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Hackernoon logoWhy I Dropped Out of College in 2020 to Design My Own ML and AI Degree by@angelica-dietzel

Why I Dropped Out of College in 2020 to Design My Own ML and AI Degree

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@angelica-dietzelAngelica Dietzel

| Self-Taught Programmer | Learning ML and AI

Most people would think I was crazy for starting 2020 as a college dropout (sorry mom!), but I wish I made this decision sooner. 

Below is my story behind why I dropped out of college to start the year. Dropping out of college is by no means the best option for everyone, but it was the best option for me. Perhaps my story will inspire you take matters into your own hands. If not in school, in your own personal lives. 

A little background…

College Round 1

In high school I felt pressured to choose a major and start college quickly after I graduated like the rest of my peers. I was always good at math, I loved the computer classes in high school and I even dived into a lot of different sciences. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, I decided to go to college majoring in business and english. 

Though I had straight A’s, I dropped out a year later with over $10,000 in student loan debt. This was 7 years ago. I’ve had a great career without a degree since then, which includes lots of jobs I loved with some really awesome startups (researcher, recruiter, writer, chief of staff), but I still felt like I hadn’t found something I was deeply passionate about.

Why Machine Learning? 

In the beginning of 2019, I lost my job as a recruiter for a NYC recruiting firm. Out of pure luck, this was quickly replaced for a research job at a Bay Area recruiting firm. It was here where I was introduced to the wonderful world of machine learning and artificial intelligence. I helped companies like Scale AI, ADARA, Newfront Insurance, Finix, Alchemy, Datacoral, Darkstore, Truepill and Digit. I learned the inner depths of what these software engineers, machine learning engineers and AI engineers worked on— I was inspired and hooked!

College Round 2 

I made the decision to enroll myself back into college in the middle of 2019 for computer science with a specialization in AI and machine learning and I couldn’t have been more excited. This felt right. I was reading books, learning as much as I could in school and continuing to learn from the people I worked with.

So what’s the issue? Why on earth did I drop out? 

The Power of Google

Well into my Intro to Programming class I realized the curriculum was largely in Javascript with a little Python and C++ being introduced later in my degree. Python was a language I was really interested in at the time so I was a little let down. I decided to try to teach myself this language for fun during my college courses and I started to notice how outdated my javascript class was. I was in shock. So many things were going through my head. Have I wasted my time? Was this a waste of money again?

Once I found my powers with Google and started becomming resourceful in my own Python education, I came across the world of Self-Taught Developers. This rocked my world. You’re telling me I can learn how to do all this without going to college? Without a degree? 

Do I Really Need a Degree?

In the back of my head, I have always thought that I was never going to make it if I didn’t have a degree. I thought I would be missing out on a lot of opportunities soley based on a piece of paper and that the only way I could be whatever it was that I wanted to be, was through a degree. 

What I’ve come to learn is that the degree itself represents nothing but a cost paid and your time committed. So, why can’t I learn everything I need without it? 

Finding Confidence

The power and the confidence I felt went I started to teach myself Python was like nothing I ever experienced before. I learned more through my self-taught Python education than I did in my programming classes in college. This gives me all the confidence in the world to be able to learn anything I want to. Success in any form all boils down to self-belief. This led me to take matters into my own hands.

What’s Next?

My goals alone will not get me to my destination — to become a Machine Learning and AI Engineer in one year. Now that I do have a goal, I need a plan to help me get there.

I have been working on the final touches of my self-created degree in Programming and Machine Learning. I’ve consumed many success stories, compiled tons of resources, found the best rated material, and analyzed top school’s degree curriculum to help me build this out. If you have any advice for me or recommendations on resources you’ve used to learn ML or AI? I’d love to hear from you!

If you are interested in my Machine Learning and AI degree, keep an eye out for that. I will be sharing it soon!

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