Vanessa Eriksson: A Visionary Leader in Data Strategies

Vanessa Eriksson | The Founder and Senior Advisor of Vanessa Eriksson AB
Vanessa Eriksson | The Founder and Senior Advisor of Vanessa Eriksson AB

Vanessa Eriksson, the Founder and Senior Advisor of Vanessa Eriksson AB, stands as a distinguished Data & AI Influencer in the Nordics, garnering recognition with various awards. As a trailblazer and seasoned data professional, Vanessa boasts extensive experience in crafting Data Strategies, encompassing areas such as Data Security and compliance and Innovation.

Having held the prestigious position of Chair on PwC’s CDO Advisory Board and contributing to Gartner’s North America & EMEA Data and CDO Advisory Boards, Vanessa has been a prominent figure in shaping the landscape of data practices. Actively engaged in the data and analytics community, she has been a featured speaker at numerous conferences and was invited as a Guest Speaker at Gartner’s CDO Panel in London.

Vanessa’s exemplary contributions were acknowledged with the honor of being named Data Management Professional of the Year 2021 in the Nordics. Her influence extends to being recognized in the Top 100 in Data, Analytics, and AI in the Nordics.

The interview highlights reveal Vanessa Eriksson’s perspective on the future transformation of technology and underscore her proficiency as a technology leader.

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position.

Throughout my professional journey, data has been the driving force propelling me toward innovative solutions and profound insights. From the early stages of my career to the present, I have harnessed the power of data to uncover patterns, facilitate informed decision-making for businesses, and gain a deeper understanding of their operations. Whether optimizing processes, identifying market trends, or enhancing customer experiences, data has consistently been the linchpin enabling me to instigate positive change and attain meaningful results.

During the formative years of data governance in the business realm, I was honored to be invited by Gartner to speak at their Data & Analytics Summit in London. This collaboration allowed me to contribute to the establishment of best practices and strategies in the ever-evolving field of data management, particularly in shaping the role of Chief Data Officers.

Taking on the role of Chief Data Officer at Telia Eurasia marked a pivotal moment, demanding not only an acceptance of the position’s responsibilities but also navigating the complex task of gaining buy-in from the entire C-suite. My journey in this role continued at Nets Group, a European FinTech powerhouse, where I orchestrated transformative initiatives in Master Data Management for Merchant Services, resulting in substantial profits and cost efficiency.

Subsequently, as the Chief Digital Officer at Zenseact, a visionary startup founded by Volvo Cars, I led and developed data, cybersecurity, and IT strategies instrumental in the company’s digital transformation. This role placed me at the forefront of innovation, utilizing data-driven insights to revolutionize the automotive industry and enhance transportation safety.

In July 2023, I embarked on a new career chapter by founding my own company. As the Founder & Senior Advisor, my company represents the realization of a profound vision to create positive change in the world through the transformative power of AI and data. It serves as a platform for sharing knowledge and insights through keynote speaking, advisory services, and lectures, offering strategic guidance to organizations navigating the increasingly data-driven world.

How did you initially get involved in the field of artificial intelligence, and what motivated you to pursue a career in this field?

It was first at Nets Group, where I experienced the impact and recognized the significance of AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning), and Advanced Analytics within the financial industry. Working closely with my teams, which included skilled professionals like Data Engineers, Data Scientists and Data Analysts, provided us with insights into how data-driven technologies drive innovation and enhance business strategies. Empowering the team to actively produce Proof of Concepts (PoC’s) was a key aspect of our offensive data strategy, focusing on innovation that added to building and maintaining a dynamic and forward-thinking environment.

The integration of AI, ML, and Advanced Analytics led us to enhanced fraud detection use cases, more informed decision-making, improved risk management, and better customer service. My time at Nets deepened my understanding of these technologies and their importance in the fintech industry.

Naturally there was no turning back from here! I wanted more, and my curiosity and enthusiasm for these technologies only grew stronger. This drove me to explore and leverage their capabilities further, as I became increasingly eager to innovate and make the most of these cutting-edge tools.

Tell us something more about your company and its mission and vision.

