In our latest interview series, Fire Tech UK Country Manager, Ed Halliday, speaks with four experts working in the AI, Tech & Data Industries. This interview is with AI expert Di Mayze, the Global Head of Data and AI at WPP, a global Creative Agency. We ask her what her role involves and what WPP does, her journey into her role and her tips and advice for young people on the future of AI.
Watch the interview here or continue reading now.
Ed: Could you tell us a little bit about your role at WPP and in particular what you do as an organisation that involves artificial intelligence?
Di Mayze: I will start by saying we’re a communications company. So one in four adverts that you see in the world will have been created by one of my WPP colleagues. We have 130,000 people who work for different agencies. We have people who make adverts who plan way by adverts, who create websites, who do communications. So we are a massive company with a lot of different talent.
And from an A.I. perspective, we have some really, really cool projects. So we had a presentation yesterday where one agency showed how they recreate what the next RAM Rembrandt painting would be. We have had people who’ve made use of A.I. in a dress. So when somebody wore it, when they went out partying, they could see what happened in the dress, how much contact they had, how many miles they did. We’ve even built an e-commerce site that tracked pets eyes on what pet food the pets thought the owners should buy.
So there’s a real breadth of creativity that goes way beyond chat bots. And that’s the least interesting for us. It’s how you really bring humans and machines together.
We’re very careful not to say humans vs. machines. The magic happens when they work together.
Ed: What’s your own personal story? What’s her background and how did you end up in your role now at WPP?
Di Mayze: Well, I’ll show how terribly old I am, but I wrote my dissertation on the Internet. In 1997, I was fascinated by this new thing that enabled people to connect with each other regardless of where they were. And I went then and joined the magazine company who didn’t think the Internet was going to be a thing because you couldn’t take your computer into the bath to read your magazine. They did not see it. And I could totally see the magic.
So we made a load of websites. I did very basic email coding then, but the biggest feature on the site was competitions and sending E-cards to people. So really old and. What is their fear? Someone who did an MBA and studied up a bit more because I wanted to change career. And then I went to work for a company called Dunnhumby who use a lot of data science to put really good offers for Tesco Clubcard. So an amazing company is really thinking about the right product in the right shop for the right people and how you communicate with them.
So a lot of that is automated. I can’t even tell you how many tens of millions of the mailers that go out there all different depending on what people’s likes and dislikes are.
That was my first taste of just how cool things could be when you can scale it up beyond human imagination.
I then went to work for Boots and said of inside another shop that people have heard of. And we started to look at how if you could use the cameras that track CCTV on where you could track how people walk around the store, how many people pick up a product and don’t buy it or do buy it now.
We didn’t obviously, for legal reasons we couldn’t do, but we started to look at what technology and capability was available, that we could add innovation on top to make something really cool and then roll forward. And now at WPP and I’ve been in this role for six months. We’ve just launched our A.I. Academy. We are hoping to launch a little A.I. Academy with Fire Tech at some point when we can. But we’re just training up to 5000 data scientists at the moment. They’re all graduating. They’ve got to do projects. They’ve learned Python, Data Visualization, Data Analytics. So very passionate about nurturing and growing our data people.
Ed: So thinking about all of this exciting work you’re doing around not just A.I., but education and skills development. Why do you feel like young people should care about A.I. and what exciting stuff could they be creating using this technology?
Di Mayze: I really like that question because it’s not about people thinking it’s not for me. Not everybody will love code and tech, but I think it’s really important for everyone to understand it and not be fearful of it and to find what they enjoy about it. Because it enables you to scale things and do things much quicker and to have much bigger dreams. And as I said, the beginning, it’s human and machine. It’s not human vs the machine.
So this and the technology is enabling us to do so much more.
So as Walt Disney says, and I have it on the wall in my son’s room, if you can dream it, you can do it. And I think A.I. enables dreams.
Ed: A lovely sentiment. I couldn’t agree more until your point about the kind of humans vs. machines rather than as your expression was, humans and machines. So seeing this as a partnership and the collaboration and extension of our own superpowers, I think that is absolutely the way we should see this.
Di Mayze: It’s having the patience to break through it because you’ll get there and it’ll be worth it and it’ll be brilliant. And it’s such a good skill to have.
Ed: What would your advice be for young people who are at the early stage of their journey with artificial intelligence?
Di Mayze: I was reading about a girl called M.A Yang who realised that at the age of eight, that her grandmother sadly was suffering from Alzheimers. And she learned how to code and eventually built an app herself. Roll forward a few years, the app is called Timeless and helps her grandmother recognise by using facial recognition. It will scan people in a room and show who who’s who in their relation to her. I will make some assumptions on who people are if they don’t know.
I loved this as an example of young people because there’s one very clear problem or passion point. And I think that’s what’s going to get you motivated. Start and think about a problem or something that you’d really like to create and make it very clear on what it is. Her app doesn’t solve every problem in the world, but it solves something that’s important to her. And she’s created something that’s meaningful to her.
So I absolutely love that. And I say that scientists think of the problem or a question that you’re trying to solve because it helps frame what you need to do. And then patience. And it really is a patience game. My 10 year old gets very cross if he’s not brilliant at something immediately. And it’s really frustrating. But to stick with it because the possibilities are just so awesome.
Ed: I also really like the way you kind of talk about A.I. or learning about AI, not as learning or education so much as treating yourself as an innovator or an entrepreneur and. Explore your problem and try to figure out how to solve it. And I think for me, the creative element of it’s just such an important component to what makes it so attractive.
Di Mayze: So true. There are two types of people in the world, those that can create and do and those that don’t. And to actually create something and finish it and break through it is just such a phenomenal feeling for motivation and real confidence. And actually, if any of you are trying to be interviewed for schools or, you know, trying to apply for jobs in the future, this story of breaking through challenges by creating something is really powerful.
Ed: A super inspiring way to end, though. Thanks so much for your time today. Great stuff. Thanks. And looking forward to seeing new stuff and coming out of WPP using A.I. in the future.
Di Mayze: Thank you! Watch this space.
Find the full interview series on our YouTube Channel now.