The Tech Talent Rewrite is Underway: Transforming Humans Who Will Transform Technology

Not too long ago there were only a small batch of leaders inside organizations whose focus was the so-called “innovation” strategy. They would dream up new ideas, consider new possibilities and try to crack open paths to new products and services. But the law of accelerating returns is a reality, and today we’re all swimming in a big blue ocean of wide, deep, prolific technological advancements – which can no longer be thought of in silos. Disruption is happening everywhere. 

Humankind is experiencing one of the most rapid technological revolutions in history. How we live, work, play, communicate, learn and explore…everything is being rewritten. That’s why reskilling and investing deeply in humans is critical.  

As machines learn to think, infer, and act on our behalf, we need to be thoughtful and precise about the hard and soft skills that humans/machines need based on the type of future we want to build. This is why ATB is focused on Transformation with a capital T - exploiting new digital opportunities while also putting priority in developing empathetic, future-forward team members through organization-wide reskilling and upskilling, and by finding inventive ways to integrate new talent.

Defining that ‘future’ means attracting the best, most remarkable brains that Alberta has to offer, focusing on multidisciplinary perspectives and expertise first, then reskilling with technical skills after. As our President & CEO Curtis Stange leads ATB into the future, we realize the importance of understanding that our future workforce is comprised of impressive humans, not just impressive bankers. That’s where ATB’s talent accelerator Transformer X comes in.

Transformer X launched with our first cohort in April 2019. The eight month program embeds 17  recent university grads into our 1,300-person strong Transformation team to roll up their sleeves, learn new skills, and develop AI technology and products alongside us.  

By specifically inviting participants from a variety of backgrounds (mathematics, astrophysics, behavioral sciences, arts and humanities and more) we ended up with participants who bring unique perspectives to an ever-growing multi-disciplinary institution. This diversity of expertise forces us to be true to our agile philosophy; it bubbles up interesting inferences and interpretations of data, it adds more philosophical layers to how we build-out algorithms and avoid unconscious biases that manifest in AI/ML, and - importantly - it adds richness to the human experience in both the development of transformative products and our customers’ experiences with them.

Take this: one of the participants in Transformer X is Harisah Mehmood. She holds a degree in astrophysics. Now, why would an astrophysicist be interested in “reskilling” at ATB? Well, she’s come from one field looking down the barrel at the “next frontier” and believes that her natural curiosity and scientific approach to problem-solving can be valuable in building the next frontier of human-centric technologies that make life better here on earth.  She’s undertaken a project to explore social media data, looking for ways to understand the real-time sentiments of Albertans and how to use that to shape ATB’s solutions in really meaningful ways.

And Harnoor Dhindsa, who comes from an applied mathematics background and who took an interest in data science. To Harnoor, Transformer X is a means to learn and apply new skills that allow her to really listen to what the data is saying and use AI to cut to the signals versus noise faster, helping generate systems and products that help ATB be thoughtful and personal when helping customers. By using multiple data sets to listen to customers through their actual behaviours, we can enable AI systems to recommend ways to save them time and money, and to grow their wealth.

Transformer X is about creating new product lines by letting the cohort loose to experiment and solve. Just as the participants (who are all anticipated to be offered full-time employment by the end of the program) are here to learn, ATB’s own leadership is learning from them, too. And that was as much the point of piloting Transformer X as was the investment in Alberta’s tech talent pool. Transformation with a capital T is a journey - one that 70% of large companies fail at - so a culture of inclusion and execution means listening AND executing. Transformer X is being shaped by its participants, just as ATB’s own agile product development process is being shaped by this program. 

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