Raise of hands: how many of you knew what your passion was before starting your career?
Chances are that you were not certain of what you wanted to do. There are lucky ones who discover their dream early on. But for most people, it takes a lot of time, exploration and reflection to discover that drive that pushes them toward their desired goal.
It took ten years for Meor’s passion for AI and early childhood education to grow.
Yet today, he is the author of Nuts about Data, a parable guidebook about computer science, and the founder of Edsquare, an online educational program for children aged 7-12 where they can learn about the world of AI.
In this story, we learn from Meor how you can find your driving passion in what you care about and accomplish things with it. Alternatively, watch the full video below:-
Becoming a data science entrepreneur
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Meor worked as an engineer, and later a solutions sales expert, in the telecommunications industry. Day in and day out, he would analyse data and advise clients on engineering solutions based on his findings.
Although he had an affinity towards business dealing and analysis, deep down he knew he would eventually follow his dream to teach young audiences about the world of computer science.
During our interview, Meor cited two driving factors that fueled this desire.
First is his children, who are currently aged ten and nine years old. As he sees them grow, so does the need to encourage them to be the best version of themselves.
“I want to keep on… helping kids not just learn about AI, but overall, for them to have this to have the ability to think on their own and to do whatever they want based on whatever passion that they have without any inferior feeling to hold them back,” says Meor.
Second is his revelation that “technology has the capability to solve problems we care about.”
When his son was born without a right arm, Meor explored options that could help his son adapt to his disability. One of his solutions came in the form of mechanical prosthetic that the world of neurobiotics and motion learning provides.
Excited, Meor took his Masters in Engineering at Imperial College London to research and contribute to the world of machine learning.
It was during this time Meor first learnt about and became interested in AI and computer science.
Although he did not go through with this mission in the end, since his son became capable without the prosthetic, his faith in technology and his interest in computer science remained with him.
Seizing the Right Opportunity
A couple of years ago, Meor decided it was time to revive his interest in AI and education.
When Meor entered the entrepreneurial and educational field, his main clientele was mostly working adults he had served during his time in telecommunications.
Through their interactions, Meor recognized their need to know enough data science to understand and conduct their daily business activities, which is becoming more technologically inclined day by day.
To give a gentle introduction to the basics of data science, Meor self-published his book on amazon called ‘Nuts about Data: A Story of How Data Science Is Changing Our Lives’.
‘Nuts about Data’ is an introductory guidebook to computer science that follows a similar storytelling format to ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Spencer Johnson.
However, instead of four mice people, we follow the adventures of Aly the squirrel whose clan is facing a dwindling supply of nuts, which their only food source located deep inside a maze.
To compete with stronger, bigger squirrel clans, Aly will apply data science strategies to obtain a steady nut supply for his clan’s survival.
Meor believes storytelling is a useful and powerful tool in computer science, not just in teaching but in its application as well. When sharing about his experience in telecommunications, he says:
“It is not about what data you have or what kind of analytics that you provide, it’s about how you turn that into something that you can convince your management or business or bosses to take action based on the data.”
What he did not expect was reviews claiming that the book was not just good for adults but children as well.
That’s when Meor thought “If storytelling had worked well with adults, how much more effective would it be for children who love to hear stories?”
These positive responses, along with his children’s interest in the field of computer science, gave him the indication he needed to go straight into AI education with children and youths.
Adventures with Aly: The Founding of Edsquare, becoming a data science entrepreneur
Using his book as the skeleton, Meor constructed his first online computer science for children called “Aly’s Adventure in AI” and established his newly found company Edsquare.
Similar to Nuts about Data, Aly’s Adventures in AI embeds storytelling as a means to equip children with the knowledge of AI while also having fun learning in the process.
This prepares them with the technological skills needed for the future. It is predicted that in 2030, AI technology will contribute 15.7 trillion dollars into the economy – that is about 10% of the world’s economy today – and replace 30% of the world’s current labour jobs.
Meor hopes that by planting the love for learning through storytelling, his students will independently seek to learn beyond what his course teaches and pursue a career in AI.
Aly’s adventures in AI is also an unplugged learning course, which means that there is no coding involved in the syllabus. This allows children who aren’t tech-savvy to follow the course with ease.
It is never too late to learn – journey in becoming a data science entrepreneur
If you are concerned that it would be difficult to take up computer science skills as an adult, don’t worry. Meor remarks that “it is never too late to learn”.
As rapidly as our modern world is changing today, we sometimes forget that digital technology as we know of it today is less than a century old.
Everyone is just starting to learn how to teach both children and adults about the world of AI, even nations themselves.
In Malaysia, there have so far been plans of implementing computing skills into our national syllabus while other more technologically advanced nations, such as Singapore, India, and the US are just starting to make strides in AI technology.
Meor says that every adult should at least learn the basics of computer science because future businesses will highly depend on data analysis and prediction.
According to the World Economic Forum, data analysis and scientists and AI and machine learning specialists are the top two jobs of 2022. Most positions on the top ten jobs list are also dominated by technology-based jobs.
Don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need to learn programming or machine skills to be able to understand computer science. That is only one aspect of the field. What you need is the ability to understand and analyze data.
Programmers and machine developers only make up a small portion of all data science jobs. Other jobs such as data and business analysts are more predominant in this area.
Hence, it is more likely that the demand for data scientists, data analysts, and data engineers with business acumen will be in highest demand at this time.
However, Meor does acknowledge that it is harder for adults to learn compared to children whose minds are like sponges that readily absorb knowledge. Hence, it will be harder for adults to get into the momentum of learning.
To make the learning process easier, Meor advises his audience to search for a purpose that goes beyond learning.
It does matter whether this motivation is a result of business pressure to learn more skills or a genuine interest in the field; so long as it is present, it will carry you through even through dark times.
Meor shares there was a time where his passion for computer science and AI had dwindled. This was because his main motivation of helping his son with Ai technology was fulfilled when his son had already become capable of taking care of himself despite his disability.
His passion was only renewed when he found his new motivation to prepare children for the future through knowledge of AI.
Final Thoughts – about being data science entrepreneur
Passion can take you places beyond learning and sustain you through both the highs and lows of your journey. As Meor says:
“Find something that you really care about, because that will be the one that will drive you through thick and thin, in whatever challenges that you face. So you have something you care about, and you build something around it.”