I Struggled with PTSD, Now I Help to Address It Through AI

I Struggled with PTSD, Now I Help to Address It Through AI

 
Read the brave story of Anam from Pakistan who was struggling with Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD) after her dad was in a critical health condition. She had to prepare for entrance exams while taking care of her siblings for several months.

 

 

It is truly amazing how many inspiring individuals have applied to our Collaborative AI Projects. We very honored to share the story of Anam today from whom we learned a lot by just speaking and listening to her. Anam has been part of our AI challenge on building a machine learning model for PTSD assessment. 

 

Anam’s Story

I am a Computer Science student and before that, I was actually a pre-medical student. I switched a lot of majors. The thing in Pakistan is, after studying biology, you can either become a doctor or a dentist. I wanted to do research but there weren’t many options. That is why I decided to switch to computer science and for that, we have to study mathematics before college. I took a gap year to study math so that I was eligible to apply to an engineering university.

It was very hard to convince my parents to let me study maths at first because they were convinced that being a doctor would be a better choice for me. They finally agreed and I was studying maths and then I had to complete two years of the syllabus but I had only one year. Right after I started studying my dad got appendicitis and we went to get his appendix removed but it ended up being more than that.

His intestines stopped working, and he was in the hospital for a few months after that. We were just hoping his intestines would start working so we could go home. Then the surgical wound from where they opened him up, developed an infection. In order to get support, we had to move to Lahore, where the rest of my relatives live. When we moved to Lahore, they cleaned his wound, and it got infected again. He was on bed rest for about two months. His movements were minimal, which led to pulmonary embolism (blood clots had lodged in his lung). One day, he was going to the bathroom, when all of a sudden he passed out and nobody knew what was happening.

Everybody was at the hospital and nobody could figure out what happened. The doctors thought maybe he had a heart attack. He was taken to the ICU. The doctors started giving him CPR. I think he was gone for a minute or two, but the doctors were successful at bringing him back. They put him on life support forsupportfor a couple of days and that’s when we really lost all hope.

A couple of days later he finally woke up and we found out that he had had a pulmonary embolism.

I know a lot of people go to a lot of things and this is nothing compared to most of them. when my parents were in the hospital I was looking after my siblings. I had to tell them what was happening.

At the same time, I also had to focus on my studies. Even though there were a lot of people who did support us, at these times you really find out who is actually there for you and who isn’t. And a lot of people backed out. My friends would be telling me, you should be with your dad instead of even worrying about your studies. To avoid talks like these, I would hide while I studied. So after four months of being in the hospital and staying at my relatives, we could finally come home.

We were ecstatic.

I remember my mom telling me that she wanted to go out in the streets and shout for joy.

 

We came back home it was all fine and I gave my math exams after covering two years worth of syllabus in about 4 months, that too under extreme stress.

I came back after my last exam, ready to prepare for my college entrance tests, and something odd happened. I fell sick out of the blue. I had nausea 24/7. I couldn’t eat or drink. I would vomit if I tried, and I started to lose weight.

My parents took me to multiple doctors thinking that my stomach was upset. Months went by but we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Later, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety which stemmed from the incident with my dad.

I remember my mom telling me, “When your dad was in the ICU, I would sit outside it all night and every day there was a new body being taken out of the ward. So, every time I saw the doors open, I hoped it wasn’t your dad’s body.” I could understand her feelings because that was exactly how I felt every time my mom called me from the hospital. I felt my heart drop every time my phone rang.

The fear had gotten stronger and now I had severe anxiety accompanied by recurring panic attacks. The fear that I might lose my parents kept me up all night. Whenever one of them left the house I would call them repeatedly to check up on them. I never turned my phone on silent while in class, because I was always fearing a call with a bad news.

I started medication, and my anxiety slowly started getting better. Throughout the recovery, my mother was always by my side. She distracted me when I had terrible thoughts. I felt safe only in her company.

My entrance test results finally came. I was accepted into one of the top CS universities in Pakistan.

My recovery still continues but today I feel great because I have never been able to share my story publicly before. I have always been told to keep it quiet as if talking about mental health problems is some sort of taboo. From my personal experience, I have realized that talking about it is what helps us get better. I hope I encourage people to speak up and share their stories

 

How to Transform Your Data Science Skills and Build a Meaningful Career

How to Transform Your Data Science Skills and Build a Meaningful Career

By Tanya Dixit
 
 

Data Science is a hot field and will remain as such with new roles evolving. More and more companies are realizing that in order to stay relevant in the future they need to become data science career-oriented organizations.

