Alan and Christelle talk about the “hello, Human” podcast series from FortressIQ where they discuss the latest topics in artificial intelligence and how it’s being applied in the real world. The video and a transcript of the conversation are below.
Intro: This is Digital Anarchist.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, welcome to another segment here on TechStrong TV. I’ve got a new guest who’s never been on TechStrong TV with us today. Her name is Christelle Flahaux – Flahaux – did I pronounce it right?
Christelle Flahaux: You did, yeah, Flahaux, perfect.
Shimel: Okay. Hi, Christelle. Welcome.
Flahaux: Hi, Alan.
Shimel: Thanks for coming on our show, today. Christelle is the VP marketing over at Fortress, and she is gonna tell us about some – well, she’s gonna tell us about the company, number one, and then we’re gonna talk about some interesting podcasting she’s been doing. Christelle, we haven’t had anyone from Fortress, here, in a long, long time, so it falls on you, I’m afraid, to –
Flahaux: [Laughs] Give the update.
Shimel: Yeah, you’re gonna have to – well, before we even do an update, not everyone out here may be familiar. Let’s get’em familiar.
Flahaux: Sure, yeah, so I have actually been with FortressIQ for about a year-and-a-half, now; company’s been around for about four years. And we are in the business of delivering process intelligence. And what that means is, basically, helping large enterprises, large companies, find all the blind spots in their processes, right? Like, processes, the minute you deploy them, they go awry, right? Whether it’s human intervention, or outdated technologies, and so, we help folks kind of figure out what those processes are, and where there’s the ability for transformation. So, whether that be automation, whether that be retraining employees, process reengineering, but we do it from the human perspective, so we follow the human, not just the log file.
Because not all processes happen just in Oracle or just in, you know, your ERP system. So, we connect all those pieces together, so we can figure out what the human’s actually doing.
Shimel: Love it. Love it, love it, love it. All right, and as we mentioned, you are CMO, there?
Flahaux: yes, correct.
Shimel: And you have been doing some podcasts – well, let me not put words in your mouth.
Flahaux: [Laughs] Well, so, yeah, so –
Shimel: What have you been up to, lately?
Flahaux: What have we been doing. Yeah, so when I started, you know, one of the things, because the company was so new and it’s a relatively new space, that is adjacent to a very hot automation space, right? Like, everyone’s heard of automation anywhere, UI path. So my big challenge was just getting the brand out there, right? Letting people understand what FortressIQ was about. And the other thing, too, was just education around artificial intelligence. I mean, I’ve been in tech for most of my career, but I think, you know, this new wave of artificial intelligence, computer vision, machine learning, I think a lot of people, especially over the age of 40, are afraid, right? Like, “Well, what is AI gonna do? Is it gonna replace my job? Is – ”
Flahaux: Yeah, exactly, Skynet, Terminator, you know, the Borg, right? Like, what is this actually gonna do? And the whole concept of the brand came from, humans and technology are supposed to work together. And they can work together to take away all of those menial tasks, and all those things that get people down and, you know, that are mundane, and let the humans actually use their brains, right? Like what we’re supposed to be, and be the creators and be the innovators, and not getting bogged down in the tasks. So, it really was around creating this brand affinity to a company that’s gonna help you get comfortable with AI, right? And it was Covid, right? I joined the company middle of Covid, and podcasts seemed like a normal thing, right?
We didn’t have events, anymore, we needed to get the brand out there in a way that would resonate, and so, we created this podcast with the idea of educating people around how AI is actually being used in everyday life, and how AI is being used for good. So that’s why we started it.
Shimel: Excellent. You know, I will tell you, not that I’m over 40 – well, I am, but – you know, AI’s gotten a bad rap, right? I think there is the Skynet Terminator people; there are other people who thin AI is like Steven Spielberg’s kid in the movie, you know, the AI movie. And, you know, maybe one day, but that’s not the AI that you’re talking about, that’s not the AI that we deal with a lot in our tech worlds. Most of the AI we do is a lot of machine learning, and then applying what we learned or from what patterns we see, and applying some intelligence to that.
Flahaux: Yeah, totally, totally agree, yeah. And that’s, I think, you know, digital transformation, everybody talks about it and, you know, people are going at it very different ways, and a lot of it’s failing, right? I think there was a stat out by McKenzie, you know, 80 to 90 percent of transformation projects fail, because I do think people aren’t looking at it as a big data problem, right? And big data, that’s where you start talking about the machine learning and everything, that it would take humans just years to go do versus a machine can be trained to go do it in weeks or even days. So, I think that’s the crux of it is people want to transform and they wanna embrace, you know, being digital. But, you know, this big data problem and how to attack it, you need things like machine learning and AI to go get it done.
Shimel: I agree, I agree with you. You know, I was at a KubeCon in LA, last week, Cloud Native Con, whatever you wanna call it, it’s the first conference I went to [crosstalk].
