Article: Amazon’s Rajeev Rastogi on AI and Machine Learning revolutionising workplace trends

Learning Technology

Amazon’s Rajeev Rastogi on AI and Machine Learning revolutionising workplace trends

The new AI and machine learning age is redefining the future of work, and Rajeev Rastogi, VP of International ML at Amazon, shares how upskilling and reskilling programmes can prepare employees for adapting to AI-driven workplaces.
Amazon’s Rajeev Rastogi on AI and Machine Learning revolutionising workplace trends

Machine Learning and AI technologies are transforming the future of work by enabling data-driven decision-making and automating routine tasks. In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Rajeev Rastogi, Vice President of International Machine Learning at Amazon India, shared how programmes designed for the evolving landscape prepare both young and experienced workers for emerging job roles. 

As machine learning and AI technologies advance, what key industry trends do you foresee shaping the future of work? 

Over the past decade, the trajectory of machine learning has been on a continuous upswing, gaining traction across various industries. It is being aggressively adopted by manufacturing, financial services, retail, transportation, agriculture, healthcare sectors, and many more. Machine Learning has become a significant lever in solving customer problems, and the demand for machine learning roles is expected to increase significantly among employers. A study by the World Economic Forum proclaims that AI, machine learning, and data segments will be the top emerging job roles in India over the next five years, while the talent pool is expected to remain the same.

  • Machine Learning is poised to revolutionize workplace trends by enabling data-driven decision-making, personalising experiences, and automating tasks.
  • As organisations leverage machine learning for insights into employee performance and engagement, virtual collaboration, and customer support, workplaces will become more efficient, innovative, and inclusive. However, this transformation demands a shift in employee interaction with technology and a commitment to ongoing learning to navigate the evolving landscape effectively.
  • The imperative to harness machine learning has led to a surge in demand for training, upskilling, and reskilling initiatives. Programs like the Machine Learning Summer School are experiencing great responses from students, highlighting their keen interest in this evolving field.
  • Moreover, the landscape of learning is evolving rapidly, with online courses, videos, tutorials, and self-learning resources becoming increasingly accessible. In this context, it's encouraging to note that educational institutions are embracing this trend. Schools and universities are offering dedicated ML courses, contributing to the growth of a skilled ML workforce.
  • Amazon India aims to bridge this gap and make students industry-ready for careers in science. This is an application-based approach to learning in ML Summer School, and the presence of practical knowledge provides an opportunity for the holistic development of participants, making them industry-ready. This multifaceted landscape includes structured courses, self-learning, and competitions, reinforcing the notion that the skills landscape is rapidly evolving to match the demands of an AI-driven future.

How do you think the integration of AI and machine learning will affect traditional job roles and responsibilities? What strategies can HR professionals employ to help employees transition smoothly into new roles? 

Skill shifts have accompanied the introduction of modern technologies in the workplace since at least the Industrial Revolution, and the adoption of machine learning will mark an acceleration over the shifts of even the recent past.

  • Over the next ten to 15 years, the adoption of Machine Learning (ML) technologies will transform the workplace as people increasingly interact with data. This will bring numerous benefits in the form of higher productivity, improved corporate performance, and new prosperity, but it will also require upskilling of the workforce.
  • All technological skills, both advanced and basic, will see a substantial growth in demand. Upskilling and reskilling programs can help the workforce develop new skills that are in demand. These programs can also prepare employees for new job opportunities that require expertise in the new AI and machine learning age. People with these skills will inevitably be a minority. However, there is also a significant need for talent to develop basic digital skills for the new age of ML.
  • At Amazon, we believe that success and scale bring broad responsibility, and we have the immense responsibility to nurture and empower future generations. In the fast-moving world where learning and upskilling have gained centre stage, being ahead of the curve brings exceptional opportunities in hand. Amazon has always worked towards helping young talent gain in-demand skill sets and propel them into new careers.

Training, workshops, and initiatives help talent prepare for crucible experiences and become their best selves. Machine Learning Summer School is a good example of a platform to help foster ML excellence and strive towards developing applied science skills in young talent.

With the rise of remote work and virtual collaboration, what are some innovative ways that HR can leverage AI and machine learning to enhance employee engagement, productivity, and well-being? 

Companies have been adopting technology to better virtual collaboration and tapping into the promise of AI and machine learning to reinvent techniques for boosting employee engagement, productivity, and well-being since the advent of remote work. 

