Yes, I miss you all and sincere apologies for a long hiatus. You would get to understand better in my next post. Wow, I’m so inspired to write about my thoughts on LEARNING especially with a lot of questions that has popped up with how I started my journey to be an AI expert. Shall we begin?
I remembered vividly when I was assigned my final year project supervisor in my finals and discovered she has a doctorate degree in Artificial Intelligence, I was bent on picking a project topic related to her field because I wanted an A in my finals.
After a lot of research for an AI topic, I settled with building a Dental Expert system. It was a bit sad that I couldn’t build this project myself as at then because I had no programming knowledge. I also felt programming was for the smart people and I didn’t fall into that category.
I gave my supervisor my project topic, she loved it and gave me the go-ahead to start immediately. Sad as it might sound, I had to outsource the code aspect of the project to someone else as I didn’t know how to code then. However, I did carry out a lot of research on coding platforms for my paperwork and also had to pay a couple of visits to a Dentist who helped me with the domain knowledge/engineering part of the project.
I enjoyed the various research part of my project and I made sure my paperwork was on-point which eventually landed me to publish my first paper journal here: http://research.ijais.org/volume8/number2/ijais14-451270.pdf
By the way, I got the Grade A I wanted all along
I was working as an IT/System technician at a notable private university, I will call my income at that time a good pay because I could afford 3 square meals, a roof over my head and few pleasures of luxury living but at a point, I decided to be deliberate about my career and my boss as at then gave me Database Administration books to read. I started gaining some grounds in Database and felt confident I was killing it. A day came and he told me “even though you think you’re good in DB, you should pick programming too because a lot of programmers actually know these things you do”. I felt bad about having to pick up programming because I already felt on top of the world with my knowledge with databases.
At this same time, I was watching a fiction series Person of Interest and I had fallen in love with the way a machine could predict the act of terrorism before they occur. It was magical and at the same time, intriguing as it drew me closer to loving the world of AI. I knew AI was going to be part of my career goals at that point. Starting with W3 schools, I started self-learning PHP and would send my code snippet by email to a former classmate of mine who was already in the field.
I resigned from my previous workplace and found myself in Andela. This is where the real learning started for me. As the days passed, I knew I had to be deliberate to begin my career as an AI expert. It was also interesting to me that I started programming because of my interest in AI, I found out via quick chats that people typically fall in love with AI after getting into programming but mine was the other way round.
I decided to jump start my learning and began with a shout out on Devcenter square. I was able to gather people who are interested in Artificial Intelligence/Machine learning/Data science and we started off with a slack group. Please note that at this time, I had no knowledge of what I should or shouldn’t learn but what was important was the diversity of people that formed the group — the novices(like me), the beginners, the intermediate and the experts.
Within this great community, resources were shared daily and I started making great use of them. I wouldn’t mind to signal the entire group to ask questions on a concept I wasn’t cleared with. Oh, I remembered how the Naive Bayes algorithm gave me a hard time before I understood it. Please note it was difficult combining self-learning on the side with my daily job but I was still deliberate about dedicating at least 3hours to machine learning every day.
I was lucky my working hours were from 12noon to 8 pm so I made good use of the hours before noon ramping up on machine learning avoiding distractions as much I could. I kept practicing and after 3 months of self-learning, I participated in a global AI tournament and was even shocked of my position on the leaderboard. *I never espered it*
I also began participating in Kaggle competitions and was quick to seeking advice from experts in the field.
I decided to publish another paper journal on AI related topics which I’m currently working on and also decided to start organizing workshops for the novice. I’m still on a beginner level in the AI world but one thing I’m confident of is the fact that no matter how little you think your knowledge about a concept/field is, you will always have an audience out there. There’s also this quote that says “the best way to ascertain you fully understand something is when you can teach others and they are able to understand”. I also see it as a way of ascertaining the things I think I know.
I’m currently wrapping up my final project as an Udacity machine learning nano degree student. Though it’s been a hectic journey for me but I’m looking forward to writing a code tutorial on what I did. Oh, I also got some books to help my learning, trust me they weren’t so cheap especially with the dollar to naira exchange rate.
Many people approach me asking if Andela currently has a track path for AI and the honest answer is NO for now. However, we are working on a Data science track path and I’m positive that AI should come soon into the picture. I do tell these categories of people “they own and should make attempt to hone their learning”. I love this quote below
Learn to own your learning and not depend totally on people to be responsible for how you learn, be deliberate about what you want to learn and be willing to embrace the sacrifices that come with each action. The place of mentors cannot be overemphasized and I have to acknowledge that my mentors made the path slightly smooth for me and that was because I was also keen to learn.
Special shout out to Farouq Oyebiyi, Allen Akinkunle, Yinka Makanjuola, Deolu Adeleye and Dotun Owoade. Thank you for always answering my stupid questions while making my journey to AI less stressful
FYI — This is a related article I find quite practical and interesting — https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/learning-developers-stories-blessing-orazulume