March 8, 2023

Persado Celebrates Women in AI


In honor of International Women’s Day and the amazing women at Persado—who comprise 46% of our workforce—we wanted to celebrate a few of them from across the globe who are shaking up the Generative AI industry and transforming the way enterprise brands connect with customers at scale through personalized language

We’re grateful to have the opportunity to work with and learn from so many accomplished women in AI each day. They are among a worldwide group of dedicated women in AI who call Persado home. 

Women in AI at Persado 

Each woman we profiled has a unique and compelling story all her own. We’re truly inspired by their diverse perspectives on the future of AI, insightful advice for women looking to start a career in AI, and the stories behind the women who influenced their careers the most. 

As we #EmbraceEquity on International Women’s Day 2023, let’s introduce you to some of our co-workers, friends, and mentors:

Lisa Spira (Newark, New Jersey) 

Title: Vice President of Content Intelligence

Bio: Lisa is a linguist who has focused her career on leading the design of language-based digital products. Her professional passions live at the point where language, technology, and humans intersect. As Vice President of Content Intelligence at Persado, Lisa leads the team responsible for the language innovation and insights within the platform. She previously worked as Director of Research and Product Development at Ethnic Technologies, applying onomastic research to predictive, data-driven marketing products. In her free time, Lisa loves to bake and is an avid puzzle solver. She has a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from Syracuse University. 

How do you work with AI? My team fills many roles for Persado’s AI. On different days, I can be an

  • Advocate
  • Backup
  • Evaluator
  • Interpreter
  • Spokesperson
  • Trainer
  • Babysitter

… to name a few. In all of these roles, I think critically about language, trying to understand what is “good” AI-generated content, in different contexts, and why. My work with AI centers around leading the Content Intelligence team, and figuring out how our language expertise melds with data science, product, engineering, operations, and the commercial side of Persado’s business.

What advice do you have for women looking for a career in AI? Be curious and bold. This field is evolving. There’s constant disruption. That means that you can’t rely only on the skills you learned in school or in past roles. Seek out opportunities to level up. The rapid rate of change in this field means that there’s always room for new knowledge, perspectives, and skills. I don’t hire from any one background or type of program; what makes someone successful on my team evolves.

What are your predictions for what’s next in AI? The world is finally getting to know the technology that I’ve been working with for a while now. Right now Generative AI is a shiny miracle. Over the coming months, the rest of the world will have the opportunity to soak it in and figure out the reality: it’s really cool, but it’s not a miracle. It has its limits. The real magic is in figuring out how you use it in specialized ways. That’s when it becomes business-changing. That’s the path we’re on.

What is your proudest accomplishment? I didn’t create this department; I was hired to take it over from the brilliant and talented person who initially understood its importance and carved out space for content expertise at Persado. He and I have very different backgrounds and skill sets. Over my tenure, I have changed this department in profound ways, both in our work enhancing the AI and in how we operate and interface with the rest of the company, creating new opportunities along the way. I’m thankful that Persado trusted me to lead this department because the outcomes have been fantastic. I’m proud of the team I’ve cultivated.

What woman has influenced your career the most? My academic specialization is onomastics (the study of names). Tina Lindsay took a chance by hiring me based on that alone, right after I’d graduated school, despite my inexperience in other areas. She believed in me, challenged me, and mentored me. Her support of me and my work at Ethnic Technologies launched my career in language technology and in AI.

Lucy Lu (New York, New York) 

Title: Senior Data Scientist

Bio: After earning a master’s degree in Data Science from Columbia University in 2017, Lucy joined Persado and has been working here ever since. As a data scientist, she specializes in developing and implementing data-driven solutions to optimize marketing messages and improve customer engagement for both Persado and our clients. Lucy’s expertise lies in machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing, which enables her to tackle complex problems and drive impactful results.

How do you work with AI? I follow a structured process to ensure the best possible outcomes for each project. To begin, I first identify the problem at hand and then collect and prepare the necessary data for modeling. Based on the problem and data, I choose the most appropriate AI technique, and for many of our recent projects, I have been fine-tuning recent research and development. Once the models are trained, it’s essential to select the correct metrics to evaluate their performance accurately. Finally, to showcase the power and potential of the models, I build demos that allow for interaction and presentation of the models’ results.

What advice do you have for women looking for a career in AI? To excel in AI, focus on building a strong foundation in computer science, mathematics, and statistics. Build a portfolio of AI projects and stay up to date with the latest AI developments.

What are your predictions for what’s next in AI? AI systems, such as ChatGPT, will continue to become more powerful and integrated into various applications, allowing for faster and more efficient workflows. As a result, humans will be able to focus more on the creative aspects of their work. This integration of AI technology will enable more innovative and sophisticated applications, allowing for increased productivity and creativity in the workplace.

