What do you want to achieve with your Machine Learning project

What do you want to achieve with your Machine Learning project?

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By Jose Quesada

Hi, this is Jose Quesada for Data Science Retreat.

Today I’m going to talk to you about one thing that I’ve been thinking about for a while which is, what do you want to achieve with a project in AI or Machine Learning or Data Science. People all care about having projects having something to show. But there are different levels, this is something that I really want to go deeper.

Most people only want to learn a skill set with that project, which is fine.

But there are like different levels which we will discuss here and I would personally opt for the last option which is to create a product which you can charge for because if you fail you’re going to have kind of a fall back on one of the others.

I have made a video on this topic for those of you who prefer watching a video than reading, see below.

Play Video

Learning a skillset that’s a given. No matter what project you’re going to do, you are going to learn something, not a big deal. Now, one other goal would be to look competent and the real goal is to find a job. This is also very common “oh I’m doing this just because I want to put it on my LinkedIn and my github and I’m going to get the attention of recruiters or hiring managers. You want to get a job, that’s totally fine. So, there’s a difference between these two, right? It could be that, the thing that you do for running a skillset is not the same thing when you move to look higher now.

 

Now we’re getting into deeper things. So, you want to solve a real problem with your projects, that’s not very common. I would like it to be more common, but it’s not. I see people saying “oh I want to have a social impact, I want to help people, I want to solve your problems” but it’s very unlikely that you find people doing something about it with machine learning. And it’s totally doable, there’s plenty of things that you can do in machine learning today to solve a real problem that real people have. It’s kind of a shame that we are not doing more of it. So that would be one more goal that is kind of deeper than looking competent to get a job, right?

 

There is one more level which is to create a product. A product is not only a project it’s a product because you can charge for it. This is something that is packaged in a way that these people that have their problem and maybe can pay for it. They are willing to do something about it, that is a product.  Most people, I would say 99% of the people that I deal with today never get to the point where they take a project and build it to a point where they can charge for it. This is not a criticism, there’s a real reason for this. Traditional companies, they all want it, but they don’t get there mainly because of how much money and effort real big companies spend trying to figure out what will work and if they build it, how to market it and so on.

 

It’s totally fine, if you as an individual cannot get to this point and build something that you can charge for. But it’s a big part. All these companies spend a lot of money in doing market research, focus group, trying to get data from their users and using that data to sell them back something like netflix does. Netflix produces series that are influenced by the data they collect. Sometimes you see a series and you can see “oh this was targeted to teenage women who are overweight, and they would love this series”. How do they find out that there is a market that would want to consume that series because they have data and they know things that the person is watching? So, the big difference between you and these big corporations is that, they need to solve a problem that affects millions ideally billions of people.

 

That’s cool for you, example they will never start a new project if it doesn’t affect billions of people. So that limits their options quite a bit. They are kind of the king of the jungle for machine learning, there is no other company doing better with machine learning so far than google. They are probably good at products as well and you can question that because they give a lot of products right, but they have a problem which is they need to be products for billions of people. You don’t have that problem; you can go to a tiny little narrow group of people that you know very well and help them. You may know them so well that you may meet one of them who will identify with your idea and you might identify with their problems. It will be a beautiful match within the two of you.

 

So, here there are some ways to think if you are going to go for the product part of it where you want to create a product that you want to charge for. I’m not saying that you need to do that, but if you want to go that way then there are like different scales.

You pay People >>>>>>>>>>> They pay you

Sometimes you come up with an idea, and you want people to use it, but they actually don’t and give you reason such as I don’t have time now. Then you pay people to use it, or you promise them a favour. Imagine that your product is a questionnaire. You tell them if you fill this questionnaire then I’m going to give you a chance to win a Macbook. So to pay people to do something for you, that’s kind of one extreme.  The other extreme is where they pay you and they will be sad if your product doesn’t exist anymore. You want to be moving from you paying to they are paying you. I’m not saying that this is easy. This is something that companies big and small like startups as well struggles with right now.

You are undifferentiated >>>>>>>>> You are the first solution they think about

Sometimes you come up with an idea, and you want people to use it, but they actually don’t and give you reason such as I don’t have time now. Then you pay people to use it, or you promise them a favour. Imagine that your product is a questionnaire. You tell them if you fill this questionnaire then I’m going to give you a chance to win a Macbook. So to pay people to do something for you, that’s kind of one extreme.  The other extreme is where they pay you and they will be sad if your product doesn’t exist anymore. You want to be moving from you paying to they are paying you. I’m not saying that this is easy. This is something that companies big and small like startups as well struggles with right now.

You are guessing >>>>>>>>> you have validated the problem and solution

The last one is, you are consuming, you read a lot, you see blog posts about companies being built, about people making money with products maybe somebody just came up with something as simple as a newsletter.They’re making money with it, you read the newsletter you consume. You must aspire to go to the point where you produce, when you write. People should follow you because of what you write.

You consume, read >>>>>>>>> You produce, write

You can go from guessing the problem to be in a spot where you know the problem really well. You could be the person who knows about the problem the most in the world, and you have the solution. That is a wonderful place to be. So, you want to go in that direction.

What is that one hack to get all these scales much faster to move from one extreme to other?

It is

Let’s just look at the scales now, assume that you are in a niche. It’s easier to get people to pay you if you are targeting the right people and they have a problem that is very narrow to themselves. It’s a problem that’s worth paying for.

You’re probably the first solution to think about if you are the one person talking about this. Nobody else cares about it but you do, and you care for it very much. You know the problem very well, and you’re building a solution for that niche. You can be producing and writing about that niche and then it’s easy for people to follow you to find you. So basically, all these things become easier if you have a niche.

This is actually the big advantage that you have over google. You don’t need to create a product for a billionpeople, but a product that’s probably for few thousands. You’re going to be looking competent. So, like I mentioned earlier with this product, you’re going to learn a lot, solve your problem and you may be able to charge for it.

Therefore, the most important message I wanted to convey is that, it’s much easier for you in every possible way to aim to create a product that you could charge for and then degrade into solving a problem, finding job and lastly learning a skill. Companies are going to be impressed if you show up and show a product that you build with your hands that solves a problem in the market which you could charge for.

This is something that I would hire if I ever see in my doorstop, two data scientists with similar profiles but one of them have built a bankable project then he/she is way out of the league of anybody else and I would hire them.

To conclude “Aim to work on building a product rather than a mere project”