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In this episode of Sidecar Sync, host Mallory explores the intersection of AI, e-commerce, and human connection with Sharon Gai, a renowned expert in culture fluidity, e-commerce, AI, and digital transformation. The conversation delves into how AI is shaping e-commerce through personalization, the importance of reskilling for the AI era, and the delicate balance between leveraging AI for efficiency and maintaining genuine human connections. They discuss practical applications of AI in various sectors and emphasize the need for continuous learning and experimentation in the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence.

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Mallory Mejias: I think the more we lean into artificial intelligence, the more important humanity will become.

Amith Nagarajan: Welcome to Sidecar Sync, your weekly dose of innovation. If you're looking for the latest news, insights, and developments in the association world, especially those driven by artificial intelligence, you're in the right place. We cut through the noise to bring you the most relevant updates, with a keen focus on how AI and other emerging technologies are shaping the future. No fluff, just facts and informed discussions. I'm Amith Nagarajan, chairman of Blue Cypress, and I'm your host.

Mallory Mejias: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Sidecar Sync. My name is Mallory Mejias. I am one of your co-hosts and I'm also manager here at Sidecar. I wanted to let you all know, those of you that are tuning in right now from your favorite podcasting platform, That we now post episodes to YouTube at our brand new Sidecar Sync YouTube channel.

So if [00:01:00] you prefer to consume your podcasts by watching them visually, now you can do that. And I will be linking our new YouTube channel in the show notes. Today, we've got a special interview edition of the Sidecar Sync lined up for you with Sharon Gai. But before we dive into that, a quick word from our sponsor. Today's sponsor is the Sidecar AI Learning Hub. If you are looking to dive deeper on your AI education in 2024 and beyond, I encourage you to check out Sidecar's AI Learning Hub. With the bootcamp, you'll get access to flexible, on demand lessons, and not only that. Lessons that we regularly update. So you can be sure that you are keeping up with the latest in artificial intelligence.

You'll also get access to weekly live office hours with our AI experts, and you get access to a community of fellow AI enthusiasts in the association and greater nonprofit space. You can get the bootcamp for 399 a year on an annual subscription, and you can also get access for your whole team for one flat rate.

If you want more [00:02:00] information on Sidecar's AI Learning Hub, go to

 In today's episode, I interview Sharon Gai, and before we dive into that episode, I want to share with you a little bit about who she is. Sharon Gai is a culture fluid expert in e commerce, digital transformation, and artificial intelligence. She helps organizations become agile disruptors in their industries so they can increase revenue and retain users.

In her tenure at Alibaba, she advised brands and heads of state in crafting their digital strategy with programmatic marketing and AI. She has worked with TEDx, Singularity University, UBS, Deloitte, LVMH, Nestle, EcomWorld, and Etail. She is in the AAE list of Top Keynote Speakers in 2023. She is also one of 2024's Rethink Retail's Top Retail Experts and a LinkedIn Top Voice in Public Speaking 2023.

She is the author of the book e [00:03:00] commerce reimagined what we can learn in retail and e commerce from China Sharon has an honors bachelor's degree and international development from McGill and a master's in knowledge management from Columbia University When she's not speaking she is playing Chopin nocturnes on the piano We're interviewing entrepreneurs for Alibaba's podcast, B2B Breakthrough.

In today's episode, we have a lot of good topics that we cover. We talk e commerce, we talk personalization, and some of the lessons that we can learn from China. We discuss this balance between AI and humanity and when we might prefer one over the other. And we also talk about the importance of reskilling and the skills that you need to cultivate within your organization right now.

It's a great conversation. So without further ado, here's that interview.

Sharon, thank you so much for joining us today. I had the opportunity to watch one of your Ted Talks online on , cultural fluidity. It was really insightful. I'm excited to bring you on [00:04:00] the podcast today. How are you doing?

Sharon Gai: I'm doing great. How are you?

Mallory Mejias: I am doing pretty well myself. I wanted you to share with listeners a little bit of your background, your background with AI and how you got here.

Sharon Gai: Sure. I think, you know, I think it was Steve Jobs that said your life path is a series of dots, but once you look back, that's the way that you can connect everything. I think that's exactly what my career trajectory is. It was no linear straight line going upwards for sure. But I, right after college, I launched myself into the world of technology, even though my, uh, bachelor's degree wasn't in something like computer science.

so what had happened is, , in Montreal, so I grew up in Canada. In Montreal, the apprentice had a Canadian version and specifically a Montreal version I attended and , the winner had a role in this company [00:05:00] that sponsored the whole competition. And so it was, uh, it was a company called Insight and they're a systems integrator.

