Michael Proksch: Growing next generation technologists

H2O.ai’s Head of Head of Subject Matter Experts, Michael Proksch, shares his experiences with AI as he looks to support others with their AI journey

Advanced analytics expert Dr. Michael Proksch is a keen artificial intelligence (AI) strategist looking specifically into AI business value creation. As H2O.ai’s Head of Subject Matter Experts, Proksch provides knowledge transfer and support to global Fortune 500 enterprises in the development of solutions, processes, training, and understanding on various topics around AI. He describes his role as “enabling enterprises to leverage the advantages of H2O.ai’s AI technology”. 

“My role is to bring all the puzzle pieces together and help enterprises to create value with AI, which has been a struggle for a lot of organisations in the past.” 

“A lot of enterprises new to the topic of AI don't know where to start because it's a very complex field. You have so many moving elements beyond technology. At an enterprise level, it is crucial to understand how AI strategy relates to an enterprise’s business strategy, how AI is scalable across the enterprise and the challenges an organisation might face on its way to get there. The challenges are particularly on the operational side, such as how to identify business opportunities with AI, what data you need and where to find it, how advanced analytics needs to be leveraged to solve business challenges, as well as how to build relationships and collaborate with business stakeholders to drive AI transformation and successfully implement AI solutions,” he adds.

Working in a consulting role, Proksch is driven by the extensive knowledge he can share, lessons he has learned on his own journey through academia and industry: “All the challenges I had to overcome or observed during my career in the AI space, are many challenges companies are facing now. So, I can actually talk about them and help organisations understand them. But I like to see them more as opportunities to grow - with a good learning strategy then every challenge is becoming an opportunity.”

With experience in both industry and academia, Proksch is able to find parallels between the two, implementing this while he supports other companies’ AI journeys as they grapple with different challenges around the technology. He explains: “The things that get published in academia are just a small amount of what academic researchers work on. There are many studies conducted and draft papers written where nothing came of them. On the flip side, you only read about what’s successful – you don't read about what's not successful. That's the same problem that we have in industry. You only read about when somebody was successful, but most of the things you learned the most from are things where you made mistakes and the journey you took to become successful. From that perspective, I am very grateful to work for H2O.ai, one of the leaders and visionaries in AI technology. I get the chance to learn a lot from working with my team and our customers every day.”

When it comes to innovation and enterprise transformation, Proksch, after years of learning, shares how important it is to be rational and remove your ego from the projects you work on, noting: “After several years in academia, I realised that I wanted to have a bigger impact and switched to industry. However, after building advanced analytics solutions and dashboards that didn’t create the value I’d hoped, I realised that it’s not me that is important but the outcome. It’s not important that I had the idea for a project or the solution; I needed to start thinking differently and take different approaches to projects. Now, I have a very rational perspective that’s based on the outcome and mostly on helping others to become successful.” 

Despite having many lessons to share and insights to provide to others, Proksch is an incredibly humble leader – a title he would never give himself, making him perfectly placed to nurture others as they progress in their own career. 

Concluding, he says: “I don’t like the word ‘leadership’. I have never been able to grasp it fully. In general, I try to be a good example, inspire people and try to show the way I want people to work with me. I am pretty direct – that might be my German nature. In a field where we are short of experienced people, I try to pay attention to junior people the most. I focus most on challenging and enabling them because I think a learning experience and personal growth are most important. I actually think growth and learning is more important than money for many people.”

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