Great breakthroughs have happened with machine learning models helping to detect fake news, spotting diseases such as malaria, building inclusive financial systems, and many more.

But data science is also a very diverse field — not only in terms of knowledge but also in terms of people, domains, and careers. This very diversity of ideas and individuals can make it a huge success. However, there are several obstacles along the way.

To overcome problems such as algorithmic bias, safety, and trust issues, and silo-driven development practices, we need to embrace all that humanity has to offer. To learn skills that are relevant in an inclusive workplace, we at Omdena are happy to turn toward online education with plenty of great resources to learn to code, dive into machine learning, and hackathons and competitions that will help to improve your modeling and analysis skills.

But what is missing, are skills that are not only about technical prowess, like Machine Learning, Data engineering, Visualization, Programming, Domain expertise, etc.

Even the most technically skilled data scientist needs to have the following soft skills to thrive today. All of which you can only learn through hands-on practice.

Collaboration, Cultural empathy, Creative thinking/problem solving, Initiative, Presentation skills

This is what a meaningful career means. This is what being a next-level data science engineer or data scientist means — A career where one is part of something that is bigger than oneself. The world’s biggest challenges can only be solved when people from diverse backgrounds with various skills and perspectives come together to bring out the best.

“Do not optimize for income only but for passion, for where you really want to make a difference.” — influencer Eric Weber in one of our webinars.

Our mission is to democratize AI not just by talking but by the means of purpose-driven action and collective intelligence.

The Japanese call this Ikigai (生き甲斐) — “a reason for being. The thing that gets you up in the morning”.

 

The people who are doing it

In the following, six individuals from various backgrounds — career movers, a Professor at ESADE, a Postdoc in Physics, a data engineer, a researcher, and a student — sharing their experiences in working in Omdena´s real-world projects.

 

Shifting careers in a 90 degrees direction

 

 

Professor Xavier has been involved for a long time in Business analytics and consulting. He took a step further in his career when he earned a Masters’s degree in Business Intelligence and Data Science. He joined Omdena´s disaster management project with UN WFP.

According to him, “(1) Doing AI for Good (2) on a global scale (3) and with a global team” were the 3-ingredient salad that made him want to participate in the project. He improved significantly his data engineering skills, tools for feature importance analysis, hyperparameter tuning, and cross-validation techniques and learned a lot about neural networks. He also improved skills in Python and in using libraries such as Scikit-Learn and visualization libraries such as Seaborn.

“I also learned that it doesn’t matter if you try something that maybe later it’s not part of the pipeline of the project. It’s part of the learning process.“  –  Professor Xavier

When asked about soft skills, Professor Xavier states that he improved his team management skills, mainly because he was part of a very diverse team with different cultures and backgrounds at Omdena. A very crucial aspect that he learned was to swim in a world of chaos at the beginning of a project and be willing to be patient for things to come into place later, with clear tasks and responsibilities.

“There is a lot of smart people out there willing to help and to make good using AI. Being part of such a community like that makes me proud of it. Makes me want to share it with my relatives and friends.”  –  Xavier Torres Fatsini

 

 

From Omdena to a full-time offer at Microsoft

 

 

Kritika Rupauliha is a CS undergrad, currently in the 6th semester of her degree. She has worked at organizations like Leading India AI, Reflex Solutions LLP, Omdena, IIIT Allahabad, and Microsoft as an intern.

At Omdena, she worked her way up from Junior ML Engineer to the Lead ML Engineer of a project. This was her first time managing a task with a large number of globally diverse participants. According to Kritika, by participating in an Omdena project, she learned to balance between empowering people to take their own initiative and get things done, while at the same time setting goals to keep the overall task on track. She also gained valuable skills in clear and regular communication, especially while working remotely. She learned to manage work for Omdena, her day job, and family commitments, and also to manage notifications appearing round the clock because of the global nature of the collaboration.

“Before joining Omdena, I had been involved in some research work and college projects under my professors. But I had never been exposed to such a big community of similar-minded individuals. I found out that I thrived in such a community, learning with my peers, and exploring the horizons of AI. Omdena is also the reason why I got selected for a software engineering intern at Microsoft.” – Kritika Rupauliha

For Kritika, being around experienced professionals and learning from them was the best thing, and they went on to become close friends who will always mentor her in her future endeavors. She learned valuable communication skills for which she credits her projects at Omdena.

