Dell Technologies’ Gustavo Soares: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Prioritize Data Security and Ethics: AI systems rely on vast datasets. The importance of data security and ethical considerations is enormous. Data breaches are more likely than not to happen to significant PC manufacturers and other OEMs and tech firms that have access to personal data. Such an event erodes brand trust. Therefore, implementing robust data protection measures and ethical guidelines for AI usage becomes paramount, ensuring that innovation does not come at the cost of privacy or moral compromise. Significant investments in security and unimpeachable transparency by brands need to be made.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gustavo Soares. Gustavo creates gaming experiences that users don’t even know they want yet. He tells stories to get them excited about a future not too far away and ultimately gives gamers something in their hands that they can be proud of. He dreams of new ways to play and transcend the desk, hands, or wall. He is a product manager and technology marketer of large-scale consumer tech products and lets the product tell user stories, marrying the visceral and the technical. He brings both his startup ethos to buck bureaucracy and his focus on data to empathize with users and ultimately deliver products and stories over which users will obsess.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My name is Gustavo Soares. I am a global product manager at Dell Technologies, managing Alienware gaming notebooks and any new form factors.

I’m a product guy at heart. There’s nothing more satisfying than having someone else enjoy something you created. I love making things people don’t even know they want yet. It goes beyond your standard “corporate analysis” of why something must exist. Sometimes, you understand and feel what your customers want and know you can deliver something that will excite them.

Alienware has been the perfect runway for expressing user empathy and generating wonder and excitement. It is the apex of PC gaming gear. As a product manager at Alienware, I’ve created and launched multiple award-winning gaming notebooks and products.

With every successful product manager always comes a bit of luck. Frank Azor, one of the founders of Alienware, took a chance on me as I was finishing my MBA and wanted to transition into hardware product management. I interned at Alienware during the summer, and they asked me to return full-time.

They created a role for me and asked me to tackle the significant product issues holding the brand back. Despite the open nature of the role, I changed the brand for the better and got an overall view of the business.

Eventually, I transitioned into managing different product lines and developing the core of the technology behind our gaming notebooks. Today, I’ve created over 15 products beyond the initial form factor, and I am super excited about what’s coming. I oversee the initial idea, from its paper exercise to launch. It is a fantastic experience to work together with some of the most brilliant people I know to create products people are excited to buy.

The core of my success in the past ten years has stemmed from the single principle of user empathy. This is the ability to feel as your customer feels about their concerns, aspirations, and goals and try to give them a tool to live out the story they tell about their lives.

True product management is the antithesis of corporatism and bureaucracy, which are bound to slow down hyper-growth. Clayton Christensen, the author of one of our generation’s most significant business books, “Innovator’s Dilemma,” proved that most organizations are ultimately unable to productize disruptive technologies because those technologies threaten the success of their current business model.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Alienware is the apex brand in the PC gaming world. Many refer to it as the “Apple of Gaming.” It has ushered many disruptive innovations in the industry throughout its existence. It began the RGB revolution in PCs about ten years ahead of everyone else. It created PC desktops with unique and iconic designs that inspired a new industry of enthusiast gaming. It made gaming notebooks a category of their own worldwide.

We are now at a different stage. We are at the cusp of a new revolution. We are dreaming and planning the next generation of devices. What will amaze our Alienware friends and family? What do they not even know they want yet?

Due to more recent developments, we are also asking some of the most challenging questions: What is the proper place of AI in PC gaming? Is it, and will it improve the gaming experience? What is the role of hardware manufacturers in the AI space?

The next three years will likely be among the most exciting in the entire industry. Prepare to be dazzled and amazed.

One of my formative experiences at Alienware has been listening to customers describe how many years they’ve been saving their hard-earned money to buy Alienware desktops and notebooks, even in some of the most challenging economic conditions we’ve seen in decades worldwide.

So, as a product manager, I have a fundamental calling to empathize with my Alienware friends and family and use every power I have to deliver on the promise we make as a brand.

You are a booming business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Please share a story or example for each.

