The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next up is Artificial Intelligence Industry Executive of the Year finalist Dr. Suzanne Taylor, who’s senior director and chief technology officer of emerging technologies at Unisys. Here, she talks career turning points, shaping new leadership and career advice.
What has made you successful in your current role?
My current role enables and drives the adaptation of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning into our solutions.
Working with smart and enthusiastic colleagues who constantly challenge me and each other is a key success factor. The freedom to take risks on challenging assignments is also a key success factor.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Early in my career, I was part of startup which was to be spun out from my company. The plans fell through at the last minute due to a variety of reasons, including an economic downturn. Accepting these realities, I had to change direction and focus in an abrupt way for the first time in my career.
I moved into a new technology area and then grabbed an opportunity to learn Six Sigma Lean, which was different from anything I had ever done. The discipline and principles that were instilled during that program have been useful to me ever since. Even with downturns, you can find the opportunities.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am entrenched in the transformation of the technology landscape inside our company. It is both challenging and demanding. The opportunity to develop a shared vision across multifunctional and cross-geographical teams is rewarding as well. We influenced the entire organization to learn, get certified and build innovations into solutions for the success of our clients.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
This is one of my favorite topics: shaping the next generation. It is not just about shaping, but giving the next generation the confidence to shape themselves. My favorite way to do this is to give back through mentorship, formal, informal and hidden. Informal mentorship is giving feedback and guidance along the way. Hidden is to purposefully provide opportunities for people to stretch in their roles or projects so they have the opportunity to grow.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
My current role was one of my biggest professional risks. It involved learning new technologies and applying them quickly, all while building a brand-new organization. Unlike many roles in the past, this was the least defined and yet presented the most opportunity.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Never stop learning. This includes being open to opportunities rather than being tied to a fixed path. Grab opportunities in your career to experience different functional areas of a business as well as different types of clients (external and internal) and different industries.