[Cross post from https://medium.com/@southparkcommons]
In 2015, I wanted to help with AI research, but taking the first steps felt daunting. I’d graduated from MIT then spent eight years building web startups. I’d put in my 10,000 hours, gotten funding from Y Combinator and grown a company to thirty people. Moving to research felt like starting over in my career. Was it really a good idea to throw away years of work?
A friend told me about South Park Commons (SPC), a new space for people who were taking the first steps on a new path, and introduced me to Ruchi, the founder. Ruchi is super impressive, she was one of the earliest Facebook engineers, and had founded and sold a successful company. She also has a high-bandwidth and disarmingly direct communication style that I found refreshing.
Over lunch, Ruchi described South Park Commons as a community in whicheveryone is starting over. Starting over is in fact the main thing that unifies the group. For example, two current Commons members are Jason, the maintainer of a popular open-source project Quill, who’s been learning to do enterprise sales, and Malcolm, a successful infrastructure engineer who’s starting a fund Strong Atomics to invest in nuclear fusion companies.
I joined South Park Commons, blocked off three months to see if I could make progress, and made a plan to teach myself machine learning. Several other SPC members were interested in the space, so we started going through a curriculum of courses and organized a paper reading group. As soon as I got over the fear and took the plunge, things got vastly easier. Six months of focused work later, I had a position at OpenAI.
If you’re thinking about switching into the field of AI, here are some resources that were useful to me in getting started