Alumni / August 23, 2018

Working With IBM's Watson

Kristie C. Bradford, A Front Row Seat at the Intersection of Business and Tech

Kristie C. Bradford, A Front Row Seat at the Intersection of Business and Tech

What does a typical work day look like for Kristie Curameng Bradford, a 2005 full-time MBA graduate at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business? Well, there’s really no such thing — and that’s precisely why she loves her job.

“No days look similar,” says Bradford, business development executive at IBM Watson. “There are so many things I could be doing in one day.”

Her brainy colleague, Watson, is often thought of as the supercomputer that beat out its human counterparts on an episode of “Jeopardy!” in 2011. But artificial intelligence has come a long way since then. Bradford is tasked with figuring out how businesses can optimize Watson’s smarts to stay ahead of the curve. 

“I help businesses think about whether they need to grow via partnership, creating a joint venture, or actually acquiring a business outright,” Bradford says. “When you do any of that—whether it’s closing a deal or creating a strategy — the day-to-day looks very different.” 

When it comes to the intersection of business and technology, Bradford stresses the importance of both worlds being in constant collaboration.

“If people aren’t aware of that, they should quickly learn how technology is impacting their businesses,” she says. “In my case, you wouldn’t think that somebody in M&A would need to focus on technology—but that’s what we’re all about.” 

Her role at IBM Watson provides the perfect opportunity to put her expertise and business acumen to use. But she also gets to be a student of technology who is always learning something new.

“I think one of the beauties for me is I know a lot about strategy and M&A, and they’re teaching me a lot about technologies like AI and blockchain,” Bradford says. “One of the things that attracted me to IBM is that we use the word ‘transform’ and we mean it.”

Take, for example, IBM’s acquisition of Merge, a company that handles and processes medical images. Bradford says IBM didn’t buy those technologies just to be a player in that space. IBM wanted to teach Watson how to “see” the human body in a new light and to help radiologists work more efficiently and effectively.

It was an ideal marriage between IBM Watson’s cognitive computing and Merge’s medical imaging assets and expertise that others might have missed. And it’s up to Bradford to ensure that similar, mutually beneficial ventures aren’t overlooked. 

“When people ask me what it’s like to be a part of this company, it’s interesting because we’re asked to look at the same things people have been looking at, but almost in an upside-down, inside-out way,” she says. “It’s ‘how can it be’ versus ‘how it is today.’ Those are the fun things that we get to do.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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