Deep, unrelenting curiosity: The best antidote to fake-till-you-make-it is deep, unrelenting, shameless curiosity. Ask all the questions, even the dumbest ones. In meetings, if you are not understanding something, don’t be afraid to ask what it means. Chances are many in the same meeting have the same questions you do.

One of my first jobs out of college was doing business analysis for a large retailer. Retailers are, by definition, some of the most culturally traditional businesses that operate on hyper-thin margins. Leaders in that industry make some of the most challenging decisions, all based on insights drawn from billions upon billions of rows of data consumed, summarized, and charted into understandable stories by analysts right out of school.

As a self-taught data analyst, I had to use only my wit and deductive reasoning to try and understand all the jargon and terminology and how that impacted my insights. But honestly, without asking for help, it can only take you so far.

One day, my manager pulled me aside upon seeing my struggles to deliver our weekly reporting and the critical decisions that came along with it. He assured me that it was okay to ask questions. As an analyst, furiously learning and applying knowledge was essential. I don’t have to struggle alone. My ego was unpufffed then, and I understood that whatever air of competency I was trying to convey was less critical than deep learning and asking a million questions.

Warren Buffett famously has dinners with industry upstarts and spends 100% of the time asking questions about how things work, their perspectives, and what’s next. He knows there’s an edge to knowledge.

Bone-level customer empathy: Empathy is the core of innovation that disrupts and changes humanity.

It is not simply on the shoulders of a “build it, and they will come” that disruptive innovation happens. In putting ourselves in the shoes of everyday people, armed with the technical knowledge to create solutions, the magic happens.

Take SoundMind, a startup that had as its inspiration a dear friend of the founders who struggled with hearing loss, often feeling isolated in conversations and wanting to hear with clarity, regardless of the noise around. This personal connection to the problem fueled their mission with a unique blend of technological innovation and deep empathy.

“Empathy is our guiding star,” said the CEO of SoundMind, a statement that became the company’s mantra. Unlike other prominent players in the industry, this small team embarked on a journey to build a device and create a bridge between people, making every conversation accessible.

After years of iterations and prototypes, the SoundMind team developed an AI hearing aid that was more than just a gadget; it was a lifeline for those sidelined by traditional technology. It adapts in real-time to the sounds it reproduces based on the surroundings and the direction of the sounds, with the user’s comfort at the center of the technology. The SoundMind team had crafted a solution that felt less like technology and more like a part of the user’s senses.

At the heart of every great innovation lies a simple truth: understanding and caring for human needs makes us better innovators and humans.

Vision, Vision, Vision: A product manager’s most fundamental contribution to any team is co-creating a Product Vision that teams can rally around and use as their main evangelizer.

Steve Jobs famously said, “If you are working on something exciting you care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” A clear vision gives employees a sense of purpose and direction, driving them to achieve extraordinary results. Your job is to wield the banner of the product vision and inspire team members.

There will be a million reasons to stop, to say it’s impossible, and to take the easy road. You can have procurement telling you it will be too expensive to make, you can have engineering telling you the physics are not playing in your favor, and you can have legal telling you your large organization can’t take that risky road. Ultimately, unless you, as a product manager, do not fight for your vision, no one else will.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI within hardware is not just a trend; it’s already a transformative force that is changing how we approach problem-solving and product creation. To say it’s exciting is an understatement. Here are a few ways that AI will change hardware:

– Drive efficiency in product creation. Take a look at Visily and Adobe Sensei. It is changing wireframing and generating workflows. Imagine coming up with three different prototypes for customer-facing software that you will put in front of your customers in the afternoon.

– Help generate insights from customer data. Even with corporate tools like Co-Pilot, you can draw customer insights from usage right on Excel. Dump lines and lines of data onto your spreadsheets and ask the Co-pilot to draw general insights and explanations that lead to a particular parameter, like sales or margin. Imagine knowing what your customer ultimately cares about, even with something more surface-level, like how much they are willing to pay.

