AI in practice - interview with Google’s Sandra Calvo

Jenny Salmimäki

In our second edition of Sandra Calvo’s interview, we delve into the practical aspects of how to start utilizing AI.

How can a company make sure that they are utilizing AI as sustainably as possible?

First, companies should be able to measure the impact of the company so they can develop actions to reduce it.

Be transparent. Track and report. Set a clear goal for the future.

There are plenty of tools that can help companies to make decisions to be more sustainable. Like selecting the most sustainable data center for the business – that’s a really small step – something that’s very easy to do.

In Google Cloud, there’s a tool where you can select different data centers and it will tell you how much of it runs on renewable energy. It will also consider latency and cost, so you know the difference also in the price tag if you go to a more sustainable data center, and if the latency is enough for the company. Sustainability isn’t always the main thing in the client’s mind, but there are tools that can help you with it.

And we have tools to monitor the carbon footprint in the usage of different apps in the cloud, so use the tools you have available.

“Sustainability is a learning process”

It is also important to choose the right large language model for your use case. That’s directly connected to sustainability. You don’t need the biggest model in the market for a simple use case, and you don’t need a multi model like a Gemini, if you’re just using text prompts. Be mindful of what you are using and why. And you probably don’t need the biggest server if it’s underused all the time. There are also tools that make recommendations based on your workload and usage.

Data is central to sustainability. Use the tools to analyze the data you have and take actions. If you don’t have anyone in the building, do you need to have lights on? No. It doesn’t have to be a big sustainability plan or project, it can also be small actions.

Training people on sustainability makes an impact. Equip your team with knowledge to make better decisions and explain why it’s important. And they will keep it in their mind, so when they have to make decisions, it’s included in their decision process.

This is a process, and we will never be ready – we will never be like “yes, now we achieved sustainability!”. It’s a learning process as we’re trying to incorporate the sustainability aspect in everything we do.

How do you use AI in your own work and personal life? Got any good tips based on your own experiences?

At work I talk so much about AI, and use it in anything and everything I do, from building slides to writing emails.

But what I’m more excited about is using AI to help me code.

I’m an engineer – not a developer, not a data scientist. I wish I could have skills to do all those things, but now with these tools I don’t have to start from scratch, which I’m so excited about. I have my coding assistant that will help me build some code – and I’m skilled enough to modify the code. I’ve been creating a lot of demos lately – not so pretty, but working demos – because I have this helper.

On the personal side, I’ve been using AI to write custom stories for my kids. My oldest is three year-old and youngest is one year-old. With AI, I’ve been combining their names and their favorite characters, and things they like in a very weird story, but it has all the success pieces. And at least my oldest one has been very happy with the AI stories. She doesn’t know they are made with AI, she thinks I’m very creative – maybe one day she will find out that it wasnt me.

Sandra’s tips for using AI:

  • Be critical of AI and be aware of the risks- it’s a tool and it can be used however we want to use it
  • When prompting, if you’re nicer, the AI will respond better because it mimics human behaviour
  • We are very lucky to be present in the time when AI is exploding, so be creative, have fun, and be a nice person.

Sandra Calvo is a cloud engineer at Google. Studied electrical engineering, and started her career in the energy network automation industry. Loves IoT and AI. Built an app to never be late from the bus. Part of the Mimmit koodaa community.