2017 IBM Fellow Hillery Hunter Fosters Technology Innovation in Cognitive Computing
Every year, IBM recognizes a select number of employees for distinction in technology innovation as IBM Fellows. The program began in 1963, and fellows include a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, five Turing Award winners, five Nobel prize winners and a Kyoto Prize winner.
As a group, IBM Fellows are responsible for over 9,500 patents. This year, 11 have received the highest honor for what IBM lauds as “groundbreaking achievements in cognitive computing, design thinking, next-generation memory technology, cryptography, financial services, data warehousing, quantum computing, cloud and analytics.”
They join 278 peers who have been named IBM Fellows for their efforts in technology innovation over the past 54 years.
IBM Fellow Hillery Hunter Promotes Cognitive Infrastructure
Among the members of the class of 2017 is Hillery Hunter, director of accelerated cognitive infrastructure at IBM Research. She holds a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. IBM lauds Hunter as “a respected industry expert in next-generation memory technology.”
Hunter says she’s currently working to pull together “compute infrastructure that is cost-performance advantaged for cognitive workloads, largely in the areas of machine and deep learning.” Her projects span focus areas from cognitive and storage to cloud and Watson.
Innovation doesn’t take place in a vacuum, however. For Hunter, the best part of her job is “seeing separate teams form a new understanding of each other’s technical areas and together come to a better solution.”
Technology Innovation Through Mentorship
Hunter recognizes how important it is to have expert guidance to drive innovative ideas forward. Over the course of her career, she’s had four mentors. She reflects that these teachers have “invested in me since the start of my time at IBM, so I try to consistently make time for mentees.” Mentorship is so important to her that she’s devoted substantial personal time toward ensuring the next generation of innovators develop their skills and leadership capabilities.
As IBM offers a wide breadth of knowledge across a myriad of disciplines, Hunter notes that she was drawn to the company because she knew she “could always find someone who had mastery of a topic I was interested in.”
When Hunter runs into a problem, one of the first things she does is seek wisdom from others who have dealt with the problem before and then build on that knowledge. She says she does this “to connect in pieces from adjacent domains and explore directions others haven’t previously pursued.”
She reflects that tackling tough problems requires humility and a willingness “to learn from others’ knowledge and missteps.” When faced with obstacles, she says it’s crucial to be “willing to team with others to help solve the problem.”
Right now, Hunter’s mentoring focus is on technical employees at IBM’s international research and development labs, as well as those making career transitions into cognitive areas.
Participating in External Technology Groups
Hunter also invests in the technical community outside IBM and is actively involved as a program committee member and conference organizer.
“Making the time for technical community service is important, as it also helps keep us connected to the technical pipeline, helps foster IBM’s reputation in the external technical community and helps keep skills and knowledge fresh,” she notes.