I got this without a master’s degree or a US citizenship
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Getting a role in Machine Learning is hard, especially as an undergraduate student. More so if you’re an international student in the United States. In this article, I will share my advice on how you can use the internet to reach out to and connect with strangers in order to gain lucrative contracts (like the one shown below).
This specific offer was given to me by the biggest stock picking service in America, The Motley Fool. They wanted to me use Machine Learning and AI to help them analyze prospective stock picks, consult with their Data Science teams, and create reports on different companies in the AI domain
In this post, I’ll share how I did it, and some of my most important networking/job search tips from this journey. If you want to see the exact step-by-step process, with real screenshots of the messages I felt, faced challenges, and things I would’ve done differently, check out this video here. It’s slightly long, but it goes into a lot of depth and provides actual results, unlike most of the career coaching material out there.
This epic story has the following key learnings-
- Have Hobbies- I got this offer in Oct 2021 (we both were very busy b/w August and September). But the process started in Feb 2020, when I connected with Krabs over something we both had in common. I elaborate upon this in my post on getting referrals the right way. Also, once you (e)meet with someone, you have to stay connected with them. I’ll share how I do that.
- Have more tools- The stocks returning as much as they did was luck for me. I could not have predicted the extreme quantitative easing by the Fed. But to make this happen I had to do a few things. I needed to be able to combine my knowledge of foundational economics and finance with my experience in Machine Learning. And an ability to write proposals/articles that got strangers to read and engage with my work.
- keep your eyes open– There’s a lot of inefficiency in the market. In my case, I noticed that all the big stock analysis focused just on the financial analysis rather than actual analysis of the AI products. By pointing to my returns and the 47 Billion USD debacle of WeWork and other such startups that raised money on the Deep Learning hype only to crash because of bad products, I was able to carve out a niche for myself. I basically invented a job for myself by spotting a market failure and taking advantage of it.
We’re going to start of with something that I don’t see many networking gurus address. Which is the importance of having hobbies and shared interests when reaching out to connect with strangers.
Let’s take a look at the common advice given to all college students when reaching out to Alumni (which is about where all the networking advice ends). The advice is to mention how you’re also from the same university, and how you would love their guidance in your job search.
Here’s why that’s terrible advice- it’s too boring. My university has 20,000 students at one time. What stops anyone else from doing this? If multiple people from RIT send this message, then what makes me stand apart from the next guy?
I was also a student-athlete with the RIT rowing team. Our total team size, counting all teams was about 40. 40 out of 20000. If I was reaching out to somebody from the rowing team, I’m much more likely to stand out and be remembered than a generic RIT student.
Having common interests allows for another great benefit. It allows you to cultivate a relationship, not just get a referral. The benefits of this are profound.
Most networking advice ends in getting a referral. Not only will this make you look selfish, it is also an inefficient way to use your network. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you’re looking for ML roles. You asked me for a referral and I gave it to you. All well and good. We both go our separate ways here. This is what networking looks like to most people.
In such a case, we both miss out on the opportunity to make a deeper professional connection. All you got from me was a referral. Since our interaction was relatively superficial. I will probably forget about you after a bit.
I come across interesting opportunities every day. I pass those along to other people in my network. In this case, I’m more likely to pass this along to someone I know/remember. In the traditional networking way, you get one referral from me. Do things in this way, and you’ll get 10.
Okay cool, but what does this have to do with water and hobbies? And what is this better way to network that I’m talking about? It’s simpler than you’d think.
Here is where connecting with common interests is huge. Let’s go back to the deep bond b/w Krabs and me. In the year and 4 months b/w first contact and his referral from him, I was still talking to him. These were 5-minute check-ins about interesting things we were up to, updates in our lives, etc. If I came across any interesting economics/finance videos/memes, I’d share them with him. This way I was able to learn and have some fun while gaining a great contact with my network.
It’s really that simple. There was almost no additional effort on my part. Just click the share button, texting Krabs for 10–15 minutes every couple of months, and just like that, we were connected.
However, to truly benefit from your network, you need to be good at what you do. If you missed it, you check out how to be a 10x engineer by a former Google engineer. That will help you become a more effective software engineer. However, you need more than just hard (coding) skills. You’ll need to be a good communicator and have a stronger overall basis. Let’s cover that now. Along with how you can learn to identify hidden opportunities for yourself.
Many people ask me how to improve their communication skills. The answer to that is simple. Communicate more. And watch more good communicators. I love YouTube because I can watch and learn about ideas from some of the best in the world, while also implicitly learning to communicate. There are professional communication courses, but for most people, that will be overkill.
One of the most important things to be a good communicator is to grasp of a multitude of subjects. This will allow you to continue the conversation, even as it goes in multiple directions. Most importantly, a good understanding of the basics (and nothing more) will allow you to ask the right questions as you talk to those more experienced. My understanding of basic economics and finance allowed me to converse with and learn from Krabs, who’s an expert in this domain.
As engineers, I recommend the following list of subjects (technical and non-technical) that you must know about-
- Math and Theoretical Computer Science
- Economics and Finance
- Philosophy + Logic
The first 3 are covered in this newsletter, extensively. I also provide resources in the posts for those who want to learn more. So as long as you’re regular, you will be fine.
Number 4 is a tricky one. Everyone takes to philosophy differently. The YouTube channel Wisecrack is a pretty fun way to learn about philosophy in a fun and digestible manner. I also like discussions on this stuff. Start from there and see where the winds take you. Brilliant’s course on formal Logic is a great one to practice logic through fun puzzles. As is the book, Lady or The Tiger.
University of Chicago has some top-tier content on writing and communicating effectively. That will help you with 5. Look Go from there into other free writing vids on YT. With this, you will have a solid foundation to leverage your engineering skills into building great products and boosting your career.
Now for the final part of this post. How can you learn to spot opportunities and take advantage of them?
As you start combining these skills, you will become gain a set of skills that are very unique to you. This is because your own interests and talents will have you explore these very big subjects differently.
Once you do, you will be poised to spot something in the status quo that you can do better. I noticed that the analysis surrounding AI companies was too focused on EPS, users, and valuations. Nobody actually looked at the engineering, the economic viability, and dug through the whitepapers for the nuances lost in the marketing. Too many people were investing in hype and misunderstanding. This is fine when things are going up. When things take a downturn; investors panic, lose money, and blame the stock recommendation service. This has everyone unhappy.
I showed Icy T and Krabs some examples of how I could do things better. They did a few test runs, and the results were very positive. So I got an amazing contract. Everyone wins.
That’s it for this article. If you’re looking to get into ML, this article gives you a step-by-step plan to develop proficiency in Machine Learning. It uses FREE resources. Unlike the other boot camps/courses, this plan will help you develop your foundational skills and set yourself up for long-term success in the field.
For Machine Learning based on combining Software Engineering, Math, and Computer Science is crucial. It will help you conceptualize, build, and optimize your ML. My daily newsletter, Coding Interviews Made Simple covers topics in Algorithm Design, Math, Recent Events in Tech, Software Engineering, and much more to make you a better developer. I am currently running a 20% discount for a WHOLE YEAR, so make sure to check it out.
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