I’m a serious wanna-be musician who, at the age of 23, had the chance to turn professional. Instead, I chose the happy life of the computer geek, as the odds of success were much more tipped in my favor in technology than as a professional musician cutting it in the music world. But music and technology are related, and one can teach you a lot about the other.
I’m relatively good on the guitar, composing and singing backup vocals. I played in several bands, strictly for fun, never devoting enough time to match that of professional musicians who practice 6 to 12 hours a day. I know the guitar fretboard very well and can tell immediately if a guitar is in tune or whether I played a note out of sequence or key. Once, frustrated at having to play in an amateur band with no bass player—and thus no groove—I thought “how hard can this be? I’ll play the bass!” I soon discovered there is much more to playing a bass than simply thunking around. Without commitment to improving and learning properly how to play, I was never going to cut it and would probably get booed off stage. To evolve and succeed, I had to learn a new approach to my music altogether.
Forget Everything You Know
I did YouTube research, invested in books and instruction videos, and quickly learned that in order to play bass well, I needed to forget almost everything I knew about playing guitar. Holding the bass and the way you hit the strings is completely different than on a lead guitar. If you don’t change, you will quickly wear out your muscles and wrist, and learn bad techniques that will restrict you.
To learn bass the right way, I invested in some lessons from a really good teacher, a professional bassist. He taught me several game-changing revelations: The guitar is heard, whereas the bass is felt. As a seasoned guitarist, the thing that surprised me most about learning the bass is the blisters that appeared on my fingers from pressing too hard, and not knowing how to properly hammer or slide on bass. Muscle fatigue set in early, like a weightlifter suddenly focusing on cardio. I had to develop a new level of “bass fitness.” As a guitarist, I played a slight lick or riff in almost every bar. As a bassist, you never do that—it will instantly ruin any song and quickly turn off the audience. A good bassist will hold the rhythm steady and be a tight unit with the drummer.
As a guitarist, I often used my thumb to fret notes. This is a no-no for a bassist. Power chords on a lead guitar create an amazing sound with little effort. Do this on the bass and you create noise that nobody cares to hear. Complex bass lines (Duran Duran’s “Rio”, many Marvin Gaye songs, TLC’s “Don’t go chasing waterfalls”, Pink Floyd’s “Money”, or any Jaco Pastorius song) are constant and require that accuracy be combined with perfect timing, and sometimes speed. So your timing and accuracy better be spot-on. This statement is true in bass playing, and in technology too.
Welcome to a New Dimension
I come from the relational database world, with about 20 years of experience in relational databases, business intelligence, and data management, integration, and warehousing. Coming to the worlds of predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and data science requires an entirely new way of thinking about and using data. Learning how to use time series data to support data science is an absolute must. Discovering the world of noSQL is a major step in a different direction. Much like switching from guitar to bass, you’re still making music but in a whole new way!
Not only is predictive analytics a whole new world, but how C3.ai approaches solving the problem is new, and mind-bending. Coming from relational data to the C3 Type System takes your brain into a new dimension. When you see the benefits of using a normalized time series over a relational / dimensional SQL approach, it causes a complete mind shift that requires you to leave behind the things you know about SQL. I find I need to constantly invest time into learning new tricks, especially as an old dog who was very comfortable and in-demand in the world of relational and multi-dimensional databases. The concepts of auto-scaling and sharding, map reduce jobs, and loosely-enforced dependencies require that I take a different approach and invest in my education on these topics.
What I find at C3.ai is that my learning will never be ‘done.’ This is not any different to any other software realm, or music. However, in this case, in my role as C3.ai Solution Architect, I see first-hand the world of data changing and morphing before our eyes, at record-breaking pace: Not so long ago, nobody talked about data lakes but today in 2018, it is a well-known industry term (circa 2015).
It is important to keep abreast of the changes in software, and to understand what it means not just to computing but to the benefits that business derives. Separating what is functional, works and delivers value to customers from all the hype and new shiny toys should be a top priority for us all in the new world of big data, machine learning, AI and advanced analytics.
The Key to Digital Transformation
Often, the hardest part of getting started is to recognize the world has changed, and what has worked previously, no longer suffices. Digital transformation is being driven from the top as a matter of survival. What we know about the world of computing has changed and in order to succeed, we need to learn to “play a new instrument” that has its own way of operating, its own nuances, benefits and shortcomings.
Music is just a bunch of notes played at varying depths, percussions and rhythm. Big data, artificial intelligence and IoT are all still just ones and zeroes, but in a whole new light, the light at the end of the tunnel. This is NOT a trivial sector of the data market, it is being hyped by many so-called experts and the market bears witness to many failed approaches from some very large and prominent organizations.
C3.ai has created a better way of doing things, one that goes to the heart of ROI. The deeper I go, the more I invest into self-education and working through issues with the helpful team at C3.ai, the more rewarding it becomes. Everything is easy when you know how and have the time, so getting up to speed in the early days is paramount. Much like realizing that being a good guitarist did not automatically make me a good bassist, I had to invest the time and effort into learning a sweet new way to make music. It is definitely worth it.