2023 Pie & AI Ambassador Spotlight: Cheng Zhang, Winnipeg, Canada

Pie & AI Ambassador Cheng Zhang

Pie & AI is a series of events organized by DeepLearning.AI, a global community aimed at fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). These events are typically informal gatherings where attendees can network, learn, and engage with others who share a passion for AI, ML, and related technologies.

Why did you join the DeepLearning.AI community as an event ambassador?

I have a deep passion for the tech community. During my time in China, I had the privilege of being recognized as a Microsoft MVP eight times for my contributions to the online community as an organizer and speaker. However, when I moved to Canada five years ago, I faced a new set of challenges. Adapting to a different language and culture while trying to rebuild my success and reputation in a new country has been a significant and ongoing endeavor, especially given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I joined forces with two close friends, Lex and George, both of whom, like me, had moved from China to Canada. Together, we founded the ITAs (The Chinese IT Association of Canada) with a mission to nurture the professional growth of Chinese IT professionals across Canada. Our goal is to equip them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and professional and social connections to help them achieve their personal aspirations. I also fortunately received invaluable support from DeepLearning.AI, with Andrew playing a pivotal role in my journey.

Our defining feature is our commitment to multiculturalism. We have hosted more than ten online events, and in 2023, we expanded to hosting events at the Microsoft Toronto office. We are proud to offer sessions in both Chinese and English because we firmly believe that language should not be a barrier, especially when considering the wealth of tech talent and innovation coming from China. Our community serves as a bridge, connecting individuals with a shared passion for technology and innovation, regardless of their linguistic backgrounds.

What do you do when you are not hosting events with DeepLearning.AI

I work for SAP Canada as a security engineer. In my free time, I am a huge sports fan. My dream is to visit every major sports venue in North America.

Describe a few highlights from your event ambassador experience.

On Pi Day in 2022, we organized an online event on the intriguing topic of fantasy football prediction. To my surprise, within just 24 hours of announcing the event, we received over 100 registrations. While this was an exciting response, it also brought a certain amount of pressure. It became evident that a significant portion of our audience weren’t tech professionals, but individuals looking to enhance their fantasy football draft skills.

The challenge was clear: How could I deliver a 40-minute AI online session in English, considering that Mandarin is my first language, and ensure that it would be easily comprehensible to a diverse audience with varying technical backgrounds?

Fortunately, the event turned out to be a tremendous success. I opted to use Excel instead of Jupyter and relied on Excel functions rather than complex calculus. This experience reinforced a powerful realization: AI has the potential to be accessible to everyone and can be applied in various domains. It underscores the idea that AI can truly be ubiquitous, transcending barriers and benefiting a broad spectrum of individuals and industries.

What have you learned/gained since joining the DeepLearning.AI community?

Communication skills is the top one, especially during an in person event we hosted this year in Microsoft’s Toronto office. Booking the office, preparing food, optimizing guest checkin/checkout process, setting up video meetings, and testing audio quality: Every step needed good communication skills.

What are some predictions you have for the AI community in the next year?

We are preparing to address generative AI. We always want to do something special for the hot topic this year. Just like we provide sessions in Mandarin, we want to not only deliver some tech sessions but speak to more big visions. We are organizing a Hackathon in late September in Toronto. We want to collaborate with DL.AI, Microsoft, and LangChain for the event.

Additional thoughts?

I do appreciate the community a lot, whether it’s as part of the Microsoft MVP program or now as a DLAI ambassador. For Microsoft’s program, I was able to join Microsoft China as their cloud sales engineer and served the company for four years. If in the future, I have a chance to work closely with DL.AI or Andrew, that will be another milestone in my business career.

Do you want to become a Pie & AI Ambassador?