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Breaking into AI and Machine Learning: 7 Actionable Steps to begin your New Career

March 24, 2023

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the buzzwords of the decade.

With endless possibilities and exciting advancements, it's no wonder that more people than ever are interested in breaking into these fields. But with so much competition, how do you get into AI and Machine Learning?

Whether you're a seasoned professional looking to pivot or a newcomer just starting out, these tips will set you on the path towards success in this rapidly growing industry.

Below are seven steps in order we recommend newcomers take to develop an understanding of Machine Learning, starting with the basics, and then moving toward applying your skills and understanding which Machine Learning roles fit you best - culminating with finding a new job in this field.

1. First, develop an understanding of Machine Learning

In order to get into the field of AI and machine learning, it's important to develop a strong understanding of the basics of these technologies.

There are many different types of machine learning models, such as linear regression, decision trees, and neural networks. The choice of model depends on the problem you are trying to solve and the type of data you have.

To build a machine learning model, the data is split into training and validation sets. The model is trained on the training set and then evaluated on the validation set to see how well it generalizes to new data. There are several metrics used to evaluate the performance of a machine learning model, such as accuracy, precision, recall, and F1 score. The choice of metric depends on the problem you are trying to solve.

Finally, most machine learning models have hyperparameters that need to be tuned to improve performance. This involves trying different values for the hyperparameters and evaluating the model's performance on the validation set.

2. Make sure you develop an understanding of Deep Learning, too

Deep learning is a subset of Machine Learning, but it's important to have some general knowledge here too.

Deep Learning is based on artificial neural networks, which consist of layers of interconnected nodes. The key components of deep learning include input layers, hidden layers, and output layers, as well as activation functions, loss functions, and optimization algorithms.

Some of our additional recommendations for teaching yourself Deep Learning also include:

Knowing the deep learning architectures: There are several key deep learning architectures to be familiar with, including feedforward neural networks, convolutional neural networks (CNNs), recurrent neural networks (RNNs), and generative adversarial networks (GANs). Each architecture has its own strengths and weaknesses, and can be applied to different types of problems.

Experimenting with tools and frameworks for Deep Learning: There are several popular tools and frameworks for building and training deep learning models, including TensorFlow, PyTorch, and Keras. These tools provide a high-level interface for building and training neural networks, as well as support for distributed training and other advanced features.

Understanding best practices: Deep learning is a complex field, and there are many best practices to keep in mind when building and training models. This includes techniques for data preparation and preprocessing, regularization and dropout to prevent overfitting, and hyperparameter tuning to optimize model performance.

3. Gain an understanding of at least one programming language you can use in Machine Learning

To work in Machine learning, it's important to have knowledge of at least one programming language that can handle numerical computation and has a strong machine learning or deep learning library. Some of the most popular programming languages used in Machine Learning include:

Python: Python is one of the most popular programming languages for deep learning due to its simplicity and versatility. It has a wide range of libraries for machine learning and deep learning, including TensorFlow, Keras, PyTorch, and scikit-learn.

R: R is a popular language for statistical computing and data analysis. It has several packages for deep learning, such as mxnet and KerasR.

MATLAB: MATLAB is a powerful language for numerical computation, and it has several deep learning toolboxes, such as the Deep Learning Toolbox.

Julia: Julia is a relatively new programming language that has been designed for high-performance numerical computing. It has a growing community of developers building deep learning packages, such as Flux.jl.

C++ and CUDA: C++ is a general-purpose programming language used for high-performance computing, and CUDA is a parallel computing platform and programming model developed by NVIDIA for GPU acceleration. Together, these two languages are used to build high-performance deep learning models.

Python is by far the most popular language for deep learning, and it is recommended that beginners start with Python and one of its deep learning libraries like TensorFlow, PyTorch, or Keras.

Finally, a word of advice - have fun here! Don't feel like you need to limit yourself to one programming language, or becoming an expert in one of the languages right away. Experiment and try out multiple technologies, having fun along the process.

4. Decide how you want to apply your knowledge of Machine Learning

It's important to be familiar with the wide range of applications of deep learning. By understanding the potential of deep learning, you can identify opportunities to apply it in your own work or research, and decide which career path you want to take within the field. Some of the most common applications of Machine Learning include:

Image and speech recognition: Machine learning algorithms are used extensively in image and speech recognition applications, such as identifying objects in images, recognizing faces, and transcribing speech into text.

Natural Language Processing (NLP): Machine learning algorithms are used in NLP applications such as sentiment analysis, language translation, and chatbots.

Predictive analytics: Machine learning algorithms are used to predict future outcomes based on historical data. This is commonly used in finance, healthcare, and other industries to make decisions about investments, diagnoses, and other critical decisions.

