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Chris Whitlock

Chris Whitlock, Co-Founder and Partner, aiLeaders

Chris Whitlock’s path to power 

Whitlock is co-founder, along with Frank Strickland, of aiLeaders LLC. They are partners in several successful start-ups, including Edge Consulting – an advanced analytics firm launched in the early 2000s – as well as starting new AI businesses within IBM and Deloitte Consulting. Whitlock and Strickland are co-authors of the book: Winning the National Security AI Competiton – A Practical Guide for Government and Industry Leaders. 

Whitlock began federal service as an Army infantry officer, then was a CIA military analyst before starting a career in industry. He spent the majority of his 40-year career providing advanced analytics, AI and management consulting services primarily to national security clients in the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community and Department of State.  

Whitlock helped pioneer the rapid prototyping and integration of advanced algorithms and solutions with software applications starting in the early 1990s. He has led the delivery of algorithms and applications to multiple national security and civilian government departments and agencies. After a private equity acquisition of Edge Consulting, Whitlock led the solutions vertical of a large roll up that was acquired by IBM. Whitlock served as an IBM Partner leading AI and related digital work in the federal government.  

In the past ten years Whitlock’s work has emphasized machine learning and other artificial intelligence applications. He led a large market offering in Deloitte Consulting focused on mission analytics and AI in addition to leading large programs for cabinet level departments.    

What key skills or attributes do you consider have contributed to your success in your current role?   

First, we have 30 years of practical experience including an analytics and AI start-up as well as leading large businesses in two global firms. Even so, we are continuously learning about users’ missions, relevant technology changes, opportunities and risks and staying close enough to the actual work content to understand the challenges and potential pitfalls. It is essential to continually learn even as you transition from daily work at the keyboard to leading teams and larger efforts.  

 

What level of data maturity do you typically encounter across your client base and what tends to hold this back?   

Tremendous variation is normal and expected. Consider the range of executives and leaders. Some are deeply expert in the mission, but not in technology. Some bring great depth in enterprise technology, but are learning regarding AI and the connection to data. Overall, in the past five-to-ten years the awareness of importance increased noticeably.  Getting beyond that to actions is a separate issue.   

 

What trends are you seeing in terms of the data and analytics resources your clients are demanding from you?

Integrative technologies to increase data accessibility, with appropriate security controls, to support a range of functions. This can take the form of important middleware like MuleSoft or quite sophisticated solutions like Immuta. Separately, clients crave integrated technologies which enable the deployment of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Examples here include solutions like Dataiku (which opens many pathways to various software while accessing data) or Databricks which takes its well-established functionality and innovates by bringing capabilities like its Dolly Large Language Model. 

What challenges do you see for data in the year ahead that will have an impact on your clients and on the industry as a whole?    

The federal government seems to gravitate towards big centralized plays. These can be useful in select activities. However, government leaders should take note of the highly decentralized nature of putting AI into operations and the expense that comes with centralization for potentially modest reward. Balancing policy, guidance and standards with centralized and decentralized tech programs will be an important decision area this year and moving forward. 

 

How are you tackling the challenge of attracting, nurturing and retaining talent?  

At this phase in life, our goal is to nurture and train. We exist to help practitioners and leaders grow in areas crucial to winning the global AI competition, ensuring that the values of liberal democracies are the primary drivers of global AI development and operational deployment in this century.  

Chris Whitlock
Chris Whitlock
has been included in:
  • 100 Influencers 2023 (USA)