– Machine-learning algorithms have already made systems more energy efficient and better performing. At the forefront of this effort has been Intel with Intel DTT. It customizes power settings to adapt power usage and temperature intelligently. It predicts workload needs and makes dynamic adjustments. Another important one created by Nvidia is called DLSS, or Deep Learning Super Sampling. It uses an AI model to analyze frames in-game and construct new ones — either at a higher resolution or in addition to the existing frames. It uses Supersampling to sample a frame at a lower resolution and then uses that sample to construct a higher-resolution frame. It made games much smoother and at a fraction of the power usage. It is crucial for gaming notebooks under higher power restrictions than desktops.

There is a guiding principle for applying AI features to products: don’t just try to ride the wave. Every tech product leader today has been thrust into the world of AI and is required to answer the question: How do I integrate AI into my products?

If the answer is because “there’s so much power in it” or “we need to do something,” then the answer is that you are not ready yet; go deeper. If the answer is a product vision where customers’ lives are improved, you may be on to something that requires deeper study. It needs to enhance their experience with your brand. It can’t be a buzzwordy addition to your line-up.

I’m optimistic about our bottom line. AI-driven solutions attuned to customers’ preferences can build a strong foundation for sustainable growth. Customers will have evolving expectations, and the industry will grow in its capacity.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

The impact will be felt once we fully integrate customer advocacy/feedback with product management and engineering. We can have a fully collaborative process with the user where they give us real-time feedback and with an AI model allowing us to modify products on the go.

One very noticeable impact has already been Machine Learning DTT from Intel in gaming. Gaming notebooks are taken to their extremes and must perform at their best in-game during the most brutal online battles and at their quietest for classes or meetings. As such, striking the right balance of fan noise, heat generation, and performance is of fundamental importance. MLDTT allows us to do just that.

It runs thousands of scenarios multiple times with the dimensions and product inputs to determine the point where the system is most efficient.

We can only expect such technologies to get smarter and intake much larger data sets, like a dynamic use of applications, whether you are in a public environment or have people around you. The opportunities are endless.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

In the last year, we’ve seen a shift where all brands use AI-related terminology to buzz themselves into relevance. In personal computing, we’ve had cycles of such technologies, but none so profound as this one.

But I’m also highly optimistic. We’ve seen the integration of AI into everyday computing, even something as corporate as asking Co-pilot to run regressions and models from the current data available. Or ask AI to read through your emails and give you a to-do list for the day, with drafted emails as responses to some of the biggest questions. All you need to do is approve the language and content.

From a gaming perspective, the application will be even more enjoyable. Imagine that now, when you play a shooter game, you can have your AI-led opponents adapt to your style of play and make the game progressively harder, the same way much simpler chess models do today with world-renowned chess masters.

There are even other applications in the graphics space. Imagine that in-game, with access to eye movement, fed by a camera, the AI can figure out your next step, and you can forego the mouse altogether.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

Product Management has many tools that help with software output and coding generation. There is already a colossal disruption there. Companies must train employees to use those tools appropriately to help them output better, highly optimized code. They also need to set appropriate safeguards in their workflows to ensure data relevant to intellectual property won’t be shared beyond the company’s digital borders.

This is also relevant for Hardware Product Management. Imagine a world where a single tool or environment can take in engineering schematics, calculate changes and their impact on the business in real-time, and output relevant marketing claims. Doing this in reverse, automatized, opens incredible opportunities.

There will likely be a productivity boon. Many are concerned that white-collar jobs will be affected; that’s been the narrative in the media. However, companies are foregoing a much larger opportunity where senior leadership can now absolutely achieve way more. All those projects they’ve had to put aside due to resource constraints can now be addressed quickly.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

AI expertise has come faster than Bitcoin expertise. I don’t say this cynically. People are genuinely engaged and excited for what seems like a promising future. They are consuming every corporate class that can cover AI, its foundational principles, and how to help employees dip their toes into this productivity boon. To go beyond a corporate fad, there are three crucial things to do or consider:

Employers need to trust that their knowledge workers are there to co-create a future for the company. Don’t treat AI like the internet in the late 90s. With the fear that people would spend their time at work in forums and chat rooms, IT managers blocked web addresses and other restrictive measures to maintain productivity. Artificial Intelligence will progress faster than any IT manager’s ability to consume its capability. So trust your employees. Hold them to improved results, not stricter rules.