We congratulate Kritika for bagging a full-time offer at Microsoft!!

 

Leading teams at Omdena

 

 

Rosana de Oliveira Gomes is an inspiring Astrophysicist who is now a Lead Machine Learning Engineer at Omdena.

Rosana improved her leadership and “communication to non-scientist” skills and increased her multicultural experience by working with collaborators from three continents for the first time.

“I feel more connected with the world after speaking every day with people from all over the world in order to build something together. I also feel more confident and valued (before the experience at Omdena I have suffered from bullying at the workplace and this really helped me to rebuild my confidence in my skills.” – Rosana de Oliveira Gomes

 

 

No need to have perfect knowledge

 

 

Marek Cichy got his Masters’s degree in the Portuguese language and culture and spent 10 years professionally working as a Polish-Portuguese/Spanish translator and interpreter. He wanted to shift to being an NLP specialist. He tells us that before joining Omdena, he felt he had a lot of hurdles to jump over and impostor syndrome was haunting him. He initially felt quite overwhelmed with all the maths and programming he had to learn.

But after joining Omdena, he realized a few things which immensely boosted him. Let’s listen from him:

“I don’t need to have perfect knowledge in all the above-mentioned areas to contribute in a valuable way to a project like this”“Compared with other participants, even ones with a “better” curriculum, I didn’t feel I was lagging behind, and definitely the atmosphere in Omdena projects is really positive and non-toxic”“I realized my domain knowledge (e.g. speaking Polish in the Omdena+SexEdPL project) is an equally valuable resource as ML knowledge is”“I always thought I’m not good at managing other people, but I discovered that in a positive environment I’m able to do it.”

Marek also says that he met such a diverse group of people who greatly expanded his network, and got to work on a real-world problem that can now help him in job interviews.

 

Data engineering & finding like-minded people

 

 

Raghuveer is an IT professional working as a Platform Engineer to provide an intelligent platform to investigate fraudulent activities. He was interested in the field of data science, machine learning, and AI since his college days. Before Omdena, he was working with small pet projects, but couldn’t apply it on a large scale. He also didn’t get to interact much with the data science community before. According to Raghuveer, working with Omdena helped him in several ways and transformed his data science career:

  • Working on a large scale project (end to end) for the first time.
  • Developing data munging/collection skills via scraping
  • Building “people” skills as he got to interact with almost +25 people

 

Working through passion

 

 

Juber Rahman is a researcher in the field of Electrical and Computer Engineering turned Data Scientist who believes in the power of passion.

“I believe a person performs the best when he or she is passionate to solve a problem. Very few organizations (e.g. Omdena) can ignite the passion in you. Most organizations make it feel an obligation to do something rather than creating a drive to solve a meaningful problem.”

Juber started learning advanced model development combining multiple models as part of his project at Omdena. He says the most important thing he learned was to accept and tolerate disagreement with fellow workers.

 

Our mission is not only to help in solving real-world problems but to transform data science career in the process too. We are happy about each success story as part of our community-driven work. The way we solve problems is changing, and we all are witnessing the dawn of a new era — one where collaboration matters more than the competition.

 

 

 

Make the Internet Your AI University and Be a Changemaker!

Make the Internet Your AI University and Be a Changemaker!

Munira left Somalia because of violence but rather than losing her hope she has a big vision.

 

In one event, an electronics shop close to her university was completely destroyed a few minutes after she left her laptop for repair.

This of one of many events that did not stop Munira from following her vision to improve her skills, empowering and the education of other women in STEM, and use technologies such as Machine Learning & AI to solve problems in her country and beyond.

I want to solve community problems like droughts and also improve many industries in my country using Deep Learning and Computer Vision in the near future. Munira works among 40 other Collaborators in our AI for Good challenge with the UN Refugee Agency to predict forced displacement and climate change in Somalia. Read on your own what extraordinary mindset she has.

 

Munira, what is your background?

I am a Somali girl from Mogadishu living in Nairobi. I have completed my education in Bachelor’s degree in Computer Application from one of Somalia’s top universities in Technology in September 2017. In March 2018, I landed an internship as a software developer where I realized what I knew was only basic coding.

