Mara is a strategist sitting at the intersection of AI, data journalism, and design.
Mara is an Associate Design Director currently working with McKinsey Digital and Analytics. She shaped her practice at the intersection of data design, AI, and strategy, after realizing that organizations urgently need professionals that help them develop an AI strategy to transform ML models and algorithms into tangible business value.
In her previous role at IBM, Mara founded the AI Strategy practice. Back in 2019, to address the sharp fracture between analytics and the business, she created a human-centered method to help organizations bring AI to the heart of their business startegy. After joining IBM in January 2019 as the only data journalist in a team of data scientists, Mara understood very early that the misconception of AI intended as merely a plug-in technology apt to automate existing processes was confining AI to the periphery of organizations, far away from the business strategy. When AI strategy wasn't even a thing,
Mara realized that the gap between business and technology was preventing many organizations from developing foresight and creative visions of how to pursfully adopt AI to rearchitect the modern enterprise. She became the first ever AI Strategist leading the AI Strategy practice worldwide across IBM, first with the AI Strategy Office and then with the Design Program Office.
Mara is a data-savvy humanist weaving AI into business dynamics.
Mara's unique approach to data storytelling helps both business leaders and technical stakeholders give strategic purpose to AI. By aligning AI with humans’ values and business intents, Mara works with the C-suite of large organizations as well as with IBM’s teams to develop human-centered strategies in AI by using human needs as a lens to frame data and AI problems.
Mara's editorial approach to data and AI has innovated data science methods: her novel way of analyzing data and AI problems through an editorial perspective by bringing together strategy, AI, and data storytelling, helped many organizations lay out the vision for their AI strategy. Mara’s forward-looking ideas of combining data design with design thinking have become an iconic methodology that has fundamentally changed IBM’s go-to-market strategy and that today is known as IBM Enterprise Design Thinking for Data and AI.
Mara is the creator of the first certified data storytelling program at IBM.
Mara is the creator of the first certified data storytelling program at IBM. She devised this curriculum after realizing the need for developing new skills among professionals to communicate data effectively. The program, launched at the end of 2021, is part of the IBM AI Skills Academy and today counts more than 1700 candidates. Mara has strategically designed the data storytelling practice to contribute to transforming IBM’s culture with new skills that emphasize the human and rhetoric side of data and that foster data democratization across the organization.
Mara advocates for humanizing AI.
Mara has worked with many large organizations, including Rolls-Royce, Lufthansa, James Fisher & Sons, Esquire magazine, ABC bank, and QIIB bank,
As a data journalist, she worked with major design agencies and newsrooms, like Pentagram —where she was part of Giorgia Lupi’s team for the data-driven fashion collection commissioned by &OtherStories, and Esquire magazine, where she published a data story around covid-19 data.
Mara is a published author: her first book about the art of communicating with data in the age of information design was published in Milan in 2018.
Mara has been an AI strategy instructor at the London School of Economics for the AI Journalism Academy sponsored by Google News Lab. Along with that, Mara also lectured at the LUMSA University in Rome and at the Bologna Business School.
She has spoken at numerous events and institutions about data storytelling and how to humanize AI, and she is a keen advocate for the union of the humanities and the STEM: for Mara, data allows us to connect these two apparently different domains.
What sets Mara apart is her unique background: she is a polymath
Mara received a Bachelor's Degree in Classics and a Master's Degree in Digital Humanities with an emphasis on data visualization at the University of Milan, where she graduated Summa cum Laude. Besides being trained as a humanist, she is also a self-taught coder.
After an experience as a researcher at the University of Milan in the academic course of digital communication, she started working at Accurat, a data visualization design, research, and innovation studio with offices in Milan and New York.
In 2017, she won two scholarships—the Thomas Campbell Jackson and Pamela Brandt Jackson Fellowship in Science & Technology and the Virginia Middleton Endowed Journalism Scholarships Fund— for a Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
After completing the MA in Journalism with a specialization in data journalism, she started working for the Doha bureau of Al Jazeera English as a freelance data journalist.
In January 2019, she joined IBM as a data journalist for the Data Science & AI Elite team. In June 2020, she joined the IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software CDO team as a Senior Data Designer and Strategist. At the beginning of 2021, she became the first Lead AI Strategy for IBM’s AI Strategy Office. In November 2022, she joined McKinsey, as an Associate Design Director.