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By Sarah Murphy

The intersection of security, data and artificial intelligence (AI) in technology was the focus at the 2023 VCU Technology Leaders Forum, hosted by VCU Information Systems on Thursday, September 21.

The panel discussion was moderated by Sonali Shetty, founder of Kova Digital. Shetty was joined by three esteemed panelists, all of whom boast impressive careers in technology: Reginal Bryant, senior vice president and chief information officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond; Adam Lee, vice president and chief security officer at Dominion Energy; and Subhash Jaini, managing director, innovative data solutions at Keiter CPAs.

Paul Brooks, Ph.D., VCU Information Systems department chair and professor, and Naomi Boyd, Ph.D., dean of VCU Business, welcomed attendees with opening remarks.

“This is the core of what we do here at VCU and the exciting part of being embedded in Richmond: having the ability to host events that pull together industry and academia,” said Boyd. “We want to be at the forefront of technology today, producing tomorrow’s workforce and ensuring our students have the technical skills needed to help them to think differently.”

The group covered a range of topics, including cybersecurity, technology collaboration and data-informed strategy.

“We always say, ‘risk vs. reward,’” said Jaini when reflecting on how his role continues to evolve given security, data and AI. “When talking about company strategy, I’m focused on picking the right metrics and figuring out what kind of implications these metrics might have. The deeper you get into data science, the more you realize the metrics are key to everything.”

Bryant addressed the concern that AI will eliminate jobs in the tech sector. 

“The phrase I lean into is, ‘AI won’t replace humans, humans that use AI will replace humans,’ said Bryant. “I love that thought because it’s our way of upscaling, our way of thinking about how to leverage technology. It’s all about how you provide strategic value to your organization.”

When thinking of bad actors utilizing AI, Lee discussed the importance of collaboration and staying ahead of the curve.

“AI tools are going to make sophisticated cyber attacks available to everyone, including bad actors,” said Lee. “I think what is most essential going forward in defending against this expanding risk is government collaboration. People are hesitant about public-private relationships, but for critical infrastructure, it has to be a partnership.”

The forum was sponsored by two local, Richmond technology companies: JENNINGS ProSearch, a tech-exclusive boutique advisory firm, and Synergy Technical, a consulting firm focused on cloud development, deployment and support. Leadership from both organizations welcomed guests prior to the panel discussion: Lori Jennings, founder of JENNINGS ProSearch, and Rohana Meade, president and CEO at Synergy Technical. Both individuals also serve on the VCU Information Systems Advisory Board.

For more information about VCU Business or the VCU Information Systems Department, visit the School of Business website. For a complete list of upcoming events at VCU Business, visit the events page.

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