Initially, Namratha Nandagopal was not overly enthusiastic about the engineering degree in computer science that her family nudged her to pursue. However, after translating a business requirement into a time-saving piece of code at her first job, she recalls being “thrilled to bits” and felt that she had found her purpose.
Namratha is now the Director of Application Development and Quality Assurance at Resorts World Las Vegas, the Strip’s first ground-up resort in more than a decade. In her role, she oversees and manages in-house software development and testing efforts across all systems in the property.
“One of my current projects is programming and implementing Amelia which will act as the resort’s digital concierge designed to help guests with everything from dinner reservations to meeting requests,” says Namratha. “We also plan to use this technology for Team Member communications where employees can ask questions and submit requests.” This project contributes to the resort’s task of creating the “newest integrated resort on the Strip.”
AI has infinite potential to enhance operations in the gaming and hospitality industry, which has only become more apparent during the pandemic. As Namratha points out, “it is becoming more important to provide contactless, easy-to-use solutions that give guests on-demand customer service – from requesting extra towels, making a restaurant reservation or finding out if your favorite show is playing tonight.”
Namratha’s years of experience working at different Las Vegas resorts gives her insight into how customer service impacts the likelihood of a customer returning to the resort for future visits. She believes technology can be leveraged to tackle different customer service situations. “For example, Amelia can offer a discount or complimentary service to an unhappy guest to turnaround his or her experience,” says Namratha.
Since implementing that piece of code in her first job, Namratha’s excitement for the field of AI has continued to grow. She says “the ‘newness’ of everything we do is so exciting. I love coming into work every day and working on projects that are the path to future innovation.”
Specifically within the gaming and hospitality industry, Namratha is excited to see how AI can be utilized to keep guests connected through their entire experience. She also believes the technology can help hospitality businesses learn more about their guests, which will allow them to offer better guest recommendations before they even ask for them. “I like that you can potentially take a piece of code and translate it into a smile on a guest’s face,” she says.
Namratha also knows that some people are concerned about the potential impact of AI technology on human employees. “I think there is a fear that AI will decrease the need for humans in certain manual jobs,” she says, but at the same time AI will create new career opportunities within AI development.
Entering and excelling in STEM careers can feel daunting, but mentors can provide guidance on how to navigate and succeed in a career path. For example, Namratha shares three key learnings from the mentor who inspired her. First, “it is okay to be shy and unsure, but it is also okay to speak up in a room full of assertive men.” Second, “it is okay to have an accent and a complicated name, but you must believe in yourself, before anyone else can.” Finally, “we may be a victim of ‘imposter’s syndrome,’ but we must break the shackles of self-doubt to soar to success.”
Fostering an interest in STEM from a young age can help increase the number of women and girls pursuing careers in AI. Namratha suggests encouraging young girls to “build complicated Lego sets and nudge them towards potential robotics and coding subjects.”
For women currently pursuing careers in STEM, Namratha encourages women to “embrace risk and experimentation,” and to educate themselves “in innovative approaches in technology.” Namratha says women should not let others tell them they “can’t have a family and a successful career,” and reminds women that they are “as or more capable than the confident man next door.”
“There is no glass ceiling,” Namratha says. “Reach for the stars and don’t forget to have fun.”