Artificial Intelligence in Business Communications: Good for Privacy?

Artificial Intelligence is being used more and more in business communication. While companies are able to gain better insights and increase the profitability of their technology investments, there are some concerns. Lack of privacy is something that most consumers care about. Centralizing data for AI and machine learning models to work creates a single point of failure. In order to protect consumers and their company, communications professionals need to develop principles and a roadmap for rolling out these initiatives.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines to resemble human capabilities with different degrees of technical sophistication and autonomy[1]. AI is actually an umbrella term that covers several interrelated technologies, such as speech to text, natural language processing (NLP), predictive analytics, and machine learning[2].

AI and machine learning systems automate repetitive tasks using large data sources. Typically, the more data available means better-defined insights. AI is being used more and more for everyday tasks. Some examples include sorting photos, deciding where to eat, processing receipts for work, and even organizing a calendar[3].

AI is also used for gathering, analyzing, and combining large amounts of information from many sources.  What has made AI attractive for use in information gathering in the first place are three things: speed, scale, and automation. AI can do calculations faster than human analysts and in theory, the computation can be increased by simply adding more hardware.

People increasingly use AI for everyday tasks, from organizing their calendars to processing business receipts to sorting photos.  For many of these services, users expect that no human is reviewing or processing their data. This is a privacy benefit because consumers are often more comfortable with computers processing their personal data than humans[4].

AI is also important for a company’s bottom line. In a recent survey, 80 percent of executives have stated that they are seeing moderate value just from the AI deployment[5].

AI is used in business communication in a number of ways:

Chatbots – Chatbots are programs that usually reside on a web page or within a messaging application. These programs use artificial intelligence algorithms to determine what a person is looking to know more about and come up with replies.

Smart campaigns – Smart campaigns use A.I. algorithms on online advertising platforms like Google ads, Facebook ads, and Instagram ads. Costs per click and customer acquisition costs can be determined and ads can be automatically matched up with users who have a projected higher return on investment.

Smart call centers – Virtual call centers have become a popular solution for companies trying to reduce the size of their call centers. Technologies allow for voice over the Internet and integrations with different tools in order to allow the operators to understand what a user is talking about and how they can best solve any issues.

Email filtering – AI can easily sort and filter out different types of email in business communication. Keywords can be found and even things like flight reservations and meeting invitations can be sorted and added to a calendar. As email spam becomes a bigger and bigger problem, machine learning helps users control their inbox so important messages get through.

Smart replies – Programs like Gmail can use data from millions of previous emails in order to create a suggested reply. This saves users time and frustration. According to Forbes, employees spend an average of two and a half hours per day replying to emails.

One of the biggest uses of artificial intelligence in business communications is creating new solutions for the customer support process. Customers have come to expect an “always-on” model. Accenture has been partnering with organizations in order to create virtual agents and intelligent automation tools. They attempt to use AI to resolve issues based on context and customer intent. The AI bot can use keywords from previous interactions to provide answers. The idea behind this is to help companies modernize and drive digital adoption. This solution also allows for consistent messaging and communications.

The strategy and technology consulting firm, Accenture, sees this having an impact in several areas, including:

Area of Focus Benefits
Intelligent Financial Crime Detection  30% reduction in false positives
40–50% less effort spent on manual tasks
15–35% decrease in Know Your Customer reviews
Intelligent Supply Chain 20–30% forecast accuracy improvement
20% reduction in lost sales
Intelligent Revenue Growth 10-30% product profit increase
43% increase in campaign customer engagement
72% increase in revenue resulting from personalized support
Intelligent Healthcare Helping to reduce over
50% of avoidable hospital admissions
$300M annual medical cost reduction
50% reduction in medical supply chain costs

As we can see by Accenture’s approach, there is a significant benefit to applying artificial intelligence practices in business.

As with any new approach or new technology, there are always pros and cons to implementing AI solutions in business communications. In fact, in 2016 the Obama administration announced a series of workshops to explore the benefits and risks of AI[6].

