Office Hours: I am VP, ML Engineering at Upwork and I am the Founder of I’m Erica Lee. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Erica Luna Lee, an AI inventor, leader & entrepreneur from LA. I am the founder of nonprofit, I am also the VP of AI at Upwork, and have been the Director of AI at Zillow, AI Manager at Apple, and CTO & Founder of an AI startup.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my career is that I’m a human being, and my work is just an extension of me (not my entire life). Finding love & joy within has been the most enlightening experience. Engaging in humanitarian work to give back, raising a rescue dog to learn about unconditional love, and moving 15+ times until I could find a city full of soul and liveliness (LA) have been such gratifying experiences.

Ultimately being with a partner who is open-hearted & accepts me the way I am has awakened me to realize I have more talents and gifts than I knew of, and that I am still worthy of love regardless of what I do.

During my downtime, I enjoy spending time with my family & friends, being present in the moment with creative arts, such as music, art, fashion & beauty, as well as prioritizing my health & wellness with fitness, hot yoga, acupuncture, stretching, and water-based activities (I’m a cancer sign).

Ask me anything about machine learning, leadership, community building, relationships, health & wellness or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @ericalee!Elphas – please ask @ericalee your questions before Friday, July 21st. @ericalee may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi @ericalee, I am a final year student from India, doing a degree in AI&ML. It would be really helpful if you could share any insights related to jobs in AI&ML for a student/fresher. I am searching for one!!
Hi @ericalee! We have a Women in Leadership event every quarter at the company I work for and as part of our DEI programs, we have a Women in Tech Action Group. With this group, we try to always have a Women in Tech for these leadership events. I realize this is a long shot but would you be interested in participating? We normally do a presentation (1 hour) and then a panel. It would be an honor to have you!
Hi @ericalee, As a hiring manager, do you have a preference between finding people on Linkedin, Indeed, and Zip Recruiter? Can you advise us which of these three is best for getting us in front of hiring managers? Linkedin has always been my preference, but lately, I'm seeing the number of applicants as high as 700+, so I'm wondering if going through Indeed or Zip Recruiter would be better.
Hi @ericalee, quick question... is currently open for new members? I've tried registering, and the Join button doesn't seem to be active.
Thanks for ask1) WoAI = website is broken and my old COO is gone so I haven't had time to fix it, or run it actively besides an annual conference or event. Once work stabilizes and I can fundraise post-COVID ill have a part time web person and events person but until I'm ready I dont want to make changes or Ill get caught up in fixing it vs. prioritizing my work/family life right now.
Thanks for offering your time and insights @ericalee. I am the Founder/CEO of HUSSLUP, a networked marketplace that connects creative talent to each other and to the entertainment companies that need to staff them. Our industry is currently weathering two labor strikes (WGA and SAG-AFTRA) and part of what has stalled negotiations is the use of AI-generated content in film and TV. We are currently spec'ing two AI/ML tools that will not replace creative humans but rather help them match with open roles. Given your experience at Upwork in particular, I would love your insights on whether we should be building these tools with Open AI or if there are other platforms that may be more appropriate. Part of our goal is to combat the systemic biases in AI, as well. Thank you!
Thanks for ask1) AI x Recommendation Matching Algs = can use any type of alg, usually a clustering alg or k-nn (nearest neighbor) help w/ unstructured/more complex data.You can use any tool key is knowing infra stack:1) Storage (like S3, vector databases)2) Networking3) Alg Development & Deployment (CI/CD like Sagemaker)4) Orchestration (ie Kubernetes)5) APIs (like OpenAI to leverage their pre-trained alg and db)6) Security7) more etc.
Thanks much.
Hey there, @ericalee! It's fantastic to make your acquaintance, and a huge thank you for sharing such intriguing content! I'm absolutely thrilled to connect with you and delve deeper into the fascinating realm of global teams operating remotely within the charity sector. But wait, hold the phone! There's something else that's pulling at my heartstrings even more profoundly – rescue dogs! Oh my goodness, I can't contain my excitement! I've actually had the incredible experience of fostering retired greyhounds myself, and let me tell you, it's been an absolute joy! The bond that forms with these incredible creatures is just indescribable!So, let's connect and chat about both of these amazing topics – the power of remote teamwork in making a difference worldwide and our shared passion for those adorable four-legged friends! Can't wait to exchange thoughts and stories with you!
