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Rossella Blatt Vital: Wonder(lic) Woman

July 25, 2019

Rossella Blatt Vital, Director of Innovation- AI, has made it her mission to build a team of passionate Machine Learning gurus here at Wonderlic. She joined our company in September 2018 and is an essential part of Wonderlic’s goal: to become the leader of AI technology within the HR space.

“For WonScore, there are many areas where we can improve the product through AI. One way is the engine itself– AI allows us to handle a lot of variables and extract complicated patterns from the data, where that was previously not possible. We can also augment the capabilities of WonScore by integrating and combining new forms of input data dramatically improving the candidate experience.” 

This capability empowers Wonderlic to expand the kind of inquiries we include in our WonScore assessments, including open-ended questions and video uploads from candidates. Why open ended questions? Rossella’s team is creating a program that can actually predict personality and cognitive ability, as well as interpret the way candidates articulate themselves based on what they type. AI can also be leveraged for real time adjustments to influence which questions are asked and when.  AI unleashes endless possibilities to go beyond the static candidate-job fit: think team effectiveness, diversity, talent development etc. By implementing these practices, Rossella’s team will continue to push Wonderlic to the leading edge of the industry. 

According to Vital, the AI principles underlying these use cases have been around and validated for years in multiple domains, but they’re not used at all when it comes to HR tech. Welcome to the future. 

A Rising Star: Rossella Before Wonderlic

How did Rossella get here? Vital earned her degree in AI and Machine Learning at the Polytechnic University of Milan (Politecnico di Milano), which houses one of the most-respected Artificial Intelligence programs in Europe. Conducting research for her PhD in AI, Vital contributed to several programs in the medical field. Her projects included developing a program that would measure breathing after a patient blew into a balloon in an attempt to detect lung cancer. This non-invasive procedure had an accuracy rate above 95 percent. Vital also used AI to read brain waves, allowing patients with physical disabilities to move their wheelchairs without having to rely on their muscles.

Passionate about socially relevant projects, Rossella transitioned, applying machine learning to law enforcement. Helping the Chicago Police Department in conjunction with the Illinois Institute of Technology, Vital created algorithms that could analyze gang boundaries, forecast homes at high risk of burglary, and predict where crimes were more likely to occur. Through her programs, she was able to hypothesize based on elements such as weather patterns, events, or season where crime was more likely to happen. For example, January is not nearly as popular a time of year for pick-pockets targeting the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Their fingers could potentially freeze; plus, there’s not nearly as much outdoor traffic during that time of year. There’s a much higher likelihood of a swift fingered shadow operating in the summer, when there are millions of unsuspecting tourists all squinting open-mouthed toward the sky, marveling at the big tall buildings. 

Sure, that’s a common sense version of what her much more advanced program was capable of predicting, but you get the point.

Entering the HR Space

Rossella had no idea that her experience in the medical field and law enforcement would lead her to Wonderlic. Vital explains, however, that niche fields like human resource technology are where AI is best used in practice. Assessments are ultimately about the science of human mind and personality. Rossella’s fascination with Industrial and Organizational Psychology (IO) is surpassed only by her excitement for AI, which offers a plethora of mathematical and statistical methods that allow solutions to the complexity of the human mind and personality. 

It’s clear Rossella’s passion for AI isn’t going anywhere when she describes her goal for the current quarter at Wonderlic: propelling Wonderlic to the forefront of HR technology, using AI to make our assessments “smarter”. 

Something that Rossella and her team are very proud of is the creation of Wonderlic AI Principles. Rossella elaborates,“There are ways to predict if an ML program has bias and to maximize the interpretability of the model, which opens the black box, so to speak. We’re able to see inside to how we get from input data to output data.” Her team intends to make some key components of the code open source in the spirit of contributing to the Open Science Movement and progress in the HR/IO field. 

Needless to say, in her short time at Wonderlic, Rossella has made a huge impact. Her team has begun implementing practices that will allow the company to remain thought leaders within the HR space. Simply by acknowledging the need for these processes, she’s going where no Wonderlician had gone before. Vital is a valued member of the Wonderlic family and a force within AI. She deserves recognition as we embark on an ongoing AI series, delving into the heart of how we are using AI to redefine the future of HR. 

Stay tuned.

 

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