They are, if you can imagine a Walmart, but for IT things and IT everything from hardware like servers, networking, equipment, routers, computers, printers, the hardware side. And then if you can imagine the software side, so the Microsoft. The VMwares, the, the Junipers the Adobe licenses and then the, the services on top of that.

So if you can imagine a, a Walmart of those three sort of things, that's what Insight was. And so that was my first role, I guess, in the IT or tech space. And I think that was the first role that just launched me into a plethora of different solutions that are out there. I had not intended to, I think back then, I was was not heavily talked about at all.

But what was heavily [00:06:00] talked about was the cloud and people were doing a lot of migrations to the cloud. This was still a time where it departments would buy actual server farms or co locate, have their physical servers be on site or at another co location site. And build their infrastructure that way, but in that period of time, we started to see things go up and go go up into the cloud.

And so that's what sort of got me into the cloud space right after that. And then telecom networking. And then in 2017, I received a LinkedIn message from one of the VPs at Alibaba that created a program that Jack Ma had started. So, Jack had always wanted to globalize his company. He always knew that there were a billion users in China.

He was going to reach that ceiling at some point in time. And he was going to have to expand his company abroad so that the company can grow. The company was already [00:07:00] publicly traded. He had a lot of shareholders that had to grow. And so at the time he recruited this, the set of people who now looking back, I call them culture fluid because all of us came from 2 or more cultures. So myself, my family is Chinese, but I grew up in Canada. There were other people who were Singaporean, grew up in Australia, European, all sorts of different colors, shapes, and sizes, and the different cultures that they came from. And working at Ali, which is one of the big tech companies in China, It sort of paved way to another set of field of vision.

I think before I came from B2B IT infra background, and then I transitioned to a B2C e com or e commerce, uh, heavy, digital heavy background and then it was there that we started to play with AI whether it was the recommendation engines that allowed us to reach our customers better, to show [00:08:00] them better products, or Or it was creating bots of ourselves so that when a client or another colleague would message us, there would be an automated message sent of some sort so that we don't physically have to answer every single message that is sent to us.

Or to the, design tools that we would use because in the world of e commerce, there's a lot of campaigns like black Friday. And when there is black Friday, there's a lot of pressure on design teams to design different posters for products. There's product launches, product discounts, things like that.

And so that was sort of the 1st time that I played with, AI tools, and got my feet wet. And it was just a fascinating space because I was learning something new every day. Throughout that whole time, I had always been speaking, so I had represented my previous employers and different conferences and I would post a lot on LinkedIn.

I'm a firm, believer of knowledge, [00:09:00] sharing and just sharing my experience in general. And so I started to share some things and then that led to other things and then more invites would come. Then I realized that, oh, maybe I could go into this keynote stuff full time. And I did, and so that is where it leads me to today of what I'm currently doing, which is being a full time keynote speaker.

So I go to a lot of conferences, and share, my experiences, my knowledge, different ways of looking at things. And also recently got into podcasting, like we said, at the beginning of the call

Mallory Mejias: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we are big advocates of knowledge sharing as well, which is why we launched the podcast to begin with. So I really liked that you said that. I'm really curious about your experience at Alibaba, particularly with e commerce in researching you for this podcast. I was thinking through your expertise in e commerce and then thinking about our listeners, which are mostly association or nonprofit professionals, and [00:10:00] kind of thinking through how we could bridge that gap.

Yeah. Because at a glance, you might not think e commerce is so similar to the nonprofit space, but something I think would be worth diving into with you is this idea of the consumer experience being key in e commerce and then the member experience being key on the association side. So we talk a lot about this idea of.

reducing friction. Maybe that's on your website. For example, if a member wants to sign up for something, if they want to purchase a membership with your organization, making that as efficient as possible. And I'm sure on the e commerce side, you can agree that it's the same for the consumer, getting them to the product that they want quickly, efficiently, so they can make a purchase.

So I'm interested in getting your take on that, particularly from the e commerce angle and how Alibaba and your experience. using AI to reduce that friction.

Sharon Gai: for sure. So, 2 employers before that I was at a place called intern app. They did [00:11:00] hyperspeed connection and what we had researched is when a user comes to a website, even if there's a 0. 3 second of a delay of a site page loading, their drop off would increase by X percentage. And so internet apps was whole valley prop was they allowed internet connection to be faster so that pages would be loading faster that 0.3 seconds, which is almost. It seems like you can't even detect that with the human eye or the human experience. But for some way, shape or form, , users can detect it. And so in the world of e commerce, it's the same. So if a Shopify site or if any sort of website is, is loading that little bit slowly, users are going to leave.

 I personally have had so many experiences, and this is. Probably why I always like to live in big cities because big cities are much more interconnected there. There's a lot more cell towers. Connection is just [00:12:00] always more reliable than somewhere that is more, rural, there's a big difference between loading a page as where you're not as connected versus loading a page when you're physically located , in a large city.

