Artificial intelligence and cyber security are hot topics at 2023 Digital Leadership Agenda

November 28, 2022 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business

With the help of artificial intelligence, robotics and other digital technologies, businesses are accomplishing more than ever thought possible.

Companies are providing consumers with powerful tools that allow them to live better, more comfortable lives. But while there are numerous benefits to this digital transformation, there are also risks associated with progress.

During the 2023 Digital Leadership Agenda: Recoding Business conference, a series of top business leaders discussed the benefits and risks associated with the evolution of technology in the corporate world. Several renowned business leaders spoke at the event, including Alice White of Google, Shashank Samant of GlobalLogic and Office Depot, Marcello Damiani of Moderna, Frank Cassulo of Chevron and Jagdeep Bachher of the University of California.

One of the primary subjects that speakers discussed at the event was the role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in the shifting business landscape.

Meghna Sinha, Vice President of AI at Verizon, said that AI became an integral part of the company about three years ago. There are now about 150 people in the AI department. Sinha said that Verizon is looking to significantly transform the consumer side of the business and AI can be used to optimize and personalize the user experience.

Sinha also spoke about how networks are evolving into becoming more seamless, so the company has been investing in digital twin technology to manage this more effectively. Digital twins are virtual replicas that can be used to run simulations.

Kiva Allgood, President and CEO of Sarcos Technology and Robotics, spoke about how her company uses robots to reduce the amount of dangerous occupations. As an example, because people can’t be working on a tarmac during a thunderstorm, Sarcos’ robots can be used.

Allgood also mentioned that the company leverages its exciting technology to attract younger talent to industries that may seem stale or less exciting. The prospect of working in a shipyard may not be particularly exciting until you learn that it entails controlling a fleet of robotic arms.

“We are really focused on dirty and dangerous jobs,” she said. “Our vision is to increase productivity and worker safety.”

Other speakers discussed how the rise of digital connectivity could lead to cyber attacks.

They outlined how cyber security has grown from being a moderate concern to permeating every conversation about digital transformation.

Kevin Tierney, Chief Cybersecurity Officer for General Motors, said that companies need to consider cyber security as a core part of their business model because almost every facet of the modern business world is digital. In the case of General Motors, nearly everything the company does leverages digital technology because, as Tierney pointed out, cars are essentially data centers on wheels.

However, cyber security is constantly evolving, and it isn’t easy to develop a solid strategy.

“You don't get to cyber security proficiency overnight,” Tierney said. “Even when you think you're there, you're just starting on another path.”

One of the primary obstacles for maintaining proficient cyber security is ensuring that third-party vendors maintain strict standards. While large businesses have the resources to maintain solid security protocols, small and medium-sized businesses may be deficient in this area. General Motors deals with external software companies for the development of their vehicles.

“No matter how much we become a software company, we're still going to have third-party software,” Tierney said. “So it's really taking a step back and understanding what are we going to be responsible for and then what is the third-party responsible for. We have to make sure that we have a cohesive process for tying those together and securing those software bundles together.”

Nicole Ford, Vice President of Global Security and Chief Information Security Officer for Rockwell Automation, said that companies like hers can also have trouble with vendors conforming to proficient security standards.

“When you think about the murky third-party, supply-chain risk, it's an area that we need to dig into,” Ford said. “We need to better understand who we're doing business with and who our vendors are doing business with. We really need to make sure that we're training our third, fourth and fifth parties on what our expectations are from a cyber security perspective and hold them accountable to those responsibilities.”

Tierney said he’s spoken with government partners about how to ensure that all businesses are able to be secure, because “it’s the weakest link that’s going to be a problem for everybody.”

Because Rockwell is a manufacturing business, the company also has to worry about how to keep its shop floors safe from cyber threats. Ford said that the manufacturing sector is the second most targeted sector in the world.

In the past, a manufacturing floor was a closed environment, but due to the amount of connected devices, businesses like Rockwell have to defend it from cyber attacks similarly to an IT business.

“We're going to continue to see stress and pressure as we start to connect more devices,” she said. “I think that chief information security officers, along with chief information officers and engineering teams have to work together to come up with a strategy on how to protect the shop floor.”

To learn more about the Center for Digital Transformation, visit the