Episode summary: One of the key challenges that enterprises face in adopting artificial intelligence is finding skilled data science talent. Business leaders want to know when it’s best to hire AI talent, to “upskill” existing workers, or simply to bring in AI consultants – and the answers aren’t always obvious.

In this episode of AI in Industry we speak with Nikolaos Vasiloglou from MLTrain about how AI consulting and AI training events can be used to upgrade an existing team’s skills. Nikolaos also distinguishes the right and wrong circumstances to bring on AI consultants, and shares his tips on how training, upskilling, and consulting can level up an existing company’s AI capabilities.

Listeners can find out how to set realistic goals for re-training existing teams for new AI skill sets. Lastly, we also explore how AI consultants can support developer and engineering teams to produce fruitful real-world AI applications (without developing unhealthy reliance on outside experts).

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Guest: Nikolaos Vasiloglou, Instructor at MLTrain, Technical Director – Center for Advanced Machine Learning – at Symantec

Expertise: Machine learning, big data, algorithms

Brief recognition: Nikolaos earned an MSc and a PhD in electrical and computer science engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology from from 2001 to 2009. He currently serves as the CEO of Isimon, Inc, a company which provides machine learning consulting services and is as the technical director for Symantec’s Center for Advanced Machine Learning in for the past year has been serving as an organizer and instructor at MLTrain.

Current Affiliations: Organizing committee of UAI 2018, Organizer for ScAINet, Technical Director (Center for Advanced Machine Learning) at Symantec, CEO at Isimon, Inc., Organizer/Instructor at MLtrain

Big Idea

According to Nikolaos AI training events can help developers by kickstarting their entry into the domain and visualize big-picture AI implications. The key skill upgrades for enterprise teams generally congeal around refreshing and reminding of the basics, upgrading of existing skills-sets that are already proximal. For example executives with experience in operations research can make the transition into machine learning through skills training at AI events.

Nikolaos believes that there are inherent risks involved while hiring external consultants that enterprises should be aware of going in, since consultants might not stick with the project in the long-term. In essence, if the approach towards consulting is only deliverable-based, there could be issues at a later date which the internal teams may not be capable of dealing with.

He adds that there also challenges in terms of workplace friction between existing and external teams and that the best way for companies to work with consultants would a ‘learning’ based approach which would involve:

  • Ensuring that existing teams are aware of the fundamentals of AI and the objective for the business case is clear
  • Co-developing projects with the objective of giving internal teams the opportunities for learning the AI culture and know-how.
  • Easing into the transition between the development stage and the eventual ‘handing off the reins’ completely to existing teams over the course of a few months. This stage may in some cases also involve addition skills training for the enterprise teams which could potentially be met through AI training events.

Nikolas also goes on to say that in his opinion, the best way for organizations to embrace artificial intelligence and create machine learning products is to build good teams. Typically the best fit combination for AI integrations teams would include:

  • A domain expert who provides consultation on the front-end and distills client requirements
  • A developer with formal machine learning training who builds the model
  • An engineer who facilitates the brunt of the product creation

Interview Highlights with Nikolaos Vasiloglou from MLTrain

The main questions Nikolaos answered on this topic are listed below. Listeners can use the embedded podcast player (at the top of this post) to jump ahead to sections they might be interested in:

  • (3:00) What can enterprise teams expect to gain from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning training events?
  • (9.13) Where do you see AI consultants driving value for businesses?
  • (16:18) What are the best ways for a company to manage and upgrade an existing teams skills towards machine learning?

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Header image credit: Adobe Stock

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