Black and Brilliant AI Accelerator: Meet the Learners


We’ve partnered with Black and Brilliant on an AI Accelerator and have been following along as participants make their way through the 10-week course. In addition to working through Codecademy’s Data Scientist curriculum, participants are exploring topics like responsible AI and social justice, the business of AI, and more with mentorship and coaching from industry experts.  

We had a chance to speak with a few of the students participating in the Black and Brilliant AI Accelerator. In our conversations, we asked them about what problems they hope to solve with AI, as well as their advice for people who are interested in AI or are early in their technical learning journeys. Read on to find out what they had to say.

Siphu Langeni

Toronto, CA

After 15 years in the healthcare industry working in critical care and anesthesia, Siphu was exposed to a lot of data, which inspired her to go back to school and make the switch to data science. In the past year, she returned to school for additional coursework in data science, enrolled in the Black and Brilliant AI Accelerator, completed a 100 Days of Code challenge, and will soon join the Data Science and Engineering team at Shopify.

What Siphu wants to do with AI:

I’m really interested in building better access to healthcare, and I feel like AI could play a significant role in that. There’s so much disparity between those who can and cannot access the system and it creates a dividing line for humanity in general. Access isn’t always financial — sometimes it’s access to transportation, providers, and even information. There’s so much data out there, so figuring out a way to harness that data and make it helpful for others is my goal.

Her advice:

Career switching is challenging. It’s like starting over, so you need to be comfortable with not being comfortable. There were many points during my career path when I would just freeze, but you can’t be afraid to take that next step forward. Don’t be shy about reaching out either — what has helped me a lot has been networking. Speak to people who are ahead of you, but find people who are like yourself because they’re the ones who will understand your experience the most. I have a lot of friends who are in similar situations, and I find I’m most encouraged when we encourage each other. It’s about finding your tribe.

Lastly, stay curious. There’s not enough time in the world to know everything you need to know, but if you take it one bite at a time, you’re on your way.

Leonard Paul-Kamara

Fremont, CA

Leonard is a freelance data analyst consultant who believes that “learning never stops” in technology careers. He has been using Codecademy for the past two years to stay up to date on his technical skills. With experience in the oil and energy space, his goals are to work as a machine learning engineer to promote clean energy.

What Leonard wants to do with AI:

I’m interested in using AI to drive the growth and use of sustainable, renewable energy. I have a mechanical engineering background, and I know the whole world is concerned about climate change and the use of fossil fuel. There has been progress made, but I want to jump in and contribute to that growth.

His advice:

There are a lot of resources and self-studies out there for anyone who’s interested in tech, and they’re very accessible and affordable. You can do something with Codecademy, which has all the resources and materials you need. In my job, I’ve used what I’ve learned on Codecademy to improve my work and it’s brought a lot of value to my life.

Cierra Hall

Chesapeake, VA

After always being interested in math and science, Cierra decided to switch careers and go back to school for engineering while in her thirties. Graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in computational modeling, simulation, and visualization engineering, her ultimate goal is to use AI to tackle a pressing issue in healthcare.  

What Cierra wants to do with AI:

What I would ultimately like to tackle with AI is racial disparity among maternal mortality rates. In the United States, the mortality rate amongst Black women is really, really high. I think data science would be a really good tool that I could use to help get those numbers in check. I love machine learning, but one day I’d like to go into the healthcare space to help these women and hopefully overcome the mortality rate.

Her advice:

Take a class, whether that’s online through something like Codecademy where you can learn in a non-traditional space that fits around your career or family. It’s never too late to learn, go back to school, or take a class. Talk to other people in the industry to see what’s worked for them — not everyone is going to have a traditional path.

Dr. Audrey Deyawe Kongmeneck

Nancy, France

After receiving her PhD in Computational Chemistry, Audrey is setting out to evolve the field of research in computational drug discovery. Machine-learning skills are a must-have for her industry, and she’s using the Black and Brilliant AI Accelerator to further expand her skillset.

What Audrey wants to do with AI:

My goal is to improve people’s health. The reason I want to be a drug designer is to find medicines for any disease, and AI plays an important role in that discovery.

Her advice:

In research fields like computational chemistry, data science is mandatory. You’re dealing with a lot of data, and in order to enhance the way you present that data, data science is one of the most helpful tools. It actually helps drive science further.

Shamel Lakin

Tampa, Florida

After launching a website for a nonprofit, Shamel realized that technology, specifically coding, can be used to make a positive impact on people’s lives. He decided to enroll in a bootcamp, and after recently graduating, is seeking a software engineering role at a mission-driven company. He is using the Black and Brilliant AI Accelerator to learn more about AI and expand his technical skills even further.

What Shamel wants to do with AI:

People get confused about AI and what it entails. Through this program, I’ve learned about the importance of AI and how it’s all around us, whether that’s through Alexa, Google Home, self-driving cars, or voice or facial recognition. As we accumulate all this data, the question is how are we taking care of it? How are we nurturing this data so that it is handled with care and responsibility, and that when it’s being used, it’s being used righteously and correctly. We have a huge responsibility, and we all have to carry it together.

His advice:

Be patient with yourself. Think about perseverance and commitment. When you’re on any journey, you need to have an intended target… that could be supporting your kids, your family, or getting out of poverty. If you’re coding and you get stuck — and you know you will get stuck, sometimes for a day straight — keep going back to that target and remind yourself why you’re doing this and why you’re working so hard to tackle this specific skill set.

Interested in learning more about the Black and Brilliant AI Accelerator? Follow The Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network on LinkedIn to stay in the loop!

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