I’m paying $49 to watch marketing videos that are also on YouTube just so I can get this Coursera certificate

I’ve finished maybe the most tedious online course in existence. Getting Started with AI using IBM Watson, is quite possibly the worst online course I’ve ever taken.

This course was painful at best and a rip off at worst. It felt like one giant marketing campaign for Watson.

Bad corporate video? Check.

Terrible generic music overlaid PowerPoints? Check.

Endless praise for a product? Check.

Zero instruction? Check.

Videos can also be found on YouTube for free? Check.

The course is the second in a series for the IBM Applied AI specialization on Coursera, a certificate program I’m pursuing to help me get hands on experience with AI.

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Can you learn statistics and data science from a chatbot?


I’m deep in my learning journey to understand applied AI and machine learning. I’ve started by trying out intro courses to artificial intelligence for non-coders. I’m also looking at supplemental resources to help me understand more about data science and statistics, which are related to machine learning.

One of the most intimidating parts of learning applied AI is the math and statistics. I don’t have a background in either. I’ve been diving into resources like YouTube videos (Crash Course Statistics is amazing) and Khan Academy to learn the foundational math and statistics for machine learning.

But this process is piece meal. A lot of it is also pretty boring and requires piles of self motivation to sit through statistics lectures without the help of an instructor to liven it up. Plus, when I get stuck, there’s nowhere to turn.

So I was pretty stoked to stumble on Korbit.ai, a platform to learn data science by chatbot. Korbit.ai is the “first-ever personalized learning platform where you learn data science skills with an AI.”

Here’s what it looks like to have a chatbot as your teacher:

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AI courses for non technical people: Elements of AI

After writing a book on upskilling and making a career change into working on AI products, I get a lot of questions about how to learn about artificial intelligence for non technical people. So I’ve started looking for online courses that teach AI for everyone who doesn’t have programming skills.

So much of the content about learning AI has been directed to software developers over the years. If you wanted to learn AI for non programers you had to cobble together YouTube videos or find articles that were written for non technical people. (In fact I wrote a post on how to learn about AI without coding a few years ago and it feels kind of out of date now!)

Thankfully we’re in a better place now and there are far more online courses to learn about AI and machine learning (a subset of AI). These online courses are designed so non engineers can learn AI!

Artificial intelligence is reshaping business, work, and the products that we interact with on a daily basis (hello Netflix, Spotify, gmail, Insta, the list goes on!). It’s imperative that people understand the basics of AI and how the technology shapes their lives.

More importantly, we need people from non technical backgrounds to bring their expertise into AI product development to reduce bias and harm.

Online courses – or other learning experiences – that teach the basics of AI to non tech people can help bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the field.

Courses to learn AI for non technical people

I’m researching and reviewing courses to learn the basics of AI by taking them myself.

I started with a course that I’ve had a crush on the moment I saw it: Elements of AI. It’s a free online course by Reaktor and University of Helsinki.

I chose it as the first course to review because of it’s mission and the international perspective. Elements of AI is a Finnish initiative to “encourage as broad a group of people as possible to learn what AI is, what can (and can’t) be done with AI.” It’s been built in partnership with the national government to educate all Finish citizens about AI.

It’s a brilliant initiative and as it turns out, it is so well executed.

Here’s what makes this online course stand out:

🔥 Beautiful Design 🔥
Elements of AI feels like you’re learning in a creative studio, compared to Coursera, which feels like you’re learning in a drab cubicle

🔥 Active Problem Solving 🔥
Forget passive learning by video, I worked on problems related to probability, linear regression, naive Bayes classification – no code or complex math req’d

Learning game theory
Getting a bunch of answers wrong, which the instructors encourage to enhance learning!

🔥 Approachable 🔥
No code, no complex math, just simple explanations. True to their initiative, they make it easy to learn about AI without a programming background.

🔥 Personality 🔥
The writers are helpful, cheeky, and not so serious. It’s a delight to see in a technical space.

Surprisingly, this course uses no video. I thought it might make things slightly boring but it did not. The text is not full of dense technical speak and the design makes it all very digestible. The course functions like a practical, non technical guide to understand machine learning.

The only thing this self paced course is missing is a learning community. While the designers encourage learners to join a forum to discuss learnings, forums are static places. I’m not a fan of forums at all.

