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Emily
Emily

Posted on • Originally published at linkedin.com

My First Year in an AI Startup

Last week I celebrated my first year at Zilliz 🎉, the startup behind the open source vector database Milvus, in the heart of the AI boom. Somehow, the year has been both the shortest and longest year of my 17 years in the software industry. It seems like a prudent time to stop, catch my breath, and reflect on what I’ve learned.

Everyone is Learning 📚

One of my favorite things about the AI space right now is that it seems like everyone is learning which makes it feel safe to be new or honest that you don’t know everything. I’ve been in environments where the expectation is that everyone should already be an expert on established tech 🙄, which is ridiculous. AI is evolving so fast that there is so much to know, learn, and understand and everyone is working through it at their own pace. So if you’re still watching from the AI sidelines thinking it’s too late for you, I’m here to say the water’s fine, jump on in.

The More You Know Rainbow

No More Us vs Them 🤝

I’ve been preaching this for a while but it’s past time to eliminate the technical vs. non-technical paradigm. Like vectors, technical skills are complex and multidimensional. The tech industry tends to stamp people as “technical” or “non-technical” based solely on the department they work in. This year has been refreshing to educate seasoned developers on the mechanics of vector databases and retrieval augmented generation. Everyone is non-technical or technical on a particular topic, and thankfully it’s not a fixed state. Wherever you are on that journey doesn’t define what you can contribute.

Spidermans Pointing at Each Other

The Only Constant is Change

I can’t tell you how many times I would log on, see the latest AI announcement, and feel like I woke up in a whole new industry, only to do it all over again the next day. Sometimes it felt impossible to keep up, but eventually, we all learned to flow with the shifting currents. When I started with Zilliz it felt like very few people I talked to even knew what a vector database was (click here if you don’t), but now it feels like every database under the sun is now claiming they are one. An AI gold rush where everyone has headed out west to stake their claim. If change makes you uncomfortable, I suggest learning to accept and flow with it because it’s not settling down any time soon.

Yoda Adapt You Must

Don’t Panic at this Disco

AI will and is changing the way we work and interact with the world around us in a major way. But it won’t change everything overnight. It takes time to integrate new habits and invent new ways of doing things. I have increased exposure to AI tech from working within the industry and even I forget and do things the slow way sometimes. I’m excited about new use cases that are emerging (hello reverse image search in e-commerce) and technologies that will solve current challenges in new ways we haven’t even thought of yet. My recommendation is to take a deep breath and approach the scary AI soundbites in the media with a healthy dose of skepticism and instead focus on how it might make your life or your job a little bit easier. Hate making a grocery list every week like I do? Make the “robots” do it while learning more about what’s really going on in the world of AI.

AI robot tweet

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