That's something that not, as the owner of the website that you can always control, but there are things that you can do as a website owner to enhance that experience. So in the, in the world of e commerce that's, going to affect somebody's bottom line. It's going to affect a brand's bottom line and how much product that they can sell, how many people they can retain on a webpage for how many seconds longer.

And so that part is crucial. I think what is the parallel between the e com world and the association world is community management. So in the e com world as a brand, you always want to bring together your consumers and we do this by curating Instagram groups, curating Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, bringing people together [00:13:00] because I know that as a brand, if I'm selling X product, it's because I'm solving for Y problem. And that means all of my consumers would have similar problems. And when people who have similar problems come together It there's just that bit of familiarity No matter what difference or background you come from.

There's just that tint of you know, you all share that. So, for instance, I'm a cat owner, so I have a cat and I've been circled in before by , pet food brands. And then we're just a big group chat with a lot of. Cat owners that share things like other cat toys and other products and whatnot, and it's just a more social environment.

And so, similarly, in the association world, that's exactly what they're doing to whether you are. The association for corrugated cardboard, or you're the association for dentists, or you're the association for pharmacists, or [00:14:00] drugstores, the people that you're bringing together are the same people that share that problem.

And so I always like to go to those conferences where I'm invited as a keynote speaker to glean into. The same problem that everyone is having, but different companies in that particular industry sees that problem differently and solves it also in their own way. That type of knowledge sharing is something that sticks communities together.

 And for brands, it has worked, in terms of retention and for them to be able to have these people keep coming back to buy the same product to repurchase. And then on the community side, I think it's these members that return and again and again to learn more things.

Mallory Mejias: What you said makes me think of that saying it's a little bit different, but the idea that if you have a shared enemy that makes you friends and not that problems necessarily are your enemy, but I like this idea of if you have a group of people who have [00:15:00] similar problems, they can come together. They can discuss those issues and inherently keep going back to your organization.

It makes a ton of sense. And associations, as you said, Our communities. So I'm curious, how do you think they could leverage AI in a way to enhance that community, to bring that community together and back to them ultimately?

Sharon Gai: yeah I think that's the million dollar questions for for associations is how can we use it? I think actually, the 1st step is just learning about it. Very generally. I think even not even the associate association space, but I was just at N. R. F. Which is also an event held by an association, but it's a retail association and a lot of retailers are also at a loss as to how do we use AI? What even is AI? How do we define it? What is the difference between, machine learning and deep learning and all of those things? And so I think step 1 is just level setting. I think a lot of people are also very [00:16:00] confused about terms.

I heard somebody say that, generative AI and general AI. They sound so similar, but they're completely different things. And so I think just at a vocabulary standpoint, some sort of glossary 101 would really help to level set everyone. And then the 2nd thing is, I think, testing things out in small pockets at a time.

So looking at your business and looking at it from a lens of per department. How can you use AI to your advantage? Because I'm in the event space. There's a lot of now being used in the events world where agendas are created and the content for a conference is created by AI. , when people are gathered together, there are tools to allow them to meet each other if they, uh, come from a similar background or have a similar interest, like a.

Tinder for members, if you will. There's also a lot of financial [00:17:00] software that is AI powered in terms of, allowing you to, balance your numbers or, balance sheets, and optimizing which costs you can save. And then, and then there's the whole marketing world where there's a lot of communication that goes on.

Between the association owner to their members a lot of the newsletters that you create can be personalized. A lot of the content can be personalized and can also be developed faster. And if you segmented your group of users in whether it's large size, mid size to small size and personalizing it that way, or cutting up, cutting them up in different geographies and targeting them or whether they're from the Northeast or Southwest, from the West Coast and personalizing content that way, in the content creation side where you're writing about things, [00:18:00] you're creating videos, photos it's sort of endless, but there's definitely ways, a lot of ways that associations can use it.

AI, I think it just depends on how much they have tried certain tools and if they see it a, if they see an easy transition or integration rather to their current existing workflow. Sure.

Mallory Mejias: Absolutely. What I'm hearing you say, it's interesting, is that we hear this over and over on the podcast, and it's that the first step is education, level setting, like you mentioned, Glossary 101, I think that's an interesting term. Over here at Sidecar, I want to share with , all the Sidecar Sync listeners, you'll be the first to hear that we are launching a monthly webinar that will be a free course.

Intro to AI for associations and nonprofits webinar where we do exactly that, where we cover those terms, where we make sure you understand what general AI is versus generative AI, things like that, [00:19:00] especially for newbies, but even for people who are a bit more familiar with AI and want to dive deeper.

