Student Spotlight | How One Student is Planning a Career Transition from Television to AI

Photo provided by Michael Cantu from his time working at WGN

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making an impact in almost every field. As a result, there is a need for a skilled workforce at every level. With the growth of degree offerings in Computer Science (CS), AI is an exploding discipline. Professionals from all walks of life are finding passion in the dynamic world of AI and are working to prepare themselves to transition from non-CS related careers to a profession where data science, deep learning, and machine learning are used to enhance our experiences and change everyday lives.

In 2018, the inaugural class of the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence program welcomed its first cohort. This group included students who came with traditional CS/STEM backgrounds as well as others who did not. As AI continues to spread across specialties, so will the demand for diversity of thought and integration across industry.

Meet Michael. His goal is to transition his career in Television to one in AI.

“My background before the MS in Artificial Intelligence program was in Television and Media. I always had a fascination with storytelling, and was able to share that passion on sets like the Bachelorette, and for WGN Channel 9 Chicago. During my time in production, I worked at a Virtual Reality Production Company where I realized how accessible programming and emerging technologies were. After a few years of being immersed into the industry, I began to notice how my career could become automated. I was no longer feeling challenged and if things continued along the same path, I began to see how some of my responsibilities could easily become obsolete.

Having an interest in transitioning my career to technology, I enrolled in one of the top boot camp programs in Chicago to start learning how to write code. Making this investment was extremely beneficial as it helped me to follow my passion. As my journey began, I was introduced to programming languages Python, C#, JavaScript, and MYSQL. After this experience, it was my goal to continue my education because it became more apparent that innovation and technological advancement is very much alive and I felt that I needed to be part of it.

I chose the MSAI program because it is designed to include people of all disciplines and levels of Computer Science. I am very happy to say that the program has been going better than I could have ever imagined. The structure of the program is cohort style, which allows students to move through the curriculum together; this makes jumping into new course topics such as Deep Learning a lot less intimidating when you know you will see a familiar face. Taking classes with the same classmates that I started out with last fall has never left me feeling alienated or doubtful about taking new, rigorous classes head on.

The MSAI program has done an amazing job of informing me how to best utilize the most powerful tools in Computer Science today. To help prepare me with a brand new skill set, the program incorporates access to industry by hosting weekly Industry Night presentations. Visits by company representatives were very beneficial to my transition into the tech industry. Each week, a company comes in to present and talk about how they are implementing AI into their business, or how they see machine learning and artificial intelligence helping to inform future growth and innovation. Industry Nights are a value-added benefit that helps to shape your mindset of how powerful AI is and where it will go into the future. It also allows students to make industry connections that creates opportunities.

For spring practicum, I am working on a project with fellow classmates for a digital innovation consultancy that builds AI experiences for clients. After the spring quarter, I will begin the summer as a Machine Learning/AI intern with a company known for its disruptive innovation where I will be working with fantastic datasets that focus on improvement of products for everyday use. This opportunity will also allow me to improve my skills as a data scientist.”

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