Thanks for ask1) Rescue Dogs = love it, everyone needs a home and unconditional love. Yoshi rescued me and I rescued him, we are equals and its a blessing to share a family life together :)
Hi Erica, we are all very excited to hear your thoughts. Here are some of my questions:- What do you think are the biggest downfalls of the current AI tools and companies that everybody is buzzing about (Open AI, Midjourney, Stability AI etc.)- Throughout your years of experience, what was the most successful implementation of AI that you saw and how was that achieved? - What do you think is next for AI and how are you advising your team to prepare for it? Thank you so much!
Hi Erica! any advice on building foundational large language models based on large volumes of payments data (rather than copy / images / video etc.)? What would be your order of thinking through an undertaking like this? What questions would you be asking? What use cases for that would get you super excited vs what would ge “fluff”? Super curious for your thoughts.
Is there statistical significance with zodiac or is it confirmation bias? Btw, I’m a Leo ♌️
Could be either but my POV is the zodiac has 12 signs like the calendar, which ever month you were born in, you might have stronger innate characteristics in that element, but everybody embodies all the 12 zodiac symbols.
Hi @ericalee,It's great to meet you! 😊I recently applied for the Principal Product Manager, AI Tools position at Zillow. I also reached out to the recruiter, but I haven't received a response yet.Although I have a strong background as a Senior Product Manager, I need to gain professional experience working with AI/ML. However, I've been upskilling by completing a PM cohort focused on AI and machine learning. I've also become proficient in tools like ChatGPT and Custom Vision. While tinkering with free ML resources, I've gained a solid understanding of machine learning principles. I believe that I'm a great fit for this role.How do you suggest I showcase my potential value and bridge the gap between my existing PM skills and the qualifications needed for the Principal Product Manager, AI Tools position at Zillow?Thanks!Nava
Ping this guy, LinkedIn and tell him I sent you, I also a screenshot of this chat, and sent him a note
Thank You!!!
Hi @ericalee! Where do you go to keep up with legislation and regulation surrounding AI? For context, I work in hiring & recruiting with early stage startup teams across the US and need to be current with requirements in their local areas. Are there any accounts or journalists you recommend I follow?
Thanks for ask1) AI x Regulation = I'd search up topic on medium, good quality writers who are less biased and more logical from my experience vs news and social media.
Thanks @ericalee If you could describe a rockstar new to the AI industry without much experience, what attributes would that person have?
Thanks for ask1) New to AI = traits like commitment, focus, resourceful on education/community/mentorship, and passion/genuine excitement = key to anything
@ericalee, you inspire me! I am actively looking for my next leadership position and applied to a VP role at Upwork last week. I am looking for recruiter oversight as well HM informational as a next step to my application to the role. Any insights or support you can provide would be greatly appreciated!
Any advice on how to get in front of the recruiter for this role? _ I would crush it!!!!
What are the biases you've found in Upwork's AI systems? How are they being addressed? Do you believe AI can be shaped in a way that shepherds us into a better future? If so, what do we need to do?
@ericalee thanks for spending some time with us! Recently I was selected to be a Career Coach for @shannonmorales Tech Accelerator Program for Tribaja members and I’m leading a workshop on leveraging AI on your job search. Do you have any tips or advice for me? I plan on doing a demo and helping students sign up for a ChatGPT account and showing them different ways to utilize the bot for their search. Thanks again for your time!
@Yoddit I would be interested in joining the demo. Please keep me posted on when you will be hosting.
hey @marycucinell unfortunately the program has already started so they aren't letting anyone else join but if all goes well, I might do my own demo class on it. Let's get connected on LinkedIn so we can keep in touch!
