[Meet the team] AI Coach Maxim

by May 31, 2021News

After a bumpy ride in traditional education, Maxim found at BeCode what he had always been looking for: a hands-on training path that would launch him into a future-oriented career path. After having worked in the private sector for a year, Maxim’s passion for making a difference by helping others, brought him back to BeCode. And this was a good decision it seemed, as his second promotion just kicked off. Curious about his story? Then read the interview below.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
“It all started 24 years ago. I grew up in a good family, I didn’t miss out on anything, but once I started going to school, problems started to arise. During elementary school, it all went fine, but after it got harder for me to adapt to the traditional school system as I am really not made for it. When I was 18, I was in my third year of secondary school and decided to drop out.”
“But having a diploma felt important to me, so I started a more practical training course to become a specialized educator. This training focused more on critical thinking and analytical skills. Once I obtained my certification, I started working in the field. I was put to work in centers for people with mental or physical issues, but I didn’t get the feeling that I was making a difference there as we were really understaffed.”
“I always loved informatics, so BeCode’s web development training seemed like the perfect next step for me. When I read about the active pedagogy, I felt like this was what I’d been looking for all of my life. I decided to give it a try.”
“Afterwards, the AI bootcamp was about to kick off in Brussels. My coaches encouraged me to register as they believed that I would be a good fit. I was hesitant but I registered and got in. Lots of my fellow students had a masters degree in their pocket, which really made me feel little at the start. But a few months later, I realized that I was actually doing a great job.”
“After having finished the AI bootcamp, I did an internship at one of BeCode’s partners, Faktion. They offered me a contract right after my internship and I worked there for over a year. As Faktion is one of the best Belgian companies active in AI, I really learned a lot there. The team was also really nice.”
“After one year, I started missing contributing to a social mission. I’m made to help people and here I felt like I was spending 8 hours a day on helping a company increase its revenue. Around that time, BeCode was looking for a coach in Brussels. I applied for the position and BeCode welcomed me with open arms. Together with Xavier, I led the second AI bootcamp in Brussels. My first promotion as a head coach just kicked off.”

How did you discover BeCode?
“I found out about BeCode via Google. I was looking for trainings with an active pedagogical approach. First I was interested in the training because of the pedagogy, but I soon became interested in the training itself.”

After your BeCode experience as a learner, you joined the team as a coach. What do you like most about your job?
“I would say the flexibility and freedom. Some weeks there is lots of pressure, lots of things to take care of, which makes you feel like you can barely breathe. Other weeks are calmer and give you the opportunity to organize one on ones with the juniors and to prepare new material. I’m someone that likes to push himself to the limit, so this gives me energy.”

How did you experience your first coaching experience?
“When I first entered the field, I was impressed. All people in the IT world are suffering from the imposter syndrome. At least I was when I was working at Faktion and when I just joined the BeCode team as a coach. I kept on asking myself if I was good enough to teach the juniors and if I was good enough to be loved by them. When in doubt, I got lots of support from my colleagues. Now I’m feeling pretty confident to guide my next promotion towards their new career path. It’s exciting to see the progress that I’ve made along the way.”

If you compare yourself to when you joined BeCode as a learner and where you are now. How did you see yourself evolve?
“I had a low self esteem. I felt like I wasn’t made to learn new things. BeCode gave my self-confidence a big boost. I started seeing myself as someone who can learn new things and perform in undiscovered areas. I hope to continue learning new things and to continue to boost my self confidence.”

Back to AI. For those who don’t know what AI is, how would you describe it?
“AI is very different from the classic way of programming. Here you give an input and depending on the rules that feed the program, you’ll get a specific output. AI tries to determine the rules independently based on the input that it gets.”

People may not be aware of it but we’re surrounded by AI. Can you give us some examples of how AI is integrated into our daily lives?
“When you are browsing on services such as Tinder, algorithms are studying your profile so that they can present you with profiles that match your interests.”
“After having had an accident, you’ll go to the garage to get the damage fixed. Garage operators are more and more taking pictures of the damage with an app that can predict how much fixing the damage will cost. ”

“These kinds of apps are also used by insurance companies. Decisions are more and more taken by machines.”

What’s your favorite module of the training?
“To teach or to practice?”

Both.
“To teach I would say Python. It’s nice to provide people that don’t know how to code in Python with the best practices used in the business world.”
“To practice I would say Natural Language Processing (NLP). I used to prefer computer vision, but when I started working for Faktion, I had to work a lot with NLP. It’s very in demand right now.”

You got to combine both passions when giving the AI fundamentals training.
“Exactly. I could teach people that already have some basic coding skills best practices and could support them in realizing their project. But I must admit that I’m a bigger fan of working on projects, then working with certain technologies.”

What project did you enjoy most working on?
“When I was still a student at BeCode, we had to work on a red line project. I worked on it together with Xavier. We developed a system, supported by a camera and facial recognition software, that could note down your attendance when entering the classroom. The system knew on which time you arrived and left. It could detect if you arrived late or left early. As I also followed the web development training, I was able to create a cool dashboard for it. We got to test the developed solution for a week. It was fun, but we stopped using it after as we were not quite sure how legal such a system is. And that’s the thing with AI. It’s not always clear if your solution is ethical or not.”

A lot of people are concerned about AI. What are, according to you, the dangers of this technology?
“To train an AI model you need historical data and this data is biased. If you let a model predict whether or not you’ll offer someone a loan, the decision will be based on previous decisions. Humans are biased.”
“If you let a child observe society without interfering, he might duplicate the behavior of others. To prevent this from happening, you have to correct him along the way. It’s the same with AI. You have to take control of the data so that there is no bias.”

The field is evolving fast. How do you keep up?
“I’m doing lots of reading and I keep in touch with my network.”
“At BeCode there are dev days. One day a week the coaches get a day off of their promotions to focus on coding projects. These projects offer you a chance of putting the theory into practice.”

What projects are you currently working on?
“I’m working on an application that can scrape all the job offers in web development, AI and DevSecOps of the internet. This data will be used to map out the technologies that are demanded in these positions. If we decide to include these new technologies in our curriculum, we have made a decision based on real life data.”

What projects would you like to work on in the future?
“I’m discussing with Ludovic if I can contribute to My BeCode. We’ll see how that works out.”
“What I’ll be working on next will depend on BeCode’s needs.”
“What would be great to have is a tool that can track the progress of our learners. This way we can predict in which training phases they might experience difficulties.”

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
“I have no idea. I hope I’ll still be learning new things and that I’ll not be stuck in a job that I don’t like. As long as I’ll be learning new things and I can do something that I love, I’ll be happy. That’s where I see myself in ten years, happy.”

Do you want to add something?
“You don’t have to be scared. I know that BeCode isn’t for everyone. We have a bit of an atypical pedagogical approach and some topics that are covered in the training aren’t easy, but with all the things that we put in place, you’ll still gain lots of valuable experience even if you decide to drop out after a while. There is no risk in giving it a try.”
“When I enrolled in the AI bootcamp, I too felt like it would be too difficult for me. I have always been bad at mathematics and therefore felt like I couldn’t proceed, even though I was very interested in the field. But at BeCode we don’t care about that. You’ll have to work with data all day long and if you don’t like that, this training will not be for you. But if you are doubting because of your mathematical skills, you’ll get through. BeCode is a good starting point for your new career path.”

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