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Mara is an Associate Director at McKinsey & Company in London. With more than eight years of experience designing and building data and AI solutions, Mara focuses on operationalizing AI in the fabric of organizations' business. Her mission has the overarching objective of finding the strategic intersection between AI models, human intents, and business needs.

Mara is an 

AI-savvy humanist

Mara uses a humanistic approach to overcome the barrier to AI operationalization

Mara has been designing and building AI solutions across different industries, from financial services to telecom to travel to renewable energy. The frenzy of new AI and generative AI technologies has brought excitement around AI potential. Yet, organizations still struggle with activation, deployment, and risk governance. Mara adopts human-centered methods she developed to help organizations overcome these three challenges.


By witnessing the evolution of AI, from its early adoption, Mara realized that we need to outgrow the merely technical conversations around this technology and frame them as a quest around the problems AI can solve for people, along with its implications. For Mara, every facet of AI, from validation, debugging, and exploration to interpretability, governance, and fairness, should be first codified through the lens of human needs.


Humans should become the pivot of AI to trigger a cultural shift in a world driven by mechanical processes —mostly black boxes— that people don't know how to question and interpret. Humanising AI involves applying AI with a purpose where it matters to people. 

Mara’s practice spans across AI deployment, strategy, and governance

Prior to joining McKinsey, Mara served as Lead AI Strategy at IBM. After starting as a data journalist with  the IBM Data Science and AI Elite team, her mission expanded and evolved into leading the AI Strategy team for the IBM's Chief AI Officer by infusing a human-centered approach into AI software and development practices across IBM Software, Design, and Research business units. 


In her role at IBM, Mara worked with a large variety of clients, like Lufthansa, Lloyds, Altice Group, Rolls Royce, James Fisher & Sons, ABC Bank, Ascendum, Salesforce among many. She designed holistic AI strategies and built AI solutions with data scientists and engineers to help organizations rearchitect their business and transform it with AI by advancing their technology roadmap. 


Having identified a gap between people, business, and AI, Mara developed a well-defined framework for AI strategy for C-suite executives to unleash their business's full potential by uncovering innovative use cases through the lens of users' and customers' problems. Mara scaled the framework across IBM by directly working with IBM's Chief AI Officer and Chief Design Officer.


Mara's impact on IBM's culture is also reflected in the creation of IBM's first certified Data Storytelling program. Mara devised and created the curriculum after realizing the need to develop new skills among professionals to communicate data effectively. After its launch at the end of 2021, the program became part of the IBM AI Skills Academy. When she left the company, the data storytelling classes of the curriculum had been attended by more than 2,000 attendees.

Mara's unique approach to AI is rooted in data journalism

Mara received a Bachelor's Degree in Classics and a Master's Degree in Linguistics with an emphasis on data design at the University of Milan, where she graduated Summa cum Laude. Yet, by training, Mara's background is in data journalism. In fact, besides being trained as a humanist, she is also a self-taught coder. 

Mara started her professional career at Accurat, a data-driven design innovation agency co-founded by Data Designer and Partner at Pentagram Giorgia Lupi. 

Following that experience, Mara won a scholarship at the University of Southern California, where she earned a second master's degree in Data Journalism, having had the chance to build her own curriculum at the intersection of computer science and journalism.

During her time as a data journalist earlier in her career, she worked with major design agencies and newsrooms, like Pentagram —where she was part of Gioggia Lupi's team for the data-driven fashion collection commissioned by &OtherStories, Esquire Magazine —where she published a data story around Covid-19 data, and Al Jazeera's Doha Hub.

Mara is a prominent voice advocating for human-centered AI

Mara has had two books published to date exploring how to weave a humanistic approach into the data and AI practices: Artificial Humans: For a humanistic approach to algorithms —Umani Artificiali, Published December 2022 in Milan— and How to Communicate with Data — Come comunicare con i dati, Published May 2018 in Milan. 

In Artificial Humans, Mara makes the case for the need to develop new practices that center the design and development of AI on humans by exploring people, not only from the dimension of the action as users, but also from the dimensions of the feeling and thinking. To achieve that, Mara sets the vision of growing a new generation of professionals that she named data-savvy humanists. These new experts will keep algorithms in check. They will become the future of organizations by pushing AI forward to transform data and algorithms into grand visions. They will illuminate enterprises’ path toward a responsible and meaningful AI-power transformation.

In Communicating with Data, starting with the analysis of Big Data, Mara introduces new techniques and disciplines developed to extract knowledge from data and give shape to information. She explains how to analyze and represent data in order to use it as a means for communication — a key skill that people need in any industry. 

Mara’s mission is to move the conversation on AI and our culture forward

Mara's work and research around AI have seen her speaking at numerous events and institutions, including the World AI Cannes Festival, The New York AI Summit, the Women in Tech initiative organized by London Tech Week, and the Responsible AI Summit in Cambridge, where she was invited to share her perspective as an expert on AI deployment and governance and join the community of 70+ executive leaders in Responsible AI. 


Alongside her public speaking appearances, Mara has also been an AI strategy instructor at the London School of Economics for the AI Journalism Academy, sponsored by Google News Lab. 


These opportunities don't solely focus on public events. Mara's work, publications, and research at such a young age has seen her invited to speak about her point of view on AI and her inspirational and unique career path as a lecturer at the Royal College of Arts in London, Bologna Business School in Bologna, The Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Toronto, University of California in Santa Barbara, and LUMSA University in Rome. 

Awards and Recognitions

More recently, Mara has been nominated among the list of the Top 10  women in AI in the UK.


She was recognized Inspirational Women by WeAreTechWomen magazine. She was also featured as a role model in AI by McKinsey & Company as part of the Humans Behind AI project.


Mara has already won several awards during her short career to date. In 2017, she won the Thomas Campbell Jackson and Pamela Brandt Jackson Award in Science & Technology, and the Virginia Middleton Endowed Journalism Scholarships Award.


She won IBM's Top Performer Award in 2021 and was nominated among the Recognition Experience honourees. That same year, she also won an award for IBM innovation. 

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