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  • Adrian Sandham

Context is a powerhouse...

Monday past was an interesting day, the day I received my Masters in AI with Cork Institute of Technology. A part-time effort over two years, unfortunately without the buzz of a physical ceremony. Another arrow in the quiver, one could say, in an area that arguably has the most nebulous perceptions of all disciplines in IT. In addition, it is the start of another cycle of an approach I use to learn about everything systematically from a 1 to 10000 foot view.

This masters a was a great experience and gave me the foundation knowledge to understand the role and more importantly the art of the possible with AI in more detail. Ranging from meta-heuristic optimisation with Ignacio Castineiras, Machine Learning with Ted Scully to my thesis with Mubashir Rehmani there was great support throughout the programme. Thanks to everyone involved.

Being a big believer in the fact that context means everything, taking this course was an important step in ground me in an area that I had yet to be exposed to. I know this endeavour enables me to provide context and insight on when and why AI should be potentially be leveraged in real world scenarios. It has been a great start, absolutely no doubt about it.

To further this work, I recently did the @Google data engineering certification course as I believe when you understand a business's approach to managing and interacting with data, you will understand their perspective on the matter. This enables you to understand how Google envisage companies’ approaches to consuming models and building solutions, and ultimately learn about AI in the context of Google’s offerings. The second context enters the room. With this, they have optimised their offerings in such a way that they want you as a user to leverage their products for technical reasons which ultimately infer different costs if used outside of specific limitations etc. However, they are refreshingly open as a company and very interesting on all levels of reasoning.

The learning of the masters and Google course is all a process; the foundation with CIT and the Google lense is providing a very relevant context to my prior learning. These are just two examples of hundreds of contexts that people unknowingly encounter on a daily basis. From Instagram to Twitter, social media has built a custom context for all its users as to display what is important for that user. "Is this important in the context of that user?" for me I think it just says yes to all of it, but that's a different conversation. I typically learn alot of these contexts on the job without the need for third party training, but believed a boost was needed by starting from the fundamntals with CIT and gave industry context with Google's training as the first of many sources of perspective. Outside of this I have established the use of AI in the context of monitoring and AI through our energy moitoring company as other examples.

Inherently, working from contexts allow you embed empathy and understanding into everything that you do and to focus your learning, understanding and ultimately the person consuming your work at the far end. What do you in the context of another colleague, another department, what does one piece of software do in the context of another, what does a technology mean in the context of a business, what context should I use this machine learning model?? These are all questions that narrow and allow you to encompass the important things in what you do and have the power to derive what you as an individual or group need to produce. It is a good and safe way to ground your efforts, just be sure focus on the important contexts first. Narrow your focus where possible, learn what you need, and you will be in a good place.

Going a step further with context allows you to incorporate and accelerate the use of many frameworks as it automatically (in many cases) enables you to convert your ideas and frame your thoughts in a way that is compatible with business goals and organisational drivers for TOGAF, portfolio visions in SAFe to user stories in individual backlogs. These are a few of many examples that apply to scenarios I've been involved in. Contexts strip away an incredible amount of noise, they exist everywhere and give you sanity and a higher level of thinking on complex topics. Plus, they’re a great little regulator and they’re very underestimated, so give them a bit more airtime if you don't already.

To finish up, this time around the masters was the start of a new cycle, which is weirdly linked to my current work in cloud and automation so far (more on this later). It's giving me a new point to begin building my views and perspctive of the world in AI. To start a new little series of contexts in my head and to ponder with power.

Thanks to all that have supported me and chat soon.

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