Jorge Andrés Sierra Jurado had a decade of software engineering experience, but wanted to shift gears into artificial intelligence and machine learning. After self-teaching, Jorge enrolled in FourthBrain’s remote AI bootcamp because of the instructor-led classes, real world projects, and career assistance. Jorge shares how his FourthBrain bootcamp experience helped him build the portfolio and the confidence to land a job as a Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS)!
What inspired you to pivot from a software engineering career into artificial intelligence?
I double majored in Industrial and Computer Engineering and had 10 years of experience coding in the field before attending FourthBrain. In my last software engineering job, I was working in engineering management, overseeing a team of engineers working on coding projects. I couldn’t help but read about the future of AI and how it’s going to change the face of tech. I knew I had some knowledge gaps and I wanted to know what those gaps were and figure out a way to close them.
There are so many bootcamps now — why did you choose FourthBrain?
I decided to learn AI on my own and started with Coursera courses on machine learning. I could get the concepts of AI and machine learning from watching videos, but I didn’t feel ready to jump in. I wanted an instructor-led program so I could do more with my learning.
FouthBrain offered two additional things that set their program apart:
Did FourthBrain help make the bootcamp tuition affordable for you?
I paid my tuition in installments. FourthBrain also offers an early bird discount for anyone paying the full tuition upfront. The tuition was less than most other bootcamps and the installment plans made it even more affordable.
Do you need to have technical knowledge to apply to FourthBrain?
There is an expectation that applicants will have some experience with Python. The AI course is challenging, so if you don't know Python, it's going to be really hard. But you don't need to be a coding expert! I had rusty coding skills, but I was able to do the initial assignment and actually found it fun and a little difficult. Somebody that has basic knowledge of algorithms and problem-solving shouldn’t have a problem with the admissions interview.
Was there a technical assessment to get into the bootcamp?
The technical assessment at FourthBrain was 10-15 questions about math and probability, as well as completion of two small coding assignments. It was a really straightforward, diluted version of what you could see at a coding competition.
After you were accepted, did you have to complete any prework?
FourthBrain has a Zero Week, so students can do some catch-up in math basics, like linear algebra and probability.
Since FourthBrain is a part-time bootcamp, were you working a job while completing the bootcamp?
I was able to work full-time while doing the bootcamp. Bootcamp classes were held on Saturday for six hours from 9AM - 3PM PST, and I typically put in 10-20 hours a week into the program. Some weeks required more time than that for project completion.
What was a typical day like at FourthBrain?
Classes happened one day a week on Saturdays. These classes began with an intro, followed by a couple of hours on a lecture topic, past topic review, and questions. We would break and then have break-out sessions where we would peer work for four hours and complete live assignments. Sometimes there were guest speakers during the second half of the Saturday class.
The assignments we completed on Saturdays were assigned and delivered on the same day. These assignments would involve some kind of machine learning problem to solve. Our instructor and TA gave us support throughout the assignment.
What did you actually learn about artificial intelligence in the FourthBrain curriculum?
The majority of the curriculum focused on Python and machine learning. The bootcamp also gave me exposure to cutting edge content in scientific research. I wanted to be able to read scientific research papers, and now I'm confident I can pick up a scientific research paper and understand what's going on and relate it to the knowledge I already have in machine learning.
The FourthBrain team taught us how to deploy models, which is to move models from our computers into production. They taught us how to explain what a model is doing, how to monitor the model so it works, and how to make sure it continues to work for however long you expect it to. Deploying models is a challenge that real world companies are facing today, and something I haven't seen included in other bootcamp curriculums.
Since you attended FourthBrain remotely, how did you collaborate with your cohort and instructors?
I connected to my peers through Slack. There was a platform just for FourthBrain where we could chat with other students and teachers. Plus, graduates have lifetime access, so we can mentor the next generation of FourthBrain participants.
Did the overall teaching style match your learning style?
I’m a doer and I prefer being active than listening, so I thought the live assignments were really fun. The assignments weren’t easy problems to solve — we really had to get something working. Sometimes we worked on an assignment in groups, and divided the work between our peers. It was really cool to be able to work with my classmates — it gave me great on-the-job/real-world insight to the tasks of the job.
What kinds of artificial intelligence projects did you work on at the bootcamp?
We had two projects a week for 16 weeks, so we completed 30 projects total. Many of our projects were focused on the medical field, such as computer vision. We worked on the following projects:
For my capstone project, I made a denoiser, which removed the noises from teleconferencing calls. Everything I had learned about machine learning was applicable to the project.
FourthBrain hosts guest speakers! Did you find these sessions helpful?
The guest speakers were really inspiring. People from major companies spoke to us about new topics in machine learning and how it applies to specific aspects of specific businesses. These insights offered an invaluable perspective to this emerging field. I also liked that the guest speakers weren’t always from the C-suite of a company. There were machine learning engineers who had already walked the same path we were starting to walk, such as musicians who became machine learning engineers. Their insight offered a level of accessibility and achievability in the field.
How did FourthBrain prepare you for the job hunt?
The career services director, Mariam, helped me prepare my CV and resume, and told me how to maximize my GitHub. She helped me set up interviews with experts in machine learning so I could better understand what's expected for AI/ML interviews. Overall, career services helped me gain confidence in my job interview skills and believe that I could really make this career change.
What roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating from FourthBrain?
I felt qualified for any machine learning engineer (MLE) position or data science role.
Tell us about your current job at Amazon Web Services (AWS)! Did FourthBrain prepare you for the technical interview?
Long before I started at FourthBrain, I saw a job posting for a role as a Solutions Architect for data science and machine learning at AWS. I applied to it but didn’t hear back from them until months later when I was just starting at FourthBrain. I had previous experience with data science and machine learning, but I was not expecting them to call me back!
Not only did FourthBrain prepare me with concepts, they gave me talking points that I could bring up in my interview. AWS hires builders; they prefer people that like to build. In one interview, I was asked why I want to work for AWS and I told them I like to build stuff. They asked to see what I’m building, and I was able to share a few of the 20+ projects I’d worked on in FourthBrain. If I hadn’t enrolled in FourthBrain, I wouldn't have had anything to show the AWS hiring team. My issue was deciding which projects to share!
AWS was impressed that I was doing so much! After a few technical interviews, I proved to them that I was qualified to do the job.
AWS is such a large company — what team are you currently working on?
I'm in the public sector team for Chile as a Solutions Architect. My role is to help my customers get the benefits they're looking for in a less painful way in terms of time and cost.
Are you using everything you learned at FourthBrain?
I'm already using a lot of things I learned at FourthBrain, even though I’m in training. I haven't done anything major yet, but I’ve been working on things like mock meetings with internal customers and building a demo.
So far, is this the career that you expected?
Yes. I joined FourthBrain in the first place because I wanted to switch gears. My career path was software engineering management, which I don't want to do the rest of my life. I decided to make the leap into AI and machine learning with FourthBrain and I’m so glad I did. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the training I gained at FourthBrain.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career change journey?
By the end of the bootcamp, I was exhausted! Since I was working while completing the bootcamp, my biggest challenge was managing my time and responsibilities.
Was FourthBrain worth it for you?
Absolutely. It was the right decision for me because I got the skills I needed to fill in my knowledge gaps, but I also feel like now I'm part of a community. When doing machine learning, you can't learn it all by yourself. You’ve got to have support. To be able to chat with an expert who's been doing machine learning for 20 years is invaluable. I didn't know I needed that kind of support, but now that I've had it, instructor and peer support is one of the best assets I’ve gained from FourthBrain.
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