Behind the Scenes: An Exclusive Interview with Miodrag – Empowering AI Innovation

09 Aug, 2023 | 8 minutes read

AI has been generating worldwide buzz for some time, and its presence has become even more pronounced in recent months. ⋮IWConnect consistently remains on the cutting edge of the latest tech trends and seamlessly integrates AI into its daily business operations. In the upcoming lines, delve deeper into the story of Miodrag Cekikj and his profound passion for AI, explore how he seamlessly incorporates it into his everyday work at ⋮IWConnect, discover his insights regarding the future of AI, and much more.

IWC: Can you share a brief overview of your role within ⋮IWConnect and how it relates to working with AI?

Describing something you’re truly passionate about can be quite a challenge. My role is all about diving into the world of applied artificial intelligence and machine learning, and it covers a bunch of different areas in business. What’s really cool is that I get to do technical research and development, which means I’m always exploring new ideas and possibilities.

Being part of a place that’s always buzzing with innovation means I get to roll up my sleeves and dive deep into research and analysis. I’m basically uncovering all the amazing things AI can do for different industries and figuring out how to make it work.

But the best part? I’m not just sticking to what we already know. I have the freedom to venture into uncharted territory, trying out new stuff and coming up with fresh ideas and inventions. What gets me super excited is tackling tough challenges head-on. I love using AI to find smart solutions and break through technical barriers. It’s like being a problem-solving superhero! And you know what really gets my heart racing? It’s the way we work together in our company. We’re all about sharing knowledge and coming up with wild ideas. We bounce thoughts off each other, push the limits, and think way outside the box. This teamwork makes sure our research isn’t just theoretical – it’s all about solving real-world problems and making a difference.

IWC: What sparked your interest in AI, and how did you transition into the field?

I first encountered the term “artificial intelligence” during my undergrad days. It sounded promising, but I struggled to see how it could solve real-world problems. The concepts were there, but they felt trapped in a theoretical box.

After undergrad, I dove into master’s studies in intelligent info systems. That’s where things got exciting. I tinkered with advanced AI concepts, visualized hefty data sets, and dipped into computer vision. My thesis birthed a real-time communication system for water safety. That’s when data science and engineering caught my eye.

But let’s rewind. After high school, I pondered med school due to my parents being doctors. Yet, my tech love won. I joined a PhD program in bioinformatics, merging tech and medicine. AI and machine learning tackled medical data, driving predictive and personalized medicine.

So, my path transformed. From a decade in software engineering, I blended AI with web, mobile, and desktop tech. Now, I’m on a mission to apply AI and machine learning in diverse industries, fueled by a passion ignited years ago.

IWC: Could you provide some insight into the workshops you host internally to showcase AI? What is their purpose, and who are the target participants?

I am part of our company’s newly opened Research and Development team, where the main goal and focus will be the research and utilization of different methodologies and concepts related to current and upcoming technological trends and standards. Driven by the cause that knowledge and information awareness are the main drivers for opening new horizons and perspectives, our work should be an extended hand and complementary booster to all aspects and software development phases established as part of the scope of the existing practices. Therefore, we organize weekly meetings through tech talks or workshops where we present different research topics and findings related to existing or potential business aspects that are part of the company’s roadmap and tech radar. We aim to incorporate some action points into the existing or potential new clients and adopt them as part of our strategy and technical movement. Based on our initial objective, we began with targeted sessions where we invited colleagues based on the technology stack we are currently working on. We will perspectively cover different topics to rotate and engage all our colleagues within the company.

We’ve had in-person sessions, showing how AI & ML can work in real situations. We started with using Python models in .NET and Java, making tech work together. Then, we explored using Azure Form Recognizer to process documents. This cloud-based tool saves time and effort.

Another exciting topic was Large Language Models (LLMs) in the NLP field. We covered real-world uses and how these models are changing AI/ML. We shared insights about ChatGPT and other models. Each session ends with discussions, spreading knowledge and planning future ideas.

IWC: In your opinion, what are the key benefits of fostering AI literacy within a company? How can it positively impact the workforce and drive innovation?

AI holds numerous benefits and sparks extensive discussions. It’s quietly revolutionizing businesses across industries we interact with daily. Think of it as time-saving automation, a way to boost efficiency. But don’t fear, AI complements our human strengths like creativity and reasoning. It’s about refining decision-making, enhancing service quality, and cutting down on error.

At ⋮IWConnect, we strive to keep up with the latest developments in this field and find a way to incorporate them as the new de facto standard that has undoubtedly established itself in the computer systems development and consultancy industry. With this aim and cause, we learn, inform, prototype, share and pinpoint key aspects significant for our primary activity at work. We are working on exciting use cases for applying artificial intelligence in standardizing recommended work practices, as well as building tools to increase efficiency and automate specific flows within the business process.