But that’s a person learning style, so I’m not going to hold it against this course. It’s such a good course for learning AI for non technical people.

I highly recommend it for people who want to understand AI and machine learning.

Creating an Alexa skill for kids: Clown Names

I’ve taken a break in writing about my normal topics (AI in the workplace, upskilling) because I’m building Alexa skills for my portfolio and documenting the process here.

For background, I’m a UX researcher and conversation designer who was laid off from a conversation AI startup back in March. I’m building Alexa skills to experiment with voice design, and maybe get hired along the way. This is the third skill of five (here’s the write up of Alexa skills one and two).

After building two dialogue-heavy skills, I wanted to create a simple skill. I also wanted to try a feature in Voiceflow where I could pull data from a Google Sheet. This is super useful if you want to make conversation design easier and make your Alexa skill more dynamic.

Instead of writing all possible Alexa responses into Voiceflow, you can instead pull them from a Google Sheet, assign them to a variable, and use that variable throughout your conversation to access the data. I wanted to try this out.

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Creating an Alexa skill as a content marketing channel: Job Complaints

I’m continuing my series on designing Alexa skills right now. I’m experimenting with building different types of Alexa skills by using my creative writing skills and stretching my technical skills.

When I got started with Alexa skills, there wasn’t a ton of documentation on Alexa skills for conversation designers. So I’m documenting (read: dumping thoughts!) on my conversation design process for Alexa conversation designers. I’m using Voiceflow as my no code conversation design platform.

This is the second of five Alexa skills in development. (see the first here)

My Background

I’m was laid off in March from a UX researcher and conversation designer job. I was previously working on a chatbot. Now, I’m interested in working on non-linear conversations for voice applications.

The birth of a second Alexa skill 

This idea for an Alexa skill started as a book marketing challenge. I was looking for ways to promote my new career book, Punch Doubt in the Face: How to Upskill, Change Careers, and Beat the Robots. Cutting through the noise to get your book in front of the right audience is always a challenge. I was brainstorming non-traditional marketing ideas. That’s where the idea of Alexa as career coach came in.

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Creating an Alexa skill with a unique personality: Remote Buddy

I’m super interested in designing Alexa skills right now. I want to combine my technical conversation design skills with creative writing to create engaging voice experiences.

When I got started with Alexa skills, I found mostly Alexa tutorials for developers. So I’m documenting conversation design process for curious Alexa conversation designers.

This is the first of four Alexa skills in development.

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These are the “robots” that are taking your jobs

Since I’ve written a book with the phrase “beat the robots” in the title, I get asked a lot whether or not robots are going to take our jobs.

It’s a common question but a bit off the mark. Robots aren’t taking our jobs (unless you’re in manufacturing or retail, in which case robots are actually taking jobs).

Instead, it’s software that is changing how we do our jobs and in some cases, creating fewer job opportunities in traditional occupations. This software is usually called automation software or RPA – Robotic Process Automation. It’s sophisticated software that mimics repetitive human tasks and does them 24/7.

But in some rarer cases, this software is completely taking jobs.

Case in point, this article: Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI

Microsoft is laying off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations. The layoffs are part of a bigger push by Microsoft to rely on artificial intelligence to pick news and content that’s presented on MSN.com, inside Microsoft’s Edge browser, and in the company’s various Microsoft News apps. Many of the affected workers are part of Microsoft’s SANE (search, ads, News, Edge) division, and are contracted as human editors to help pick stories.

The craziest part in that article beyond the fact humans were being replaced by AI is that they had to clarify that the editors were in fact human.

In a time of global pandemic and anti-racist protests, we need good journalists who understand nuance and context more than ever. Corporate America doesn’t seem to agree.

And it’s of course, this automation trend not limited to writers. In January, the mega entertainment channel, iHeartRadio laid off hundreds of DJs and replaced them with AI:

The dominant player in U.S. radio, which owns the online music service iHeartRadio and more than 850 local stations across the United States, has called AI the muscle it needs to fend off rivals, recapture listeners and emerge from bankruptcy. The company, which now uses software to schedule music, analyze research and mix songs, plans to consolidate offices around what executives call “AI-enabled Centers of Excellence.”

(Side note: This is my plug for the best, non AI radio station out there: KEXP, whose fundraising tag line in 2018 was robot-free radio and continues to play human curated playlists)

With coronavirus accelerating automation in the workplace, I’m not optimistic this trend is going to go away.