Flahaux: How was it?
Shimel: It was good. You know, the Linux Foundation did an amazing job of trying to make you feel safe. You had to have a vaccine to get in, right? No kidding, no BSing, if you didn’t have proof of vaccination, you did not get in. And then, once you were in, I felt like they made the space three times larger than it would’ve been normally, ’cause whether it’s the keynote room or the expo hall floor, everything was really spread out, really spread out. And you had to wear a mask inside. All. Everywhere. You didn’t wear a mask, security came over and said, “Put a mask on or leave.” And, you know, honestly, I thought they did the best they could do, and it was semi-safe.
But the important thing was, the big buzzword, there, I mean, there had to be 80 vendors, there, you know, they have a lot of vendors. A lot of observability vendors, as they call themselves now. And really, observability is a big data machine learning kind of issue, right? Because observability doesn’t really get good until you have enough data to learn from, to see patterns, you know, to understand what the heck’s going on. And it just reminded me, again, that, really, at the end of the day, it’s always about the data, right? We’re seeing it in security, for instance, people who are getting wise say, “We gotta secure the data. We’ve been securing the applications, we’ve been securing the endpoint, we’ve been – we gotta secure the data.”
Our data – who told me – one of the interviews I did, out there, the amount of data that’s generated daily, like, you know, petaflops or whatever, it’s just [crosstalk].
Flahaux: It’s insanity, yeah.
Shimel: Yeah, so without some AI machine learning, some – you know, and then, like, okay, this is data that’s near and dear, and we need to keep it in a very high premium kind of storage area. Other data, we need to do our analysis and we could offload that data to somewhere that’s cheaper. Other data, we can analyze and we don’t necessarily have to keep it. Who makes those decisions, right? How do we make those decisions? All of these things kind of go in there and it’s a crazy world, you know, it’s just – it’s not that it’s crazy. It’s a changing dynamic that we’ve gotta learn to manage and make actionable intelligence out of. ‘Cause at the end of the day, that’s what AI’s about, right? Analysis and taking action.
Flahaux: Yup, and making the decision. I always remember, so, I spent two, almost three years at MAPAR .
Shimel: Mm-hmm, sure, I remember that.
Flahaux: Yep, _____ _____ and lots of data scientists, right, on staff. And, you know, we had a database issue from a marketing perspective, and I wanted to clean out – talk about, like, a very small problem, right? – clean out a bunch of old contacts, ’cause I was, you know, they weren’t responding, it was old, and I didn’t wanna, you know, be on a blacklist. And I remember the head data science was, like, “But we have to save all that data.” And I’m, like, “No, we don’t, ’cause it’s changed,” right, half these people probably –
Shimel: It’s useless.
Flahaux: Yeah, it’s useless, like, they’re at a different company now, and it’s a wrong e-mail address, wrong address, and – and it was just this argument, right, kind of this philosophical argument about, “You have to keep the data.” [Laughs]
Shimel: [Crosstalk] it’s sacrosanct, right, like, it came down from the word of God and it should’ve been included in the Bible, you know, and – but, no, it didn’t, it wasn’t included in the Bible for a reason. It’s not, you know, it’s not the US constitution, either. We can get rid of it. These are people who’ve moved on from their jobs and those e-mail addresses don’t work, anymore.
Shimel: But let’s talk a little bit about running – is this the first time you’ve kind of hosted a podcast and got that all up and running?
Flahaux: Yes, no, it is the first time that we’ve started a podcast. I do remember, back in the early days, though, when I was at Arriba, and we had talked about starting a spend management podcast. And we did, and I don’t think it was very successful, I mean, I don’t think podcasts were that exciting, back then, or people were adopting it. But we actually sent out, you know, actual, you know, the old iPods.
Shimel: [Crosstalk], yeah, yeah, [crosstalk] people to listen.
Flahaux: The old iPods, and we loaded it with a bunch of episodes and, you know, engraved the back of the iPod. So, I still remember that campaign.
Shimel: And a little expensive to do that, kind of defeats the purpose.
Flahaux: Yeah, well, Arriba had deep pockets, back then, so it was okay for them to –
Shimel: I remember those days, Arriba – who was the flipside of Arriba _____ – yeah, crazy times [crosstalk] dot-coms.
Flahaux: Yeah, yeah, they’ve done well.
Shimel: Yeah, no, they have. Let’s talk about, like, how do you determine guests and stuff for your podcasts?
Flahaux: Yeah, so, you know, we didn’t think this was going to be a big podcast, right? We set out with a goal of having maybe 1,000 listeners, right, like, to start. And so, when we did the first initial list of who we wanted to go after, it was just people in our networks, right? Like, I know Kamal at Eightfold AI who’s doing some really great stuff with HR and talent management, and applying AI to it. You know, the podcast host, John, had a couple of friends, you know, that he knew that were in this space, from his time at the DoD, and obviously, _____, our CEO, was one of’em.