Foster a culture of experimentation and integration. 3M famously gave its employees time on Fridays to work on personal projects. Whether the project was relevant to the business was primarily up to the employee to decide. The same can be done for AI. A manager or senior leader will only have some answers on integrating AI, so lean on your employees to guide the way.

Trust but verify. AI-generated outputs will be impressive and, at times, unbelievable. But given how early in the development cycle these technologies are, it will be supremely important to check on code, lines of data, and even workflows related to AI. With language models ever improving and datasets becoming increasingly dynamic, develop validation checkpoints. AI can even be used for countermeasures to sanity check outputs.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

At the heart of AI are the data the models are trained on. When we talk about customer data, we should respect that our users trust brands to be ethical and expect the highest care with that data. With that come three ways companies are or should tackle these concerns.

First, users should understand that AI models may utilize the available data to improve products and features. When presented with the knowledge, they will realize that brands are good faith actors and are more likely to trust their data, which will subsequently improve the training data used for AI models.

Secondly, allow space for employees to both take credit and openly cite the tools used to produce deliverables, including AI. Much like Excel or any other corporate tool, without human input and ingenuity, AI is just that: a tool. If culture is applied incorrectly, there will be a temptation, and employees will have to hide the fact that they are using AI models to produce deliverables. Whether they are pictures for presentations or a true day-to-day assistant that generates insights on data, AI use should be encouraged and celebrated.

Thirdly, with AI being introduced in PCs worldwide, users should know what specific AI tools are being used at the machine level. We are not expecting AI to become sentient tomorrow and bring Skynet, but transparency on how AI integrates into their devices can build trust. It also improves marketing. If brands are using the sound output and changing the equalizer on the go to enhance the hearing experience, make it available and be proud of that feature.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

  1. Embrace Continuous Learning: The AI revolution is already demanding constant adaptation. For instance, a software engineer who once specialized in traditional programming languages may need to pivot toward machine learning and neural network design. This isn’t merely about staying relevant; it’s about survival in a new market with jobs that don’t exist today. Imagine a scenario where this engineer, through self-directed learning, becomes pivotal in developing an AI-driven interface that revolutionizes user interaction with PCs. You can already see so many offerings from Stanford, Harvard, and UT-Austin that provide courses, some even free, to help individuals on this continuous learning path.
  2. Invest in AI Integration: PC manufacturers and OEMs must adapt to AI and fully integrate AI features into their products and services. A prime example is a PC hardware manufacturer pivoting towards creating AI-powered chips. While OEMs are not making the chips and processors, they must invest in engineer cycles to engage the likes of Intel, AMD, and others to bring great AI products to the market.
  3. Prioritize Data Security and Ethics: AI systems rely on vast datasets. The importance of data security and ethical considerations is enormous. Data breaches are more likely than not to happen to significant PC manufacturers and other OEMs and tech firms that have access to personal data. Such an event erodes brand trust. Therefore, implementing robust data protection measures and ethical guidelines for AI usage becomes paramount, ensuring that innovation does not come at the cost of privacy or moral compromise. Significant investments in security and unimpeachable transparency by brands need to be made.
  4. Foster Collaborations and Partnerships: AI-based technologies are airplanes being built while flying, which extends into the ecosystem that relies on those technologies. Collaboration between PC manufacturers, software developers, and AI research institutions can lead to groundbreaking innovations. The collaboration between Microsoft and OpenAI is a prime example of how partnerships can drive tangible AI innovation. Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI, coupled with their collaboration on developing and deploying powerful AI models like GPT-3, showcases the potential of strategic partnerships to accelerate technological advancements and integration of AI across products, including Azure cloud services, and potentially influencing the Windows operating system, enhancing capabilities for PC users.
  5. Live in a world of user empathy and delight: The heart of successful AI integrations into PCs will be guided by empathetic product leaders who can understand users’ struggles but also understand what delights them. This will come in a variety of ways and will vary widely for the different OEMs. Imagine a scenario where OEMs use AI algorithms to analyze customer feedback and market trends in real-time to tease out customer issues and more confidently and decisively adjust their product/feature roadmap. Apple has already demonstrated this by leveraging AI for personalized recommendations, improved camera functionalities, and seamless integration across devices, illustrating its ability to predict and meet consumer demands and maintaining Apple’s competitive edge in the market.