So just a little sidebar there. Be on the lookout for that webinar coming really soon. Once a month. That being the first step, Sharon, and then the second step, what I'm hearing you advocate for is testing it out, maybe departmentally and seeing what the low hanging fruit are, how easily you can integrate AI into your current processes and have those small wins so that you feel confident with utilizing AI moving forward. Now, I am a marketer at heart. I talk about this a lot on the podcast. Amithh likes to say, actually, that we're all marketers, essentially. So I am intrigued by this idea of personalization that you mentioned. And I saw a talk, I believe you did on YouTube, where you talked about a Chinese platform.

I believe it was called Tmall, if I'm not mistaken, and how that platform, in your experience, was using personalization. A lot more than a tool like Amazon that we might be familiar with. So I'm curious if you can talk a little [00:20:00] bit about the personalization piece that you have seen in China.

Sharon Gai: So well in a lot of my keynotes, the, the first story that I open with is if we can imagine one day where we're living in this world where you go outside to, to pick up your morning newspaper, you open the door and there's a drone that flies by and drops off a package to you. And not only is it dropping it off to you, but you had never went to an to even buy this product. It just knew which product to send you because the algorithm that belonged to the company that sold you the product knew you so well. And that there was also no return policy in that world, because they know you so well that you probably won't return it because it's so perfect for you.

I was, I was open with that ridiculous sounding story and yet. Every time I say it, even with the [00:21:00] months that's passed by, it just seems like that's getting closer and closer to being reality for so many of us. So going back to the China piece is not that team all, I think, has a media plans to execute on such a vision.

But I think even in the US drone delivery. It's going to be pretty common, maybe a couple of years down the road, uh, and Amazon is definitely, definitely testing it. But in terms of personalization, I think it's because of the way that these Chinese ecommerce platforms think about products. So we always talk about this people product context model, or we call it a golden triangle in in ecommerce, where a ecommerce.

Platform's job is to facilitate the meeting between a person, so the consumer, the product, so whatever you're buying, be it. [00:22:00] Anything from tools to clothing to whatever and then multiplied by a context. So whatever situation this person needs this product. So for instance you might need a, um, you might want to buy a bagel.

But there's different contexts under which you need that product. You could need it in the morning when you're really hungry. You could be buying it because you're stocking up for the weekend. You could be buying it for your whole family so you want to buy it in bulk. You could be buying the whole grain version because that's healthier and you're now on a diet.

The context changes per time, but the product is the same thing. And so that's what is the theory that grounds these, uh, Chinese Yukon platforms is their algorithm is constantly thinking about this one consumer. But what are the different [00:23:00] contexts or other factors?

That this person would find themselves in to then serve them what sort of product. And so that's why in that video that you saw, um, the algorithm that Amazon has is a little different versus what something team all would display you because Amazon's algorithm and, uh, you and I, if we were to open our Amazon homepages, I'm sure we both see something different, but that's largely because we have searched for something that is different.

In the Tmall space or in the Chinese econ space, they will be showing us even different store pages. If the two of us were to open the same store, because the store also wants to personalize its whole look for that consumer. And an example I always talk about is. This toys company that I've, uh, this, this brand page that I've opened and [00:24:00] versus my 14 year old niece, who's open as well, hers is a lot more Almost bubbly or metaversey or cartoon looking versus the, the store page that I see is a lot more realistic and it's the actual product,

it's more photography based. So imagine the images that you can create on the mid journeys and dollies, right? Imagine if you're seeing the same product, but in those different types of styles. And that's what a lot of the store pages are displaying to different users, because at the end of the day, it wants to curate a more personalized experience.

Or another good example is live streaming is a really is a really big thing in China. Tick tock live streaming now is also kind of growing itself. But with the way that is being involved or personalization is being involved is so say there's sunscreen. [00:25:00] And there's a and I'm buying it. And so there's a live streamer talking about sunscreen.

If that last year looked more like me, I probably have a higher chance of buying. But say, if my husband were to buy this product, if it was the same Asian girl looking, however, she looked. Selling it to him, he might have a lower chance of buying it because the person testing out the product or telling you about the product doesn't look like him.

 But can we make this live streamer look like somebody that he would have more affinity to? And the answer is yes. Right now it's not a tool that is, uh, super, super mature at the moment, but that is also the goal, is so that it's personalized down to the person that's showing you this product.

And I'm sure you've seen the, the Haygen avatars or the Synesthesia avatars, where you can create an avatar of yourself and they're, they're speaking, You can already select what your avatar looks like. So you can. Select a white man, black man a young [00:26:00] person, old person.

And that's all ultimately trying to personalize things to you because at the end of the day, we just connect better with those people are like us. It's kind of just a a rule, I guess, in, in in human connection or marketing and, and AI can. Allow us to get there. Because once you implement something like that there's better returns.