Eager to drive positive change in the world, I founded my own company in July 2023, where in addition to providing strategic guidance on all matters related to data, maximizing the value and impact of technology, I strongly advocate ethical decision-making practices, effective data and AI governance, and sustainable, green data management.

In a landscape where the influence of AI, driven by OpenAI, Microsoft, and Nvidia, is exponentially rising, to me, the next major frontier lies at the intersection of Governance of AI and Sustainability, with a focus on Green Data Management.

Harnessing the power of AI requires significant data volumes, a factor that negatively affects our efforts at sustainability. Therefore, adopting data-driven strategies and digital solutions is what I advise organizations looking to minimize the environmental impact of their operations and find balance with technical developments.

There is no doubt that AI has become a global presence in nearly every company and industry, my vision aligns with the ongoing transformation in the business landscape. By harnessing the power of AI, you can contribute to enhancing efficiency, innovation, and social responsibility within organizations, ultimately making a meaningful impact on a global scale.

Enlighten us on the impact that you have made with your work through your expertise in the market.

My leadership and passion extend beyond my professional endeavors. I am deeply committed to creating a sustainable and diverse future in the fields of technology and science. I am passionate about encouraging Girls in Tech and in 2017, I founded ‘Girls in Tech Nordics,’ a non-profit organization with a mission to inspire and empower schoolgirls to pursue careers in tech and science.

This initiative reflects my belief in the importance of diversity and inclusion in these industries and my dedication to encouraging the talents of young girls who will shape the future of innovation and progress. It’s a cause that remains close to my heart, and I’m determined to continue making a positive impact by fostering the next generation of female leaders in STEM.

Additionally, I’m equally passionate about addressing educational inequalities, especially for underprivileged girls. I believe that education is the cornerstone of empowerment and progress, and I have been actively advocating for providing educational opportunities and support to these young girls. By extending our efforts to make education accessible and inclusive, we are not only transforming individual lives but also contributing to the betterment of communities and societies.

What is your personal vision for the role of AI in innovation and industry transformation in the coming years?

Imagine if we could find a sweet spot where AI complements human capabilities, making our lives easier and more efficient. My goal is to advocate for an AI-driven future where benefits are widespread, and the potential risks are mitigated through thoughtful and considerate approaches.

My personal vision involves not just harnessing the potential of AI but doing so with a strong commitment to ethical considerations and accessibility. To me, the trust factor in AI extends beyond technical transparency and inclusivity. It involves the establishment of clear communication channels between humans and AI systems, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the relationship.

Educating the public about how AI functions, its limitations, and the safeguards in place builds a foundation of understanding that fosters trust. Irrespective of the industry, I would like to ensure that AI is developed and implemented with a keen awareness of its societal impact.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run?

In the long run, I envision myself at the forefront of driving impactful change in organizations through data-driven digital transformations. My enthusiasm for the future, combined with unlimited energy and eagerness, fuels my commitment to leveraging advanced technologies and establishing trustworthy AI solutions. I see myself not only as a catalyst for technological evolution but also as a champion for diversity and inclusion, fostering a world where everyone has a place to belong.

My ultimate goal is to help build a world that is both advanced and inclusive, where everyone can participate and benefit from innovation.

What would be your advice to AI professionals and researchers who aspire to venture into the technology sector?

All of us are on a journey to understand generative AI’s power, reach, and capabilities. A report published by McKinsey suggests that Generative AI’s impact on productivity could add trillions of dollars in value to the global economy. It is ready to transform roles and boost performance across functions such as sales and marketing, customer operations, and software development. This is clear with organizations actively engaging in proof of concepts (PoC’s) centered around Generative AI. However, the challenge lies in moving beyond experimentation to strategically plan and execute AI transformation initiatives.

Reflecting on insights shared by the Harvard Business Review – HBR, it’s evident that the risk with Generative AI is not in leaders failing to explore it, but rather in stopping at the experimentation phase. Merely adopting AI-enhanced productivity tools, while a praiseworthy step, doesn’t necessarily provide a continued competitive edge.

My advice to AI professionals and others, researchers alike, is to go beyond the experimentation phase and actively champion AI transformation.