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Experience as a PhD Student at AMPLYFI: The Human at the Centre

By November 11, 2022September 6th, 2023No Comments
Constanze is a PhD student at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), University of Cambridge and part of the European training network EINST4INE, looking at different aspects of digital transformation across industries. She is interested in how AI-driven technologies influence the people utilising them to perform intelligence work. As part of her PhD, she is spending seven weeks with AMPLYFI on an industry placement.

EINST4INE – what is that?

EINST4INE is “The European Training Network for Industry Digital Transformation across Innovation Ecosystems”, which is a consortium consisting of universities, research organisations and industry partners working in the domain of industrial digital transformation. EINST4INE recruited 15 PhD students from across the world to study at one of the universities of the EINST4INE network. Further, each PhD student is doing two types of secondments: (i) an academic one at one of the other universities in the consortium and (ii) an industrial placement with at least one of our industry partners. We PhDs are all working on different topics related to digital transformation, ranging from robots and Augmented Reality (AR) to innovation ecosystems and organisational capabilities.

I am studying at the University of Cambridge and study the influence of AI-driven technologies on intelligence workers. For my project it is very important to understand what is actually happening in practice and not be secluded in an ivory tower of academia. Thankfully, I have AMPLYFI, a provider of such an AI-driven technology, as one of my EINST4INE industry partners and was able to spend some time with them to get a deeper understanding of my field in practise.

Humans at the centre

If I would have to summarise my experience at and impression of AMPLYFI in one phrase, I would probably choose: “Human-centred”. Why? Because of two aspects:

1. The AMPLYFI community

Already from my first day at AMPLYFI I experienced it: working at AMPLYFI means being part of a community. It means being able to just turn around or write a quick message to any colleague and ask things, it means working together as a team across disciplines, hierarchy, and roles. I have experienced teamwork across disciplines in academia as well and know how tricky it can be to find a common channel to talk about things. As a tech startup, teams at AMPLYFI are working closely with each other and everybody knows how to explain their work in a way that also people like me, without any prior knowledge, can understand it. Another lesson that I learned from my time with AMPLYFI is how important it can be to talk across teams on a regular basis and keep one another up to date about one’s work. This also means documenting what you are doing and making it retraceable for others, also an important skill needed in academia.

Another benefit of good teamwork is that it makes it possible to get things done quickly, to try a new idea and just see where it takes you. This quick turnaround is very different to academia, where everything tends to move slower. It was really motivating to see how a colleague had an idea and then watch how the results and new ideas emerge so quickly!

2. Augmenting Human Capabilities

Coming to a company with the core capability being Artificial Intelligence techniques, I was expecting that the focus would be on automating as many tasks as possible and that the approach would be very technology driven. I was definitely not expecting that I would have the same approach towards my work as AMPLYFI towards their products: the human should be at the centre. While I am interested to understand how the individual is influenced by AI-driven technology, AMPLYFI is interested in augmenting human capabilities. This is the second aspect of the word “human-centred”.

One aspect of this is getting feedback, which is very important in order to understand needs and struggles better. As a qualitative researcher I know this as well: if you do not ask about it, you will likely not learn about it. For example, I was asked to give feedback on the technology, as inputs from users of all levels are important for development. During my time with AMPLYFI, I experienced that they always ask their customers for feedback and opinions as well. This is not only important for product development, but also for the customer, both the end-user and the manager trying to integrate an AI-driven technology into the business. As everybody who has started using a brand-new technology that didn’t work as expected and then stopped using it altogether knows – being able to give feedback and express one’s opinion can help facilitate the adoption of the technology.

Further learnings

During my time with AMPLYFI I learned a lot about intelligence work and how AI-driven technologies are utilised in organisations and can change the work performed. My industry placement showed me the current practice and reality, which enriches my research immensely. In addition, I learned that working in industry can be very motivating, exciting, interdisciplinary, and collaborative – just like working in academia. So, if you are a PhD student, I highly recommend doing some industry placements!

If you are interested to hear more about the EINST4INE project and/or my research, check out blogs written by us PhDs hereone of them is about my secondment with AMPLYFI!