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GenAI in the Enterprise: Doug Thompson, Chief Education Architect

Doug Thompson, Chief Education Architect at Tanium, joins Zach on the pod today. As a self-titled nerd, Doug has always been curious about technology, and he loves teaching almost as much as he loves tech. He combined these passions early in his career at Microsoft, where part of his job as a pre-sales engineer was educating clients about #GenerativeAI (really just #MachineLearning at the time).

Now at Tanium, Doug has a unique platform to evangelize #GenAI and educate users about the potential benefits and pitfalls. He believes strongly that GenAI will never take the place of the human workforce, but even still, developers and workers from all industries should spend the time #AI saves to grow their skillsets. Anything that AI produces needs some “seasoning” (a human touch), and Doug hopes we don’t become lazy and lose that hard work and effort no matter how far AI can take us.

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About Doug:

Doug Thompson describes himself as “your friendly neighborhood ‘sales nerd,’ storytelling aficionado, and retired triathlete” based in sunny Austin, Texas. With more than 20 years of experience, he’s dedicated himself to making complex tech topics feel like a breeze with the magic of storytelling.

Doug has captivated audiences worldwide for over two decades as an ‘edutainer’ on stage. His TEDx talk, “The Most Important Story You Will Ever Tell,” and over 400 presentations showcase my master storytelling abilities, turning technical jargon into engaging narratives. With certifications from MIT Professional Education, Microsoft, and Tanium, his passion for excellence is evident. Yet, his real superpower is connecting with people through storytelling, bringing a human touch to tech, and inspiring diverse perspectives.

About The Generative AI In The Enterprise Series:

Welcome to Keyhole Software’s first-ever Podcast Series, Generative AI in the Enterprise. Chief Architect, Zach Gardner, talks with industry leaders, founders, tech evangelists, and GenAI specialists to find out how they utilize Generative AI in their businesses.

And we’re not talking about the surface-level stuff! We dive into how these bleeding-edge revolutionists use GenAI to increase revenue and decrease operational costs. You’ll learn how they have woven GenAI into the very fabric of their business to push themselves to new limits, beating out competition and exceeding expectations.

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Partial Generative AI In The Enterprise Episode Transcript

Note: this transcript section was created using generative AI tools like YouTube automated transcripts and ChatGPT. There may be typos, slight content changes, or character limits for brevity!

[Music]

Zach Gardner: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future. My name is Zach Gardner, the Chief Architect of Keyhole Software. A few months ago, I decided that enough was enough. I needed to learn more about this thing everyone was talking about, which the kids call generative AI. So, I scoured the four corners of the worldwide web. I dug through the trenches, dug through the muck, dug through the milieu, and thankfully for you all, I found enough people that I think I have a pretty good grasp of it. I want to share the lessons that I have learned with you all today. On the program, I have Doug Thompson, the Chief Education Architect at Tanium. Doug, thank you so much for coming on.

Doug Thompson: Thanks a lot, Zach, for having me. Happy to talk. Obviously, you looked in sort of the dusty cobweb corner to find me, but I’m always happy to come out and chat.

Zach Gardner: Before we begin, the views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the participants and do not reflect their employers, any trade organizations they are affiliated with, or any loyalty cards they have at any regional grocery store. We’re just two guys having some fun, just chatting a little bit. So, to get us started off, Doug, for those that don’t know you, can you give us a little bit of your background? What was your career path? Do you remember the very first computer that you had? Let’s get started there.

Doug Thompson: Sure, Zach. I’m happy to talk about it. First of all, I like to call myself “The Doug Thompson” because, you know, first of all, it’s two reasons: one, anybody can be a Doug Thompson—there are comedians, politicians, and others with that name. But “The Doug Thompson” is aspirational. It keeps me humble and keeps me striving.

I didn’t get here with any strategic plan. I’m a nerd. I love putting stuff together. I got my first job out of college as a copier repairman because those were the jobs available at the time. Sooner or later, I started working for the manufacturer. When computers came along, the company I worked for, Panasonic, was networking things. We got out of simply the copier business and into networking, and I thought that was pretty cool.

One of my peers got a computer at the time—it was a 286, we’re going way back in the day—and he networked it. He challenged me, so the gauntlet was thrown, and I got one too. It was like an arms race of who could nerd out the most. This was back in the Windows 3.1 era where you had to load DOS first to get Windows on it. It wasn’t exactly fun, but I was curious about it. I got into building my own PCs. I don’t think I bought a production PC until I started working at Microsoft later.

At Panasonic, we formed a networking lab, and I was the instructor. I started doing contract work as a Microsoft trainer for an organization because I like to teach, talk, and share information as much as I like technology. An opportunity came up with Microsoft to do what they called The Road Show for the system builder channel. That’s when every mom-and-pop shop on the corner would build PCs, and there were thousands of them across the US. I got the gig, and a few months later, they offered me a job. It was more of a lateral move, but it was Microsoft—I couldn’t turn that down. I stayed there for 20 years in various roles, which is like three lifetimes for most people.