But before I could properly learn the skills required for a software developer, my family decided to move to Nairobi.

 

Why are you interested in AI and Data Science?

As Andrew Ng says, “AI is the new electricity”.

One of the things I want to do with AI is to use its power and make deaf people feel they are not disabled. I want them to communicate with their friends and families through video calls freely. The camera will be tracking the sign languages and translate it.

And hailing from Somalia, a country which is so behind from the world when it comes to Artificial Intelligence gives me the courage to pursue even more and empower other women to complete their AI education and see beyond their regular lives.

 

What is the most important life lesson that you’ve learned?

I lived in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, where most of the bombings happen and if it was not for the violent conflicts I think I would have never left home. When you see how my fellow Somalis are living their lives to the fullest, you will think that there is peace in Somalia.

 

 

The most important lesson I have learned is that there is always a grand plan in the background happening beyond our sight even though the process might be hard or painful. I had been unemployed for the past year leaving my dream job back at home but I am so so grateful for this year of experience.

Not only have I found what I really want to do in life, but I have also made the internet my university and took full advantage of the jobless year to learn the most needed skills, like AI Education) in 2019.

 

What is your vision for the next couple of years?

Make my way to big tech companies like Google and Facebook to gain some experience. I am also so passionate about getting more girls and women into tech. I wanna teach moms how to code while they are at home at looking after their families and create a space where we women in STEM are inspired and say to each other “I have been there and I am here to help you”.

I also wanna keep writing and share the little knowledge I have through blogging.

 

If you could share one thing with individuals who are in a similar situation then you were in Somalia, what would you tell them?

You don’t have to go to universities abroad to pursue your dreams and complete your education, everything now is on the internet. The best universities are now offering their courses online on websites like Edx and Coursera.

Just because your country is behind when it comes to some of the technologies like AI does not mean you too should be behind.

 
Make the “internet” your university.
 
 

 

 

More about Omdena

Omdena is the collaborative platform to build innovative, ethical, and efficient AI and Data Science solutions to real-world problems. 

 
 
Without More Female Leadership AI Development Will Remain Broken

Without More Female Leadership AI Development Will Remain Broken

By Michael Burkhardt

Yes, we can build a better future with Artificial Intelligence – But only if we have more female leadership.

We sat together with five Women in AI who are doing inspiring work and talked about why we need more women in leadership roles, how to empower more women to join the field, and lastly what learnings and insights all five want to share with aspiring female AI engineers. Enjoy!

The panelists:

  • Yemissi B. Kifouly, Udactiy Mentor
  • Kulsoom Abdullah, Data Science Consultant
  • Ecem Yılmazhaliloğlu, President of Technoladies
  • Rebeca Moreno Jiménez, UNHCR Innovation Officer
  • Sofia Kyriazi, UNHCR AI Engineer

 

 

More about Omdena

Omdena is the collaborative platform to build innovative, ethical, and efficient AI and Data Science solutions to real-world problems. 

How to Learn Data Science Most Effectively in 2020 | Eric Weber

How to Learn Data Science Most Effectively in 2020 | Eric Weber

How to learn Data Science most effectively in 2020, what goes wrong in the field, and why income is not the only relevant career metric.

In this one-hour fireside chat with Eric Weber, Data Science Influencer (40k followers) and former Senior Data Scientist at LinkedIn, we discussed strategies and tactics to learn skills, finding a balance between theory and practice, developing a mindset of learning through failure, and why everyone needs to find his or her own way.

While it is hard to wrap up all insights in a post, here are 6 learnings from the webinar. For more, you can watch the entire recording at the end of the page.

 

data science skills

Figure 1: Data Science Skills

 

 

Finally, don`t listen too much to what others say (applies to this post as well) in your career journey. Well-known Youtuber & MIT Research Scientist Lex Fridman recently shared his own struggles with imposter syndrome and comparing himself to others. His suggestion?

“Pave your own path”

 

Four Powerful Tips for Working on an Omdena Real-World AI Project

Four Powerful Tips for Working on an Omdena Real-World AI Project

 

I’m about to finish up my first Omdena AI project Challenge (Mars Omdena), and I am happy to report to everyone that it has been an incredibly positive experience, full of learning, discovery, and wonder. Working on any Omdena AI Projects is a unique experience in of itself, and as such, you can never really be ready for it. Nonetheless, below are some tips I have learned from this great experience I wished I had known before starting:

 

Tip 1: Status Calls Are The Heartbeat of these AI Projects

 

First of all, the number one thing that amazed me the most about the Mars Omdena challenge is how the balance between chaos and order turns out to be crucial for making advances on the problem.