What are your industry’s most common misconceptions about AI, and how do you address them?

Firstly, AI integration in PCs is surface-level, a buzzword. This could not be farther from the truth. Whether in board optimization, performance tuning, image calibration, or integration into productivity, AI has been integrated into delivering great PC and notebook experiences. As product managers, we are already integrating these AI-related talking points into our Product Requirement Documents and Marketing Requirement Documents; otherwise, they won’t reach users’ ears.

Secondly, AI workloads are primarily cloud-based execution, and PCs are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Early in the AI hype cycle, there were comments that device-level processing was dead and that we were upon a new dawn of cloud computing. But it is now clear that is not the case. Tech companies developing large LLMs cannot deliver an AI future that includes fully managing the hardware, especially where there simply isn’t enough processing supply in the market. Product managers in the PC space will have to think about simultaneously prioritizing AI workloads and supplying NPUs with enough power and thermal capacity while not hurting GPU- and CPU-based tasks. This is especially true for systems that spend most of their time outside AI workloads, but that will increasingly be integrated.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I’m an avid reader of Tolkien’s works. In my teens, I had just learned to speak English, and one of the first great works I read in English was Lord of the Rings. I fell in love with Tolkien’s world and the themes of true friendship, individual purpose, and personal sacrifice.

Aragorn, the king in waiting, almost a messianic figure in Middle-Earth, sang in a tune to his friends, “All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost.” This reminds me that wandering, literally and metaphorically, is often part of my self-discovery process and that actual value and purpose are not always where I expect to find them.

During my early college career, I changed my major five times, going from Psychology (because I wanted to learn about people), Animation (because I wanted to be closer to video gaming) and finally settling with Public Relations (because I wanted to use my ability to communicate effectively) and Communications research. With the data analysis skills I gained during my undergraduate studies, I became a self-taught business analyst.

Eventually, I rediscovered that what I wanted to do all along was to create hardware that would make people happy and excited. There’s a moment of magic where people obsess and dream over a product with high hopes and dreams. Being part of this experience as a product leader is an absolute honor. Alienware has given me the feeling in my bones to share in the excitement of friends and family and a home to employ my empathy, love for gaming, and ability to communicate in a single place.

I’ve also realized that in life, there is no rewriting, editing, or embellishing (not authentically anyway). There are only new chapters that are part of an adventurous arc. It is up to us to discover within the great arc of our lives and spend time doing the things that will give us the most meaning.

This is off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

My primary concern in my job is whether I’m defending ideas because they are, in fact, the best I can do for my users or if I’m fulfilling a corporate KPI. Sometimes, these are obvious; other times, where competing KPIs exist within large companies, one may focus on selfish gamesmanship instead of sound, quality decision-making for my customer or user.

In my meetings, we have stated our Product Vision and Mission and had robust discussions to ensure we are always aligned with our vision and goals. These goals have to be tied to insights of empathy and wonderment.

I have an Empathy model, where empathetic insights will inform solutions that inspire individuals, which can turn into an overarching Product Vision. This is a modified Jobs-to-be-Done framework used by many product managers, where each step influences the next, but at its core is empathy.

To say that empathy is the guiding principle is an understatement. It is the very heart of the co-creation of fantastic ideas.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We’ve gone through many cycles where changes in culture and society were at an absolute breaking point: women’s rights, civil rights, individual liberties, and freedoms. Today, it is overdue that we defend our ability to grow and strengthen families.

The rates of divorce and single-parent homes are skyrocketing. Population stagnation and decline are observed in all advanced economies under the pretense that children are too high of an economic burden. And finally, we have a hustle culture that says we must put our secular and professional ambitions ahead of family and personal growth.

This inversion of values is making our societies more depressed, more anxious, more violent, more disconnected, and more distrustful of essential institutions.

In a loving family environment, whether these relationships are by birth or by choice, we have people who support us unconditionally, a steadfast arm of support. Having this support widens the margin of errors we can make without catastrophe. People need belonging.

How can our readers further follow you online?

@gooseinc on X

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.