Do you know what helps an airline to avoid the biggest customer grievance of delayed flights? Can you predict whether 2030 would be the year of machine take-over or a year of job booster? At Environstory, we invited Dr. Seema Chopra, Associate Technical Fellow and Global Technical Leader, Boeing India, to throw more light on these queries. An innovator by nature, Dr. Seema, has spent nearly two decades in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) churning out multiple patents, trade secrets, and publications. By sharing her insights on varied topics such as her own definition of success in innovation to the helpful framework on how to innovate, she brought a great combination of experience and fresh energy to the table. Here is an excerpt from the insightful and astounding interview.
‘Innovation is close to my heart. For me, it all starts with reading, followed by being curious and open-minded to crazy ideas, and the conversion of those ideas into products.’
Dr. Seema gave us a sneak peek into the innovation framework that she had shared as a keynote speaker at one of the US conferences. For industries and individuals who want to cultivate an innovative mindset, below is the 4Es framework for you.
- Embrace- to encourage risk-taking and acceptance of innovative ideas,
- Evaluate- to check the feasibility of the chosen idea,
- Envision- to find out whether it aligns with your business or individual goals,
- Engage-to tweak it as per the customer’s needs.
I loved how she motivates her team and associates to take on a forward-looking attitude as well. One of her favourite office activities includes Friday evening's- yellow ball theory. It is a brainstorming activity where each player passes the stress-relieving yellow ball, and the person who is left with the ball must share the craziest idea that can solve tricky airline problems.
Dr. Seema's work primarily focuses on Prognostics Health Management (PHM) which has benefitted different industries in all these years.
‘My work in prognostics is equivalent to that of doctors in the healthcare industry. We (Prognostics team) are doctors of machines. The process involves the collection of machine health data through sensors, followed by its analysis, diagnosis, and prediction of its failure trends.’
To understand the real-life application of AI, post her Ph.D., she started working in an unconventional field of the stock market helping her venture make profits by predicting which shares to buy/sell.
‘I was not interested in the share prices and investment portfolio. But, these two years at MarkeTopper helped me understand the significance of human-AI interaction.’
She went to work for GE India's gas turbines, helping the GE customers to avoid power supply outages in the peak season. After a successful stint at GE, where she was awarded the PHM expertise award, she joined the world's largest aerospace company, Boeing India. Her group’s advanced analytics solutions have helped to resolve multiple aircraft problems. One of the classic examples is related to the delay and cancellation of a flight, where an aircraft issue was recognized with its rationale in the time duration of 12 flights in advance. Therefore, next time you find your flight ready before time, don’t forget to thank Doctors of Machine for their prognostic algorithms.
Like many others, I was curious to know whether machines will ever take over the world and turn sci-fi movies into a gloomy reality of unemployed masses. Dr. Seema had a hearty laugh at this question and shared,
‘AI will create millions of new jobs. We have to make sure we are ready for it.’
As per her opinion, the AI and ML technologies would bring in a revolution similar to that of an IT-boom. To remain on top of these and other advanced technologies, the key is to keep learning continuously and upskill ourselves. Dr. Seema is one of the flag-bearers of learning relevant upcoming technologies. She passionately believes that if you do not upgrade yourself,
‘You will become old not by age but by technology!’
She defines success as bringing the human-centric AI technology to benefit every system in the world. But this would be possible only when we combine the best of human knowledge with that of an AI. That is exactly what her current research is based on and so far, she holds 6 patents under this topic of human-centric AI.
Our role model’s advice for young engineers wanting to change the world is- to take risks, ask for the resources you need, and to come out of the comfort zone. On the technical front, she shared to every engineer to develop these skills irrespective of the industry they choose to be part of:
- Critical thinking- to use logic and reasoning to identify system-level strengths and weaknesses,
- Analytical and Problem-solving- to develop the capability to solve issues empirically,
- Creative and Innovative thinking- to bring the idea closer to customer needs.
I was honoured to have interviewed her, and proud of what she has achieved. Being a daddy’s girl, she shared how big of a role her father had played in her story. When Dr. Seema, was selected as one of the 70 applicants to pursue Ph.D. at IIT Roorkee, her father made sure that she finished it with a bang, despite personal and societal pressures. A few years later, when her kids were young, her father would accompany Dr. Seema to different conferences, offshore meetings, and trainings to take care of his grandkids in the hotel room. I thought- Only if every girl has a parent like hers, India would see many more pathbreakers.
We, at Environstory, sincerely hope and wish that Dr. Seema’s story and work inspires you to find your crazy idea, and to start implementing it, undeterred by the hurdles you may face.