I no longer see Coursera as a company but more as a service to the community of learners which has accelerated the pace of delivering quality resources to them
Our spotlight this week is on Karan. He is a Mentor in Machine Learning.
Share something about yourself
I’m from India, from a family of engineers, doctors, charted accountants and architects. I’m currently a researcher focused on applications of machine learning and data analytics to solve daily life problems. Recently, I’ve been working with electricity consumption data to help consumers reduce their electricity consumption by suggesting behavourial changes to them by analysing their usage patterns. I am into reading non-fiction books for the past 3 years now and spend a considerable time of the day reading. I’m an adrenaline junkie and anything that pumps my adrenaline excites me.
What impact have Coursera courses had on your life?
It was time I had ceased the operations of my entrepreneurial venture due to several reasons and wanted to make a career shift. Being a mechanical undergraduate, I never had challenging job opportunities in the fields and mechanical engineering did not interest me too much. I heard a buzz about machine learning and data analytics. I started pulling off courses from Coursera starting with the one from the founder himself, Machine Learning by Andrew Ng. This was a monumental event in my life. The course got me hooked in to an extent that I completed a dozen more courses after that. Since then, I’ve been a Mentor to Andrew’s course and have tried my best to help the online community to motivate themselves towards learning new concepts. Not only this, the people in my lab have been highly influenced to do the same, and not a single minute is wasted now, as a quiz is always around the corner. The project work from courses have significantly improved my capacity to have a holistic view of the problems. They are also an essential ingredient of my resume. I cannot thank Coursera for what it has given me and shall give to everyone for the coming years.
How did you decide to become a Mentor?
It was my third week into the Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning course and I was stuck pretty badly on debugging a problem (since I was using OCTAVE for the first time). Spending over 8 hours to try and fix it myself, I looked online for help. It’s a hard fact that online communities are generally not reliable. But not this one, within 20 mins of me posting the question I had people firing answers. It was a moment of great elation, and I decided that if I was struggling, then probably many more people were also struggling with the same problem. I felt the responsibility of contributing to the community by being a Mentor and guide learners to help not only in course completion but also about how to use the courses in practical use.
What do you enjoy most about Mentoring?
I enjoy helping fellow learners, it is challenging and exciting. This not only gives a whole lot of satisfaction but also enables us to learn more ourselves. The students in most courses come from a very diverse background and owed to their diversity is their thinking process, which sometimes open for me new horizons to thinking on a particular topic/problem. Another thing that has made me love mentoring at Coursera is networking with like-minded people around the globe. This has circumvented the geographical constraints that people have to interact with others overseas. I’ve made friends with over a couple of dozen learners and Mentors, discussed what problems they’ve been working on these days and what they aspire to do in future. Seeing people age 60 or over putting in their energy to stay with the market trends gives me a whole lot of inspiration. These are some little things that create a huge impact on both me as a person and as a learner.
What would be your number one tip to give to a new Mentor just starting out?
I would say to new Mentors: stay calm. Help learners keeping in mind that if it were you, how would it feel to get a problem solved. Stay consistent, for there can be threads which are still waiting for your reply. Yes, mentoring is going out an extra mile but trust me the satisfaction, learning and the network you build of this extra effort are priceless. Consider yourself fortunate to have this position, both for you (you are gifted to be able to excel in the course to an extent that Coursera sees you worthy of being a Mentor), but also because the learner community is amazing and looks up to you for answers. Make sure that you not only Mentor people on the online forum but also motivate people in your surroundings who might be interested in learning something new to come up and join Coursera. I no longer see Coursera as a company but more as a service to the community of learners which has accelerated the pace of delivering quality resources to them.