By chaos, I mean that there are 30 individuals all with their own ideas and theories and all these ideas get mixed around serendipitously. The freedom of this unstructured approach allows for creativity and initiative-taking, and it ultimately means that the best ideas win out in the end.

However, life is all about balance, and these AI projects do require some structure for these creative ideas to crystallize. This is where the status calls come into play, where all the teams present their progress to one another.

Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to miss these meetings. They create pressure to deliver results, which turn fanciful theories into concrete progress. Also during the meetings, you will learn other approaches that can help you with your own. The meetings are very focused on question answering as well, so ask as many as you can!

To summarize this point, we can say that the weekly meetings, if attended religiously, will be the driving force into turning your ideas into real-world results. Set a weekly time and, whatever you do, stick to it!

 

Tip 2: Read around the topic

 

Photo by Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash

Photo by Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash

 

 

One of the coolest things about Omdena projects is that they deal with all sorts of different fields and topics. Hunger reduction, fighting PTSD, segmenting trees, or discovering life on Mars, just to name a few. However, it is highly likely that when you first work on a project, you will not be an expert in that field.

One key thing that really helped us to tackle our Mars project was using the first couple of weeks just to get accustomed to the jargon and technical vocabulary related to Space Probes and Interplanetary exploration. We needed to understand words like Technosignature and the difference between a landing site and a crash site, as well as becoming familiarized with the industry-specific JP2 file format because our raw data was in that format. Furthermore, we had to brush up on the history and context of space probes to understand the problem better, we had to understand how the previous Mars missions had gone and what the HiRISE satellite actually was and how it worked (because that´s where we would be getting all our data from).

All in all, when you start learning about a new field, there is always specific technical vocabulary that will trip you up at the beginning and that can cause you and your team confusion.

In the first weeks of this AI project(s), I recommend you spent half your time researching, learning, and familiarization yourself with that industry rather than just diving straight into some algorithm optimization. Trust me, this will make life a lot easier later on.

 

Tip 3: Omdena is a do-ocracy

 

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

 

Omdena projects like the Mars one we worked on have a strict flat hierarchy. This means that there is little ordering around and nobody is going to tell you what you are supposed to do. People naturally self-organize into groups where they do what they are the best at or what they are the most curious about.

This mode of operating has a name, it´s called a “Do-ocracy” (a play on the world Democracy). During the project, if someone has an idea, we are not going to vote on who should carry out that task or take on that role. The first person who states that they will do the task is entitled to do it. If there are several people, then they should share the role. Simple as.

Responsibilities are attached to people who do the work, rather than elected or selected individuals. For many, this way of working is pretty alien, but you will learn to embrace it and make good use of it. It becomes very empowering very quickly. And it is key to Omdena´s flexibility on which it thrives.

 

Tip 4: Ask for Help

 

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

 

 

Nobody knows everything. And Omdena prides itself on having a large group of people from a variety of backgrounds. Your specialty might be someone’s weakness. And vice versa.

One of the reasons why I believe Machine Learning projects excite so many people is because they are truly multidisciplinary challenges. If you were doing this challenge on your own, you would need to use high-level mathematics, be able to code proficiently, understand cognitive human behavior, be an expert in data scraping and have some scientific/technical knowledge of the task at hand.

Of course, that´s almost impossible for a mere mortal, but a team of 20–30 people can cover for all those needs. However, the only way that your skills can be complemented by the mass brain is by asking for help.

Without a shadow of a doubt, you will reach a point in the challenge where you ́ll feel overwhelmed and completely unsure of how to progress. This is normal. This how we learn.

In such cases, ask for help! Make a general post to all participants explaining your issue, or directly contact a participant who you know has strong skills in what you need. This is the only way that these AI projects by omdena can progress well. And you will learn so much from the answer of the other members.

 

So never be afraid of calling out for help, it’s what you are expected to do.

 

More About Omdena

Omdena is an innovation platform for building AI solutions to real-world problems through the power of bottom-up collaboration.

 

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