  • At Amazon, we have various continuous listening mechanisms to seek employee feedback on processes, policies, and culture from all employee cohorts and build action-based feedback. This helps us in ensuring that the practices for inclusion we are implementing with good intent are being followed.
  • We also follow a close loop mechanism with clear success measures to see needle movement on overall sentiment for the team and ensure to regular review and update policies and practices to eliminate any bias for all employees. 
  • Our Amazon ‘Connections’ is a real-time, company-wide innovative internally built platform, which provides Amazonians an effective way to share continuous feedback in a confidential manner, which helps us in our quest to make ‘Every Day Better for Employees’. By asking employees quick questions every day, ‘Connections leverages real-time feedback with the help of machine learning tools to learn more about our employees’ experiences and introduce positive changes in the workplace.
  • We develop a variety of engagement, feedback, and remediation mechanisms that help us continually improve our workplace experience basis the inputs we receive via the ‘Connections’ platform.
  • From talent acquisition to continuous engagement, this integration capitalizes on the strengths of both technological prowess and human acumen. It's a transformative journey where innovation and empathy intersect, propelling organizations into a future where work is not just remote, but remarkably rewarding.

Could you share examples of successful initiatives where companies have partnered with educational institutions or industry organizations to bridge the skills gap and prepare individuals for careers in AI and machine learning? 

Machine learning and data science are advanced tools used to analyze data and enhance decision-making. Informed decisions to pursue a career in this field career in this field may be made easier if you are aware of the differences between data science and machine learning.

  • Future workforce skills should include behaviour and mindset training that transcend traditional technical skills and enable the workforce to operate more agile and resilient.
  • More than theory, the learners should understand the demands of a role before they start work, highlighting the urgent need to make the curriculum job-oriented. 
  • There are many initiatives and programs in the market that aim to bridge the gap between demand and talent. Amazon ML Summer School is designed to build a strong foundation in key ML technologies over and above academics and is a step towards assisting students to chart out careers in ML.
  • We have extended this program to all engineering students on campuses across India. We want to reach out to maximum students gradually, globally. Our primary aim is to provide students a no-cost opportunity to gain Machine Learning (ML) skills which is the first step in becoming ready to build a career in ML. We are preparing students for the larger industry opportunities.
  • Amazon also conducts ML Challenge, its flagship ML competition, which is a unique opportunity for students to work on an Amazon dataset, bring in fresh ideas and build innovative solutions for a real-world problem statement.

What steps can HR departments take to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in AI-driven workplaces, ensuring that the benefits of these technologies are accessible to all employees?

At Amazon India, we believe in fostering a culture of growth and providing equal opportunities for all individuals to reach their full potential. Our commitment to equality extends to various communities, including women, LGBTQIA individuals, military veterans, and differently-abled individuals. We value the unique perspectives that each person brings to our workplace, recognizing the immense value they add to Amazon India. 

  • AmazeWIT (Amazon Women in Technology) conference is a significant platform for promoting female representation in the technical industry, emphasizing our dedication to diversity and inclusion.
  • Our dedication to empowering employees extends to leadership development programs. The Amazon Future Builders Program engages top B-school students in upskilling sessions and social activities.
  • For women specifically, programs like Pinnacle and Catapult provide unique leadership development opportunities. Furthermore, initiatives such as Amazon WoW support women in engineering colleges, assisting them in building enduring careers in technology.
  • Amazon’s All-Women Virtual Customer Service (VCS) centre is enabling women to continuously leverage their skills, strengths, and capabilities, from the comfort of their homes.
  • We work with student programs to make a significant shift in our university hiring both in tech and non-tech in terms of female campus hires. We continue to make progress in building a more diverse workforce and creating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

As AI and ML technologies spread across the globe, what considerations should companies like Amazon consider when implementing skilling and development programs in diverse regions with varying levels of technological infrastructure?  

Amazon's upskilling and reskilling initiatives play a pivotal role in ensuring the workforce is prepared for the machine learning era. While advanced skills will be in demand, Amazon also emphasizes the importance of basic digital literacy. This recognition stems from the understanding that in an age of machine learning, everyone should have the foundational skills to navigate the digital landscape effectively. 

  • A fundamental tenet of Amazon's approach is democratizing machine learning. By making the ML Challenge and the Machine Learning Summer School accessible to a wide range of educational institutions, Amazon aims to reach diverse talent pools across India.
  • Looking beyond Amazon's initiatives, the broader picture highlights the transformative power of machine learning. As technological shifts redefine the workplace, Amazon recognizes the impending need for workforce upskilling.
  • Over the next decade or so, the integration of ML technologies will revolutionize how people interact with data, driving increased productivity and corporate performance. However, this advancement will require a workforce with adaptable skills, encompassing both advanced technological proficiency and foundational digital literacy.
  • We believe training, workshops, and other initiatives help talent get ready for crucible experiences and be the best version of themselves.
  • Amazon also conducts Amazon Research Days (ARD), connecting the scientific community, industry leaders, and academic researchers in AI through sessions, discussions, and advanced ML talks.
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Topics: Learning Technology, Skilling, #HRCommunity

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