Interview Of The Week

Interview Of The Week: Janna Salokangas, Future Of Work Expert

Janna Salokangas, a Finn, is co-founder of Mia, a global AI academy that works with corporates to train the non-technical women they employ to use artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. The aim is to upskill one million women worldwide, driving inclusive innovation in the AI space and unlocking 100,000 jobs worldwide.

Salokangas is a founding partner of. The Women of the Future project which is aimed at showcasing and celebrating the top female change-makers in emerging technologies. She is an Action Advisory Board Member for the Reykjavik Global Forum, which brings together women leaders from diverse sectors to share ideas and solutions for advancing gender equality and increasing the representation of women in leadership positions.

She was a speaker on an AI and Inclusivity panel moderated by The Innovator’s Editor-in-Chief at an event that took place at the AI House in Davos during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in January. Salokangas recently spoke to The Innovator about how companies can hone their own AI talent by upskilling the non-technical workers who are most at risk of losing their jobs to automation.

Q: Why did you create MIA?

JS: My co-founder Tarja Stephens and I founded Mia, which stands for Mission Impact Academy, because we identified that while AI technology presents significant economic opportunities for women globally, it also risks automating jobs. We noted that traditional education and corporate training find it challenging to remain up-to-date with fast technological advancements, so there is a gap in AI education for non-technical roles.

We created a LinkedIn post saying that we are thinking of creating a program for women in emerging tech and received more than 400 applications in one day. That told us that women are ready to learn but there are not enough accessible ways for them to come together. We launched Mia’s first program in 2022. Some of the women in the program were promoted into new roles in their organization; some were hired by other companies and some women founded tech companies. All of this was the result of just a few weeks training. There is a huge community of women willing to learn and companies looking for diverse talent. About 85% of jobs in 2030 have not even been invented yet, according to a report on emerging technologies’ impact on society and work, so the future of work is being created now. We are working on what skills will need in future and are offering companies a solution to upskill the women in their workforce.

Q: Who are some of your clients?

JS: Some of our alumni are from companies like Walmart, Netflix, Nokia, and Google. Companies are starting to see the need for this. Non-technical employees in areas such as sales administration, customer service and content creation are the ones the most at risk of having their jobs automated and these are all roles that have traditionally been filled by women. That is why women will be the most impacted by AI, but there are also incredible economic opportunities. We are starting by training women to learn the skills of the future, such as prompting as well as 21st century human skills. AI can be used on so many different levels. We are opening women’s minds to start collaborating and creating with AI.

Q: What do your programs look like?

JS: We are launching a new program that will run from March 5-14 that is tailored to women from all industries and backgrounds. Mia’s AI in Action is a two-week productivity program that allows women  without previous tech training to learn AI and apply it to their jobs and everyday lives.

Our Global AI leadership program is a six-week program. It targets students from 20+ countries. The program includes an intro to AI with hands-on learning. When employees finish the course they have an AI portfolio that they can  use in the companies they work for and say ‘these are my prompts, these are my designs and here is what I can concretely do with AI.’  Everything is online and is both interactive and on-demand. The women come together two times a week for community-based learning. We are providing a safe place to learn that involves experimenting. In addition to our programs we have a learning network of 1000+ women from over 65 countries learning daily about AI. We are welcoming men as well but our  focus is on women.

We also co-create modules with corporations. The scarcest resource today is talent. AI needs to be customized for business context, so it makes sense to upskill people that already know and work in your business.

Q: What advice do you have for companies?

JS: Rethink your hiring practices. Acknowledge that the most important skills for non-tech talent in the age of AI could be critical thinking and continuous learning. Recognize micro credentials and value the human skills in your talent pool such as empathy, communication, and leadership. The future of AI is so much more than technology. It is about the people behind it. I believe that the best combination in future will be humans plus AI.   If your non-tech talent is up-to-speed with the AI revolution, they can be so much more productive and will bring so much to the table.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.