There's better engagement interaction. All those metrics go up. So. I forgot your original question,

Mallory Mejias: Doe, I am sitting here so fascinated for all you listeners. We are on zoom right now. I'm jaw dropped hearing. I didn't know this about the live streaming piece and I love, I love the triangle you mentioned talking about the person and the product facilitating the meeting between those two. I think you can very easily extrapolate that to a member and maybe your conference or some other course offering CME credits.

But the important piece there is. That context. And I think [00:27:00] that's where there is this huge opportunity for associations and nonprofits moving forward, getting deeper into that context and then making those personalizations to your members. And it's not just based on that context, but the live streaming piece.

So you were saying that, is it one to one personalization in terms of what you see? And then kind of my follow up question to that is, do you disclose to the person watching the live stream that they are seeing some sort of AI altered face? And with that, do you lose kind of that human connection piece?

Maybe if you feel like you're watching an avatar instead of a person.

Sharon Gai: great question, I'm literally about to write a piece on this and we're doing a ton of research in the background for this article. So, 1st of all, AI governance is still a thing in question, uh, which is when we put out something in the world that is AI generated ethically should we, or should we not label that as.

AI generated that it was not [00:28:00] human. I think, you know, if you're in the LinkedIn world, there's so many people on LinkedIn already writing with the assistance of AI all the time, every time. And then they take that work as theirs because it's integrated into their authorship and they published it on their page.

And as a reader, you can't really tell. I mean, sometimes you can sniff it out a tiny bit, but if they're really crafty with integrating their own voice and what it can just come off as. I wrote it. So globally, uh, AI governance is at a, at a standstill right now. I think every region in the world is trying to come up with their own laws around that China specifically has not published anything specific yet.

But I was just in Tmall, uh, yesterday, just browsing some things and checking up on some things and I realized that a lot of the livestream rooms there are now AI. It looks quite realistic, but I can tell that [00:29:00] it, that I, I can tell that it's AI because I've just seen so many of them. And I think it left me with kind of an empty feeling because no matter what I clicked on, it was always an avatar.

It was either an avatar. It looked like me as in, it looks like a human speaking on zoom right now. Or it was like a cartoon kind of thing. And you clearly know it was, it was, uh, you know, it's a, it's an avatar. And I think that is the part that. Is gonna change specifically that live streaming industry because you kind of lose that human connection because the whole reason why you had a live streamer talking about a product is because it was a, it was a human instead of a two dimensional product page, which could seem pretty cold or dead or still.

I mean, it's just photos. You just flip through, uh, product detail photos. So it's almost as if it felt very alive when there [00:30:00] was a human there, but then feels kind of, dumb and dead again with the, with the photos. So I think. To answer your question, I think people can definitely discern between if it's an actual human talking or if it's like a Haygen created avatar.

I think that a lot of brands are probably just playing with that right now to test it out, see if the mental Tricks are changing if they, if people are still watching, even if they're still interested. So I think, there's a big experiment going on, but what I can say is from a personal feeling is I was definitely less engaged, I think before I would have probably stayed longer, watch something, maybe bought something.

Whereas now I sort of just clicked around and I left. But that's just me, who knows if that's more people because I'm just one data point. And I think in the content creation world, in the U. S., I think when [00:31:00] people are starting to use AI in their writing, if you are not doing it well, it's pretty easily discernible.

I personally, because I consume so much, I'm just always sitting in that world, I'm quite turned off when I can discern it. And I think I've definitely paid much more attention to those sub stacks that are created solely by a human. So I guess there's a, there's a point of balance because you're, I think everyone will be eventually using AI to make their work faster., But the tipping point is when you're over relying on it and you're not inserting yourself as a human in whatever content you're creating at all and pushing it out to the world and you're on the people on the receiving side can can detect that is when you've sort of failed to integrate AI into your work properly.[00:32:00]

Mallory Mejias: I completely agree. Also, from my personal opinion, I think the more we lean into artificial intelligence, the more important humanity will become. uh, I also consume a lot of content in the AI space, and I do feel like I can somewhat sense if AI's been used. In a way that wasn't ideal. So I think if you're using, utilizing AI and you have that human oversight and you're making edits, particularly something I've noticed with blog writing is that it seems like a tool like ChatGBT follows the same typical formula for blogs and you get a sense of the sentence structures that it likes to use.

The analogies that likes to make. And to me, that is, that is an immediate, Oh, ding, ding, ding. This AI was used to generate this blog. So with my team and with me personally, I always like to go in particularly to introductions and conclusions and make that human. It's also the first thing that people are reading if they click on your blog article.