What is your proudest accomplishment? I take pride in all the projects I have worked on, and with the growth of AI technology, I have been able to take on more advanced tasks. One recent example is the development of a system that generates product descriptions based on product names and features, which has reached a new level of accuracy and naturalness.

What woman has influenced your career the most? Why? Dr. Fei-Fei Li has been a significant source of inspiration for me in the AI field. Her ground-breaking contributions to computer vision and machine learning, particularly in developing ImageNet, have pushed the boundaries of the field. Moreover, her unwavering commitment to fostering diversity and inclusivity in AI has been a driving force in making the field more accessible to everyone. She is the reason why I pursued a master’s degree in data science, and I continue to be inspired by her work and achievements. 

Ioanna Mantzouratou (Athens, Greece) 

Title: Senior Director, Brand Content Strategy (BCS), EMEA

Bio: Ioanna has been leading the EMEA Brand Content Strategy team in Athens for the last five and a half years. She is always learning and adapting to new challenges, while constantly seeking out new perspectives and ideas. Ioanna holds a bachelor’s degree in Management Science and Technology from Athens University of Economics and Business. 

How do you work with AI? My educational background was focused on technology and business administration. I have been fascinated by AI and how its impact can change the way businesses operate. I was very excited to join Persado as a Brand Content Strategist eight and a half years ago. It gave me the opportunity to see first-hand how AI improves our customers’ businesses and the way in which we can leverage data to create targeted strategies for our clients. Right now, my role primarily involves having an overview of product enhancements and implementation that aim to align with Persado’s strategic and business goals.

What advice do you have for women looking for a career in AI? Here are my three tips for women looking for a career in AI:

  • Develop a good understanding of technical skills such as machine learning and data science
  • Grow a business mindset and understanding of how AI can solve a customer’s questions, issues, and needs
  • Never stop learning and always stay informed about industry updates and advancements

What are your predictions for what’s next in AI? AI is still expanding, and it’s exciting to imagine the potential improvements/scaling that it can bring in the near future across a variety of industries and processes. We as individuals and companies should be prepared for the rising trend of AI adoption as it is expected to bring radical changes. 

What is your proudest accomplishment? Becoming a manager has not only been my proudest achievement, but my greatest challenge. It has given me the opportunity to gain a wide range of skills through a variety of projects and interactions. During this time, I’ve had the chance to align company goals with team objectives, adapting as needed, while having the opportunity to enable my team members in expanding their skill set and grow within their roles.

What woman has influenced your career the most? Why? There have been many different women that have influenced my career and helped me grow into the person I am today. My first manager always comes to mind. She supported me during my first steps in the industry back in 2012 by always providing invaluable advice and guidance, which is why I still consider her my mentor.

Silvia Di Gregorio (Milan, Italy) 

Title: Director of Customer Success, EUK Region

Bio: Silvia joined Persado in 2021 as part of the pre-sales solutions consulting team. She recently moved to client management. Silvia started her career in the telco industry as a product manager for the B2C digital properties and then advised global companies on their digital transformation journeys. When working in business consulting, Silvia explored AI for the first time and studied the many ways AI could be used, she soon became Conversational AI Lead. She is originally from Rome, but currently lives in Milan. She also spent five years in London. Silvia is a fashion addict and a passionate boxer. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Engineering/Industrial Management from Sapienza Università di Roma. 

How do you work with AI? I act as a trusted advisor to Persado’s customers by enabling them to leverage our Motivation AI technology to achieve their business objectives. As AI-generated content is sometimes still perceived as a threat by human content creators, one of my key responsibilities is to work with client teams to remove behavioral and organizational barriers, and ensure AI adoption.

What advice do you have for women looking for a career in AI? Whatever role you are about to take on—from data scientist to machine learning engineer to sales executive—make sure you identify and fully understand the business use cases with a deep human-centered perspective.

What are your predictions for what’s next in AI? I expect (and truly hope for) a greater integration of AI in education: Artificial Intelligence will provide personalized learning experiences and therefore accommodate each student’s individual characteristics. I’m thinking especially about tools able to better assist children with special needs and their caregivers.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Thinking specifically about the AI space, I’m proud to have successfully onboarded new Persado customers on this exciting journey, overcoming their strong initial resistance to change.

What woman has influenced your career the most? Why? More than a single woman, throughout the years, I’m thankful for having joined different women-led events and networks, as well as global organizations aimed to support women’s careers, such as the 30% Club. It’s proven how connecting with female peers and leaders can help lower our stress levels, increase optimism and positive mindsets. Sharing knowledge and experiences with the incredible women in my wider network has been invaluable to my career evolution.

