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When it launched in September of 2020, the School for Advanced Digital Technology (SADT) at SAIT became a tech-driven training hub for Calgarians who were looking to acquire new digital skills to propel their careers and businesses forward. 

The first program the SADT offered was a 12-week Applied Machine Learning Bootcamp run by the team at Braintoy in February of 2021.

“Our goal is to support people to pivot their careers and build on their previous domain expertise,” says Lora Bucsis, the Manager of Digital Adoption Training. “We liked that Braintoy  was a local organization that had a platform (mlOS) that our students could use and experiment with. Because they are invested in building the local talent pipeline, we knew they would be a great partner to help make machine learning accessible to people who were embarking on career transitions.”

The course came together quickly, designed and facilitated by Braintoy co-founders Kwame Asiedu and Padma Paul. Within 90 days of their first conversation, the program was up and running with a full cohort of 23 learners. 

Working with Braintoy’s low code/no code machine learning platform, mlOS, Bootcamp participants learn the fundamentals of machine learning. The technical skills training includes:

  • Data Analysis (mining, analytics, manipulation, etc.)
  • Development (Python) and more
  • Deep learning
  • Algorithms (Neural Networks, SVM, XGboost, etc)
  • Supervised and unsupervised learning
  • Machine Learning Operations (MLOps)
  • AI Governance
  • Deployment

Bucsis says ideal candidates for the program already have domain expertise from a previous career that they can build upon to solve meaningful problems. People are most successful if they have already had some exposure to data analysis and statistics before. In addition, some previous coding or programming experience is also helpful, but not required. Mainly, she says, it’s all about attitude – those who are curious, open-minded and excited to learn by doing are well positioned to succeed.

“mlOS is such a user-friendly platform really anybody can use it and build models. But, to do this as a career and create value for your company or employer, you really do need domain expertise and you need to be passionate about solving a very specific problem,” says Bucsis.

From our perspective here at Braintoy, we are impressed with how quickly people begin to learn the basics of machine learning during the 12-week Bootcamp. Students design and then solve a “use case” in an area of their choice. Some have delved deep into solving problems to do with astronomy, bitcoin, agriculture and finance.

“We empower domain experts with machine learning, and they solve meaningful problems that create value for their organizations,” says Kwame Asiedu, co-CEO of Braintoy. 

The 3rd cohort of the Applied Machine Learning Bootcamp ran at the same time as the Product Management Bootcamp, and at the 6 week mark, the two programs intersected. The two teams were able collaborate on a problem, mimicking a real life team scenario one would find in the workplace. Bucsis says this co-lab concept where people learn how to work as a team valuable and deepens the learning by teaching power skills and critical thinking,

Following the program, learners tend to follow two paths. Some students move into full-time jobs as “citizen developers” where they leverage their previous career experience and start piloting models to create value for a company or business unit.

Others want to move into data science and become machine learning technicians and pursue further training to enhance their knowledge of Python and other programming languages.

In both cases, the Bootcamp has sparked interest and kickstarted new and exciting careers. 

“The feedback has been great. They see all of the opportunity and potential. A number of them have found jobs and paid internships that get them one step closer to their career goals and feeling like they’re being valued by their employers and society,” says Bucsis.

A total of 48 people have completed the Machine Learning Bootcamp and they range in ages and from diverse backgrounds.

Bucsis spends at least half her time talking to industry and researching in-demand skill sets in both current and emerging technology. “I have no doubt that anyone that develops skills in Machine Learning will have an advantage in their industry and large potential for career growth. We are on the cusp of high growth of ML in both our core and emerging industries, and these people in our programs will be leading the way.

We love working with Kwame and Padma because they’re so passionate about what they do.  They offer incredible support to the students all the way through the course and the final project. They’re amazing at empowering people in this step in their career!”

SAIT and Braintoy are now working together to  make Applied Machine Learning a micro-credential. What this means is that industry can be assured that those with the microcredential have demonstrated the skills that they have deemed essential and in-demand. Successful participants will receive a digital badge that can be linked to their resume, LinkedIn profile, website, email signature or business card.

The next bootcamp will be offered on May 2nd through the Centre for Continuing Education and Professional Studies and powered by the School for Advanced Digital Technology.