'Ireland is well placed to build the skills needed from the strong foundations that exists across our education sector and technology savvy workplace'

Owen Lewis, Partner, Management Consulting at KPMG Ireland on how AI will shape the future of Ireland’s industry

20th February, 2019

What's your name?

Owen Lewis

What’s your current job?

Partner, Management Consulting, KPMG Ireland

How long have you held the position?

2 Years in Ireland and with KPMG 9 years in Australia and the UK

Can you describe your daily work routine?

I spend a lot of time with my team working together to help understand client challenges, bring new thinking and insights and help them achieve their objectives. I am constantly switching across many topics & client dynamics. It’s this type of high-pace teamwork that I really enjoy.

What is your professional background?

I completed a PhD in Artificial Intelligence before it was fashionable in the late 90s. I worked for a start-up doing robotics (although it wasn’t called that back then) for telco organisations in the UK.

I joined a technology consulting company in Los Angeles leading engagements for Honda and Toyota. Both of them were experimenting with AI and operational research techniques to better understand customer needs and optimise their supply chains. I went on to spend 10 years working as a consultant at Toyota in the US, Europe and Japan.

I joined KPMG in Sydney in 2010 and worked with many financial services organisations supporting this with Customer Analytics, Customer and Cost Transformation, and other consulting engagements.

For family reasons we returned from Australia and I took up a role with KPMG UK working with many FS clients on transformation engagements. Having spent a year working with an Irish bank during that time, I took up an opportunity to join KPMG Ireland Partnership in 2017 and am now leading our transformation agenda at a number of organisations.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

I am a keen Welsh rugby fan albeit working in Ireland and with an English wife I find myself supporting many teams as long as they are not playing Wales! My daughter was born in Belgium so I also have multiple allegiances when it comes to football.

I enjoy running and supporting my kids with cricket, hockey and rugby training. I am a keen traveller and have enjoyed living in many countries during my career to date.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

Few people know that I started my working career working with my father as a landscape gardener. I am still a keen gardener (when I have time) and as a family we grow vegetables mostly so far for the slugs to devour.

You are speaking at the forthcoming AI and Machine Learning Summit in Croke Park. What is the focus of your talk?

We are already seeing significant and tangible successes, huge potential but also lots of hype around AI and Machine Learning. My presentation will explore some of these points and look to tease out what we in Ireland need to consider to be leaders in AI, be living in an AI powered world and importantly what the potential upsides and downsides may be for our workforce.

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

I have always taken a positive view that technology improves our opportunities to achieve better things, and importantly make more of our own human intelligence that is too often trapped in the mundane and the ordinary. Of course in the short term many professions will be impacted, with work once performed by people replaced by automation, AI and machine learning but I am certain that new challenges will replace those lost. These factors need to be a key part of how we consider our broader economic and social responsibilities with the appropriate action taken in education, employment, social well-being and fair and equitable sharing of economic value.

Can you comment on whether you think Ireland’s workforce has the right kind of skillsets to enable the future workforce to deal with the oncoming fifth revolution?

Few, if any countries, fully have the right workforce to be ready for a future that embeds AI in vast swathes of our everyday lives. I do think that Ireland is well placed to build the skills needed from the strong foundations that exists across our education sector and technology savvy workplace. It is important that we collectively grasp the opportunity in front of us to put our current and future workforce on the best trajectory for the changing world.

Owen Lewis is speaking at the AI and Machine Learning Summit in Croke Park on March 6th. Full details are available at aisummit.ie

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