Team Building Can Indeed Be a Day at the Beach

On October 11 we held our annual Wovenware employee outing at the beautiful Condado Lagoon in San Juan, where VIP Adventures Puerto Rico showed us what it takes to rely on the whole team to reach goals – whether that be completing a relay race by walking on planks, or playing problem-solving games on the shoreline.

What is amazing is that since we started holding these team-building outings for employees 12 years ago, Wovenware numbered only a few dozen employees – at best. This year’s event included all of our employees numbering in the hundreds. The growth and sheer size of our company makes it more important than ever to reinforce the core values upon which our company was built – Passion, Professionalism, Openness, Quality, Value, Fun, and Discipline.

At Condado Lagoon our day started early and we were split up into groups to compete against each other in a number of core activities, such as building structures out of a handful of materials, to solving problems as a team. Make no mistake, the day also included kayaking, paddle-boarding and other water sports, as well as eating and relaxing on the beach.

But more than just getting to know each other and proving our ability to compete, team-building outings such as this one help to bring our core values and mission to life. Wovenware is committed to becoming a world-class leader in artificial intelligence and nearshore software development. Meeting this goal requires building a team of problem solvers who are equally as committed to helping our customers explore all angles to meet their key business goals. It also requires a team of experts who can each bring their unique skill-sets to the table.

While this is our only outdoor outing, we try to hold other team-building events for our employees throughout the year, such as regular game nights, programmer’s day, movie nights, social responsibilities activities and “ice-breakers,” that provide a chance for employees to get to know each other. Bringing employees together like this gives them a chance to meet, since their specific jobs may never give them the chance to speak to each other.

We’re already planning for next year’s outing and I’m sure there are team members today honing their paddle-boarding or problem-solving skills to emerge as a winner at next year’s event. What they may not know is that they are already winners. By working together every day in teams, keeping Wovenware’s core mission at the front and center of their activities and relying on their team mates to complement each other, they’re contributing significantly to the success of Wovenware.

Condado Lagoon was the perfect place and Wovenware staff were the perfect participants to show that when nature, passion, enthusiasm and fellowship come together, all things are possible.

Moving On Up with New Corporate Headquarters

We were thrilled last month to make the move into our new corporate offices on Calle Los Angeles in San Juan. It was clear at the beginning of the year that we were bursting at the seams and needed to look for a bigger home to accommodate our expanding staff. The new space — a 13,000 square-foot facility – is triple the size of our former headquarters.

Wovenware Office Photos

Wovenware Office Photos

But it’s much more than just extra space. We wanted to foster an environment for collaboration, inspiration and a great employee experience, and we did just that. The new location features common areas, standing desks, a vertical garden, and even a massage room, among many other things. And, since we lease the space in the central offices of San Juan’s Department of Recreation and Sports, another big perk is our easy access to sporting fields, basketball courts, a gym and walking areas.

As our CEO, Christian Gonzalez points out in a recent article about the move in El Nuevo Día, “it’s like a campus, but in the middle of the city.” Some employees are even calling it Wovenplex, referring to Google’s corporate headquarters known as Googleplex.

While we’re proud of our new corporate home, we’re prouder of what it represents. It really is a sign of our growth and success over the past few years, despite obstacles such as devastating hurricanes and other challenges in Puerto Rico. It demonstrates that there is a growing need for the types of AI and software development services we offer, as well as the growing awareness that nearshoring these services to companies like ours can provide incredible value for organizations across the U.S. and around the world.

A lot has been written about the devastating impact that Hurricane Maria and the recent economic instability have had on Puerto Rican businesses, the reality is that some industry segments, like software development and manufacturing, are thriving because of our location, not in spite of it – we know that’s the case with Wovenware.

Thanks to our new headquarters, our staff has the space to collaborate, explore and envision new ways to help our customers succeed. A comfortable workplace can help to foster that, but we recognize that our real treasure comes from the people under its roof.

Is Your AI Program Emotionally Intelligent?

There is no doubt about it — it seems like we’re interacting with AI apps all day long in our business and our personal lives. This is spurring the growing demand for AI to “understand” how we are feeling and to be able to respond to us appropriately. A recent article I wrote for Forbes discusses this industry focus known as emotion AI, or “affective computing,” in which AI programs can recognize, interpret, process and simulate human emotions. In the article I address the possibilities that Emotion AI can deliver and the limitations that must be overcome in order to develop these types of smart – and emotionally intelligent — programs.

We can see the beginnings of Emotion AI in action with chatbots, which are based on Natural Language Processing (NLP). Some are trained to hear the emotion in a customer’s voice inflections to determine, for example, if he/she is angry or frustrated, as well as by the choice of words that are used. But since there are many ways to express anger and other emotions, a very large dataset is needed to train AI programs to accomplish this.

There are many exciting possibilities for Emotion AI on the horizon. Imagine if an AI healthcare app can identify mental or physical illness based on the way a patient looks or sounds, a marketer can judge a person’s reactions to an ad, or a contact center AI app can route a call to a supervisor if the customer sounds annoyed to avoid further frustration. Emotion AI can provide a critical business edge and a much better customer experience.

While there’s still more work to be done, the possibilities are endless. We just might find ourselves someday having a heart-to-heart with a robot.

Wovenware Expands Operations; Moves Headquarters to New San Juan Location

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Sept. 24, 2019 –Wovenware, a U.S. nearshore provider of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and software development services and solutions, today announced that it has tripled the size of its corporate headquarters, moving the company’s operations to a 13,000-square foot facility on Calle Los Angeles in San Juan, Puerto Rico, only a half-mile from its previous location. The move was made to accommodate the company’s expanding staff and client base, as well as its growing portfolio of services and solutions.

