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Profile: Jonna Hillblom – Empowering the next generation of women in AI

Hold on to your hats, folks! AI is taking the world by storm and bringing us into the future at lightning speed. It looks like the AI revolution is here, so now is the perfect time to start learning more about AI.

👋 Meet Jonna Hillblom, CMO at Substorm and recently appointed Ambassador of Women in AI Sweden, an NGO dedicated to increasing female and non-binary representation and participation in the AI space. Jonna has an extensive background in tech and a passion for both AI and non-profit work. We got the chance to chat with her about her journey in AI and her thoughts on the industry.

In this profile, you will learn about:

  • How Jonna got into the AI space

  • Her thoughts on the biggest achievements in AI in 2022

  • Her best advice for beginners who want to learn more about AI

Let’s dive in! 👇

Entering the AI world – how it started

Jonna's journey into the world of AI started in her previous role in telecom, where she saw the impact that automation was having on the workplace first-hand.

“I started my career as more of a general IT management consultant, but over time I actually got more and more introduced to the automation of the workplace and how employees could get more time for qualitative tasks instead of spending it on mundane, repetitive work. I experienced the shift firsthand, where the workload decreased and my colleagues were able to spend more time contributing to the business and helping clients instead of tackling excel sheets,” says Jonna.

Jonna's passion for tech dates back to her childhood – it was actually Jonna’s father, who is an automation engineer, that sparked her interest in the field.

"I started programming when I was 15 and then continued on that path. I studied IT and technology during my high school years, and then went on to study computer science and marketing at Stockholm University."

Jonna has been working as an IT consultant ever since she left university and her focus in her current role at Substorm is intelligent automation, AI solutions and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

💡 What does it mean? Robotic Process Automation (RPA) - a technology that automates routine, repetitive tasks performed by humans, by using software or AI algorithms. The goal is to free up people from manual, time-consuming, and error-prone tasks, so they can focus on more valuable work.

Finding Women in AI Sweden

Jonna has a passion for both AI and non-profit work - so when she discovered Women in AI Sweden, Jonna felt she had found her calling.

"It was a perfect match – I really felt that this is the organization for me".

Women in AI is a global NGO dedicated to creating an inclusive AI industry for women and nonbinary people. Women in AI was founded in France in 2016 and has grown to over 150 chapters worldwide, with almost 12 000 members.

Jonna has been active in Women in AI Sweden since November 2020. She started as a core team member and has since September 2022 taken on the role of ambassador for the Swedish chapter. According to Jonna, the Swedish chapter of Women in AI has been very active since its start in early 2020, with a strong focus on education and empowering the next generation of women in AI. Jonna attributes the success of the team to the passion and drive of the members, who volunteer their time and expertise to further the mission of the organization.

"Since it's an NGO and people do this in their spare time, you see a drive and a passion for the mission - and it really shines through."

Recent advancements in AI

The past year has seen huge advancements in the AI field. When asking Jonna about the biggest achievements in the AI space in the last year, she mentions the development of AI tools that augment the workplace and the release of groundbreaking language models like GPT-3.

💡 What does it mean? GPT-3 - a very advanced artificial intelligence language model created by OpenAI. GPT-3 is one of the largest AI language models to date and represents a significant advance in the field of AI language processing. It has demonstrated the ability to generate coherent and diverse text, perform language tasks with high accuracy, and even create original content in a variety of styles. ChatGPT, the chatbot that was released in late 2022 and took the world by storm, is a fine-tuned version of GPT-3 specifically designed for conversational AI.

“A lot of people will work differently because of the AI solutions that have been developed and released during the past year. For example, the language model GPT-3 will probably forever change how we work, due to its advanced capability of understanding not only what we write about but how. This can lead to repetitive tasks such as labeling and tagging data being automized and give us the possibility to search for information in a more intelligent way. I believe that this will help people in the workplace and in their day-to-day lives,” says Jonna.

The future of AI

When asked about the future of AI, Jonna predicts that the rapid pace of innovation in the AI space will continue, with AI solutions becoming more common and more accessible to everyday users.

"We will see AI solutions and models implemented in more situations, and we will also see more hands-on solutions that ordinary people like you and I use in our day-to-day work. For instance, there are AI tools to help you record and transcribe meetings, create drafts of articles and detect bias in text, which all are perfect examples of how you can use AI solutions to augment your work and improve how you work."

One industry that has been an early adopter of AI is the marketing industry, but Jonna predicts that AI will disrupt most industries, sooner or later.

“Marketing is one very specific industry where the use cases are quite clear as to how you can apply AI in your work. I think the development when it comes to creating pictures, videos and those kinds of tasks will be heavily disrupted. I think we will see AI disrupting more industries as well, but the marketing industry has been one of the first ones to actually jump on the AI train.”

The limitations of AI

When asked about what future applications of AI we should be a bit worried about, Jonna mentions the factual accuracy and potential bias of AI models as well as the threat to cybersecurity as something to keep in mind.

“I think we need to be very mindful about how the language models will interpret facts. We need to make sure there is a “human-in-the-loop” that will ensure that the results the AI creates are not only “the best”, but that they are also factually correct. We also need to be mindful of how AI is applied in terms of cybersecurity, where hackers and solutions for infringing on organizations and data get more and more intelligent and harder to both track and prevent.”

On creating an inclusive AI industry

As the Ambassador of Women in AI Sweden, Jonna is on a mission to create an inclusive industry for women and nonbinary people in AI.

“I'm a firm believer in role models, like a lot of other people are. I feel like we need to continue with the work of showing role models that are different from the norm. There has been an improvement when it comes to diversity over the last couple of years, but we still have more work to do to actually increase the diversity in the tech industry.”

Besides role models, Jonna also mentions the need for more education, in order to open the door to AI for more people.

“Education through taking an introductory course is usually a really good way to start learning about AI, so we need to continue doing that as well.”

Advice for beginners

Lastly, Jonna shares her best advice for beginners, who are curious about AI and want to learn more but have no idea where to start.

“I would say just start with a basic course, either at the university or through one of the many online courses out there. The course Elements of AI is a very good example of how you can just get started and take your first course. But I also advise people to get involved with organizations such as Women in AI or other organizations because it's a very natural way to meet people that can help you. In my experience, when I reach out to people, most people want to help. So a really good way to enter another industry or another profession is to reach out to people and ask for help and guidance.“

We're so grateful to have had the opportunity to chat with Jonna. With her deep knowledge of the field, passion for diversity and inclusion, and drive to help others succeed, Jonna is a true role model for the next generation of women in AI.

How to connect with Jonna Hillblom and Women in AI Sweden

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