The Covid pandemic has highlighted the importance of being resilient in the face of technological disruptions, as well as the need to constantly adapt to new developments. Michelle Loke, like other AI Singapore AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP) graduates, is well prepared for these challenges.
Michelle earned a degree in Engineering Systems and Design from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in 2015 and was working as a senior transport planner with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) when AI beckoned.
Her responsibilities at the LTA included transportation modeling, data analytics, and visualization projects. She experimented with AI and machine learning to gain deeper insights and value from the data in order to improve the projects.
Simultaneously, her research led her to recognize AI’s potential as a game-changing technology and a platform for change. She also learned about AIAP. Michelle decided to join the program in 2019, which would necessitate her leaving her full-time job at LTA. That was one of the most difficult aspects of the decision for her. “I enjoyed being a part of LTA because the people, culture, and nature of the work were all inspiring.” And knowing that you are making a positive contribution to your country’s long-term infrastructure and well-being was another important reason I enjoyed being in LTA.”
But she also knew that the fourth industrial revolution, powered by AI and other emerging technologies, was on its way. AIAP gave her the opportunity to be a part of these new developments and to gain advanced skills that would allow her to contribute more to future projects. This realization, combined with her family’s support, aided in her determination. Michelle became a member of AISG’s fourth batch of apprentices in September of 2019.
The going was tough, particularly in the early stages of the program. While the coding she learned at university and the data analytics skills she gained at LTA were useful, she still had a lot to learn. “The environment was fast-paced, and the assignments were challenging as we were taught the fundamentals of machine learning,” she recalled.
The experience, while demanding, was made more enjoyable by the apprentices’ camaraderie. “We were a diverse group of people, ranging from recent graduates to mid-career professionals with backgrounds in a variety of industries.” “Everyone had something to teach us,” she said. “We all made it through with the help of our fellow apprentices.”
Michelle was able to build and strengthen her foundations in machine learning thanks to the program. Her mentor and fellow apprentices instilled in her good coding practices, as well as the agile methodology of failing fast and reiterating for continuous learning and continuous improvement. “Failure is unavoidable when experimenting; the important thing is to use the lessons learned from failure to improve your next attempt,” she said.
She also gained valuable project management skills while working on a healthcare project for a start-up as part of AISG’s 100Experiments program. “Through regular meetings with my project sponsor and project managers, I learned how to manage expectations and sharpen my people and communication skills.”
Her team was tasked with detecting features such as pores, spots, and inflammation on images of skin using computer vision at the start-up, which was focused on developing customized skincare solutions.
“It was really exciting to solve a real-world problem,” she said. “It was a new experience to be involved in the model development process from start to finish.”
AIAP also paved the way for new opportunities in data science and artificial intelligence. Michelle was hired as a senior analyst with the SingHealth Office for Insights and Analytics after graduating in June 2020, thanks to the AISG Talent and Career Development team.
In her current position, she develops machine learning models to help healthcare professionals make more informed and strategic decisions.
“Being involved throughout the entire model development process – from data extraction to modeling to deployment – gives me a sense of ownership over my projects as well as the opportunity to understand how the various parts of the model development process fit together,” she explained.
Michelle reflected on her nine months as an apprentice, saying she had a great time and had a lot of fun. “I met so many amazing, gifted, and talented people.” “AISG’s supportive and nurturing environment made the experience so worthwhile and enjoyable,” she said. “And, with the Covid pandemic hastening the digital revolution, the creative thinking and AI skills I learned have better prepared me for the new normal.”