The Last Word: Slalom’s Mukesh Kumar—AI Is Like Fire

“Fire can really be very useful—or it can be destructive.”

Mukesh Kumar
President, Global Technology
Slalom Consulting 
… on equating artificial intelligence to fire, at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Convergence AI event in Irving on May 2.



As head of technology at Slalom Consulting, Mukesh Kumar knows a thing or two about the impact of AI. And he’s not afraid to use a striking analogy to drive his point home.

“I equate [artificial intelligence] to fire,” Kumar said during a panel he moderated on applied AI at the Convergence AI Dallas event. His comment serves as a reminder: The power of AI is immense, and wielding it effectively requires care, foresight, and a constant commitment to improvement.

Kumar’s key message: Approach AI with a strategic mindset. He emphasizes the importance of selecting the right use cases that align with an expected ROI, staying grounded in tangible outcomes and human impact—and building on a foundation of quality data.

“AI is heavily dependent on the quality of the underlying data,” Kumar noted. “It’s imperative to maintain high data standards to avoid costly errors.” He also stressed that working with AI is not a one-and-done effort, but a continuous cycle of improvement and validation.

From left: Anchal Gupta, Chief Technology Officer at American Airlines; Mark Austin, Vice President of Data Science at AT&T; Michelle Boston, Chief Information Officer at Bank of America; and Mukesh Kumar, Head of Technology at Slalom Consulting, discuss “Applied AI in Action” at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Convergence AI conference in Irving.
[Photo: Harper Belmont Media/DRC]

Looking forward, Kumar highlighted the potential of integrating traditional AI approaches with newer generative AI capabilities, which could lead to innovative applications and enhance the functionality and scope of AI systems.

In the panel’s final thoughts, Kumar and his fellow panelists marveled at the rapid pace of AI advancements.

“I can’t think of a week that I haven’t been surprised on the new things in generative AI,” said Mark Austin of AT&T. He typically looks for a two to three times return on investment, depending on the use case, and works closely with the CFO to secure approval for AI projects. Austin also highlighted AT&T’s impressive patent numbers, being in the top 10 for AI patents and the top 50 overall, and noted the company’s commitment to setting aside resources for innovation.

Michelle Boston of Bank of America emphasized AI’s transformative impact on technology communities. “Engineers are using models to build software. That is a game-changing paradigm for us,” she said. It’s going to create a high level of maturation of our products and services—greater and improved customer, client, and employee experiences.”

Anchal Gupta of American Airlines highlighted the unprecedented speed of technological change. “I think this is definitely the most exciting time,” Gupta said. “The cycle of improvement — it used to be decades, 10 years, or five years. Now the change in technologies is every few months.” She encouraged experimentation and innovation, even on a small scale. “Don’t be worried or scared of experimenting with new things, even if you think it’s small.”

For more insights from Convergence AI, go here

For more of who said what about all things North Texas, check out Every Last Word.

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