I founded a company back in 2014; Stitched. Stitched is a machine learning startup that helps companies understand, plan and deploy their workforce by analyzing the documents people write and the projects they work on. I'm still on the board, but have stepped away from day to day running of the business.
If I learned one thing from founding a company, it’s to have a focus on solving a single real user problem and building the smallest thing you can usefully test.
Machine Learning and ethics
I'm really trying hard to mention machine learning and ethics/bias in the same breath these days. I've done lots of NLP, text analytics and machine learning at Stitched, and building a product involves making lots of minor decisions that can really add up when that model has an impact on people's lives, and I think all too often this is not considered when technologists build platforms. Facebook. Case in point.
Please mail me directly if you want to nerd out, or are interested in building out your NLP stack out, I'm sure I can help there. I think we made most mistakes on the way to getting something working at Stitched. (protip: Avoid hierarchical ontologies!). This article is a terrific start, but there is a lot to put in place before you have a well functioning stack, team, process and product.
Mentoring and Advisory
In software I wish we had more of an apprenticeship model, it's a craft after all. Anyway, I really value both being mentored and mentoring others, you learn things both ways. I also like being "reverse mentored" (older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media and current trends.) and think we need to do that more as a workforce. If you want a mentor..mail me...if I can help I will.
I've been helping advise various companies, large and small about how to set up a machine learning department, and I am very keen to be further involved in doing this. There are a lot of things to consider here, understanding the business problems, how to really build something small, what data you need, how to set goals, how to balance research with delivery, how and who to hire and how to ensure that your output is robust and ethically sound. If you need help please reach out I'd be delighted to help.
Communication and marketing
I think all technologists can and should be better communicating. It's not something I was initially good at as an engineer, but you can get better at it, it's a muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. I force myself to regularly give talks and present my ideas in public, that means that you are constantly practicing understanding how you can provide people with helpful information, and it comes in really handy if you have to do a best man speech or two! My latest adventure here is my bi weekly news dump. Please sign up!
Marketing is a dirty word in the technology field, and "Sales" is something that people in cheap suits and no idea about technology do. I don't agree with that, and having to sell a product pushed me through the looking glass into understanding the world of sales and marketing, and I really like it. I'm on a personal mission to help engineers understand that marketing and sales are essential and can even be fun. We'll build better products by bringing engineers, sales people and marketers together.