Get ready to remember the name Alice Mamsana because she's about to take the world by storm!
Alice is a true superstar in every sense of the word. In just one month, she has accomplished more than most people do in a year. Over the course of the last few months, Alice developed a passion for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and started to challenge herself to learn more and built several small projects, like this cool video (sound on!) she created with Stable Diffusion, Deforum and AVIA.
We were very excited to sit down with Alice to get to know her better and understand who she is.
What’s the biggest misconception you had entering the field of software engineering?
That it is for introverts!
Software engineering is really more of a collaborative effort, yes there will be times where you need to take a step back and focus on your code but most times you need to work with others.
Would you say collaboration is the most important thing you’ve learnt so far?
Yes it is, but I have also come to realize that to succeed, it’s not always about you- you have to get out of your way to help others because tomorrow it may be you who needs a helping hand.
What are some of the other soft skills that you have developed in your time here at ALX SE?
Creativity– I did not think of myself as a creative person but building out things has shown me that I'm actually more creative than I think.
Organization– ensuring that I am on top of all my tasks and not being left behind at work or with ALX SE
And lastly Collaboration with people all across Africa.
What's the best advice you've ever received about coding or software engineering?
“You learn best through practice”
You can read all the manuals and read all the concepts but until you do it, that’s when it sticks. That’s why I love ALX SE because all the projects actually require you to do them. I also go out of my way to do more than is required in the tasks because in the process of doing my research, I sometimes stumble across more than what was covered in the curriculum.
About the ALX SE program, I think people want to know: is the checker your friend?
We started on a rough patch but nowadays I guess we’re okay. I got used to running the correct output of my code before consulting with the checker. Sometimes I'm forced to ask for a different set of eyes to look at my code, but other times we’re okay.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to learn to code?
Practice more than you learn!
What's even more impressive is Alice's diverse background. With a degree in Mathematics and experience in Sales and Marketing, she's able to bring a unique perspective to the world of Software Engineering and AI that sets her apart from the rest. But here's the really amazing part - Alice's interest in AI was sparked while she was at work. She saw firsthand how AI could revolutionize the industry and improve people's lives, and she knew she had to be a part of it.
Alice taught herself GPT-3, Whisper and DALL-E 2, and in less than a month she was on stage, giving an incredible demo on how to build apps using these Artificial Intelligence APIs to thousands of participants of an OpenAI hackathon.With her team, she also co-created a personal health assistant called Wellnexus. Her work didn’t go unnoticed: Nvidia offered her a free ticket for Nvidia’s workshop “Fundamentals of Deep Learning” taught by Nvidia AI experts during GTC.
She did all of this, while juggling a full-time job and being an ALX SE student!
How do you manage to work full time, do your studies at ALX SE and work on additional projects on the side? What's your secret?
I am lucky to have a flexible job which allows time for learning. My secret has always been group discussions, I cover very little on my own as compared to what we could do in a group setting. Also, I believe I have the best study buddies - we’ve accomplished / learnt so much together.
As for additional projects, I only take those that interest me, especially around Artificial Intelligence. I knew right from the start that this is where I wanted to focus on in my tech journey and I’m very grateful for all the exposure I'm currently getting. The additional projects are a great way to network and break the strictness of ALX projects.
What’s the most important AI project you’ve worked on so far?
This is actually a continuation of my final year project in University of Nairobi. My teammates were working on a project to determine the shortest route but we had to do all the codes and calculations practically. Once I started exploring AI, I tried to work on the project again and found that AI could actually give me more results faster.
For those who have a non-tech/mathematical background, what exactly is the shortest route?
Say you want to go to the market, school and work all in one day, my project would potentially let you know which route would be the most efficient and allow you to be back home in the shortest possible time.
You had to learn GPT-3, Whisper and DALL-E AI APIs from scratch and present it in front of a global audience, how was the experience? What did you learn about yourself?
I was excited and nervous at the same time. Anything could go wrong on a Live Demo especially on a platform that was actually new to me (Discord / Twitch) but I'm grateful the session ran smoothly and I had so much fun while at it.
As for the code, I practiced for days over and over until I understood everything very well. Towards the end I was asked a question I had no clue about but I'm glad they did because it was a great learning opportunity for me. Looking back, I have come to really appreciate what the question was about.
Giving a Live Demo within such a popular Hackathon was an opportunity I didn't think I was qualified for, but what I learnt is to take such opportunities as they come and then navigate / figure out how to make the best of them. In the end, you will learn.
You also participated in the OpenAI Hackathon a few weeks ago. How did it go?
This is one event I will live to remember - I was stretched beyond belief with absolutely no sleep on the last day of submission! I had a great team with diverse skills and interests plus the grit to push forward despite the challenges we faced, which was great! I was the team leader, responsible for submitting the solution but more often than not my teammates would take initiative on various aspects of the project which are some of the key things that led to the success of the team. To put this into perspective, there were over 580 teams that registered for the hackathon but only 88 teams managed to submit a solution, which is less than 20% of the teams. I think we did well.
A lot of invaluable lessons learnt, especially around thoroughly researching your solution and getting feedback earlier on before starting the building process. Also, while working in teams the more diverse the better including non-coding members who may be experts in other fields such as business / entrepreneurship. This will ensure your solution is viable in the marketplace right from ideation.
As a result of your exemplary performance at the Open AI Hackathon, you secured a spot for a NVIDIA ML course, how was the experience for you? What advice would you give to someone scared to take that first step?
NVIDIA felt like a once in a lifetime chance and so I have never been more eager to attend a class. The concepts of Deep Learning were obviously new to me but ALX SE has taught us how to learn.
The facilitators truly understood their stuff and broke it all down so easily, which is again part of what we learn at ALX SE with the Holberton framework and the Feynman Technique.
It was a full day course and at the end we had an assessment test. We were supposed to train a model that could recognise fresh fruits from rotten ones from a given dataset, I managed to run the numbers and thereafter earned a certificate that I will live to cherish and celebrate.
Fear will always be there, just learn how to take those initial steps while still afraid. In the end, you will either win or you will learn!
What's the biggest misconception about AI that you have encountered, and how do you explain the reality of this field to others?
The biggest misconception about AI that I have encountered is “AI will take people’s jobs”. AI is a tool, when you learn AI, you learn to generate better solutions.
When calculators were invented, there were Mathematicians who lost their jobs but there were those who learnt how to use them and even became more efficient. AI will only take your job if you’re not improving. It’s a growing field and it will be a tool that will help you do your job even much better!
If you could have any superpower related to AI, what would it be, and how would you use it?
Data processing at super speed!
Alice, we have to ask: Emacs or Vim?
Always been Vim
Super loyal to #teamVim!
Thank you Alice!
Alice is a testament to the power of hard work and determination. Despite starting her journey in software engineering and AI with little experience, Alice has quickly become a rising star in the industry. Her story is an inspiration to anyone who is starting their journey in software engineering and AI, proving that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
We can not wait to see what she accomplishes next and to have her on our show next week. Don’t miss it!
Set reminder for the upcoming Twitter Space with Alice happening on Tuesday 28th March 2023 at 4:00 PM (GMT) | 5:00 PM (WAT) | 7:00 PM (EAT) where we dive deeper into her experience.
Share any questions you may have for Alice here.