The biggest concern most people have focuses on privacy. In order to construct valuable recommendations and perform tasks, the program must have a certain amount of information about its user. While this may be concerning, artificial intelligence actually increases privacy because fewer humans see the user’s personal information. People also tend to use AI more and more understanding that they are more comfortable with computers processing their data rather than humans. The following video is a keynote by Michael

Another concern is the increased use of AI by hackers. In order for AI and machine learning to succeed data needs to be centralized. The more personal information that is stored on computers, the more valuable the targets are. Data experts are working on ways to install false data, known as adversarial examples, in order to confuse the hacking algorithm.

One of the biggest problems with AI is bugs that cause misclassification of data. This is a weakness in machine learning models. These misclassifications can cause unpredictable accuracy rates. In communications, an incorrect response or bad recommendation can negatively impact the customer experience.

AI is also inherently adept at utilizing large data sets for analysis and is arguably the only way to process big data in a reasonable amount of time. Finally, an AI can perform the designated tasks without supervision, which greatly improves analysis efficiency. These characteristics of AI enable it to affect privacy in a number of different ways[7]:

  • Data Exploitation
  • Identification and Tracking
  • Voice and Facial Recognition
  • Prediction
  • Profiling

A pretty serious negative effect is the potential for AI models to discriminate unintentionally against protected classes and other groups by weaving together zip code and income data to create targeted offerings[8].

One approach to addressing the risks of centralized data in AI is to use federated learning. Federated learning secures data by decentralizing it. Developers can still use the data. It just can’t be tied to a specific user[9]. Also, data can be masked in order to avoid personal information to be leaked. With a large volume of data, masking it makes sense[10].

At the end of the day, there are a lot of concerns by consumers about privacy and data being leaked through the use of artificial intelligence. It is up to solution providers and researchers to consider these concerns when rolling out new products. Artificial intelligence is hugely helpful in business communications, but it must be approached with caution.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ #AIinPR project created a list of actions to better understand AI in communications:

  • Develop guiding principles. Every company deploying AI needs to think not just about how to deliver better services, but also how to use AI ethically and transparently. Communication professionals can help their companies or clients think through the use of AI.
  • Learn about the tools at your company. AI-enabled tech can save a ton of time, especially on manual tasks that involve populating spreadsheets and analyzing data. Find out what your company has already and start putting it to work. Better yet, identify the top three things you’d like AI to help you with and match new or existing tools to your needs.
  • Build the internal infrastructure and processes you’ll need. Communications teams, like tech companies, will need guidance about how to handle data, and exactly what AI can and can’t touch. They’ll also need to understand algorithmic bias — how AI can unintentionally amplify sexist and racist attitudes. Talk to your tech teams to understand how your organization adopts or creates new tools, and what kind of vetting takes place to mitigate bias.
  • Go deep on bots and digital assistants. While it wasn’t popular three or four years ago, voice is rapidly increasing its presence. Many companies are using digital assistants. Thinking about AI is critical. Chat and messaging are increasingly important, too. Companies in China have been using bots in customer interactions for years.

Artificial Intelligence is not a trend that will fade away. Despite privacy concerns, businesses are still embracing AI technology and using it to guide their company’s narrative. With proper controls and some common sense, we can protect privacy while using this new technology.

Below are a couple videos describing where AI is taking us, and some of the concerns we face.

[1] (Crnoja, 2019)

[2] (Yin, 2018)

[3] (Quinn & Castro, 2018)

[4] (Quinn & Castro, 2018)

[5] (Cheatham, Javanmardian, & Samandari, 2019)

[6] (Crnoja, 2019)

[7] (Dean, 2018)

[8] (Cheatham, Javanmardian, & Samandari, 2019)

[9] (Crnoja, 2019)

[10] (Provazza, 2017)


Training Day – Day 3

Got back on the horse today. I had a good pasta dinner last night so I thought it would give me a boost today. I didn’t have a big breakfast so I got tired about 30 minutes into the workout. Been focusing on cardio and I will add some weight into the mix over the next week.

