Matthew Gantner of Altum Strategy Group On Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The AI Industry
Have an insatiable appetite for learning. I’ve carried this mindset throughout my entire career, and it has yet to fail me. If you set out to learn something new every day, you will not only absorb a wealth of knowledge in the AI space, but you’ll be exposed to information and ideas that truly excite you.
Artificial Intelligence is now the leading edge of technology, driving unprecedented advancements across sectors. From healthcare to finance, education to environment, the AI industry is witnessing a skyrocketing demand for professionals. However, the path to creating a successful career in AI is multifaceted and constantly evolving. What does it take and what does one need in order to create a highly successful career in AI?
In this interview series, we are talking to successful AI professionals, AI founders, AI CEOs, educators in the field, AI researchers, HR managers in tech companies, and anyone who holds authority in the realm of Artificial Intelligence to inspire and guide those who are eager to embark on this exciting career path.
As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Gantner.
Matthew is the Founder & CEO of Altum Strategy Group.
He has over 18 years of experience helping organizations develop and implement results-focused solutions. Matthew’s approach is grounded in assessing organizational challenges and initiatives by taking a holistic approach across people, process, and technology. As a result, he assists organizations with the development of a pragmatic program that is executable and measurable.
Matthew has been a recognized leader in the enterprise application, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), access management, business operations and transformation, and strategy spaces. He has worked with a range of clients, from startups to Fortune 100 organizations, and has extensive experience working with multi-national initiatives.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would like to learn a bit about your origin story. Can you share with us a bit about your childhood and how you grew up?
My roots are in Cleveland, Ohio, where I spent the first 18 years of my life. I’m now a proud New Yorker and I still embrace the Midwestern values that were instilled in me from a young age. I look forward to every opportunity to make a trip back to Ohio to connect with family, friends, and colleagues. After high school, I moved to Philadelphia to attend Saint Joseph’s University, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and a Master’s in Business Administration.
Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue a career path in AI?
Throughout my career in management consulting, I have been recognized for my ability to assist companies with adapting to the continuously evolving business landscape in a bold and innovative manner, ultimately achieving their desired objectives. From intern to Founder & CEO, my mission has always been to help clients solve the “hard stuff” and catch the next wave to stay at the forefront of their industry. Today, AI is the most promising opportunity for businesses to promote efficiencies within their operations and processes and, in turn, create lasting value for them and their customers. While exciting, AI is often a daunting venture for leaders — from strategy to execution to change management and everything in between.
As a result, I saw an opportunity for Altum Strategy Group to make an impact for our clients to adopt and integrate AI. The talented Crew of experts in our Intelligence, Data & Technology solution area have been a trusted partner for leading organizations looking to capitalize on the promise of AI and implement cutting-edge solutions. We know the value AI can bring to an organization. When that is parlayed with a strong client appetite and the expertise to drive value, the outcomes are exceptional.
Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
There are several interesting projects that the Crew and I are working on now. The ones of most interest are focused on helping companies remove friction, address challenges, and unlock new opportunities by enabling people, creating focused processes, and implementing technology and automations. These changes are impacting companies back office and field operations. The results of these initiatives will enable companies to meet or exceed their objectives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I chalk up a considerable amount of my success to the lessons taught to me by my former mentor, a Senior Managing Director who took me under his wing early in my career. He taught me to embrace challenging conversations and to listen more than I speak. He lived by these principles and instilled that same mindset in me. These lessons have stayed with me over the years and have enabled me to have direct and meaningful conversations with my clients and our Crew. These conversations have resulted in a deeper understanding, a clearer picture of challenges, and outcomes that have led to mutual beneficial outcomes.
As with any career path, the AI industry comes with its own set of challenges. Could you elaborate on some of the significant challenges you faced in your AI career and how you managed to overcome them?
As a strategic advisor, leading clients from square one to implementation, my Crew and I see the most significant challenges around change management. To many leaders and employees, AI is a novel concept, and garnering the required buy-in for scalable and sustained success presents many obstacles. This is one of, if not the most, areas overlooked by leaders when they embark on their AI journey. AI will change how an organization operates. It may even change the whole business strategy, from industry-served to the way decisions are made to product/solution offerings. Therefore, a comprehensive change management strategy is non-negotiable.
Many organizations come up short on step one, which is communicating the change. Why is AI going to be critical to employees’ day-to-day activities? What is it going to do for them to make them better at their jobs? What does this mean for the business and its strategy at-large? It’s important to realize that this message isn’t a one-time event or memo with no follow-up. This is a continuous process that takes time for employees to digest and adapt to, making it crucial that they have as many resources at their disposal as possible. It’s incumbent on leaders to provide ample training and resources (personnel, investments, guides) to set their teams up for success. Maintaining the mindset that productive change doesn’t happen overnight — especially with such a powerful technology — and continuing to drive home the key business principles and technical know-how of AI-driven change, while measuring its progress, is conducive to success. Over the years, I’ve worked alongside leaders to help them navigate and manage change and bridging gaps between business and technology teams. I’ve overcome these challenges by conveying the importance of garnering buy-in and effective adoption of technologies like AI and immersing myself in their organizations to allow me to outline the steps to set them up for success.
