“I want to become a Machine Learning Engineer but first…”

Source: Deep Learning on Medium

Charles Aznavour- The Old Fashioned way… Source: Discogs

I’d highly recommend listening to Charles Aznavour- The Old Fashioned way, what a great song… In all seriousness, sometimes the old fashioned is still very effective, in our use case, the old fashioned way would be the old way of learning — Books/Textbooks!

Daniel 9:2(NLT) – During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years.

Generally speaking, reading is the broccoli on a plate. We all know that it is good for us, but that is about as good as it gets — if we are lucky we may eat just one (with lots of sauce to blur the taste). After many stop starts over the years, in 2017 I devoted myself to reading one book a month. My plans failed when I read the first 10 pages of Simon Sinek “Start with Why” and enjoyed it so much that I decided 4/5 (some months 6) books a month would be better — reading has now become a habit.

My interest in Big Data brought about a new challenge. With no prior background in programming or Machine Learning, a combination of books and textbooks gave me the exposure required to dig deeper. Reading technical books was a new challenge and very different to what i was used to reading. Whenever I decided to get hands on, i’d start out a project then get stuck(which is not unusual), turn to a book, then ultimately stop the project in order to finish the book in hopes of a definitive answer. I would think things like “I can not build a recommender system until i have read everything about collaborative filtering, then matrix factorization ” and so on. Instead, seeking out techniques that others used to solve a similar problem, testing comprehension by teaching or implementation (which is my next point) and using the source as a reference is much more effective use of books/textbooks.

Here are some of the pros and cons of reading technical books and research papers:

Pros:

  • No internet is required so there’s less distractions
  • Written by experts in the field — entrance in to the mind of a seasoned professional (Virtual Mentor!)

Cons:

  • Some books/textbooks are quite pricey
  • Complicated language
  • You’ll need to give up some Netflix — and Twitter, and Instagram, and Youtube and…. (You get my point!)