Workout Stats:

  • 25 minutes elliptical at 6.0 mph (2.32 miles)
  • 26.8 minutes treadmill at a 20-minute mile pace (1.28 miles)
  • 4 x 25 curls

Feeling: Tired. I was tired yesterday as well. I will take a day off cardio and do some weights for the next workout. Not too sure in the joints though.

Weight: Again, no scale. Feeling good though.

Recovery: Vega One protein shake mixed with Naked Power C fruit smoothie. Some foot/leg massaging after.


Training Day – Day 2

Hit the gym for an official training session. I had virtually no breakfast this morning before my pre-workout. I knew it may be a little rough.

About 20 minutes into the elliptical session I was getting shaky. I was running on fumes at that point so I decided to switch to the bike. That didn’t last long. I decided to call it early and get some food in me.

Workout Stats:

  • 25 minutes elliptical at ~6 mph (2.5 miles)
  • 10 minutes bike
  • 4 x 15 pushups
  • 3 x 20 arm curls

Feeling: A little sore in the quads. No major joint pain. I wore a neoprene knee brace on my right knee and a patellar tendon strap on my left knee. Still looking to walk the Camino without the knee braces.

Weight: no scale available this week.

Recovery: Water and a little stretching. Will carb load tonight for tomorrow’s workout.

Training Day – Day 1

Today was my first official day training for the Camino de Santiago. I won’t say it was intentional. I was up studying for my only final this mod. I was getting stir crazy so I decided to hit the treadmill with my tablet. Two hours later I guess I got a workout in.

Workout Stats:

  • 15 minutes elliptical at 5.0 mph (1.25 miles)
  • 61 minutes treadmill at a 20-minute mile pace (3 miles)
  • 4 x 25 situps
  • 4 x 25 curls
  • 4 x 15 incline press

Feeling: A little sore in the hip flexors and knees. I wore a neoprene knee brace on my right knee and a patellar tendon strap on my left knee. My goal is to be able to walk the Camino without the knee braces. 4.25 miles and I am feeling good though.

Weight: 242 pounds – clearly a long way to go.

Recovery: Vega One protein shake mixed with Bolthouse Farms Tropical Goodness smoothie. Added a little Vega Sport pre-workout for a kick to keep studying. I need to remember to stretch after workouts.



Back At It Again

Where to begin…I guess I’ll start with the next purpose for this blog. Originally, it was just to document my MBA journey. But the more I think about it, the MBA is also a life journey. It is preparing me for all my future endeavors.

First endeavor, I will be hiking the Camino de Santiago after my MBA. I’ll start a new section on the blog. I am also going to write more about the day-to-day experience of my MBA, recruiting, and my thoughts as I continue this journey. Highlights below.

Oh, I also interned in Japan this year. I’ll try to sum up that experience. Life-changing.

Japan Internship

I don’t really know where to start since this internship started at the end of May. I will create a section for the internship and throw out a summary of my travels, learnings, and the experience as an MBA in this amazing country.

MBA Recruiting

So being someone who works in the Bay Area, for tech firms, and wants to start his own firm someday, my recruiting is a little different. However, I have gone through a lot of the traditional recruiting motions. I also have a unique view based on my industry. I’ll share some posts on that as well.

Camino de Santiago

This has been on my mind for a few years now. Yes, I was inspired by the movie “The Way” I think the movie did a lot to give focus on this journey and motivate people to take a deep look inside. This is about a journey of self-discovery, spirituality, and just getting out there and sharing a deeply personal experience with people from all over the world.

The first step is to commit to the journey. I will be walking about a week after my MBA graduation and should finish in about 30 days. This may have a bit of impact on my MBA recruiting. However, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not sure when I’ll get time to do this until I am old and decrepit.

    courtesy of 

The Value of a Vision

This is the kickoff for my 2016-2017 application season.

