Silence before the storm moment. 0800 on our new 3rd floor, all fresh, all new. The room for the masterclass was ready, tables, chairs and as we’re in Amsterdam: lots of coffee. Test the projector, plenty of post-its, all sharpies in place.
The start of a masterclass that we do more and more: explaining Artificial Intelligence to a business audience. Let them feel and experience what AI is, why they might well need this in their own company. Starting from the theoretical baseline, some interesting business problems, combined with a few of our real-life examples. Nothing to hammer a point home then a short life demo. And then the main chunk: with all the knowledge: where can you apply this in your own company. Workshop your way out of a problem. For real. The setup just works. After a few hours, you can see the audience change their mindset completely. From problems seemingly impossible to solve to just assuming new business problems can be solved and just have to match with the right AI approach. Lot’s of data, find the right problem, find the right machine learning approach, should I do this with deep learning. Where do I start? How do I convince my internal IT team?
This change in mindset from non-solvable problems to just finding the solution is impressive. The audience goes home with what we call data glasses. They start looking at problems back in their own company with a data-driven, AI filter. Suddenly they recognize the triggers. Wouldn’t it be great if to identify… We really should be able to predict… With this amount of data, we should know much better what our customers want. Business people being able to see the problem, understand the trigger, visualize the solution and steer the technical folks in the direction of the doable, away from the impossible. Get the naysayers to say yes. We love our masterclass. What an energy.
For me the way this masterclass came about is great. With the rough sketches, some pictures, and drawings the machine learning team started. They know more about AI and ML then most in the industry, certainly from a practical point of view. Young in years, old in experience. They just do this every day for customers.
What was different for them was the business first angle. Also the getting on stage, the doing the presentions, the leading the workshops was out of their comfort zone. Way out of their comfort zone. The combination of out of comfort zone combined with: it’s up to you, you know more about this than anyone, certainly your manager – me – gave some stress. Possible a lot of stress. Mean things were said about the old man, ways to kill him might have been discussed. But they did it. They create one of the best masterclasses I have seen in a long time. A business first, AI solution for business problems. A masterclass that is about the gift of data-driven glasses. Make the unsolvable doable combined with the art of the start.
So I am extremely proud of them. Stepping out of your comfort zone, just do it, ignoring all the reservations one might have and shine: impressive! I was again sitting in the back of the class and just enjoying myself so much. Looking at the knowledge being shared, the fun in the room, the deep discussions about real customer problems and how to solve them. Just perfect. And it did click in my team’s mind. Do fun stuff and talk about it. Normally used in a technical sense, in our weekly meetups, now used with the added flavor of business. Tech folks talking tech and business and the same time. Now here is a sight worth seeing. Yes: I am proud of them. All of them. Even if they all have manager allergy this is my team. Great feeling to see them go solo, no need for me, not really, just the safety valve in the back of the room.
The audience this week was also special. Where we normally have folks from 1 company with various roles, this time I had old co-workers, friends, and family. They all asked me at one point: can we attend one of your sessions: we want to, need to know more about AI and business. So the audience consisted of an extremely experienced group of people. A group of people that do a workshop every day, are on stage to deliver presentations routinely. And they loved it as well. Praised the team. Cool!
As my petrolhead friend said: what most stands out is they really act as one team. They have each other back. And my son was there. Son #2. Just 30 years old. Me sitting in the back of the room, seeing my kid, no longer a kid really, holding his ground in this group of the slightly older gentleman. Expressing his thoughts clearly, bringing so much experience to the table. I was just proud. Seeing your kids in this way is so cool. And let’s hope I did not embarrass him too much. Proud of my son, proud of my team. Just of one of those weeks that is a gift.
Read what else Trifork is doing with Machine Learning on our website:
More information about the ML Masterclass can be downloaded here: Masterclass Artificial Intelligence for Business.