Your Real Value is Your Individual Self

Dr. Vivienne Ming speaks on stage at the Adobe For All Summit.

by Christie Chew

posted on 10-03-2018

Dr. Vivienne Ming calls herself a “professional mad scientist.” To start, she’s a theoretical neuroscientist, technologist and an entrepreneur. After she underwent gender transition in her mid 30’s, she’s hacked artificial intelligence (AI) systems to cure her son’s diabetes, used machine learning to address autism, and built companies to tackle issues in global education.

We had the honor of having Dr. Ming give a keynote address to 1,200 Adobe employees at our first Adobe For All Summit, an event that focuses on diversity and inclusion as well as team and personal growth.

“There are very few people like me who have been this successful after transition, so I actually consider it a responsibility to be as visible as possible… it’s nice for people to know that it’s very possible their child is alive because of something I invented, or something someone like me invented,” Dr. Ming said.

Watch a clip of Dr. Ming at the Adobe For All Summit below:

Dr. Ming’s candidness, profound advice, and wit captivated the audience. Read on for some key insights from her talk:

1. AI = Augmented Intelligence

In Dr. Ming’s eyes, AI doesn’t stand for artificial intelligence. Instead, it stands for augmented intelligence, which she defines as taking the best of what machines can do, and the best of what humans can do, and bringing it together.

Dr. Ming doesn’t buy that AI will steal our jobs, however, she does believe that anything reproducible can be automated, which has the potential to take 80% of a job away from us. But the 20% left of the job will be the jobs we all actually want to do – the creative part. To explore the unknown, Dr. Ming said, “We need a whole society of creative explorers.”

2. Your value is your creative potential

Dr. Ming reminded us that our value is in our creative potential, and that this is what makes us unique and different. In her own experience hiring people, the number one thing Dr. Ming cares about is whether that person she is interviewing has an insight that’s different from hers. She feels anyone can learn the tools, but the craftsman himself or herself is what sets someone apart from the crowd. There’s a need for organizational leaders to truly understand this.

3. Break patterns

Dr. Ming shared that throughout her career, she’s only pitched white male venture capitalists for funding. Somehow, this has become a pattern that society has decided for us, and it’s a problem. When she was a male in her early 20’s with no experience, she was able to secure funding from a VC firm for a film company she had just started, with very little experience. 20 years later, as a woman with two Ph.D’s from Carnegie Mellon and a solid business plan for an edtech company, she was not successful getting funded.

“If you’ve ever wondered if it’s genuinely different, if people around you are actually treating you in the same way and whether everyone has the same shot at making an impact on the world,” She said, “Let me tell you, it’s unambiguously different.”

4. Everyone can be amazing

This doesn’t mean everyone can be everything, as Dr. Ming pointed out, but we have to realize that society’s problems are partly our own and we have to accept some responsibility for the way things are. If we don’t, nothing will change.

“There’s something profoundly flawed in a world where people accept less than what everyone else can give,” she said.

In organizations, if leaders don’t recognize that everyone has great potential, and don’t give people actual opportunity to make an impact, then we’re never going to see how others different from us can be contributing in a unique way.

5. Play to your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses

People who are truly successful come up with compensatory strategies for their weaknesses. Dr. Ming brought up the importance of having complementary diversity in teams – groups of people who have differing life experiences and perspectives. One of her best strategies for having successful companies, she said, was hiring other people who compensated for her weaknesses.

“Everyone has value — your job is to figure out how to help them find it.”

Dr. Ming’s talk was a powerful reminder for us to recognize how valuable our individual contributions are to our communities and workplaces. We all hold a responsibility to accept and understand people who are different from us so that everyone’s potential can be reached, and everyone can make an impact and be successful.

Stay tuned to the Adobe Blog for stories on bringing your whole self to work. Visit here to learn more about Adobe’s Diversity and Inclusion programs.

Topics: Community, Adobe Culture, Diversity & Inclusion