After a summer of introspect and debate I have decided to relaunch my b-school application journey. Why would anyone want to go through the “Doldrums” and the pain of rejection all over again? It comes down to one word: vision.

vision:  noun, vi·sion, \ˈvi-zhən\
a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination

Application consultants will talk about selling your story to the adcom. I’ve worked in sales and have seen all sorts of techniques. As the biggest customer of stories in the b-school world, adcoms have developed an ability to sniff out garbage. Your story is typically crap. Words you think they want to hear just so you can get in to their prestigious school, have a good brand on your resume, and get more money at some large company. If this sounds like you then your vision is the same as thousands of other applicants. That is to say, while your goals are clear, your vision is empty. It reads loud and clear in your application and typically ends up in the rejection pile.

How do we fight this? The answer again is vision. If your goals are similar to those stated above, there’s nothing wrong with that. Most people enjoy more money and titles at work. If they don’t, an MBA is usually far from their mind. Developing a vision is probably the most time-consuming task in your MBA journey. GMAT and GPA are great but your essays, interviews, and 2 years of school will be driven by a few very simple themes. Planning up front will maximize the value of your effort. I’ll attempt to break down my approach to developing a vision and then how to use it in the following steps.

Step 1 – Escape

Get out of your office. Get out of your house. Get out of your city. Close the laptop. Put down the phone. Get away from everything familiar. This step is about clarity. You’re taking a major step in your life. Don’t let the barista who made your latte with whole milk instead of coconut milk influence your outlook on school.

Now that you’re settled in, find something that can settle your mind. I use music. Dave Matthews Band (early) or this song usually get me in the right frame of mind:


Step 2 – Introspection

I’ll let you guys look that one up. In essence you want to develop an idea of what is most important to you. Write it down if you need to. But the list is just the start. Next to each item dig a little deeper. Think why that item is important. Where did it come from? How can you achieve it? Is it yours or someone else’s? Don’t be afraid to go deep*. This the rest of your life we’re talking about here.

*one caveat, don’t start assigning blame or have negative thoughts about each item. This clouds your mental clarity you achieved in Step 1

Step 3 – Let Go

Now you have a great list of what makes you, well, you. You have a better understanding of how you got there. At this point you can probably see where this exercise is heading. Time for a changeup. Drop the list. The list was to define where you are. It puts you in the frame of mind to create a solid vision for the future.

Step 4 – Back to The Future

This is the core of the exercise. Close your eyes and see yourself 5 years after graduation. We live in fast times. There’s no need for 3, 10, 30-year plans. 5 years will do the trick. When you see yourself in the future take some time to immerse yourself in the vision. Where are you sitting? In an office? On a beach? What are you driving? A bike, a car, a horse? Where and what do you do for work? Take in the entire vision, don’t just pick a job, house, etc…these are still generic goals. See deep into non-professional goals as well. Do you volunteer? Are you an avid traveler? Most importantly, what is the most exciting part of your day and week?

If you are having trouble with this step take the “legacy” route. When you die, what are the 5 things you want to be remembered for? This approach is rather depressing though.

Step 5 – Repeat, then Work Backwards

OK, now you’ve taken the time to really see where you want to be. Repeat this exercise a few times. You’ve tuned out external pressures to clearly find your true vision. Embrace it. Webster’s defines passion as an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction. Vision = Passion.

Finally, work backwards and think hard about what steps need to be taken to get to the vision of your future. Research the career steps or skills needed to get to the job in your vision. Use specific examples from your future to plan out what you need to do. For example, if you want to help technology entrepreneurs in Malaysia you might want to go to a school on the West Coast or Pacific Rim.

Consider events in your past that influenced your vision. Use these examples in your essays and to explain your career/academic choices to this point. Most ask schools why them and how they will help you in your future. Don’t be generic, you already see the future. Find relative examples. You may even realize, for example, that Booth or Cornell don’t have a lot to offer for your specific goals. Don’t apply to schools that don’t fit your plan. Rankings are external pressures.

If you are looking for a tool to help define the path to your future, I recommend mind mapping. There’s a lot of software for this but nothing beats plain paper and colored pencils.