Kimmi Markovich (Chicago, Illinois) 

Title: Brand Content Strategist

Bio: Kimmi constantly tries to keep all of her interests and hobbies in a state of harmony. From the arts, biology, chemistry, culinary arts, history, horticulture, television and film trivia, and quotes from seasons 1-10 of The Simpsons, finding joy through learning is her top priority. Her studies of didactic dietetics and fine arts have turned her into a professional who uses both artistic and analytical skills in any application. She’s also an experienced trivia host and she always tries to bring humor and kindness to any situation. She is the co-parent to a Shiba Inu dog named Casserole and is a fan of the Oxford comma. Kimmi has a bachelor’s degree in Didactic Dietetics from Purdue University. 

How do you work with AI? As a brand content strategist, working with AI involves optimizing content strategies and increasing brand engagement. This involves developing an understanding of how AI can be used to create personalized experiences for users, improve content targeting, and increase conversions. AI-powered analytics tools can help identify patterns in user behavior and provide insights to optimize content and messaging. Collaboration with data scientists and engineers is also essential, as they are responsible for developing and implementing AI systems. I provide insights and expertise to ensure that we align with the brand’s values, messaging, and goals.

What advice do you have for women looking for a career in AI? Working with AI can be exciting, as AI has the potential to revolutionize the way brands interact with customers and create compelling content. However, it can also be challenging, as AI is a complex and constantly evolving field. Keeping up with the latest developments and best practices is essential to ensure that AI is used effectively to achieve the brand’s goals.

What are your predictions for what’s next in AI? The technology is ever-evolving, so I hope whatever comes next will be exciting.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Working with other leaders in our LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to create interesting culture and history modules. 

What woman has influenced your career the most? Why? Dolly Parton. She is a pillar of acceptance, kindness, and action, while being unwaveringly genuine.

Valentina Bancala (Rome, Italy) 

Title: People Business Partners

Bio: Valentina started her career in education by teaching Italian to foreign children abroad. She loved interacting with them and sharing Italian language and culture. Once she returned to Italy, she started working in human resources for international companies in different roles and various industries including relocation, entertainment, direct marketing for charities, and tech. Valentina supported companies with recruitment for admin and sales roles, organized training sessions, put together company events, set up and managed offices, and more before supporting Persado and specific departments as People Business Partner. She has always loved being the go-to person and loves contributing to people’s success. After so many years this is still Valentina’s main source of motivation. Valentina graduated from the Università degli Studi di Siena with a degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures. 

What advice do you have for women looking to grow their careers? This is still a man’s world I am afraid, and sometimes we need to prove ourselves a bit harder to fight all the unconscious biases around us. My advice is not to compromise when it comes to developing your passions and finding your purpose at work. Find what makes you happy and try to apply it in your day-to-day work. Never forget who you are and what really counts for you!

What is your proudest accomplishment? I think my proudest accomplishment at work, something I worked on a lot in my career and my personal life, is to always be open for new challenges. I make mistakes, I am human, but I strongly believe that if I put in 100% it is always worth trying. I left for the UK and then for France for work when I was very young, it was all new. I didn’t know anyone. I could only count on myself while abroad, but it was worth it. When I joined Persado, I challenged myself by starting from zero in a new industry. As a People Team member in Italy, now I am working to support so many talented people all over the world. I’m proud to be part of an amazing team made of strong and supportive women.

What woman has influenced your career the most? Why? All of the women in my family influenced me for different reasons. My grandmothers inspired me with their strength, independence, resilience, and generosity. My mother showed me that being a good person always pays off sooner or later and my sister as I’ve always admired her determination and sense of duty. I am a very lucky woman.

Why Diversity in AI Matters 

In any field, diversity of gender, race, age, sexuality, socioeconomic backgrounds, geographic backgrounds, and more is the key to innovation and growth. Team members from different backgrounds offer leading-edge problem solving and more forward-thinking approaches to growth opportunities. In AI, it’s been proven time and time again that more diverse teams build smarter, more powerful datasets. These are just a handful of the reasons we value and promote diversity at Persado. 

As a woman who has been in the business world for more than 30 years (14 in NYC tech) — I have witnessed multiple facets of inequality from representation in leadership roles to unfair treatment of women in hiring, promotion, and termination decisions. I’ve also unfortunately seen discrepancies in compensation and benefits based on gender. Data proves that through policies and practices focused on equity, business can increase efficiency, creativity, employee satisfaction, productivity, and motivation by helping to attract the best employees, reduce turnover, and increase employees’ commitment to the organization. I feel fortunate to have such amazing partners in Alex, Assaf, and the entire Persado executive leadership team, who are as committed as I am to supporting diversity, and ensuring Persadoans across the globe are treated fairly.

Allison Lee, Chief People Officer at Persado

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