Robert Wolf

Student spotlight details

Self-taught software developer Robert Wolf applied for the Artificial Intelligence: Cloud and Edge Implementations course as a way of steering his career in a new direction. 

'For the past 25 years, I've had a career as a software developer and web developer using Microsoft C, C++, C# and Microsoft.NET. I’ve produced code for embedded systems, built Android and IOS apps and also managed IT systems within numerous companies. For the last 4 years though, I’ve been working as a software engineer and system developer for a company working within the UK and global power systems sector. My main focus has been on designing software to gather and process data from edge devices, whilst also processing the systems behind those devices. 

'My company has projects where machine learning is at the core of the customer offering and after 25 years in software development – mainly in business and web systems, I felt I needed to change my career. I was interested in machine learning and the associated systems development, so the Artificial Intelligence: Cloud and Edge Implementations course seemed like a great opportunity.  

'I do not come from an academic background. Being self-taught I found many of the higher mathematics to be a little difficult and my 1990 GCSE Maths was being pushed to the limit! However, I’d already used many of the mathematical concepts such as tahn, sigmoid, relu and other tools in both software engineering and hardware designs, so it was about having the confidence in myself to just go for it. 

'The course is pretty fast-paced so my previous training and experience in software development and design helped. I managed to get my head around the major components of machine learning pretty quickly – fast enough to produce commercial work within half of the time taken in the course.

'The most rewarding moment for me was after a particularly good session in Oxford – I had a lightbulb moment while travelling home. When I got back I started to make a research project to detect events in data system by visualising the data and then using a CNN model to detect the faults. The research I did there was validated later on by others and positively re-enforced my understanding of machine learning coursework.

'Engaging with the speakers was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the course. Many of them came from real businesses so they gave a commercial real-world context to the course. A few of the speakers' comments and thoughts motivated me to start thinking about the rest of my career and moving to machine learning.

'Even though I do not have any degrees in mathematics I plan to move my career into machine learning systems development – working as a data engineer and engaging with data scientists. The work with my company to produce a major power systems fault detection system is already allowing me to do that and my commercial systems development experience has really helped to create strong structures to hang my new-found machine learning knowledge on.

'From a personal learning standpoint, I have already created a simple LSTM model on a 1985 BBC Microcomputer using assembly language. I've had success in generating simple model data and basic predictions using that 8 bit micro. Going back to basics and having to generate LSTM nodes from scratch was a great way to really get under the hood of a model.

'To anyone considering undertaking this course, I say to believe in yourself. It seems quite daunting at the start as the information overload can be overwhelming. Like driving a car – you often don’t need to know how things work under the hood but you know how to use the controls. I found that a similar approach was needed for learning about artificial intelligence and machine learning – some topics at first seem impenetrable but over time the fog clears and the concepts fall into place. Start with the simple stuff and trust in the tutors' guidance on what areas to look at. The tutors are very helpful. Ajit and Ayse provided some great support on both in-course development and support outside of the course. It’s a hard course but very rewarding and has helped me hugely in my career.'

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