On her first visit to India, Julie Shin Choi, Head of Marketing for AI products at Intel talks about marketing for tech and her journey with the company.
As a producer of over 50 developer conferences and hackathons including SheCodes, Women Who Code, GitHub, and many more, Julie Shin Choi packs quite a punch as Head of Marketing for AI products at Intel.
She is responsible for marketing a portfolio of hardware and software products to build end-to-end AI solutions at the edge, data centre, network, and cloud.
Julie holds a Bachelor’s degree from MIT and a Master’s degree from Stanford, both in management science.
An entrepreneur from 2011-2014, Julie has previously led product marketing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mozilla and Yahoo. This is her first trip to India, and she looks resplendent in an ethnic outfit.
After some small talk, we get down to business - her journey with Intel, and everything to do with AI - be it marketing, products, and diversity.
A South Asian American, Julie’s parents moved from South Korea to the US as immigrants and started their own business. That’s where she says she gets her entrepreneurial genes from. With a decade of being a developer-product marketer in Silicon Valley, it was a lifestyle choice Julie made when she decided to start a small consultancy.
“Around that time, I had one child, another one was on the way, and my business offered me the option to be my own boss.”
Things changed when the business really scaled with high returns. Julie decided to take a sabbatical to think it through whether she wanted to get into running a full-fledged business putting in 40-60 hours a week or she wanted to get back to the corporate world.
She chose the latter and started at HPE leading its product marketing for ML as a service. She joined Intel when Nervana, a company she was planning on joining, was acquired by Intel in 2016.
Nervana is a deep learning company founded by Naveen Rao, Arjun Bansal and Amir Khosrowshaki.
“There was something compelling about Nervana. But when I started working, it was acquired by Intel. I had not thought about Intel. My background is not hardware. If anything, it’s software, developer tools, APIs, and enterprise as a service. Hardware like chips was new stuff and I was going to take the AI and software challenge and help in AI hardware.”
And thus began her Intel story.
Julie Shin Choi's philosophy as a technical marketer and marketing developer is to always get the message from the person building the product.
Understand who they are building it for, why are they excited about building it, what are the challenges, what makes it different and not so different. My methodology hasn’t really changed in the past decade of marketing tech products as my primary source for information for different messages is the engineer.
The other major thing about marketing tech products says Julie is that technical people don’t like marketing.
“For such an audience you don’t need to preach or convince them. You just show them. When you are marketing to a tech audience, it’s all about understanding them. I know that they are kind of artists but their palette is numbers. So it's all about understanding them, their motivations, passions and what they don’t like. They don’t like fluff or when we pretend that we know more than them. They do like us telling it the way it is, irrespective of how small, or big it is. When we talk to their motivation of problem-solving then we have a lot more success.”
Julie Shin Choi feels it’s still early days for AI as a technology. “At the moment we are experiencing facial detection and the ability to see you or someone else. This is the early segment of AI. But the question is what do we do with it? Can we build an AI that can sense our emotions and help us or a wearable which can collect our bio readings give us suggestions on how to cope and manage better.”
In the context of Intel, there are two products that Julie is excited about. “Xeon is our crown jewel in terms of data centre processing. It wasn’t used for AI until a year-and-a-half back. We are seeing Xeon powering Facebook, Amazon and Novartis. Using AI, Novartis is able to analyse dense cellular images, which are huge and not like the 4-megapixel photos on our iPhones where you can tag the faces. Pharmaceutical companies like Novartis need heavy duty processing computer vision and that is what Xeon is good at doing. In Novartis's case, they accelerate new drug discovery,” she shares.
The other product Julie talks about is Movidius, a chip for a smaller low power device, which will deliver sophisticated AI experiences for millions of Microsoft users.
Between Xeon and Movidius, says Julie, “We cover multiple case products and I am very excited about these two products.”
There has been a lot of talk on AI and gender bias. Where does Julie see this going?
We want to power AI applications that are trustworthy, view each person that the programme sees or hears as valuable. For a 50-year-old company like Intel, diversity is the key to success and differentiation. It literally embeds our programming. I think weaving out bias is about creating teams and empowering leaders that value equity. We can’t just be engineering products in a vacuum. It starts with intentional leadership and that’s what we are doing.
What is non-negotiable in leadership, I ask Julie. She replies, “For me, integrity is very important. I am in a minority, and I am female. East Asian American is still so underrepresented. The glass ceiling is for real. Hence, integrity and commitment to diversity are what I value the most.”
Before I end the conversation, I ask Julie about really keeps her going, and drives her?
“As tired as it sounds, I would say put family first but love yourself. In order to take of others, you must take care of yourself as a woman. Just be mindful of your time and your choice,” she says.