I can help give an intro to AI before your demo if helpful — ping me on LinkedIn and add me with a note “chatgpt demo Elpha” so I find you and drop your LinkedIn here too if comfortable so I can backtrack I’m /in/ericaleeai on LinkedIn @Yoddit congrats and sounds fun! I’d say make the demo fun and visual with some slides to describe what generative AI is vs. more old school AI language models so much @ericalee! My workshop isn't until August 8th--I decided to help the class sign up for ChatGPT and demo a few use cases for job searching! I've drafted a presentation so this is going to help so much. Look out for my message on LinkedIn!
Hi @ericalee, thanks for sharing with us! - What are you most optimistic about the way AI will impact businesses in the next 5 years? - How have you navigated being one of a few women in an AI department and/or startup? - What's your vision for How do you want to see it evolve over the next couple years and how do you think you'll get there?Thanks!
Hi @ericalee, thanks for sharing your inspirational introduction and insights with us! As a woman in my late 30s, I’m interested in making a pivot from the Event Tech industry to AI and Machine Learning. What advice can you share for next steps in my career path? Is there a recommended Bootcamp or way to break into the field at this stage of my career?
Thanks for ask1) Career Change to AI = I know plenty people who did it, start with volunteer work to learn (like an AI nonprofit or a startup willing to mentor), and free self-education AI on coursera, youtube, MIT, stanford, Google sites etc whatever is easiet for you to consume (dont start too detailed or technical)You can do it, be committed, I broke into it in 2010 with no PhD or 0 mentors and now am a known name in my field after a decade of committment.
Hi Erica! Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. These days there's a lot of discussion around how AI will impact creative disciplines, like some of those you've listed (namely music and visual arts). How do you view how AI intersects with the creative arts -- said another way, how do you think the two areas *should* interact in this day and age, and how can we get to that world? (also would love to hear more about how you engage in the arts in your downtime!)
Thanks for ask1) AI x Art = unlimited possibilities. Biggest one I first thing is how it'll make a distinction from "unique artists/collectible/vintage" vs. "manufactured by AI" since it's similar to how instruments and arts are like with a unique original vs. print copy vs. CGI vs. hand drawn.AI is a form of tech so it will change how art may look but the value humans bring to art with emotional expression and ties to modern or historical messages/trends likely will keep things distinct but I'm not the big expert here so the world will really only tell as we consume and product more AI.2) Art x Myself = form of therapy to balance my R-brain from L-brain technical work. I would nap or drink or socialize before for stress but now I exercise, sleep or do art such as music, painting, sculpture etc as it's about how I "feel about the art" and less on "art outcome/how it looks relative to people's standards"
Did you always wanted to work with machine learning? What were steps you took to pursue the career you wanted?
Thanks for ask1) Work in AI = Yes and No. I read a book called "Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil when I was 13 and really loved AI but knew no one who know of it/worked in it (in AIM Chat rooms even randos wouldnt talk to me about it LOL).I re-discovered it in research by luck as my neighbors worked at Harvard and got me linked to their Lab after they realized I was gifted and talented, and I choose to commit to it in 2014 when I moved to Silicon Valley and self-educated myself and built a startup around it.
Hi Erica, given your experience in the workplace, how would you deal with toxic corporate leadership?? and how would you improve communication with a manager?
Thanks for ask1) Toxic Work = find a new job or manager in company, and in future jobs screen for that via interview process and backdoor ref. Most companies will have some toxicity to finding hobbies and things outside of work so you are not overcommitted + learning how to insulate/ignore/not get impacted by toxic people/energy. is key as they exist everywhere not just work. Breathing, health activities and sleep/rest helps on managing energy.
Hi Erica! Thanks for opening up to this platform. How do you see AI serving women in tech and women in general, as there have been issues raised about AI workflows affecting women in the workforce the most?