Ok, let’s now move to the main part of our interview about AI. What are the 3 things that most excite you about the AI industry now? Why?
- AI’s goal is to make people’s lives easier and better at what they do. Its application has brought better experiences and faster delivery to millions of consumers and has opened companies’ eyes to a sea of possibilities of what they can accomplish alongside AI in the short and long term. For example, Adobe’s generative AI offerings have made design a breeze for creators and in doing so has opened an entire new product line for the company, with more to likely come in the near future. I believe that at this moment in time, we are on the cusp of AI really taking off and becoming ubiquitous in daily digital interaction. We’ve seen a host of companies dip their toe in the water, and I’m excited to help companies find the best ways to dive in headfirst.
- AI has expanded leaders’ horizons and has made them as ambitious as ever. Take Google’s Bard, for example, which launched in March 2023. The rapid pace at which AI has progressed, and the emergence of ChatGPT, pushed Google to innovate and bring a new product to market. The thousands upon thousands of AI tools that have been released in 2023 are simply shortening the timeframe from concept to launch. (This is a good thing!) The race is on, and with so many brilliant minds releasing these projects in such a short period of time, the customer ultimately wins.
- I’m closely following which industries seize on AI’s promise. Certain industries are poised to capitalize on the increased use of AI — manufacturing is estimated to benefit by the tune of $3.8 trillion by 2035 — to use a football analogy, what happens between the lines will make the difference. It’s exciting to follow the trends that track how the top players in each industry are gearing up to incorporate AI more and more. What resources are they allocating to developing AI tools? Are they doing it in-house? Is their vision conducive to being an industry leader in automated technologies? These questions will continue to play out as AI’s full impact becomes more and more palpable, and industries will transform and benefit as a result.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why? What should be done to address and alleviate those concerns?
- Data Privacy: The lifeblood of AI tools are the foundations of data on which they’re built. However, what exactly a given data library is comprised of, and how it was sourced, remains unknown to many users, depending on the AI tool; this unknown has set off alarm bells and drawn scrutiny from regulators. To alleviate these concerns and establish and refine the parameters for AI leaders, regulators should craft a framework that is ethical and fair and does not stifle innovation. Without such a comprehensive framework, AI companies should fill the void and earn users’ trust by creating and operating in accordance with data privacy policies that leave no questions about their personal information. Altum has led from the front as responsible stewards of our clients’ businesses and outlined its approach to the responsible use of data and technology, noting, “Enabling new technologies often involves the handling of data. We take responsibility for securing clients’ data seriously and follow legal requirements and company policies … When artificial intelligence is used, we strive to make the decision steps fair and based on sound judgment.”
- Transparency: This touches on #1 as more clarity is needed around data libraries and how that data is captured, but other transparency concerns have been raised. There has been widespread consternation about bias in AI and how data outputs are deployed. Users and observers want to know if these tools are trained ethically and in a balanced manner. Or are their outputs programmed to give weight to a specific opinion or perspective? On the other hand, questions surrounding how users’ inputs are used in the tool’s continuous learning. Both sides of the equation here oftentimes leave users with many questions with great implications unanswered. Industry leaders and regulatory bodies should undertake a collaborative and constructive approach to establish commonsense regulations that leave users with peace of mind.
- Misinformation and Manipulation: AI has the potential to touch on many aspects of our lives, making them better and more efficient. On the other side of the coin, we have all witnessed AI being used to misinform and manipulate the public in the form of “deepfakes” and audio and forms of impersonation. The consequences of this misuse are grave and could wreak havoc and inflict damage. As we enter an increasingly digital and online world, these impersonations should be viewed through the same lens they have been for years, and appropriate action should be taken depending on the scenario and its severity. In the meantime, users and consumers should be cognizant of generative AI content that is not what/who it purports to be.
For a young person who would like to eventually make a career in AI, which skills and subjects do they need to learn?
Young people looking to break into AI should immerse themselves in analytical subjects across the board — mathematics, computer science, engineering, data science, economics… the list goes on. I would also urge aspiring AI professionals to obtain broader business-related knowledge that zeroes in on operations and building processes instead of seeking a narrow focus across one discipline. In my experience advising and working alongside extremely talented and smart individuals, I’ve learned that the tactician who has a strong grasp of business principles and operations is not only valuable for completing the technical project but also for having a broader perspective that enables them to strategize and be practical about something like AI’s role in the business at-large. This person stands out in a crowded room and turns heads.
