Excitement filled the air as groups of tech visionaries and those eager to learn gathered at Carriageworks in Sydney for the annual Vogue Codes Summit on 22 June 2024.

The sell-out event is an opportunity for women to come together to talk and learn about all things tech, science and innovation. This year’s theme: Technotopia: Designing the World of Tomorrow saw in-depth discussions on what the tech-fuelled future will look like. The conversations explored that how we engage with everything – from food to love – will be altered by emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence. 

As the presenting partner, CommBank reinforced its commitment to advancing gender diversity and inclusion in STEM, while also encouraging more women to consider a career in technology.

“I’m proud to participate in Vogue Codes and shine a light on the endless possibilities a career in technology, data and AI offers,” says Sonal Surana, General Manager AI and Advanced Analytics for Business Banking, who was part of the event’s speaker lineup.

Sonal spoke on the panel Our Place in the World: Global Focus, which addressed the intersections between advances in AI and how we engage with one of the most rapidly advancing technologies of our lifetime. 

Sonal Surana on Vogue Codes Summit panel Our Place in the World: Global Focus

Responsible AI

AI has been a focus for CommBank for a number of years. Yet we don’t do AI for the sake of AI – it must be responsibly managed and ultimately deliver a better outcome for our customers and communities. 

“As one of Australia’s largest banks we need to lead the way responsibly and safely through AI advancements,” Sonal said. “We take this responsibility seriously and are keen to play a leadership role. In fact, we were one of a small number of organisations that partnered with the Australian Government to help draft the AI Ethics Principles back in 2018. And more recently, we’ve been actively engaging in consultation with the government on generative AI.”

With Gen AI, CommBank sees significant opportunities to improve banking and create personalised experiences our customers have never seen before.

Sonal also points out that delivering better outcomes with AI is about the diversity of the people working on models now and in the future. “It’s not just about the diversity of gender, which is extremely critical, but the diversity of experiences and roles too.”

And while working towards that, Sonal says that perhaps an even more important challenge for everyone involved will be ensuring all of that diversity is reflected in the models of the future.

Emerging female talent

Sonal believes that new technologies are giving women a range of new opportunities to work in tech and paving the way for diverse thinking and innovation.

“Because of the potential of technology, right now, our imagination is the only limit. How can we reimagine a world with no constraints? The current environment in tech is incredible. You don’t necessarily have to know how to code; you just need to be able to imagine a better future.”

Recently, Sonal’s 15-year-old daughter spent her mandatory schoolwork experience week at CommBank. “She got to experience the vibrant, exciting environment we have in CommBank’s AI function. She mingled with our data science graduate program cohort and worked alongside our experienced teams on cracking complex AI problems. She sat through meetings about our data and cloud platforms, which are enabling us to create reimagined experiences for our customers faster. She even got to develop her own AI model!”

Sonal admits that it’s the happiest she has seen her daughter at the end of a long day, brimming with energy and sharing her experiences with a smile. “It’s really important that we encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers. We owe it to them and to us, and we need to start early. It’s about creating awareness, instilling curiosity and providing exposure.”

The future looks bright

For Sonal, AI is already a big part of our today – and will be a bigger part of our tomorrow. “We are 8 billion people in the world and already 1.6 billion people visit OpenAI on a monthly basis,” says Sonal “So it's more important than ever before that people who create and build the future have representation from all of our today.

“The ability to type into a search bar has become the biggest equaliser in modern-day history. And I think with such an equalising environment, it's levelled the playing field for so many.” For Sonal, a bright future with AI is one where we all have the capability to interact and be part of it.

CommBank is proud to be the presenting partner for Vogue Codes, demonstrating a commitment to promoting gender diversity and inclusion in STEM and encouraging more women to consider a career in tech.

Find out more about working in technology at CommBank.

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