Recommender systems: Machine learning algorithms are used to recommend products, movies, and other items to users based on their historical preferences and behaviors.

Fraud detection: Machine learning algorithms are used to detect fraudulent behavior in financial transactions, insurance claims, and other areas.

Autonomous vehicles: Machine learning algorithms are used to enable autonomous vehicles to make decisions based on real-time data from sensors and cameras.

Healthcare: Machine learning algorithms are used to analyze medical data and help doctors diagnose diseases and develop treatment plans.

Energy optimization: Machine learning algorithms are used to optimize energy consumption in buildings, factories, and other facilities.

5. Understand the different jobs available within Machine Learning: Machine Learning Engineer, Data Scientist, Data Engineer

There are many jobs available to those with an understanding of Machine Learning, but some of the most popular are the (understandably) Machine Learning Engineer, Data Scientist, and Data Engineer. Each job has its own unique set of responsibilities and skills.

Machine Learning Engineer: A Machine Learning Engineer is responsible for developing and deploying machine learning models. They work with data scientists to understand  business problems and then design and implement a solution. Some of their core responsibilities include: 

1. Designing and Developing Machine Learning Models: Machine learning engineers are responsible for designing and developing machine learning models that can analyze and learn from data. This involves selecting the appropriate algorithms, preprocessing data, and training models using large datasets.

2. Building and Deploying Scalable Machine Learning Systems: Machine learning engineers are also responsible for building and deploying scalable machine learning systems that can handle large amounts of data and serve predictions in real-time. This involves selecting appropriate hardware, designing efficient architectures, and optimizing algorithms for speed and accuracy.

3. Ensuring Model Performance and Reliability: Machine learning engineers are responsible for ensuring that their models perform well and are reliable in real-world scenarios. This involves monitoring model performance, testing and validating the models, and identifying and resolving issues as they arise.

Data Scientist: A Data Scientist is responsible for analyzing data to find trends and insights, and building predictive models to forecast future events. Data Scientists who want to work in a role more closely tied to Machine Learning can do so in the following ways:

1. Data cleaning and preprocessing: A data scientist uses machine learning algorithms to preprocess and clean data, such as removing missing values, handling outliers, and normalizing the data.

2. Exploratory data analysis: A data scientist uses machine learning algorithms to explore the data and gain insights about the underlying patterns and relationships.

3. Feature engineering: A data scientist uses machine learning algorithms to create new features that capture important information in the data and improve the performance of the model.

4. Model evaluation and validation: A data scientist uses machine learning algorithms to evaluate the performance of the model on the test data and validate the results.

Data Engineer: A Data Engineer is responsible for building the systems that collect, store, and process data. They work with large amounts of data and need to be able to optimize performance and ensure reliability. Data Engineers who want to work in a role more closely tied to Machine Learning can do so in the following ways:

1. Data Storage: Data engineers are responsible for designing and maintaining the storage infrastructure for large-scale data. They work with distributed databases such as Apache Hadoop, Apache Cassandra, and Amazon S3 to ensure that data is stored securely and is easily accessible to ML models.

2. Model Deployment: Once the ML models have been trained, data engineers are responsible for deploying them into production environments. This includes setting up the necessary infrastructure, monitoring the performance of the models, and ensuring that they are integrated with other systems.

3. Performance Optimization: Data engineers are responsible for optimizing the performance of the entire ML pipeline. This includes optimizing data storage and retrieval, reducing latency, and improving the scalability of the system.

6. Enroll in online courses to increase your knowledge of Deep Learning

Deep Learning Specialization on Coursera: This is a 5-course series offered by Andrew Ng and his team at It covers the fundamentals of deep learning, including neural networks, convolutional networks, and recurrent networks.

TensorFlow Developer Certificate on Coursera: This is a program offered by Google that covers the basics of TensorFlow, including building, training, and deploying machine learning models.

Applied AI with DeepLearning on Udacity: This course covers the practical applications of deep learning and includes topics such as computer vision and natural language processing. This is a free course that teaches deep learning in a practical and hands-on way. It covers topics such as convolutional neural networks, recurrent neural networks, and generative models.

Neural Networks and Deep Learning on edX: This course covers the fundamentals of neural networks, including backpropagation and regularization. It also covers deep learning techniques such as convolutional and recurrent neural networks.

7. Network and meet others who work in Machine Learning and Hiring Managers

In order to break into the AI and Machine Learning field, it is important to network and meet others who work in the field.

This can be done by attending industry events, joining online forums and communities, or simply reaching out to contacts you already have. meeting hiring managers is also a key step in getting your foot in the door of the AI and Machine Learning industry.

You can do this by working with recruiters, or directly contacting companies that you are interested in working for who hire Machine Learning Engineers.

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