As you know, there are not that many women in the AI industry. Can you advise what is needed to engage more women in the AI industry?
Intention is key, especially in a burgeoning industry like AI, where the groundwork for diversity and inclusion needs to be embedded as it grows. At Altum, our core values of inclusive collaboration and empowering others are core to how we operate and are built upon the fact that encouraging diverse perspectives and experiences yields better outcomes. Being intentional to tailor recruiting and hiring efforts to engage women technologists and innovators will pay dividends in ensuring that women are central to AI’s progression.
It is truly remarkable to witness Mira Murati, a trailblazer in the field, serving as the Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI, one of the most talked about AI companies today. Her leadership and ongoing advancements will undoubtedly inspire more women to enter and thrive in the AI industry.
Ethical AI development is a pressing concern in the industry. How do you approach the ethical implications of AI, and what steps do you believe individuals and organizations should take to ensure responsible and fair AI practices?
Ethical business and development practices need to be foundational to the development and implementation of AI. A common code of ethics that incorporates data privacy, transparency, and how to address/correct misinformation and protects individuals and society at-large is needed. We have crafted and implemented policies that ensure we are using data and emerging technologies like AI responsibly; organizations that are lacking similar guidelines should outline how they approach the use of AI and technologies that have ethical concerns associated with them.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share the “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The AI Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1 . Have an insatiable appetite for learning. I’ve carried this mindset throughout my entire career, and it has yet to fail me. If you set out to learn something new every day, you will not only absorb a wealth of knowledge in the AI space, but you’ll be exposed to information and ideas that truly excite you.
2 . Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. There’s a popular saying among various business minds: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room!” I believe that iron sharpens iron and surrounding yourself with brilliant minds is a cheat code to progressing intellectually. If you’re fortunate enough to be shoulder to shoulder with teammates who have demonstrated success in an industry as hot and competitive as AI, do all you can to soak up all the information you can.
3 . Be willing to be wrong and make mistakes. Letting your guard down, knowing you don’t have all the answers, and being willing to learn from mistakes will not fail you, especially in an industry like AI that is constantly learning more about itself. In the big picture, AI is in its infancy. We will witness many projects and companies become household names (hello, ChatGPT!) and others fail. Those who are a part of the projects or companies that fail, provided they fail well, will likely find themselves as key players in incredibly successful AI ventures down the road.
4 . Innovate and iterate. Bringing new ideas to life and knowing how and when to pivot will help you win the race. Whether you’re launching your own AI tool or working at an AI startup or legacy corporation that is working AI into its offerings, remaining agile and knowing when to ditch bad ideas for good ones will give you a significant competitive edge. The first idea isn’t always the best and getting to the right one promptly and efficiently makes all the difference.
5 . Solve a problem. Demonstrating that your capabilities can have a widespread impact separates you from the rest and leads to a highly successful career. The most popular AI tools with the largest user bases are making people’s lives easier, professionally and personally. Have your work solve a problem and be an asset that the user seemingly cannot live without, and success will come.
Continuous learning and upskilling are vital in a dynamic field like AI. How do you approach ongoing education and stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the AI industry? What advice do you have for those looking to grow their careers in AI?
Those looking to grow their careers in AI should make it a point to consume AI-related content every day, participate in as many workshops or hands-on trainings that they can, and try out as many AI tools as possible to find their niche. In today’s content-rich environment, there’s no shortage of newsletters, videos, or articles that bring you the latest buzz around AI and how it’s making an impact on the world around us. Staying current on the latest AI news, investing in your professional development, and immersing yourself in a focused set of the thousands of AI tools available online will be a multiplier to your skillset.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” — Steve Jobs. This quote has served as a guiding light that calls for me to continually find and press beyond my comfort zone or existing knowledge base. It has allowed me to achieve professional and personal goals that at times seemed out of reach, and I always find myself coming back to it when challenges arise.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could make one movement come to life, it would be for every business leader to be people-focused and working to empower others. People are a company’s greatest asset, and when they feel like they are a part of something special, are looked after (both personally and professionally) by leaders, and invested in, an inspiring and positive environment is created. To boot, the company is more successful for having this culture!
I see this in practice every day here at Altum Strategy Group, where we pride ourselves on our people-first approach internally and in client engagements. Putting people first leads to higher satisfaction, empowerment, and better outcomes.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can learn more about Altum Strategy Group’s expertise and solutions at www.altumstrategy.com. They can connect with and follow me on LinkedIn, as well as follow Altum Strategy Group on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter).
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Matthew Gantner of Altum Strategy Group On Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.