Tag Archives: Arthur Andersen

Importance of Data in Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

There is a misconception that Artificial Intelligence (AI) started in the past decade. It’s true in a sense, but the real AI started well before then. According to Wiki, the field of AI started in the 50’s. In fact AI can trace back to several centuries back to the use of automaton. The AI becomes one of the most important field today because of several developments: the availability of computing power and availability of data.

I am not an expert in this field but having to learn this subject in the past year, I was surprised to find out that my career background is somehow related to the development of AI. I started my career at Arthur Andersen and I was exposed to “Big Data” when I was responsible for financial reporting at Arthur Andersen. Before Arthur Andersen disappeared from the business world, it has one of the best data system – the Financial System of the 90 (FS90). I had the priviledge to work with Ralph Schonenbach, who is now the CEO of Envoy, in developing several tools for the Financial Control of Arthur Andersen.

I found the data owned by Arthur Andersen fascinating. With a complete data map, I was able to generate various reporting using Microsoft Access. Some of the tools that I created went on to become important integral part of management reporting. The experience I obtained from Arthur Andersen had helped me tremendously as I moved to Citigroup and HSBC where I continue to create different management reporting for the management and the US banking regulators.

The AI today is no different that what I experienced when I was Arthur Andersen. Essentially the AI uses huge amount of data to create trends, outlook and suggestions; from this the AI can harness the data to automate repetitive tasks. The AI has becoming more important as Big Data has becoming readily available. The explosion of smartphones also help fuel the AI as more and more companies found ways to collect data from smartphone users though the apps. For example, apps such as Spotify, Netflix and the ubiquitous Google Chrome collects terabytes of data every single day. Many companies, particularly Google saw the potential of the availability of data and started to monetize this asset.

The computers today has also advanced exponentially that they allow AI developers to be able to crunch data more quickly and efficiently. I remembered when I first bought my first PC in the early 1990s was using 386 Intel chips running at 60 MHz. Today PCs are running at teraflops – a teraflop is a unit of computing speed equal to one million million (1012) floating-point operations per second. Of course not everyone needs that kind of computing power for their everyday use. That’s where the computer hobbyist come into the picture with the development in micro-computers (Raspberry Pi and Arduino). Nowadays many companies in the AI business are talking about Internet of Things (IoT). In case if you are not aware, IoT refers to the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. We are talking about from toasters to door bells.

Why is data so essential to the development of AI? I’m not a data scientist (which is a new field as a result of the explosion of AI). But I can tell you that without data, AIs are just dumb machines. Data enables AI developers to piece and stitch different sets of data together and generate a trend. And from the trend, the developers can generate hypothesis and create predictable analysis.

Let me explain. Before I was exposed to Microsoft Access, I used Microsoft Excel to do a lot of computing work. All financial analysis requires Excel. However Excel data is flat – meaning that what numbers you put in the formula will generate a known result. Microsoft Access database is different because it is called a relational database – essentially the database contains multiple flat tables interconnected through a relationship using key fields. From the relationship, Microsoft Access allows the user to create different results based on selected criteria.

The AI today is using the same concept but at a bigger scale. The data sets may not be even related to each other but the AI understands what the user is looking at and produce results that could be related. Let’s use Netflix as an example. When you first sign-on to the Netflix, the service asks you what genre of movies you like to watch. As you use Netflix more and more, the AI starts to build your profile more and more. It will begin to suggests some of the movies that you would prefer to watch. For example I have always been a WWII aficionado. When I first signed up to my Netflix account, I never told it that I want war movies. Over time it starts to suggest war movies, documentaries and even Sci-Fi movies that are war related.

The above example is on the software side. But what about robotics or hardware. When does data come into play. When I attended the AI Summit, I had the privilege to attend Lockheed Martin presentation on AI. I found the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS) fascinating and how it saves lives. The pilots of fighter jets go through maneuvers that can produce g-forces strong enough to render a pilot unconscious or cause spatial disorientation.  The GCAS will kick in and automatically level flight and prevent the fighter jets from crashing into the terrain. The GCAS requires multiple data feed such as wind speed, aircraft speed, location of the aircraft, pilots responsiveness, historical data to determine when it is appropriate to take control of the aircraft.

Anyway, this is just a blog not a scientific paper to argue how data becomes so important in the AI field. I am not qualified to provide a view in this field. After being a champion of data quality and user of data for over 15 years, I can tell you that data is everything. Our lives are driven by data and they will continue to be driven by data. I won’t be surprised if we start to embed AI in our consciousness in the next decade or so. There are many opponents to this idea as it crosses the line of privacy – that is another subject for another day.

Is working for big corporations better than small companies?

All my professional working experience has been evolved around big multi-national companies. Prior to working full-time, I was exposed non-profit organizations and also small companies on Wall Street, New York.

After being exposed to different working environment, personally without a doubt working for big corporations is preferable for several reasons. There are other cons too, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Obviously not everyone can and will have the opportunity to work for big corporations. If given the chances, I would highly recommend that you take “going” big route. In this blog I will list some of the pros of working for big corporations. My next blog fill focus on the cons.

If you read my previous post, I was lucky enough to be hired by Arthur Andersen. You may not heard of this company because it is no longer in business after the Enron crisis. Arthur Andersen was one of the big 5 public accounting firm up until early 2000.