El Fin

So now you have a clear vision of where you want to be and you are developing your path and what b-school really means. This is finally YOUR STORY. Not the generic one that every half-hearted applicant submits. When you start preparing essays, interviews, and school visits you will notice a better reaction. Your passion about the what and why of your MBA will come through clearly.

This is just a first step in developing a vision, applying it to applications, and delivering on it throughout business school. This is also my process. Add to it. Enhance it.

Please feel free to share if any of this is useful and how your journey is going.






Leaving the Doldrums

This is more of a personal post. But it’s needed to get me back to blogging about the MBA journey. I am finally writing about the one thing that’s been on my mind since submitting my applications. I couldn’t put a finger on it until today.

Since I hit submit on my las application I’ve been in this sort of frozen zone. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t make a plan for the future. I called it the doldrums because it reminded me of something I read many years ago. A vivid scene in a book where the main character was stuck in a similar place as me. Thanks to the modern technology that is Google I was able to put a name to the book. It’s The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. As a child I don’t think I really caught on to the main themes of this book. I’ll probably reread it at some point since I am going back to school. It might be a good break from management thoughts and theory. But enough about the book.

The struggle is real. People will often talk about the stress of applications. Sure the GMAT is tough and writing those essays takes a lot of thought. But the worst part is the waiting game. Especially if you get stuck on the waitlist. You begin to ask yourself if you did enough. Did I write a strong essay? Were my interviews on point? What could I improve? Why don’t they like me?? Hopefully someone writes a blog post on how MBA admissions is like dating. Are first impressions truly everything?

Even though I was rejected from most of the schools I applied to I am still in the same place. I have been accepted to Notre Dame, a great MBA program. I was waitlisted at Carnegie Mellon, Texas, and USC. Each of these schools have more to offer me than Notre Dame (or so I think) since my post-MBA plans involve tech and startups and coming back to the Bay Area. It feels like I can’t do anything or even talk to people until I know for sure where I am going. Sitting on the waitlist continues the journey through the Doldrums.

I have decided to force myself out of waiting. Self-doubt does nothing for the situation. It’s not a good trait for MBAs so I am eliminating it. Hopefully someone can apply this mindset for whatever their situation may be.

The school decisions are pretty much out of my hands. I did my best and followed up They know I want them and they need me. There are a lot of things to do prior to my MBA that I can focus on. I want to work on my social media presence. I also want to work on coding/PM/app development. I will hopefully have a mobile app put together and published before I leave for school in early August. Last but not least I want to keep exercising, networking, and practicing my communication skills. These, more than anything will help me succeed in business school and beyond. First impressions are very important after all.

The takeaway is that you are not stuck. There is a plenty to work on. Just start with one simple step. In my case it was a blog post. Yours may be a trip to the beach or finally going to that Meetup you’ve had your eyes on for months.

Best of luck!


The Waiting Game…and First (likely) Ding

At this point all my applications have been submitted and I am in the territory that MBA and any college applicants dread…the doldrums of waiting for an interview. The admissions blogs give all sorts of advice for this time period: don’t bug the adcom, improve your profile, take a math class, don’t do anything at all, etc. Of course, none of it helps. Us poor applicants are in the purgatory of the application process, our emotions in the hands of the overlords known as the admissions committee. Each email from a school starts our heart fluttering, only to find out that it’s just a notice that our application materials are complete, or interview invites will be sent out February 8th (you know who I’m talking about).

Luckily, I have been busy looking at additional schools to apply to and finishing my Hawaii application that I didn’t have much time to worry. I have only logged into the application web sites like 3 times since hitting that submit button. I am sure there’s some out there that check daily. Here’s some advice:

  • Just wait and avoid your application status site. Don’t look at it every 2 hours.
  • Don’t listen to any rumors on blogs. Only listen to official sources.
  • Find a hobby, immerse yourself in it.
  • Join Toastmasters to work on your speaking skills.

The second bit up there is my topic for the rest of this post. In checking my application status at Columbia I noticed the twitter feed nicely embedded in the page. This prompted me to check for admissions committee’s blogs. I hadn’t really paid much attention to official blogs since hitting submit. I was trying to avoid it.

