Questions to ask myself every day

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. Why do I want it?
  4. How will I get it?
  5. By when do I plan to get it?

Today my focus will be getting the ball rolling on a system of conscious effort to remain on track to achieving my goals.

With that in mind, let me answer my daily questions.

Who am I?

I am someone that has gone through many changes. Growing up I was shy, silent, not very confident. Today I am very different. I am bold, confident and make my voice heard only once I have listened and have something important to contribute.

I embrace continuous learning and have through perseverance solved what I needed to. I am at the point now where I crave to continually make small bite sized pieces of progress towards a long-standing goal. I feel confident I have narrowed down my field of interest, that is Reinforcement Learning (RL).

What do I want?

So RL is what I want career wise.

I am faced with a dilemma now though. I know I am not yet experienced enough to impress an employer enough to allow them to put me in charge of solving RL problems. There are many ways at my disposal to change this fact but they all take time (one of the reasons for this blog, to document RL side projects involved in, including online courses and text book study).

If someone could fund my lifestyle while I sat and contributed to open-source and self-learned until I could impress at interview, that would solve the problem! However I am also out of a job (end of this month my contract is up) and unfortunately need money (lack of savings to support myself for long).

So I need to get a job that pulls in the same (or similar) direction than my goals. But I potentially don’t have the credentials yet to ensure that. So getting involved in another job that solves my short-term financial position starts affecting my long-term goals.

I have actually allowed this scenario to take place for about 3 years already. I have to ask myself what could I have done in the last 3 years to change the range of options available to be now. If I had had the discipline to keep contributing to one focused thing, potentially I would be in a position now to move into a stronger career.

The future I can change, no point dwelling on the past but it is something I can make use of to focus my growth going forward.

Why do I want it?

I am fascinated by the mathematical modelling of how biological systems learn. Maths has always interested me at school. I chose a more applied field of maths, Engineering, at university and unfortunately my mental state turned my relationship to further study a bit sour. I am glad to say that I continued to learn post university despite that and now am well prepared to try rectify my academic record (another masters or PhD).

Potentially if I could get funding to continue studies, that would get me focused in the particular direction I want to head in.

Other than ‘it interests me’, I don’t really know why else I want it. It is a feeling in my core more than a rational thought. I am equally interested in software methodologies like DevOps, Functional Programming and cryptography, blockchain and many other areas but there is something about RL that attracts me more than all the other disciplines.

I want more than ever before to specialize. The reason for this is that without specialization I am finding that I am more likely to take on the lower hanging fruits, when really I want to reach past to the problems reserved for those that have shown tremendous discipline in their fields.

How will I get it?

Small continuous steps.

Get a job that pulls in similar direction to goals.

Create a public profile of projects worked on.

Help others in my desired field. In that way, gain more mentors and mentor others.

Prove to employers that I have learned what is required.

Make time for small continuous steps mentioned before. It’s going to hurt. I am going to miss out on other things. Say no to more things that displace the time I have, and thereby miss out on less things I care about.

Take a break when needed, don’t let taking a break stop momentum.

By when do I plan to get it?

In 1 month, I want to have an ML related project up in source control and this blog. I also want to have made it through the first course of the reinforcement learning specialization on Coursera. That course follows seminal RL book by Sutton and Barto so I would also be making progress understanding its contents.

In 3 months, I want to have completed the entire specialization mentioned above. I would also like to have an RL related project up in source control.

In 6 months, I would like to be contributing to an open-source project I care about. What springs to mind is the FLOW project.

By 1 year, I would like to be working on RL in my day to day job.

After 2-3 years I would like to further my studies in RL and be contributing papers.

By 5-10 years I would like to have completed a PhD in the field.

By 20 years I would like to be well known within the field, with a reputation for finding and supporting those with potential which no one else noticed. I would also like to be leading a team responsible for at least one impressive technological breakthrough that would be written about in RL related text books to come!