Breaking into AI consulting without an AI background

“I don’t care what you have or haven’t done before. I hired you because I know you can do it. Do you want to do it? Are you going to do it?” 

It’s the middle of a bitter winter, London 2009. I am sitting in a quaint pub with my boss Michael Edwards. Outside the snow was building upon the pavement, inside the conversation was heating up. I’d just told him that I didn’t have the experience to do what he was asking me to do. His actual response had several more colourful expletives in it just to ensure I understood what he was saying. 

Looking back, it was a pivotal moment in what has become my career in AI (Artificial Intelligence). At AnaCap we were building an information system to give them an edge in the market. I didn’t recognise it as AI at the time, but it included early versions of natural language processing, anomaly detection, and predictions. This system helped AnaCap to become a leader in its market. I still look back on this time as one of the most challenging and most rewarding experiences of my life. Michael, if I haven’t thanked you for that conversation - then I am now. 

If you’re reading this and recognise in yourself some of the trepidation coupled with ambition that I was feeling when it comes to AI, then you’re not alone. I see it regularly. Sometimes it’s my team or organisation. Sometimes it’s customers. Sometimes I see it in myself again.    

Working out why, where, and how to effectively use AI requires expertise and experience. Quite frankly, if you don’t get good advice and work with people that know what they are doing, then it will be a tough road. I don’t say that to put you off  I say it to clarify it can be done and there are ways to make it easier. AI is new enough that there aren't cookie-cutter best practices but there sure are ways to do it well. 

I recently had a conversation with Daniel Fagella from Emerj about how I got into AI. Check that out here and reach out if you’d like to chat (with or without colourful expletives).  Listen now:


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