It turns out that Michigan sent out their final wave of interview invites on January 22nd. I didn’t receive an interview request so I didn’t make the cut. After reading further I learned that I am in one of two categories: waitlisted, or denied. Of course, I still have to wait until March 18 for the results. So, this looks like my first official Ding!

This is going to be a long two months. Looks like I’ll have time to get some work done on the rest of this site!



The End…of Round 2

I survived! I even got an interview request at one of my top 3 schools! I will ignore the fact that I think it is because people who attended a diversity event got an interview 🙂

I made every mistake in the book and still feel as if I have a chance to get in to one of my top 5 schools. I have one more application to the University of Hawaii to knock out. This is a unique school with a unique program that aligns with what I am looking to do post-MBA. They are not even ranked in US News but stop into a QS World MBA Tour and speak with Marc Endrigat. He will make you a believer.

I am putting that application on a pause for a couple days to breathe. I am also starting to pick up coding because it’s a skill I feel I need for the future that I finally have time for. The MBA application process is great for those with time management skills. It’s also a great crash course in time management – a crucial skill while at business school.

I will round out my blog with more information once I start back up. The next couple of posts will be around interview prep and summarize how I chose schools, prepped essay answers, and some of the best resources I found for the first stages of the application. It’s hard to believe that I am only about half way through the ADMISSIONS process. Not even in orientation yet :-/

Also, if you are reading this, hopefully you found it through a social media channel. If not, and you are looking at business school, make sure you get active on social media! Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest,, blogs, and YouTube are all great ideas. Clean up your Facebook as well. No pictures of keggers in college or flipping off the camera.

One more thing…videos to come soon! for now check out VincePrep on YouTube and follow @TokyoVince for great admissions advice.

Diversity Weekends and School Visits

I’ve been finishing up my Round 2 applications at 8 schools so it’s been a little crazy around here. Word of advice; lock in recommendations early and form a solid essay outline for every essay a month or so before the due date. I am adding this post I started back in December.

It’s been a busy couple of months since my GMAT results. It’s pretty easy to take a big sigh and think you can coast your way into business school once the GMAT is done. I clearly fell into this trap.

During late November and early December I went on a whirlwind tour of my preferred business schools. I will give individual feedback on each one later in this post. These are the schools I visited:

  • University of Texas at Austin – McCombs Business School (Diversity Weekend)
  • Notre Dame University – Mendoza College of Business (On Campus Tour and Interview)
  • University of Michigan – Ross School of Business (Military Preview Weekend)
  • Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business (Diversity Weekend)

Three of the schools I attended were for some form of inclusion event. I was hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure how I would be perceived at a diversity event. I have always thought of diversity as inclusion of underrepresented populations.  I had actually registered for the Diversity event at UC-Berkeley in September but took myself off the list. I fell into the trap of thinking diversity events were about skin color or sexual orientation. Bias is a strong foe to overcome. I ignored the fact I was a veteran, first-generation college graduate, and someone whose long-term goal was the betterment of under-served and developing regions. I was just scared that I would be out of place.

I could not have been more wrong. Each school I went to was awesome. The diversity weekends form a sort of community that lasts throughout the application process and into school. I wish I had attended the event at  Haas just to meet some of them earlier. Everyone offers advice on GMAT prep, essay review, and interview tips. As round 1 acceptances came in we all celebrated the victories and supported the defeats.

Many of the people I met are applying through the Consortium. The Consortium is open to anyone who supports its goals of inclusion of minorities in business and business schools. I’ll let the organization speak for itself, but the resources and connections offered cannot be beat.

For anyone thinking about attending a diversity event I strongly recommend it. The fact it’s on your mind shows that you are sensitive to the needs of under-represented students. If you are part of this population or support these initiatives take part in one of these weekends. I learned more about myself and how well I will do in business school at a diversity weekend than I did over the past 6 months of GMAT and essay prep.