After leaving Arthur Andersen I moved to Citigroup and remained there for 12 years. Finally, I’ve landed a senior manager position at HSBC, one of the biggest banks in Asia.

Exposure

Big corporations allows exposures at all level. Big companies are like well oiled machine and the require all cogs and wheels to turn at the same time. The opportunity is limitless if you put in the work. Work means getting things done 110% and do it above and beyond what is asked of you. Once you are recognized for your work, you will be recognized by all level of management.

Movement within Organization

Companies today, like HSBC, care about its employees well being. They care because studies find that it is cheaper to retain “A” employees than continue to hire entry-level employees. Hence, to ensure employees are happy some companies allow movement within the organizations. HSBC is a UK-based company and it my tenure at the bank, I’ve known several colleagues moved from UK to US, and from US to Hong Kong. Movement within the US is also encouraged.

Higher Salary

Most big corporations do pay better than small companies. Not only because they have the means to afford high salary, it is the same reason as above to retain “A” employees. Of course this also depends what department or business you are in within the corporation. Taking HSBC as an example, employees who are in the investment bank will probably pay higher than employees in Human Resources. As an example, my salary (including bonus) increased by 700% when compared to my salary at Arthur Andersen 21 years ago.

Recognition and Achievement

Working in a big corporation is great but it is important to keep your personal goals in check. Are you happy in what you are doing? Are you being recognized for the work you have done? The answer is quite simple if you want to achieve your personal goals: work smart, not work hard. If you work hard, sooner or later you are going to burnt out. Work smart includes how do you do things better and more effective. Companies recognize employees who are able to do things more effective at a shorter time frame.

Fringe Benefits

Big corporations continue to provide health care and other benefits to their employees. Depends on the industry, things are not what is used to be. Prior to the financial collapse in 1998, big banks would give all kinds of benefits to their employees. Today things are very different as a lot of the banks trying to cut costs. Citigroup stopped investing in pensions for its employees after 1998. We no longer had free lunch during training sessions and employees are absorbing more healthcare costs as health insurance costs starting to spiral out of control. Some companies such as Google, Facebook or other “hot” tech companies continue to provide their employees a log of fringe benefits that most small companies are not able to.

If you disagree any of my points above, I would like to hear them. Feel free to comment.

Does God exist? Yes, miracle does happen.

I am a Christian, but not a devout one. I should, but I keep coming up with reasons not to be. Most often than not, life is just too stressful that being a devoted Christian is a second thought. My family goes to church almost every Sunday but we were just not interested in serving at Church or go on a mission like some of the brothers and sisters. I prefer to stay in one place where things are more predictable.

I remember my son said to me that he is a Christian but just does not have the same beliefs as some of his friends at Church. This prompted me to ask him if he believes in God. The question wasn’t forthcoming.

So, that begs the question, does God exist? For any believers, they believe God exists and our existence in this world is planned by God. For atheists, they believe in chances and circumstances. God has nothing to do with what is going on in the world.

I remembered when I went through my baptism class and I asked the same question to the brother who led the class. He told the class that he was an astrophysicist with a PhD degree. Him, like all doctors in his field would denounce the existence of God based on the materials presented to him during his studies. However, he had not been able to answer the simple question: who is holding the universe together? We learn about planets, black matter and galaxies. But there are no clear answers what is grasping all these items and controlling each and everyone? He believes that there is a supreme being who is responsible for everything that we see and learn.

My answer is quite simple. God does exist and this can be answered by miracles that happen around us. If none of us can explain why things happen (good or bad) through logical thinking, then we know there are higher power in this world making things happen. I believe in chances and circumstances but they are all part of God’s plan.

In the next several posts I’ll offer several miracles that had happened to me that I have yet able to come up with a clear logical answer.

Prayers Answered

After I graduated from Baruch College, CUNY with a Marketing degree, I thought that I would not have any problem looking for a job in New York city. And boy was I wrong. For several months I sent resumes to companies looking for executive assistant and to advertising agencies looking for entry level account manager. With no experience and background in any of this field put me in the bottom pile of potential candidates.

After several months of job seeking with no real prospect, I decided to take a long vacation and go back to see my sister in Malaysia. The first week in Malaysia was uneventful. The second week happened unexpectedly. My brother-in-law has an older brother who happened to have a free ticket to go to Tioman Island and I was invited to go. It was during this trip I met my wife (who happens to be a younger sister of my brother-in-law) and we were able to get to know each other well.

After the trip, my wife and I became a couple. I was worried that because I did not have a job and there would be no way for me to maintain the relationship from a long distance. I remembered my wife, who is a devoted Christing, said that she would pray for me after I return to the USA.

In less than two weeks I had an interview with Arthur Andersen. The Human Resources representative was a Baruch alumni and she pushed the hiring manager to consider me as a candidate. Through this connection I was able to secure a position at Arthur Andersen and since my career had taken off.

What are the miracles?

  1. Unplanned trip to US which coincided with a trip to Tioman Island using a free ticket.
  2. Unplanned trip to Tioman Island and met my wife whom I am happily married for 21 years and counting.
  3. Unexpected interview with Arthur Andersen.
  4. A Baruch alumni in the right time and place and recommended me as the candidate for the open position.

So my question to everyone is have you had any miracles in your life that you can’t explain? I would love to hear from you.