Edna Ezzell thrives on staying uncomfortable. She got a dose of discomfort early in life when she moved from Guam, a tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific, to attend college at the University of Maryland.
Aiming to boost her engineering education, Ezzell applied to transfer to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—while wondering if she was qualified to compete there. She was accepted to the school, which is known for research and education in the physical sciences and engineering.
“You always have to have a little bit of sense of being uncomfortable,” Ezzell says. “There should be a little bit of a fear in the middle of your gut. That’s how you grow. That's how you continue to move forward.”
At Accenture, where she has been working for the past six years, the twentysomething engineer has ascended quickly into management. Recently, Ezzell took on a new role that keeps her, as she says, “a little bit nervous. I have to remind myself that that means I'm continuing to grow.”
Her assignment was in robotic process automation—or intelligent automation. Ezzell is implementing software products that perform repetitive processes that people used to have to do. For instance, in the mortgage origination process, advanced software inputs loan applicants’ information—a laborious task that employees previously performed. Meanwhile, work that is judgment-based and higher value is left for human beings to handle.
Intelligent automation isn’t about robots taking over our work. “This is about making the jobs of the future more satisfactory,” Ezzell says, “and leaving the manual, repetitive work to the robots.”
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