So it was kind of a small list to start with, and we finished the first season and I looked at everybody who was on the first season and I was, like, “Wow, we have no women. None of these people on here are females.”
Shimel: [Crosstalk], yeah.
Flahaux: And it’s not like we did it on purpose, right? Like, we literally [crosstalk].
Shimel: No, quite the contrary, it’s on purpose, almost, that you have to go get women or other underrepresented communities. I mean, I run into it, frankly, all the time on our video shows, right? [Crosstalk]
Flahaux: Yeah, until you make it a priority and – so we wanted to do something for March, for International Day of the Woman, and I had an intern, who actually converted to a fulltime employee, and she’s passionate about this stuff. And so I just told her, I said, “Look, I wanna get four women, for March, right, like, you know, quick little month-long miniseries. Go get us four women.” And we ended up getting eight. People wanted to do it. And that’s the thing, from a podcast perspective, I’m sure you know this, if you ask, people are often [crosstalk].
Shimel: There are plenty of people out there, oh, absolutely. You gotta know who to ask is the issue, right? We, you know, we do – so we do a series of – besides this TechStrong TV kind of interview like this, we do 45-minute kind of longform video where we dive in, right, there’s Dev Ops Unbound, CISO Talk, the SRE Show, very nerdy geeky stuff, but it’s who our audience is and what we’re into. And our biggest thing is, once we identify someone, they almost always will do it. It’s just identifying. Go find me some women who talk about SRE stuff, right? Go find me some female CISOs. Well, there actually are a decent amount of female CISOs, now, that you can go to, but, you know, some of the other stuff, female QA testing and stuff like that, you know, it’s hard. It’s constantly a challenge for us.
Flahaux: Yeah, it’s hard, and I think now that, you know, we identified that we didn’t do it the first season, and we did this little miniseries and, you know, now I think, when we planned for this next season that just launched last week, it was, you know, “Let’s go cast a wider net and see what we get, and then prioritize.” We put on the show and we can always record and, you know, if we end up having – there’s no rules in podcasting, right, like, how many episodes need to be in a series, right, or how often you do it. And I think that’s the biggest lesson learned is there are no rules to this, right? So just generate content and get it out there and see how people consume it.
Shimel: Yeah, I try to do them on a consistent basis. Like, our cadence for a lot of the longform video – ’cause we do more video than audio, now, right, [crosstalk].
Flahaux: Okay, yeah.
Shimel: And we try to do every-other-week, right, I think that’s a good cadence. I mean, think about how you stream TV, like, you know, this is perfect. When streaming TV first came out, you could binge the whole season in a weekend, right, Netflix and chill. And now, most of the streaming channels don’t do that, they don’t let you do that, right?
Shimel: They release a new episode every Friday [crosstalk] back to when we were one network TV and, you know, Happy Days was Thursday night, or whenever that was.
Flahaux: Yeah, and TGIF, right, you sat in front of the TV or – you know.
Shimel: Right, because you knew that was it. We’re almost coming back to that, I think. People, I don’t know if it’s a Covid thing, but people want that kind of regularity.
Flahaux: It’s something to look forward to.
Shimel: Yeah. Well, that’s totally right, you can schedule around, it’s not, “What do you wanna do?” “Oh, let’s just binge out, you know, and watch 20 episodes of this.”
Shimel: Anyway, _____ I wish you a ton of luck with this.
Flahaux: Thank you.
Shimel: It’s always good to see more podcast folks out there. Maybe this is something we could get – you know, we’re doing more and more distribution through TechStrong TV, so, that would be a pretty cool thing –
Flahaux: Yeah, no, I think that would be great.
Shimel: – we can talk.
Flahaux: Yeah, no, that sounds awesome.
Shimel: Well, welcome to the ranks, and continued success with it.
Flahaux: Thank you. Yeah.
Shimel: More importantly is, well, success with FortressIQ, right, it’s important stuff.
Flahaux: Yeah, it is, it’s fun, it’s definitely an exciting space to be in, so.
Shimel: Very cool. Alrighty – oh, wait, we didn’t tell people, where do they go listen to the podcast?
Flahaux: You can go to fortressiq.com/hellohuman, you can find us there, all of our episodes are up there. And if anybody watching wants to be on it as an AI and has an opinion, find me on LinkedIn, Christelle Flahaux, or on Twitter @mktgstella, marketing Stella, and we’ll get you on the show.
Shimel: Love it. Thank you, Christelle.
Flahaux: Thanks, Alan, I appreciate it.
Shimel: Alrighty. Hey, we’re gonna take a break, here, on TechStrong TV. We’ll be right back with another guest.
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