Want to study AI? Here are four career paths

Artificial intelligence lands on the curriculum in Toronto


Toronto is home to more than 210 start-ups harnessing artificial intelligence, otherwise known as machine learning, so it was inevitable for academia to board this fast-moving train.

This fall, York University’s School of Continuing Studies is launching a part-time Certificate in Machine Learning program, a first for Canada. 

The eight-month program will focus on software development, data science, business analysis, business intelligence and data journalism. “This program comes at a time when there is a major need for AI specialists,” says Hashmat Rohian, one of the program’s instructors. In fact, job growth in machine learning in Canada has already grown by 450 per cent, and by 900 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area, according to data from recruiting site Glassdoor.

“AI is one of those industries that can apply to many sectors, from health care to financial to logistics to government,” Rohian says.

In a 2017 report, IBM projects by 2020 the number of jobs for all data professionals in the U.S. will increase by 364,000 openings to 2,720,000. Canada ranks third in the world for the number of AI researchers or experts found on LinkedIn, as an Element AI report found. 

Working for an ethically dubious, data-gobbling tech giant like Uber isn’t the only landing spot for an AI specialist. Here are four other career paths for Torontonians who are passionate about AI.

Health(ier) Care

Thanks to AI’s role in easing automation and forecasting, many medical start-ups are using it to build backbones. For example, Surgical Safety Technologies, an academic start-up established at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto, developed algorithms to help quantify safety hazards and predict patient outcomes.

“We want to make Canadian health care safer and more efficient and establish Canada as a global leader in patient safety and clinical innovation,” says co-founder Teodor Grantcharov.

Phenomic AI uses machine-learning algorithms to give scientists the edge in studying image screenings to learn which cells are resistant to chemotherapy, and to help them fight the recurrence of cancer in many patients by examining cell images to glean possible clues about what makes them healthy and how they are affected by disease.

Super Sales

AI is helping sales professionals crunch more data. Customer Relationship Management platforms that analyze data to manage client relationships could benefit from AI, says Steve Woods, the CTO and co-founder of Toronto-based software start-up Nudge.ai. 

The company’s technology quickly scans data in a client’s industry, tracking particular keywords in news articles, blog posts and social media feeds. Some AI-based sale applications are about automation, but Nudge.ai’s goal is to help sales professionals make more informed decisions to maintain fruitful business relationships.

“If I’m at a security company, I’d want to know about any data breaches or scandals relating to my industry,” says Woods. “That’s the kind of information I’d get in my morning report.”

When selfies get augmented

If you want to try new makeup or highlights, how can you know how it looks on you before buying the product? Modiface, based in Yorkville, built a technology 12 years ago that so impressed the cosmetics industry that  L’Oréal bought the company earlier this year. 

Using facial-tracking software backed by AI, Modiface’s app trains itself to better recognize even the smallest strand of hair in a selfie in order to perfectly apply the requested product to that person’s face. 

Modiface has also built a Facebook Messenger tool and a live tutorial display that outlines a complex makeup routine in individual steps.

legal smarts and craft art

In 2016, Canadian media firm Thomson Reuters announced it would invest USD $100 million in a Toronto technology centre that will reportedly result in 400 jobs related to machine learning and data analytics. The news company plans to move into 19 Duncan Street in early 2021. Thomson Reuters has provided jobs to AI professionals to help support, among other products, its Westlaw Edge software, which provides legal professionals with AI-driven legal search, new warnings for law that is no longer valid and litigation analytics.

Etsy, the online hub of independent creators and craft artists, chose Toronto as the headquarters for its newest Machine Learning Center of Excellence, which will open in the fall. After a 2016 acquisition of AI firm Blackbird Technologies, Etsy revealed it wanted to beef up its search tech with a layer of AI, which it hopes will direct customers to products they would likely buy.

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