All my dear readers, this post is a little indulgent and about my experinces in the last 17 years in my work life. The pattern I have really witnessed and the dots I am able to connect now. So you may like to skip it. But if you want to know as to why I am now sticking to AI even as an empirical outcome, you may read it. Or read it anyway. I don't promise anything for this one.
As the less-famous-than-deserved existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, life actually was understood backwards but had to be lived forwards. With faith. And a modicum of heart and spirit governed by enthusiasm for what dreams can be for future.
In my work life, I have restarted my career multiple times in a new discipline. Sometimes I wondered why I did it so many times. Actually not, people around me did..:)..I never had those thoughts simply because I kind of was enjoying what I was doing. And like Conan Doyle put it via his detective, when work is its own reward, it kind of keeps you going. Sometimes very fast also.
So I was a software engineer learning Java in the mid 2000s and also the really legacy mainframes. But I started learning about Finance and Investing in my spare time doing some certifications. I liked the concepts and just got some good books. We dint learn online then. Then I was doing MBS, CDOs, ABS, CMBS in finance from 2007 to 2012 roughly. Of the Big Short fame. But I never knew I was entering the world of structured finance and fixed income securitization in its boom era which was also its golden period. And then I saw it go bust in late 2008 and early 2009. But in the next few years actually, we learnt more about economics and finance of it because as our dear Warren Buffett says, you learn more in a downturn with that famous swimming analogy you know. But by 2012 summer, I had started to get enticed by the world of startups and Product Management. And I quit my career in Finance right when I was supposed to experience the big growth. Even had a GMAT score I got in a hurry to go abroad and continue my work in some city like NY as all my colleagues were doing. Left right and center then. But I somehow felt dragged to startups and against everyone's advice quit a promising career and shunned my MBA plans and got jobless and income less for the next few years, building some startups that paid nothing or some little revenue based salaries that never lasted for more than a few months at a time. I mostly did SEO learning, Design and Product Management and analytics in that 4 or 5 year phase. Looking back, I can say that was the emergence of Product Management as a field also. But I quit Product Management also after that as I started to get more and more interested in digital funnels and Performance Marketing. So I decided to not pursue PM after gaining experince officially in that field. Again.
And taught myself digital performance marketing and analytics learning atleast 20 tools all by myself by reading the techniques over the internet with some awesome blogs helpi g me along. Or some great video channels. Must have a few thousand of those all alone learning from scratch yet again . This continued for thr next 4 years and I kind of built a good career for my self in Perfrmance Marketing, CRM strategy and implementation and also sales. And suddenly I realized the market had started to value the funnels and the Revenue Operations field very much by the time I learnt the tricks of the trade. It felt very surreal.
By the end of this cycle, I had spent about 10 years in the startup world and had worked on roughly 20 products. And was doing strategy with CXOs in a typical workday as I had the experince and insight into all the disciplines within the company with hands-on knowledge also. All in all, a very rich 10 years of research in solitude and application with startup CXOs. But again, this coincided with the Golden years of startups as the entire landscape changed and people now started believing in startups from an era in contrast, when parents never understood what it was all about. They thought you were basically jobless if you said startup circa 2015. But it turns out, it was the best time. And I happened to live it in advance just like those banking and finance days in the first few years of my career. Or when Java used to be the next big thing on the block and I did read it.
A similar thing happened with my cricket writing and quizmastership. I used to write for what is now a leading cricket website in India around the year 2008. I did the cricket quiz competition for them in 2009 IPL preparing those questions which the people enjoyed. I did a lot of Test match commentary and read 200 books on test cricket. And then some scorecards from matches in 1890 or say 1920s. Just for fun that is. And then I quit Cricket as a passion right when Dravid, Ponting, Sachin, Kalis and that class retired. One I thought I couldn't learn anything from the younger lot as much as I did from following a Dravid or Sachin and their decision making process and viewpoint. No offense, but I had now gained more experience in life and work than the new guys. So why not start learning from the likes of Jack Dorsey, Peter Thiel, Paul Graham or even Elon Musk maybe. And at the risk of being wrong I understand, I believe the golden years of test match cricket are behind us for sure.
Also learning from hedge fund managers.
So where am I going with all this rant or if you are kind to say, this analysis.
I think I tried to follow my heart every single time and every step of the way. I did a lot of research, had some of the best brains around me discussing all this stuff. So all this analysis must have guided my decisions. And looking back, I feel so gratified and filled with gratitude for the time I spent on my work field. I believe I got a chance for an extended period of 17 years to be at the forefront of the discussion in work and innovation. That meant sacrificing some other things but it has been worthwhile. Because it keeps you enthused every single day and most importantly relevant for the markets. And saves you from cynicism. I always know what is fluff and what really matters at any given point in time for I am working within that system. I can for instance tell how Big Short is an awesome movie while also doing some of its own propaganda. I know high finance and investing markets in USA much too well. A couple of hedge fund managers who I interact with can vouch maybe.
And this is where I would like to bring in the relevance of this post on this blog. A little while ago, I zeroed into AI and ML as a field of interest after I learnt about the concept of Data Centric AI. This I thought was my cue to enter AI after at least 5 years of watching from the sidelines and never getting into it. Part because I was busy doing Product and Marekting and allied. But also because, I was not going to be doing algos as a research and academic discipline as that ship had sailed long back. Also, I like to be on the application side of things also as much as I like being a researcher burning the midnight oil. Actually, it was way into the wee hours of the mornings for many many years. More than I care to admit. But data centric AI with ML Ops usher in a new era in the course of AI. It is now going to be about application in the real life using transfer learning and task based outcomes. Based on data generated in the real world scenarios. The GPUs and TPUs are here for us. Cloud is here and the models have evolved from classical algos to deep learning based Transformer architecture. The whole campaign by Andrew Ng is now about Application of the models. And he knows what he is doing right. So great time to follow him.
So is it possible I may be yet again setting foot into a golden era of the next best thing in work. Ofcourse, if you agree with my premise that I in the past did happen to be at the right place in terms of work and business. If not, then we agree to disagree. I probably wasted your 5 minutes and I can only apologize for it. For this is a story I believe in from personal experince and a lot of hard work based faith and betting on the future. And I feel I won those bets.
So let us bet again once for a future of DataCentric AI and MLOps. Atleast we at newron agree on this one.