Thanks for ask1) AI x WIT = probably help level the field as it takes a big L and R brain to be in AI as its a softer form of CS with more "loose thinking" as we move from rigid rule-based algs to more flexible AI-based algs.2) AI workflows x W@work = hard to know as I don't fully get the question but they can work against if there's bias in things like hiring alg screening but also they can help with identifying impact/rev attribution in a company if they are using data to measure employee productivity/results and women aren't able to voice them as well but can show their impact via data
Thank you for sharing! I can totally relate to moving a lot. I am only 22 and have moved 3 times across continents and am already a little burnt out and feel very unstable. How did you realise LA was the right city for you? How did you deal with the instability that comes with moving a lot? Did you particularly do anything differently in LA which made it feel like home?I also agree having a partner can help us grow in a lot of ways and learn more about ourselves. However, modern dating is quite difficult. How did you go about dating? What are your thoughts on online dating?! Lots of gratitude! <3
Reposting above -- Thanks for the ask -- I dreamed of living in a place of sun, fun with a hot tub and yard on the West Coast. That meant not SF or Seattle as they lacked some creative arts culture, so LA had all of my needs with more live music, women and heart-spaced activities to balance out my head-space. Also, my dog wanted a yard, and I wanted a hot tub so we got a nice home in LA Valley (suburbs above Bel Air/Hollywood area).As for people, I didn't mind moving somewhere new and take many risks because you never know who you will meet when you're living your best life!New for dating --Online dating I found easy for volume and reach since there is filters and "unlimited" ish people online. Yet photos and content sometimes hide the issues or don't show the highlights. My most successful relationship I met in person at a Whole Foods near my home since part of my lifestyle is being healthy so it made sense to meet someone living a similar life.I also had great relationships from online but I did notice the "dating" phase at the end sometimes is a bit sugar coated getting dressed up for dates but if you are more casual and take things slowly as friends-turning-romance you may see if you feel an attraction that is not physical or mental, but rather emotional and spiritual.
Thank you for your time Erica! My name is Tiffani and I am in the process of transitioning from physical therapy to digital marketing; I'm currently in two bootcamps: one for digital marketing and the other for front end development, with a Python specialization. I'll take additional courses (a post-grad certificate program at Purdue, a second Master's in Communications, and eventually a CDO certificate) in the aforementioned areas and was wondering, too much? All of these will be taken one at a time as I too have a family and I want to spend time with them! Also, in terms of building community and healthy relationships, in what ways did you accomplish this? I have such a wonderful spouse and son; it would be nice to have more friendships, more community.Thank you again for your insights!
Thanks for asking -- for education, too much vs less is based on your needs & bandwidth. As long as you aren't over/whelmed or under stimulated, only you know what's "right for you." As long as you're honest about how things are, you can calibrate/make changes are you go (like in eng we call it "iterative product development."Stress = pain = negative energy so I also balance our education with fun and sleep/rest.Community = individuals coming together over a shared collective purpose so first identify your values/lifestyle/interests and where those happen you'll meet "like minded/similar people." I also am always approaching strangers with good energy and that's how I met my friends and partner actually, or sometimes via other friends.
Thank you Erica!! Your response was very helpful and I will definitely apply your suggestions!! Again, many thanks!! :)
Thanks for opening up to us and sharing these heartfelt learnings, @ericalee! How did you finally realize that you no longer wanted to move to another city (LA in your case)? I've moved across a few cities and neighborhoods within each city, and I've always felt I could make it work in each place but it would be nice to see more of the country and try living somewhere new. I did realize that my family and close friends are concentrated in a few spots, and I didn't want to be too far from them
Thanks for the ask -- I dreamed of living in a place of sun, fun with a hot tub and yard on the West Coast. That meant not SF or Seattle as they lacked some creative arts culture, so LA had all of my needs with more live music, women and heart-spaced activities to balance out my head-space. Also, my dog wanted a yard, and I wanted a hot tub so we got a nice home in LA Valley (suburbs above Bel Air/Hollywood area). As for people, I didn't mind moving somewhere new and take many risks because you never know who you will meet when you're living your best life!
Thank you @ericalee for taking the time to share your experience. How did you get started in AI and what advice would you give to someone who may be interested in making a career pivot into AI.