So if it's an immediate red flag that it's just been generated AI and it doesn't have that human touch, I [00:33:00] don't, Think it hits the same, at least that, that is my opinion. And I think you're right. We are navigating a really interesting future where AI will make everything easier and more efficient, but on the flip side, people will seek out that humanity.

I think we want that connection. We want to see the live streamer who is telling us about this product that they really enjoy. And if we know that that's not human, I guess the question is eventually does AI become so good that we don't ever know. And that's, that's a little bit scary. I don't know about that.

Sharon Gai: Yeah there's so many deep fake examples or stories. I think just 2 days ago, there was that case in Hong Kong where someone downloaded the photo of of this pretty large company, uh, created a deep fake. Fake out of it made this avatar attend meetings and embezzled money out of that company to a total of 25 million dollars or something like that.

It was all over the news., and that's gonna not be the last case. I'm sure that that's gonna happen. And so that, I know [00:34:00] the article that said. So now, because everyone works remote as well, right? So it's, it's hard to tell who is who, if they're actually who they say they are.

So apparently the way to, uh, sort of, you know, before you either exchange important information or give over an important document. You have to ask the avatar, like, nod your head, or like, look to the right, or like, do something where, you know, I'm telling you to do an action and you're immediately doing it.

So to, to tell that, because avatars also blink and they Look like they're right. They look so realistic, as you said, that it's hard to discern whether it's an AI or a human. And so that's just a tip for the next time that you're in a meeting with maybe

Mallory Mejias: Oh man, I, I feel like I'm learning about new concerns every day with AI. We mentioned one time on this podcast, we, this wasn't an AI attack as far as I know, but someone texting an employee as our [00:35:00] CEO and asking them to go and buy a gift cards, kind of like the traditional scam that people do. And it almost worked like it very nearly almost worked.

I had not even thought about the world where I might be on a team's meeting with a myth and. And it could not be him. I mean, that is, is it? It's just crazy. It's hard to wrap your mind around.

Sharon Gai: Yeah, I, I have definitely been texted that gift card one. I've seen it before personally and then I think when I got it, I, it was immediately, I didn't know about this I, apparently this gift card thing is very common but I just thought it was so out of the ordinary that this can't be real, right?

So then I texted this person Or I linked and messaged them. And yeah, and then it was found out very quickly. So I guess also the tip is if at any time you're receiving any notice or whatnot out of the ordinary, it's yeah, it's you have to sort of be careful with how you're, how you're [00:36:00] responding.

Because the, the, the, the, the scams, the phishing scams, all of that, it's just exploding right now.

Mallory Mejias: It sounds like from your experience and from this call, ChinAIs certainly leading the way in a sense in terms of leveraging artificial intelligence. I'm curious if you think there are any lessons that could be learned and applied globally based on what you've seen in ChinAIn terms of AI use.

Sharon Gai: I think it's the, the notion to always continue to experiment. I just remember when I was at Alibaba that so many experiments would be going on every single day. Every little piece of banner space or something we put out on our website. There was always different versions of it and we would circle off this group of people, see how they interacted with this color down to the color.

So this color or that color, whether which, which one had more clicks. So it was sort of optimization on steroids. I think [00:37:00] most companies. Wouldn't have the time or probably personnel to be able to handle so many of those tweaks, but I think the key learning is the.

Is the experimentation we have this, uh, value and we would always be talking about something called embrace change. That was 1 of the core things that I think some of us had to write essays about it. Like, how we embrace change, like, you know, your annual review at the end of the year when you're going up for promotion, you have to talk about how you embrace change as an employee.

I think it was very almost hammered into everyone that change is the only constant. It's, it's always constantly changing. So we have to be comfortable with that. And part of that is optimizing things, tweaking things and changing things.

Mallory Mejias: Absolutely. We talk about this idea of embracing change all the time internally, all the time on this podcast. [00:38:00] I know a topic that you speak on is reskilling the workforce, especially with the advent of all of this new technology that is certainly not going away anytime soon. You talked about this idea of embracing change, but I'm wondering what other skills you see as essential or necessary to cultivate in the age of AI that we're living right now.

Sharon Gai: I think curiosity is definitely really important. And being curious in the sense that if you, if you are, if you are trying out a new tool asking yourself where can so I'm so I have this 1 use case in front of me, but where else can I use this? So I'm spending the next 5 minutes in doing this, but how can the, these next 5 minutes be exponentially used for other companies or other cases?

And there is, and you just have to sort of have that muscle in your brain to start asking that. Another [00:39:00] big pillar that I've found to be pretty useful is the sharing piece. I guess it's in my name. So that's why it's also part of my DNAIs that I've found that the more I share about what I have learned, what I have heard, tips, tricks, tools, the more the world gives it back to me.

And sort of opening the gates a bit more , or, people call it gatekeeping now.

