Meet Rinke Colen, a seasoned professional who excels at the intersection of business needs and cutting-edge technology. With a background in artificial intelligence, Rinke has honed his skills as a solution architect, adeptly bridging the gap between business requirements and innovative technology solutions.
From Philosophy to Technology: My Journey
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I have two sons and a daughter. I’ve studied in Utrecht, lived in Groningen for a while, and spent a year in Moscow during my studies. I live in Nijmegen, where I am originally from, and I really like it here as a city. I am very interested in history, art, science, and technology. I enjoy spending my time walking in nature. Professionally, I have a lot of experience in software engineering.
Very nice. You said that you spent the last year of your study in Moscow. What did you study, and how did you end up there?
Yes, that’s a good one. So, I studied artificial intelligence at Utrecht University. At first, I specialized in philosophy, but at the end of my studies, I understood that I didn’t want to become a philosopher but a technologist. So, I rebooted my study, stepped back a couple of years, and did other courses, all in the direction of mathematics and, more specifically, logic. And then, when I went to Moscow, it was like the first half year of mathematics, just education, doing courses. I did a research internship at a mathematical institute in the second half year.
So, I specialized in the mathematical side of artificial intelligence. And to make a nice bridge with what we’re currently doing, the Be Informed platform is artificial intelligence from the 80s. It’s what we call symbolic AI. It’s an expert system. Of course, by now, the platform can do much more. But at the core, it’s still there. That’s exactly the kind of artificial intelligence I studied. And, of course, I also did the modern type, the more statistical style of artificial intelligence.
Crafting Technology Solutions for Business Needs
So, when you’re talking about your work as a solution architect, do people already have a clear understanding? How do you explain your profession to your children for instance?
Firstly, I don’t think about my work in terms of fulfilling a specific role. It is more like using my talents to achieve the company’s goals. I think of my work as, okay, I have a set of talents, and how can I most effectively employ those talents to achieve those company goals? Of course, if you introduce yourself, I put a title to that, and that’s usually solution architect.
Anyway, let me explain my approach. We’re focused on building solutions as part of our current strategy. These solutions must address specific business needs. My role involves bridging the gap between the ideas and turning them into concrete products. To do this, you must first comprehend the business domain, including its processes, revenue generation, or public service in the case of government entities. Next, I translate it into functionality and technology, considering what the solution should do and which technologies are best suited. So, my responsibilities encompass understanding the business, technology, and the desired functionality while envisioning how they come together.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m engaged in two projects. The first involves collaboration with Accenture, centered on technical writing. This project delves into the world of technical writers specializing in making complex information more accessible. Just like the user manual in your car, explaining everything from troubleshooting to understanding those dashboard warning lights. The mission is to simplify intricate data for the broader audience, which defines the core vision of this product.
The second project, Workbench, centers around the legal domain, such as government legislation. We aim to capture and transform this intricate knowledge into a format that computers can comprehend. This enables these machines to analyze and reason over the contents of these laws, which can often be highly convoluted for human comprehension. Having a computer assist in understanding and applying these laws adds significant value, making this translation into a functional Workbench product more essential.
Very interesting. Considering all this information, the use of AI can be very helpful. What do you think about it?
The latest development in our field is undoubtedly the emergence of large language models like ChatGPT. This breakthrough has had a considerable impact on our Workbench project. However, there is a gap these large language models leave behind. When you pose a question to them, they try to predict the most favorable response based on extensive text analysis, aiming to generate a response that aligns with what a human would find acceptable. This approach is statistical and doesn’t always provide comprehensive information. However, what we are building is a hybrid system. So, we use a partly statistical approach and a partly ruled-based approach. Nevertheless, we continue to utilize these large language models in a supporting role. We employ them to assist in creating more understandable models, a process that demands considerable effort.
Making AI Explainable and Accountable
Are there any emerging trends or technologies that you believe will significantly shape the sector or your role specifically?
In the projects I’m currently engaged in, one primary focus is achieving explainable and accountable AI. We want our computer systems to be explainable and accountable. This is an increasing problem in many industries and domains, not just in government. Computer systems these days have become so big and broad nobody understands every detail and how big they are. That’s why we value explainibility and accountability. That’s the big trend that we are catching with the Workbench. The model I like a lot, which we use for various projects at Be Informed, is that we want to create strong partnerships. We understand what we are good at as a company; you need more expertise to build a good solution. For example, we work with people who are very good with quantum computing, risk, and compliance, which is also a critical field for some of our solutions. So, our goal is always to work together with their own expertise and create a better solution. That’s a trend I like a lot because you work with many smart people from all over the world and create something really good together.
Do not hide who you are, and let it make you thrive.
For people who pursue a similar career, what do you advise to develop these soft skills?
If you are always more focused on things rather than people, if you want to go that way only, then it’s a matter of attention. Pay attention to other people, learn what’s going on, and eventually, you will start understanding. If you are a technologist or engineer, you mostly tend to explain things. They think of something smart and will explain why it’s good. Here, your focus is on your own mind and creation. But if you put your focus on the other side of the table and switch your attention to other people, this is the fundamental change to becoming a technologist who also understands other people.
Thank you for your detailed answers. Is there anything else you would like to add or conclude with?
Well, thank you. I want to share that when you come to work, please bring your entire personality. I believe everyone’s skills and abilities are deeply connected to who they are as individuals. You can’t separate these two and still remain true to yourself. When you feel comfortable being your authentic self, your best work shines through. This, in my view, is the best approach to work. It’s one of the reasons I appreciate Be Informed so much; they value people for who they are, and it makes me feel at home. Do not hide who you are, and let it make you thrive.
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