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microsoft ai her conference 2024
microsoft ai her conference 2024
Erika Kapin
Career > Work

Curious About A Career In AI? Here Are 5 Expert Tips To Get You Started

The AI boom is fully here, and in the past couple years, it’s changed so many ways of life at a rapid pace. For college students, artificial intelligence is now a go-to resource for their academics, from streamlining study sessions to generating topics for upcoming projects and papers. But sooner rather than later, college students will have to contend with how AI will impact not just their scholastic lives, but also their professional lives. While some wonder how AI will impact their job prospects, others are embracing AI with open arms, looking specifically to enter careers that involve AI.

With all of this top of mind, college students and attendees were excited to see Her Conference 2024 host an informative session featuring Microsoft AI experts — titled “Hot Mic (AI’s Version): An Interactive Session About The World of AI.” Moderated by Claire Swadling, a Harvard student and renowned fashion and technology speaker, the panel included Kathleen Sullivan, Senior Director for Microsoft’s Research team, and Mehrnoosh Sameki, Principal Product Lead for Responsible AI at Microsoft.

During the session, which took place June 22 in New York City, Sullivan and Sameki shared valuable insights with the hundreds of college students in attendance. They discussed the importance of understanding AI’s ethical impact, using responsible practices when deploying AI, and knowing where to draw the line when using AI in a university setting. 

But perhaps most interestingly for those who attended the conference with their future goals in mind, the experts also provided practical advice for those interested in starting a career in AI, as well as for those intimidated by the thought of entering this rapidly evolving field in the first place. Here are some key takeaways:

Start Learning The AI Basics Now

Beginning your journey using AI in college is the perfect setting to practice and develop skills. “There’s a lot in AI that feels like it’s really hard to understand,” Sullivan said during the session. “But it can be a lot more digestible and easy.” She recommends starting that journey by “empowering yourself with the knowledge of terminology that is all around us,” saying that doing so “will help you feel like you’re in control.”

Kathleen Sullivan, Senior Director for Microsoft\'s Research team
Erika Kapin

Think of it this way: The sooner you get comfortable with AI, the sooner you’ll be able to actually work with AI to make it more usable for others. “Once you … figure out what makes sense for you, you can help to shape, then, how that’s used day to day and how others are using that as well.” 

Integrate AI Into Your Daily Life 

If you’re new to using AI, one of the best ways to get familiar with it is by starting with something fun, easy, and low-stakes. “Just start by using it for fun [or] use it for things that you don’t want to do, and see how it can help you achieve them,” Sullivan said. By making your first experiences with AI enjoyable or helpful, you’ll be more comfortable and confident when it comes time to use it professionally. 

Sameki gave a relatable example: “My music streaming platform is using AI to give me daily recommendations of new music that is similar to the music that I listen to.”

Sullivan added, “I just threw my son a birthday party last weekend, and [AI] helped me create an itinerary for the day.”

Know The Ethics Of AI

Whether you are looking to pursue a career directly in the field of AI, or are more interested in finding ways to use AI to make your non-AI job easier, it’s important to be responsible. The terms and conditions of AI programs will outline many policies, safety guardrails, and so forth — read them and learn them! Taking the time to understand the tools you’re using will help ensure you’re using the tools in the ways they were created to be used. It’s also important not to take what AI generates totally at face value. “The exact same way that when you go to social media and you want to post something and you’re careful about what you’re putting out there and you curate your content by using your critical thinking and your judgment — the exact same thing is true when you decide how to use AI and how to incorporate your results in your professional life,” Sameki said. Use your best judgment! 

Find A Mentor In The AI Field 

Mehrnoosh Sameki, Principal Product Lead for Responsible AI at Microsoft
Erika Kapin

Having a mentor to help guide you is essential for nearly every person in every career path, but this is especially the case for women and nonbinary folks in STEM. When it comes to finding your path in the AI field, which is still very new and rapidly changing, the importance of having someone to look up to is all the more imperative. “Be very conscious of surrounding yourself with those women and nonbinary people you are looking up to,” Sameki said. “Who is your role model? Even if you don’t have access to them, listen to their podcast, and look at their career journey to get inspiration on how they broke into different parts of their careers.”  

Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Win

As mentioned, the STEM field can be very intimidating, especially for those who have been historically left out of the space. Sameki highly encourages college women to push past their imposter syndrome. “One thing that I learned is that I am the best advocate for myself,” she said. “I started to push myself from very early on in my career back when I was a student. I learned to put myself out there.”

To see Sameki and Sullivan’s work in action, check out Microsoft Copilot.

Starr Washington is a member of the Her Campus National Writer Program, contributing to the lifestyle vertical. She also serves as the President of the Her Campus Chapter at her university. Currently a senior at San Francisco State University, Starr is pursuing a degree in Broadcast Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) with a minor in Africana Studies. Following her undergraduate studies, she plans to pursue an MFA in creative writing. Starr is dedicated to showcasing her blackness in her professional work and is always rooting for black creatives, particularly in film, literature, and travel. In addition to her writing, Starr works at her university’s multicultural center, where she organizes annual events for both the campus and the Bay Area community. She was a speaker at the San Francisco State University Black Studies Origins and Legacy Commemoration, where she had the honor of sitting alongside the founders of the country's first Black Student Union. Starr teaches a course she developed called “Intro to Black Love” within SFSU’s experimental college program. In her rare free time, Starr enjoys chipping away at her TBR list (she finishes one book, then adds three more to the list), writing poetry and fiction, and spending time with her music enthusiast partner and their three-year-old German Shepherd. She is a Scorpio from Michigan.