Interview 7 - Sarah Al-Hussaini

Sarah is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of an AI company based in Berlin called Ultimate.ai. Sarah was a speaker at Web Summit and somehow managed to squeeze in a little time for our interview for which I am very thankful. Sarah is originally from London. With her unbelievable resume and astonishing position, especially at her age, just 25, Sarah is an ideal target for my interviews.


Ultimate.ai is a customer service automation company. They use deep learning to help transform how people work in customer service. Their product is language agnostic, making it capable of being integrated all over the world. Their AI works side by side with agents in real-time to aid with response time and repetition, leaving the agents more time to focus on the more in depth/thought invoking questions.


Question 1 – What do you believe the technology of tomorrow is? What does it look like?


Sarah’s responses were in relation to herself and her own industry. Customer service is such an unsexy industry to begin with – people get bored when it’s named in conversation. It is repetitive, measured on many things, and always rated one of the most stressful jobs on earth even though it employs millions globally.


With modern technology, the future will have less focus strictly on labour, but focus will be shifted to a human plus machine hybrid model. It will have AI working alongside people. It will have a level of automation – but it won’t take jobs. Sarah stated that AI is getting where it needs to be for commercialization. It has a huge ecosystem of talent and coders, and many clear applications.


Throughout history what technology does is it transforms low-skilled work into highly-skilled work.


“When there is automation everywhere and response time is standardized, what will service agents be measured on? Will it be customer experience? Sales metrics? Will it move into a sales service model? This is a very exciting time for the industry and our company” Sarah said.


Question 2 – As a leader yourself, what is the one trait/characteristic a great leader must possess?


“Well that is a tough question; one trait?!”


Sarah spoke about her leadership role in her relatively new company stating that when you’re a young company, you have to be really good at trusting your team. This means creating leaders inside the company so everyone feels like they are part of the mission. Start-ups try to do this in so many ways – give equity, give high titles – this is an attempt to make everyone feel part of a mission.


When everyone is a leader and everyone knows the company’s success is their own personal success, that is the trick – it’s the opposite of micro management.

Next you have to make sure you set clear goals. Make them so clear and transparent that they can be tracked in real-time. This way you can celebrate them when they are met and it lets the entire organization know about how they’re working towards one cohesive mission.


“That is great leadership – being an active leader is less important.”


Question 3 – As we are both millennials, I am curious on what your take is on the myths about our generation – do you believe we are lazy? Are we disloyal?


Sarah began stating, “growing up in London we were the first generation in history to be poorer than our parents”.


Sarah believes that saying people are lazier now would actually be surprising because it’s debatably harder to succeed now-a-days, due to high competition. “When I’m hiring I am picking globally, you are not applying against people from just your own city anymore, it is a global competition.”


“As for the loyalty idea, people have a lot of opportunities today.” Sarah then said that your company has to consistently be the best option on the table. “You have to do better by your people, and arguably, you get to choose better people than you would have in the past, so it’s a trade off”.


My conversation with Sarah definitely left me motivated. Her answers were concise and her knowledge in customer service as well as deep tech and the AI sectors is extensive. After our chat I began thinking about where I will be in two years, at 25 – one could only hope somewhere along a similar path.


Thank you Sarah, I look forward to keeping up with Ultimate.ai and your own journey.



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