Mallory Mejias: Yeah. Mm

Sharon Gai: Yeah, so not gatekeeping, although I don't know if that's a term that everyone knows but not gatekeeping information. Has been helpful for for myself. I think it's also created forums for discussion.

And that's also what I talk about, or what I talked about in that TED talk of being culture fluid because. Even in this AI space, there's no right answer. If someone thinks that, you know, the more we use it, the better our lives would be, that's not necessarily [00:40:00] true. Neither is it something that we should push off because we don't want to have the day where that drone delivers that product that we never ordered.

So. If we can learn to have more or different opinions on this one topic, and hearing all of those voices and considering each of those voices in its own merit I think makes a much more well-informed answer or a well-informed conclusion that we would have ourselves. So in this age of re skilling, I think, uh, the more culture fluid we become, the, the probably easier our lives will be going forward.

Mallory Mejias: For sure. I will definitely be linking to that TED Talk in our show notes today if you all want to check that out because it was, it was a great watch and I don't think I've ever seen anyone present on this, this idea of cultural fluidity and it's incredibly important. So I'll definitely be linking that for you listeners in the [00:41:00] show notes.

I really like what you said about curiosity. We talk about these. Soft skills. I guess you could call them like curiosity. And Amithh and I also talked about in a previous episode, the importance of having a growth mindset in your organization and making sure employees are looking ahead and are dedicated to bettering themselves.

But it's, it's a bit hard to put that into practice. Like, what does curiosity mean? I really like what you said, though. It's very tangible. Take five minutes with a tool you might be using and see if there's some way you could use it to something else that you do. And I will say, Okay. I don't even do this.

I'll get into a rep being like, well, this is how I use Chattyptee, and this is how I use Munch, for example. So, I really like that idea of the, the five minute spend on how else this tool might be important. And then, I also enjoy what you said about sharing information. I've gotta give a quick shoutout to one of our listeners, Liz.

Who recently went on LinkedIn and shared an experiment she did inspired by the podcast. Actually, she used a tool called Munch that I mentioned to you at the top of this call, Sharon for content [00:42:00] repurposing. And I think sharing what you're learning is so important, but also sharing what works and what doesn't.

In Liz's example, she shared the clip that Munch generated on her profile and it wasn't. Perfect. Honestly, it wasn't ideal. Uh, the quality wasn't perfect, but I think it's helpful to see what other people, especially in your community, in your profession, are doing to learn what works, but also what doesn't work.

Sharon Gai: Shout out to Liz. I think that's great that she did that.

Mallory Mejias: I always think it's important to ask the AI experts that we bring onto this podcast, how do you personally use AI in your life or professionally? And kind of what do you see right now as the top two to three use cases that you would want to share with listeners?

Sharon Gai: So I'm a diehard charge fan. I paid the 20 a month. I paid that 20 very early on. I've created GPTs within that store to see [00:43:00] where it goes to date. So they say they're supposed to pay you based on if you're creating a GPT and if other people are using it, right, that you're, you should be almost like, uh, I, I wrote about this in And 1 of my posts, like, what Apple did with opening up their app store and allowing different developers to create apps.

And then if people download it and use those apps, but Apple always gets a commission of all of the things they've purchased. Yeah. So, to date, I have not been paid by open AI, but I do see that as AInteresting. Product they've, they've launched and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how actually people will monetize, uh, by creating their own GPTs.

 Sometimes I go in and out between the chat GPT world versus the bard world. Do I have another one? I think it's mainly those two. Claude, I have [00:44:00] tried, but it's just a little less. Useful, I would say they refuse more jobs. I don't know if you've ever asked to do something and they say no, because of the, I don't know, content that you're writing about.

It's too sensitive. We can't do it or they don't have an ability to do it. I feel like club refuses. It's me a lot more so, gave up on, on, on Claude. But some other ones that I use is Opus. So Opus Clips cuts a long form video into short form video, brings you hashtags, also writes a little description of what they've created for you so that you don't have to do more work in the, in the copywriting side.

HeyJen is really cool with the avatars in terms of languages. I discovered Visible AI recently, which is if you are to communicate with someone that you don't know, you also don't know their personality, [00:45:00] but because Visible AI has scraped the way that they communicate to their audience, do you know about the DISC, the DISC, uh, assessment, like dominant influence?

Servant, I think. And then I forgot what C

Mallory Mejias: Yep, yep, we've talked about that. Ameth really likes disk profile assessment. So we've, we've talked about that a bit on the podcast, actually.

Sharon Gai: yeah, so, visible AI allows you to then write to this person in their tone that, so that they would receive it better. So if they're more of a dominant person, you'd more write in direct sentences, shorter, more to the point. They're more of an eye person, there's more emos or emojis, um, and so on and so forth.

