit was “Done Dealed” unfortunately! I am almost finished the first semester of an MBA which is also keeping me quite busy.

What is the focus of your session at the forthcoming AI Summit 2021?

I will be joining a panel discussion on “Where to start to capitalise on the AI opportunity?” AI is a game changer, it’s going to remain a force in whatever market you operate in but for many organizations it’s difficult to know where to start. During our session the other speakers and I will discuss how AI can be simplified to create your business case, which steps to take at the journey’s start and which organisational cultures and structures are most beneficial for AI. We will also discuss how you can access funding effectively and which mistakes you need to avoid to reduce your AI risk. Technology is moving at an ever increasing pace and how we assess the value proposition, total cost of ownership vs return on investment through to how we co-create, deliver and maintain AI solutions is constantly evolving along with the technology. We will discuss how AI solution providers are reacting to this changing dynamic and how you can engage.

How do you think AI will shape the future of Ireland over the coming 5 years?

At a micro level AI will continue to work its way into the products and services that we consume, supply and interact with on a daily basis. It will provide greater efficiencies, improved experiences and create new horizons that didn’t exist previously. As a result at a macro level it will introduce automation for certain jobs and roles but will open up career paths, educational and academic opportunities for Ireland to be at the vanguard of Artificial Intelligence development and solutioning. The emergence of P-Tech and technical internships to complement the traditional approaches to education will be key for Ireland in AI. In parallel to these changes to the products, services and roles we have I envisage a societal conversation regarding the ethical uses of AI and the importance of trust between provider and consumer. If artificial intelligence ultimately aims to mimic human reasoning and learning we will continue to develop formal regulations and informal societal parameters that define what we as an Irish, European and global society define as acceptable and transparent AI behaviours, just as we do for human behaviours.

Gavin will be speaking at the 2021 virtual AI Summit. For more information visit

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