Finding the Perfect Fit

Noah Caldwell-Gatsos shares how he is using skills learned in the MSAI program to thrive as vice president of emerging technologies at xMentium.

Noah Caldwell-Gatsos has been interested in artificial intelligence (AI) for years, but as he considered graduate degree opportunities, he worried his background would be a hindrance.

Caldwell-Gatsos had a bachelor of science in economics and international development, but without a computer science (CS) degree, he wasn't sure if any AI-focused programs would accept him. 

Then he found Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) program. While technical experience is required, a CS degree is not.

As he began to learn more about the program, Caldwell-Gatsos realized MSAI was the perfect option for him.

"I liked the program’s acceptance of people from backgrounds other than CS and encouragement of non-academic production applications of AI in industry," he said. "Many programs emphasize research with little regard to how research will be applied, and research for research’s sake didn’t appeal to me."

Today, Caldwell-Gatsos (MSAI '20) is the vice president of emerging technologies at legal technology company xMentium, a firm focused on developing collaboration tools to help speed up contract negotiations. He said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the MSAI program.

Beyond focusing on AI applications, Caldwell-Gatsos was drawn to the program's emphasis on working with real clients on real AI-focused problems.

“The program, with all of its connections and projects associated with industry, gave me a lot of experience communicating AI concepts to non-technical audiences,” he said. “Once I became a full-time engineer with xMentium, these lessons were one of my most valuable contributions to the company. I was able to take that experience and translate it to communicating what we were doing with AI in our product to investors and customers.”

Caldwell-Gatsos joined xMentium as a principal machine learning engineer before he graduated from the MSAI program. He was promoted to his current role in 2021.

His day-to-day is a blend of meetings and development work on the company’s core and emerging products.

“I wear a bunch of hats,” he said. “It’s everything from product and UI/UX design to account management, researcher, sales, product manager, and developer of last resort.”

The MSAI program helped train him in the broad range of skills necessary to succeed in his current role. The program also showed him that success is not only based on skill sets, a welcome realization for someone without a CS degree.

"The real benefit to being in the program is being able to share your own unique background in whatever you studied and contribute to the field using those experiences.”

Those experiences — both technical and not — have Caldwell-Gatsos comfortable in his current role and encouraged by the influx of conversations about AI's role in society moving forward.

“Technology, especially automation, is always going to spark conversations about productivity and replacement of manual work,” he said. “I think conversations that focus on existing applications of AI are good for the field because they force researchers to examine their biases and improve systems that are actively impacting people’s lives.” 

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