Curious about this subject? I recommend checking out my book on how you can adapt to this changing workplace.

robots taking jobs

6 online tools to make job searching during coronavirus less difficult

Let’s be honest: Job searching during coronavirus is brutal. Job searches in normal times aren’t easy. Job searching during COVID and mass layoffs adds a new layer of complicated: companies ghosting candidates, more competition for fewer jobs, and a newly remote workforce.

Add to that the general low level anxiety of doing anything during a pandemic and job searching during coronavirus is enough to beat down the most optimistic of job seekers.

So here’s a list of my favorite digital tools to make job searching during coronavirus less painful.

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Upskill yourself: The best free online courses with certificates

The massive online course platform, Coursera, is offering a selection of free online courses with certificates until July. That means you have access to free online courses for massively upgrade your career. If you’ve ever thought about learning a new skill by taking an free online course, this is the time to do it.

In normal times, you’d pay $49 a month to use Coursera and make progress towards a certificate. But we’re in coronavirus times. So Coursera is giving away access to free online courses with certificates to help you upskill.

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Companies still hiring during COVID

If you’ve been recently laid off, get more resources from the podcast 50 Conversations.

Finding companies hiring during COVID is a huge challenge. If you’ve just been laid off and need a job ASAP, you need to be able to quickly find companies that are still hiring during this pandemic.

Thankfully several websites are keeping lists of companies that are hiring during coronavirus. I’ve been sharing these lists on my podcast for layoffs, but I’m putting my favorite ones below.

Here’s where to look for companies that are still hiring during our global pandemic. Share with anyone you know who has just been laid off.

LinkedIn’s list: Here’s who’s hiring right now

The first is LinkedIn, which offers a daily, continuously updated list of companies still hiring during COVID. Log in to LinkedIn, and find the list of companies still hiring in the top right hand corner box. Under Special Report: Coronavirus, click on Here’s who’s hiring right now

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from linkedin
LinkedIn’s list of open jobs during coronavirus

LinkedIn’s list of companies still hiring during COVID cuts across industries, listing major hiring sprees like Instacart’s push to hire 300,000+ contractors to Squarespace hiring 100 workers.

If you’re looking for a job after a layoff, start with this list.

Jobscan: Ultimate List of Companies that Are Still Hiring

Jobscan.co is keeping an updated list of companies that are hiring during covid. Jobscan is resume optimization tool that helps your resume get past the ATS machines (listen this podcast episode where I discuss how to update your resume using automated tools).

Jobscan is keeping an aggregated list of companies that are hiring during the pandemic pulling data from BlindCandorlayoffs.fyi, and StartupHireMe.

The list includes filters like “still hiring” and “hiring freeze,” as well as the option to filter by type of job.

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from jobscan
Jobscan’s list of companies that are still hiring during COVID

The Muse: 94 (and counting) companies that are still hiring during COVID

This Muse is also keeping an updated list of companies that are still hiring.

Each list offers a summary of the company with links to a company profile on The Muse and an option to explore open jobs. This kind of list makes it easier for job seekers to learn a bit more about the company to learn if it’s a fit before searching for jobs.

In a time of mass layoffs, a lot of consumer facing companies – the brands that job seekers know best – aren’t hiring. Instead, software and enterprise brands dominate. For many job seekers, it may be the first time they encounter a company. Reading a quick overview of a company is a bit more inviting than reading a company name on a spreadsheet.

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from the muse
Profile of a company that is still hiring during the pandemic from The Muse

FlexJobs: 70 Flexible Companies Currently Hiring Remote Jobs

Flexjobs, the paid job search platform for remote jobs, has a list of 70 companies hiring during COVID. While the list is from April, and there is no indication of whether it’s being updated, it’s useful as a starting point for finding a remote job during COVID.

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from flexjobs
Flexjobs offers a list of companies hiring remote workers during COVID

Flexjobs is a paid website. To avoid paying for flexjobs, simply Google the company name and the word “careers” and save your dollars.

Want a guide to the remote job search?

In the guide you’ll get:

  • 250+ companies that hire remote workers
  • A mega-list of remote job boards
  • Reflection questions to clarify remote job search goals
  • The Remote Job Toolkit
  • Tips to stand out in the remote job search
  • Curated career resources to support you in your search