So I thought that was. It was interesting how you can even personalize your messaging in terms of the one to one communication to a person, which is kind of crazy. And The, the larger use [00:46:00] cases, I think, you know, I think the whole world is enraptured in this generative AI world I think generative AI is almost 2.

0. I think that the groundwork is more in the, in the machine learning stage. There's so many companies that still need to perfect and clean out data create better recommendations. That's, that's actually one step before whatever generative AI can introduce. And so I think that's more the, the, the important use case of cleaning out datAInstead of data being in silos, connecting them and making it work and actually affecting a business decision.

That way, I think a lot of companies would benefit from doing that step one first before going into to the generative AI space.

Mallory Mejias: Very interesting. It's something we talk about on this podcast for sure. The idea of data being siloed and, and kind of locked into different vendors, especially for associations. And this question of do you. You own your data, but do you actually own [00:47:00] it and do you have access to it so you can leverage it properly in terms of AI on the chat?

UBT note something interesting. I've noticed. I don't know if you've noticed this as well. Sharon. I'm actually getting more refusals of jobs on chat. UBT as well. I don't know if they've

upped, you know, their security in a way, but even researching you for this episode, I use chat. UBT for some of it and was asking it to reference your website.

And there were times where it said, you know, we cannot use this external content. Even though I wasn't asking it, you know, to like repeat anything, it was more so to give me summaries. So I, I don't know if you've noticed that, but I have noticed that particularly on Chat GPT.

Sharon Gai: Yeah, I think the other day I was writing something about how there was some story about how this, this, this Belgian father who used this chatbot for mental health purposes, but then later committed suicide. And just even summarizing that story is what I asked Tragic BT to do, to not, focus on that part, the [00:48:00] suicide part, but just to summarize the story, it was something that Chad Chibiti refused to do because mental health or suicide is just a topic that we'll not touch.

I think it's also because they've been burned in the past for, and there's just so many horrible PR cases with how we've used AI in. in the wrong way and it's led to very unfortunate circumstances. That I think that's what's causing a lot of these LLM companies to just refuse everything and anything that will touch these topics.

So I was recently interviewed by somebody who was researching on Grok, Grok AI, which is the one that Elon Musk had released. So apparently Grok won't refuse any jobs or will at least not refuse jobs. That pertain to sensitive topics because it's a much more filter lists, model, there's a lot of problems with that also where if you just don't [00:49:00] have any any picket fences to fence off things, I think. But yeah, I mean, it's a, it's a very fast evolving space. Even these LLM companies do not know the right answer, and they're, they're constantly trying to see what should be the right path forward. So I think in these times and with this type of circumstance that we're all in, the more that we Realize these things talk about these things out loud in our communities and make our own decisions surrounding some of these tools, the better.

So, hence, going back to the knowledge sharing piece.

Mallory Mejias: Absolutely. It seems like Elon Musk's name comes up all the time on this podcast. We talked about Neuralink last week with his brain chip implantation and a human. It seems like he's in many ways setting the frontier, uh, whether that's. That's a good or a bad thing, but Sharon, I want to thank you so much for spending this time with me today, for sharing your expertise with [00:50:00] our listeners.

Where can people find you if they want to learn more about you?

Sharon Gai: Yeah, LinkedIn is always the easiest way Sharon Gai and and then, of course, my website. So sharongai.Com.

Mallory Mejias: Absolutely. We will link both of those in the show notes. Sharon, thank you so much.

What a fantastic conversation with Sharon Gai. Believe it or not, we are not asking our interviewees to harp on the importance of education. It is simply a sentiment that we all share, Sidecar included. So, I want to remind you all, we have nearly 200 people right now going through our AI Learning Hub. If that is something you're interested in, if you want those flexible on demand lessons, if you want those weekly live office hours, if you want the community of fellow AI enthusiasts that you have access to, Check it out at Thanks everyone for tuning in and we will see you next week.

Amith Nagarajan: Thanks for tuning into Sidecar Sync this week. Looking to dive deeper? Download [00:51:00] your free copy of our new book, Ascend, Unlocking the Power of AI for Associations at It's packed with insights to power your association's journey with AI. And remember, Sidecar is here with more resources for webinars to boot camps to help you stay ahead in the association world.

We'll catch you in the next episode. Until then, keep learning, keep growing, and keep disrupting.

Sidecar Staff
Post by Sidecar Staff
February 8, 2024
At Sidecar, we create the professional development tools a leader needs to grow their career and their purpose-driven membership organization, like associations and nonprofits. The skills you’ll learn within our growing community, interactive workshops and from our step-by-step courses will drive innovation, empower strategic thinking and institute cultural changes wherever your career takes you.