“We are committed to expanding our presence in Puerto Rico and across the U.S., as we deliver on our promise to provide customers with advanced AI-based solutions as well as other innovative digital transformation services,” said Christian Gonzalez, CEO, Wovenware. “Our new, modern offices provide a collaborative and dynamic work environment for our employees, where they can be comfortable to innovate together and bring solutions to life for clients.”

New Headquarters Keeps Pace with Company Growth

The new corporate headquarters, located in the neighborhood of Santurce, now houses the company’s expanding staff of more than a 100 team members including software engineers, data scientists, and data specialists, as well as all administrative, business development and marketing operations. The modern facilities include more than 150 development positions and feature seven conference rooms, two stand up areas, private phone booths, a quiet lounge, a maternity private area, a wellness room, lockers and a kitchen, among other additions that improve the employee experience.

Since the beginning of 2019, Wovenware has experienced significant growth in its nearshore delivery model for software engineering and AI services and solutions, bringing on strategic new customers in areas, such as insurance, healthcare, telecommunications and defense.

To accommodate this growth, the company has added more than 48 employees, since January alone, in software development and data services. It also continues to hire at all levels for a variety of roles.

Wovenware and its executives, also have received industry recognition for their expertise in AI and other disruptive technologies. In June 2019, the company was recognized by industry-leading research firm, Forrester, in its study, All Enterprises Need (Computer) Vision. In the report, Forrester describes the four most established use cases for computer vision. Wovenware was listed along with only one other provider for creating labeled training datasets for computer vision solutions.

Wovenware and its employees also remain committed to giving back to the community, with leadership on the board of Abre Puerto Rico, an organization that works to enable greater government transparency across Puerto Rico; active involvement with ConPRmetidos, a community organization committed to rebuilding Puerto Rico; and Grupo Guayacan, which works to support Puerto Rico’s entrepreneurs.

Putting the Spotlight on Environmental AI During the O’Reilly AI Conference

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference in Silicon Valley, sharing my experiences with environmental AI, and more specifically, how we’re applying it to help wipe out mosquito-borne diseases. I was honored to join the ranks of speakers from world-class organizations, such as Google, UC Berkley, Bloomberg and others, to discuss how AI is really changing the world.

During my presentation, I discussed our work for the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust to identify and classify mosquitoes that may be carrying diseases such as Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya.

It probably came as a big surprise to many of the session attendees that the world’s most deadly animal is the mosquito – and, they’ve killed 32 times as many people as every war in human history combined. They also may not have known that the Zika virus is behind an unprecedented rise in the number of children being born with microcephaly, or that there are 390 million Dengue infections each year.

As we know all too well here in Puerto Rico thanks to Hurricanes Maria and Irma, stagnant water and weather events can make the mosquito population explode. During the conference I shared how we at Wovenware are working to apply AI to automate much of the work involved in classifying mosquitoes, so entomologists can concentrate on research such as why mosquitoes have become immune to insecticides.

Wovenware has developed an RPA solution composed of deep learning models and other processes that’s designed to automate the identification and classification of mosquito species, reducing the amount of manual processes previously required of entomologists. This automation is making it faster to count, classify and identify the species and gender of Aedes Aegypti captured mosquitoes.
I shared with the group the architectures and technologies we’ve employed to build the neural networks, including RetinaNet, ResNet and TensorFlow.

As I mentioned to attendees, we’re still in the early stages of the project, but future plans call for us to integrate to other related projects, analyze time series and remotely monitor and classify species.
As we continue to refine and evolve our solution, we hope to take our work to other countries and geographies where mosquitoes are a major issue.

In addition to the incredible response I received from my presentation, the O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference truly was inspirational. Listening to other presentations and speaking with data scientists, as well as academics and business leaders was a confirmation that amazing discoveries, technologies and use cases continue to evolve around AI, and we’re really just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it is capable of achieving. It’s clear that AI is moving beyond the business world and beginning to solve environmental problems, while making the world a safer place.

Digital Transformation Begins with Company Culture

Search the key words, digital transformation, and you’re bound to come up with hundreds of articles and insights. The fact is, digital transformation is on every company’s priority list. But as I mentioned in a recent blog post for Forbes, what truly drives a culture of digital transformation requires something less tangible than software, artificial intelligence or other innovative technologies. It really revolves around a shared, customer-centric mindset that permeates from a company’s leadership – a company culture that embraces change, and a willingness to take carefully controlled risk.

Among the statistics I shared in the article, there is one that clearly supports this view. According to a McKinsey report, one third of key decision makers state that culture is the most significant barrier to digital effectiveness followed by a lack of understanding of digital trends (25%). Further, a joint analysis from MIT Sloan and Deloitte reveals that companies failing to transform digitally generally fell short of their expectations because they “didn’t change mindsets and processes or build cultures that fostered change.”

Despite the complexity and techie-“ness” of digital transformation, it really boils down to corporate culture. It essentially revolves around the following three requirements in order to be successful:

  • It must begin at the top. An organization must have leadership alignment in order to create the cultural shift required to truly become data-driven. This means leaders should not only approve digital transformation initiatives, but become active participants in them.
  • It needs a designated internal team. It’s important to assign a specific team dedicated to the task and clearly communicate who is on this team to the entire organization. It’s important to not only focus on those people with specific technical skills, but also employees who understand the overall corporate goals and business challenges and how to best roll out change to the organization.
  • The customer must be the key focus. Nothing drives a culture of digital disruption more than the customer. Customers increasingly expect companies to respond swiftly to their needs and understand their specific business and how it ticks. Today it’s understood that the best way to accomplish these mandates is through digitalization — it’s the fastest and surest route to success.

Digital transformation is not always easy, nor does it happen overnight, but companies that adopt the right mind-set and embrace change enterprise-wide will find that the efforts are not only well- worth it, but a prerequisite to today’s business success.