Conversation with Fusemachines’ AI Fellowship Alumni Isu Shrestha

Neha Uddin
Fusemachines' AI Fellowship Alumni Isu Shrestha

Fusemachines’ AI Fellowship is a year-long program with 4 three-month-long courses on Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Computer Vision, and Natural Language Processing. 

In line with the company’s mission to democratize AI, the program, launched in 2017, aims to bridge the gap between the demand and supply of AI talent. Featuring courses created by US university professors and leading AI experts, the AI Fellowship Program is one of the best ways to build a strong AI foundation and efficiently enter the AI workforce. 

To learn more about the program, we spoke to Isu Shrestha, a Level III Machine Learning Engineer at Fusemachines who completed the Fellowship Program in December of 2019. Here’s the conversation.

Tell us about your AI journey. How did you become interested in AI?

I spent years working as a musician and a part-time web developer. I was learning about life and myself, and at one point, I decided that I was ready to take the next step. Consequently, I started sketching out 3 fundamental goals that my new direction in life should fulfill. It should be interesting to me (because I want to enjoy my work), I want to be able to provide for my family (financially sustainable), and I want it to have the potential to impact the world in a meaningful way. This is how I came to AI, the intersection of these 3 things.

How did you choose the AI Fellowship Program?

I was part of an earlier program at Fusemachines where 10,000 people were trained on an online course. Luckily, I got selected for this scholarship, and my understanding of the company’s goal, the democratization of AI, became clear and cohesive. I joined the AI Fellowship program to be a part of this mission.

Tell us about your career/academic footing after the program.

There is a lot of math involved in AI, and it is not easy to learn these topics on your own. It is also hard to know what is essential to understand and what is not. Joining the program gave me access to insights from veterans in the field. It gave me a sneak peek at what was to come when I joined the industry. To put it in a nutshell, I got a job at the top AI company in the country. I think that speaks for itself.

How would you describe the program? 

The program was fun, but it was also intense in a significant way. I felt like it was challenging, but in a way that made me want to work harder. There were many concepts that were difficult to understand, but together we learned and understood how they worked. There was a sense of camaraderie and a sense of privilege to be with some of the smartest minds in the country. My favorite course was Machine Learning because that was the one that needed the most discussion and team input. 

How did the AI Fellowship Program prepare you for your career?

It gave me a glimpse of what was to come. It showed me the building blocks of more sophisticated algorithms. I learned how the fundamentals of Machine Learning were created, and so it made my career a lot easier. I have been able to tackle industry problems with consistency.

What do programs like Fusemachines’ AI Fellowship offer to countries like Nepal?

The contribution is immense. This is the answer to Nepal’s brain drain. Most people leave Nepal because there is a lack of opportunity. But programs like the AI Fellowship allow people to enter the field. It is an opportunity and an initial step. What comes after depends on a drive for success. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to build a career in AI?

When you are a baby and try to learn to speak, you copy someone else’s words and learn how to speak. It is the same thing when you grow up and try to play an instrument. You learn how to play someone else’s song before learning how to make one yourself. I would advise someone to copy an ML algorithm. Try to replicate it yourself using code. See how it works. Play with it. This is the way to be prepared for the industry. Understand the basics, and the rest will come to you as though you’re playing with Legos.