I started out in the OEM division, pre-installing Windows, working with the Dells and the HPs. I worked with Tablet PCs back when the hardware wasn’t ready for it. The tablets were 8 pounds, had a 40-minute battery life, and required a pen—it wasn’t a great experience. I went through the pocket PC phase, then the phone phase, and got to do some pretty cool things. Eventually, I got into the Education team as a technology strategist, which is basically a system engineer. I’m a nerd; I like playing with things. More importantly, I like solving business problems. Technology for technology’s sake is painful, but technology to solve a problem is where the real magic happens.

Microsoft was coming up with AI long before ChatGPT. It was really not much more than machine learning at the time, making some educated decisions. It involved going around and talking to customers about what we were thinking. ChatGPT was not even a figment of someone’s imagination back then. We were discussing the ethical standpoint of AI—just because we can do something, should we do it? This leads to discussions about displacing workers and other impacts.

I was happy at Microsoft, but then I saw a job at Tanium that came up in my LinkedIn feed. It was closer to home, and I’d had the best job at Microsoft, in my opinion. So, I decided to try something new at a smaller company. Tanium liked my education experience and brought me on to help with education strategy. I’m still a pre-sales engineer at heart. My best jobs are in front of people, talking to them, learning something, and sharing knowledge. That’s why when you asked me to be on the webcast, I said, “Yeah, cool, I’m all in for that.”

That’s how I got where I am today. It’s a long story, but I have a long life. I didn’t have hair anywhere along the career path, so I didn’t lose it because of the job, trust me.

Zach Gardner: Doug, I have my fair share of gray hairs. The editing and post-production, you know, that cleans it all up. And a good moisturizer helps retain my boyish looks. Enough about the external, let’s talk about the internal a little bit. Let’s talk about the digital, the cyber if you will. I’m curious, you know, we talked a little bit about this before the recording. How are you using generative AI in both your personal life as well as your professional life? Give the audience a little bit of insight on that.

Doug Thompson: This also gets back to what the strategy was at Microsoft. It’s meant to make humans be better, ideally. It’s not necessarily meant to replace anybody, but to free up humans to do things that only humans are uniquely skilled to do. I use it for crafting, say, I just did a talk last week at a conference, and I used it to create a first draft. I’d put in some ideas and stuff that I had and create an outline for a 40-minute talk that covers XYZ. It’s a good first draft for me. Now, I’ve gotten pretty good where I don’t have to spend eight hours in a timeout to get all the prompts right. I’m getting a little bit better with that. But I use it a lot to give me a head start because I have writer’s block. I can’t write more than a sentence because I’m trying to write and edit at the same time, which you just can’t do. If you try to do that, you get nowhere fast. So, I use it for that primarily. I’ll use it for some research, but I always go back and check the math, if you will. I always go back and verify if it’s really true. I’ve tried using it for image generation. I’m having mixed luck with that. I get, “What are they showing me here?” I need to work on my prompts for that. But I use it as an assistant to help me take care of these things that used to take a lot of time and energy, things I couldn’t really focus on where I could add value.

I don’t use it to replace me. I have to put it in my voice, even if I try to do humor or other things. It’s still not in my voice, so I spend my time polishing. What used to take me right up to the time the talk started now takes about half the time because I get that heavy lifting done. It makes the end product better because it helped me do that. I think that’s a great workflow. From a company perspective, I talk to people a lot, and they’re worried about losing their job. Some companies are looking at cutting costs, but that’s not really the way to use this. It’s not the best thing. They also don’t necessarily roll it out correctly. They put it in a small container and don’t share it with everybody. So, the small group of folks is doing okay with it, but the rest of them aren’t seeing the results because it’s not a collaborative effort.

You have to trust your employees. If you don’t trust them, why are they there? So, it should be a tool to help them be better at what they do, making their lives easier, making the outcomes better. That’s the ideal use case for it. I think companies are struggling with the best way to do that. Microsoft has it built into a lot of their products now, where you can use it to do research and other things. It doesn’t replace the person doing it, but it gives you the heavy lifting that you need. I use it for that. In my personal life, I use it to make sure I’m on point with things. I do a lot of presentations for charity work, and I want to make sure I’m doing good there. I’ll also get it to help me write some marketing copy and things like that, to make sure I’m doing things the best way possible.

It helps me be more efficient and effective. It’s a productivity tool that, if you’re using it right, will make you more productive and let you focus on what you do best. It lets you do more with your time, which is the only finite resource we have. You can get more of everything else, but not time. Using this tool, you can buy back some of that time, and that’s priceless.

Zach Gardner: Time is truly the only finite resource we have in this world. Doug, your insights are invaluable, and I appreciate you sharing them with our audience. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for tuning in to another episode. We’ll catch you next time.

[Music]


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