Artificial Intelligence and Cloud computing - What do they have in common with the Healthcare? The WIL had a fruitful discussion on this topic with Racha Abu El Ata, who, only a few years after participating in the first edition of our Women Talent Pool programme (WTP) in 2012, has recently been promoted as Health Industry Sales Director at Microsoft. Racha has been with the IT company for more than 15 years and is passionate about innovation, predictive analytics, and data science. If you are skeptical about artificial intelligence or would like to learn how it can act as an enabler for changes in medicine and healthcare, take 5 minutes and read our interview with her!
After 15 years at Microsoft, you have recently been promoted to a Health Industry Sales Director. How will technology transform healthcare and where are companies like Microsoft focusing?
Healthcare is an important industry to be transformed in France and other developed countries in the next few years, as the costs for healthcare spending, fueled by the aging population and chronic diseases, are projected to rise from currently 12% of GDP to nearly 18% of GDP in the next 10 years. There is thus a good opportunity to change the industry and technology is at the heart of this transformation.
Microsoft has also gone through a reorganization in the beginning of last year and has decided to focus on the following priorities: manufacturing, financial services, retail, education, government, and health being one of them. In order to assist the healthcare transformation, Microsoft is building specific offers and solutions such as engaging patients and empowering care teams.
“The costs for healthcare spending, fueled by the aging population and chronic diseases, are projected to rise from currently 12% of GDP to nearly 18% of GDP in the next 10 years.”
What is the most exciting development that you are seeing within the field of e-health solutions at Microsoft?
The mathematical algorithm to analyze the health data and the power of cloud computing to simplify the analysis and make it faster. Without the algorithm and cloud services, we could still perform the analysis, but that would be very costly and would take an unimaginable amount of time.
In particular, what role does artificial intelligence (AI) play in health sector today? Leading thinkers have attacked the concept—such as Stephen Hawking who voiced his concern. Do you think we should be scared of Dr. Terminator and why ?
Artificial intelligence (AI) enables society to have a good understanding and analysis of what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future. To give an example, currently, a patient receives a treatment and is sent home with no further analysis if the treatment he has received was the right one. Technology can help us customize the treatment with the patients’ data such as age and lifestyle, which can be analyzed in a short period of time (see the previous question).
The above example shows that if we anticipate and prepare for the change, AI can be an opportunity for the society as a whole. It is true that AI and improved automation will disrupt the job market and will indeed contribute to a job loss, but it will, at the same time, create job opportunities that never existed before, such as data scientists.
Education thus plays an important role in anticipating and addressing these changes, therefore governments and educational institutions should work hand in hand with industrial leaders such as Microsoft and others to train the next generation(s) and prepare them for the future employment market.
“Technology can help us customize the treatment with the patients’ data such as age and lifestyle.”
You have joined Microsoft in 2002, while many people were and are still knocking on the company’s door. What makes it so attractive and how does it foster innovative and creative thinking among its workforce?
Microsoft is a very emphatic company and while it is very demanding it is also extremely rewarding. There is a possibility for an employee to stay with the company until his/her retirement while taking up diverse roles. I have changed six roles since I have joined the company, but I have the feeling that I worked for several companies and on many different topics.
I also truly appreciate the fact that our top management is constantly questioning its model, innovation, and organization. As said previously, we went recently through a significant reorganization into six vertical industries, which shows that management is not afraid of changes and this gives me confidence for the future.
Microsoft is playing a big role in society and citizenship, which is of great importance to me, as I could not work for a company that would not care about making the world better place.
In 2012, you have participated in the 1st edition of our Woman Talent Pool Programme and only a few years later, you have reached a leading position. Could you share with us how the Programme has benefited you and what advice would you give to other participants?
The participation in the Programme gave me an opportunity to network, travel, meet leaders and learn from them. The example of leaders as role models is important for young women, so they can witness the possibility of having a leadership position beside a balanced personal and professional life.
“I have particularly enjoyed the training session about the “Good Girl Syndrome”, which made me aware that men are not the only one responsible for the lack of diversity and inclusion.”
I have particularly enjoyed the training session about the “Good Girl Syndrome”, which made me aware that women often have fears about promoting themselves and do not seek for a promotion, because they think, that as long as they accomplish the necessary requirements, the opportunities will come along. For example, if they receive an opportunity for another job, they express doubts about themselves, even if they have 85% of all necessary competencies and skills.
This training was extremely insightful as it changed my perspective and helped me to say that “I can do it” and that I have the right to ask for something. Moreover, it helped me in my management and leadership position towards others. I am now coaching other young women in Microsoft and I always try to make them aware and change these behavioral patterns.