As we understand the importance of timely and high-quality delivery in driving business success and prioritizing delivering innovative and custom end-to-end solutions that utilize the latest state-of-the-art technologies, we strongly believe that the AI will help us in delivering efficient software engineering, advanced data analysis and deep knowledge insights, predictive maintenance and support, automated testing and quality assurance, NLP for internal and customer related actions, smart resource allocation and process optimization.

IWC: As AI continues to evolve rapidly, how do you stay up to date with the latest advancements and ensure that your workshops remain relevant and informative?

Let’s be honest – riding the AI wave’s peak isn’t common. Most of us are riding it fairly, doing our best to keep up with the info explosion. That’s why we started the R&D team – time and resources to explore what’s cutting-edge and on the horizon. We know overnight success is rare, so we follow AI trends closely. We test and prototype specific apps and interfaces. We even have a budget for experimenting, paying for services or licenses if needed.

Sure, staying ahead of daily tech launches is tough. So, we focus on tech that complements our business goals. Workshops are how we share insights and prototypes among colleagues working on specific challenges. The R&D team leads, but AI and ML are everyone’s passion. We work together to shape agendas and programs, staying in tune with cloud platform trends and experimenting internally. We’re creating an environment for our experimental goals and challenges.

In short, we’re surfing the AI wave as a collective force, eager to explore and innovate.

IWC: Are there any future plans or initiatives you have in mind to further promote AI awareness and adoption within ⋮IWConnect?

We are currently preparing some practical PoC sessions to demonstrate our internal fine-tuned and targeted LLM models and combine some of them with the concepts of the blockchain & Web 3 technologies, emphasizing the business potential and utilization for addressing well-known industry challenges. Moreover, we just started building some know-how about utilizing the AI in some low-code/no-code platforms that are currently part of our tech radar as well. We are also exploring the applied Generative AI momentum for designing public LLM assistants using the latest OpenAI APIs. In the meantime, we have already started a few AI streams internally in the company to organize our AI-related activities related to AI awareness & privacy and other development and engineering-related aspects. It is imperative to leverage the publicly available AI tools reasonably and wisely, considering all aspects of privacy through the terms and conditions for their usage. Therefore, we started these different initiatives for sharing knowledge and awareness about some points we believe will help us to keep ourselves and our house safe and security compliant. Based on this, I can confidently say that some inspiring and cool ideas are just around the corner and are about to come up from the ⋮IWConnect crew, and I`m pleased to be part of it.

IWC: What advice would you give to individuals or companies looking to embrace AI but unsure about where to start or how to educate their employees effectively?

As someone deeply involved in software design, engineering, and data science, I’m a firm believer that blindly chasing AI trends isn’t the answer. Slapping an AI or ML label on your profile or company isn’t a guarantee for success. Let’s be real – becoming AI-ready requires time and knowledge. The world of AI is vast and ever-changing. Before diving in, take a step back. Analyze, learn, and decide if AI or ML techniques truly align with your needs. Education is key, especially in data science and analytics. Without solid data, AI is just a buzzword.

Investing in these areas is crucial. Sure, you can use existing apps, but AI is more than that. It’s about diving into ML pipelines and leveraging data to its fullest. And don’t forget the hands-on approach. Prototyping and experimenting are essential to see if AI fits your goals.

In a nutshell, don’t rush the AI hype. Educate, analyze, and experiment – that’s the real AI game.

IWC: In your experience, what are some common misconceptions or myths about AI that you often encounter during your workshops, and how do you debunk them?

Learning to distinguish fact from hype or myth is essential when applying AI and ML, especially considering all information and opinions from the community. Let’s tackle a big one: the fear that AI will swipe our jobs. But hold on – it’s not a threat, it’s a chance. AI streamlines manual tasks, sure, but our human knack for interpretation remains untouched. It’s more like a helper, giving us room to upskill and be better.

Another myth? AI is only as good as its data. Not quite. It’s a blend of algorithms, hardware, and human smarts. And that “AI is a black box” claim? Nope, interpretability is key. Say, in predicting diseases, knowing the ‘why’ is gold.

Lastly, the idea is that only big shots can be played with AI. Nonsense. Public tools and communities abound. You don’t need to be a giant to dive into this tech. So, don’t be fooled. AI is here to help, and anyone can take action.

This is all fascinating and at the same time, very challenging, so I am very excited about what tomorrow will bring to us and how the industry will respond to the AI or ML-based challenge. Are we opening the door of the new tech era?