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Growing up with Filipino and Mexican parents who were both in IT senior management at Pacific Bell, Michael Sabado was inspired to become a leader in the field from an early age. Many of the values he holds today as vice president of IT enterprise platforms at Golden 1 Credit Union also runs deep, with one being his strong belief in the power of helping people.
“Some of my Filipino ancestors were brought on ships to help lepers on a small island in Hawaii,” he says. “On my mother’s side, my Mexican ancestors had a really hard time coming into the US and worked really hard through the railroad in order to get jobs and establish livelihood here.
“I come from a time when, as a child, my family was brought to people’s homes if they were sick to clean their houses for them,” he continues. “It also wasn’t unusual for us to take those who were disenfranchised or homeless off the street and bring them to Thanksgiving dinners, to always be in a position where we’re helping people.”
Sabado has spent his entire career dedicated to using his technical talents and abilities in service of others. At Kaiser Permanente, where he started his career and served in various IT positions, Sabado built an in-patient scheduling system that helped keep track of doctor and family visits, exams, and more. His time at Travis Credit Union saw him perform a core transaction migration that bolstered financial literacy education efforts for veterans.
In January 2023, he saw an opportunity to bring his passion to Golden 1 Credit Union, a Sacramento, California-based credit union that offers checking, savings, credit cards, loans, and investing. The VP was drawn to the organization because he believes strongly in its mission.
“We’re here to help people at the times that they need it,” he says. “If they’re falling on hard times, we want to make sure they have some options available to them. If they’re having a child, trying to buy their first home, or are experiencing other major life events, we want to make sure we give them access to services they need most.”
To help support that mission, Sabado has been focused on upskilling the organization’s workforce. He helped create a capability and maturity matrix, which employees can access to improve their skills and advance in their careers. The idea was to first evaluate the skills they had, show them what the organization needed out of them in their roles, and then, offer ways to achieve the right skills to reach “the next level of maturity,” he says.
Helping the credit union’s technology mature has also been a focus for Sabado. As someone who has worked with artificial intelligence (AI) for years, Sabado has worked to bring what he’s learned to Golden 1.
“For years, I’ve been part of an open-source group that builds self-driving cars using AI, with a focus on driver safety. That was because I had a close family friend who had an untimely death from a car accident that was completely avoidable. After that, I thought technology has a way to solve this problem,” he shares. “So, I have an AI named Gloria that I’ve been training for the last five years and coming to Golden 1, I wanted to help do predictive line of sight applications, really breaking down problems into easier to understand ways.”
While AI is currently helping the organization simplify its problems, Sabado says that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential applications.
“I really believe that AI is going to help us personalize our products and services for our members more efficiently,” he says. “If I can use AI to understand your transaction history and buying behaviour, I can think about reasonable products and services that will help you thrive. AI will help us deeply understand where people are in their lives to be able to do that.”
For Michael Sabado, AI Is Just “a Better Wrench”
“I think a lot of people are concerned that AI is going to try to be the new plumber, but I say that it’s going to be a better wrench and that it’ll help build better plumbers. It’s just a tool, so that way we’re never starting with a blank page. We can use AI to frame our thoughts, to know exactly what we need to execute on and how we can execute on those things more efficiently. It won’t magically come out of the computer and fix my leaky sink. All it can do is provide instructions I’ll need to fix that sink more efficiently.”
Off the Clock with Michael Sabado
As a father of three kids at risk for Huntington’s disease, Michael Sabado sits on the board of Help4HD International, a nonprofit that helps to fill in a gap of localized resources for people diagnosed with the rare, degenerative brain disorder. The group leverages AI to compile resources, to write human-edited articles, and to create a multilingual database.
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