AI Insights

7 Essential Practices for Succeeding in an AI Project

August 10, 2021

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Authors: Oduge Agak, and Reshmika Dhandapani

Wondering about the experience as an ML engineer at Omdena? Are you a bit hesitant to take that leap of faith into the data science field? Look no further! In this article, we will show you an in-depth view of the experiences at Omdena, as well as how to navigate this amazing field.

Recently Omdena started the AI project Improving the Lives of Cancer Patients by Identifying Existing Non-Cancer Generic Drugs.

On this project, we were partnering with Reboot Rx, which is a tech startup dedicated to fast-tracking the development of affordable cancer treatments. It was a great experience because we got the chance to contribute to the greater good of the community at large, all while improving our skills as data scientists.

What is it like to work on an Omdena Challenge?

As a beginner, it’s safe to tell you that it’s very exciting and unpredictable. Omdena is arguably the world’s number one platform for AI engineers and as a beginner, you will be in for quite a treat should you have the commitment and desire to grow.

For our first project, we were so thrilled to be joining over 50 other AI engineers from around the globe to collaborate and innovate on scalable and ethical AI solutions. The following steps worked for us to successfully complete our first Omdena project with Reboot Rx.

Our advice to any new aspiring engineers trying to get into this field is to take that first important step and venture into AI. We are so glad that we took the opportunity and applied to Omdena as Junior Machine Learning Engineers.

Research, Research, Research!

As soon as our first meeting with the Omdena and Reboot Rx teams kicked off, we began research on the project to find out as much as we could on cancer drugs and treatments. Since this project was related to the healthcare sector and not everyone is familiar with the healthcare sector and terminologies, it was pretty intimidating in the beginning.

Loads of initial research on the project at hand proved invaluable as we built some crucial knowledge that was important in the understanding of the task at hand.

Communication is the key

We cannot stress this enough but COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY. Omdena has collaborators from all parts of the world who bring different levels of skills and experience to the table. It’s not uncommon to find Lead ML engineers and project managers gathering insights and solutions from beginners.

Everyone has something new and unique and the collaborative and supportive nature at Omdena supports everyone! 

Another personal tip is to attend all the weekly meetings regularly and as many task meetings as you could. This will make it easier to discuss the workflow and get insights from other collaborators. This practice will not only make you aware of what is happening but will also give you an opportunity to get working on several tasks hence enhancing your understanding of the project.

Collaborating on an Omdena challenge

Practice seeking help

More often than not you will or might run into some issues, whether it’s with your code or relating other tasks within the project. Rest assured that it is perfectly okay to ask for help early on, as it’s better to be inconvenienced early on within the project than later on when the project is near completion. 

It is also important to build relationships within the project so you don’t feel like you only engage with them when you need help. 

This is very important if you want to grow at Omdena. In the beginning, lack of confidence and being among new connections feel like a load, but pushing yourself to get some guidance and encouragement from other senior and more experienced engineers is a lesson to learn.

“There is no shame in asking for help; it is one the most courageous things you’ll ever do and will lead to greater connection with those around you.”

 — Laura Lane.

For this part you can start with people you are comfortable with, might be a countrymate or just an individual you seem to admire from the start like accomplished lead ML engineers and seasoned professionals.

Once you feel a bit more at ease, you could make your way around the rest of the group. This makes it easier for you to ask for help as you feel at ease communicating with the rest of the team. 

This not only makes it easier for you to approach people, but it also makes it easier for other people to approach you as well for help. This is just an added bonus ????.

Collaborating on an Omdena healthcare challenge

Effective time management

We found this to be a very important skill to master.  As a full-time student or a new recruit into the job market, together with other work and non-work commitments, it is difficult to manage your time well between your full-time commitments and Omdena.

The trick is constant and small contributions on a regular basis. By doing this we got the chance to keep updated on the latest developments within the project as well as fulfill the time commitments we had made towards the project.

Do not be afraid to take charge

Within the cancer AI project, several tasks had been created with several Task representatives who were basically volunteers. 

These task representatives were responsible for monitoring, documenting, and obtaining results of their respective tasks, and ensuring that the objectives are met, which in turn contributed to the whole project as a whole.

Get out of your comfort zone

The first weeks at Omdena came as a big leap in the AI world, as we never get to be involved in a real-world data science project, for all courses and other platforms provide ready-made datasets and easy-to-solve competitions, the experience was definitely new to us. We realized that if we really want to make a real contribution we would need to get out of our comfort zone. Read “7 Learnable Personality Traits of a Happy Data Scientist“.

This is crucial if you want to make a real contribution, as you need to be actively involved and get out of your comfort zone. How?? By active participation.

Building AI for Good, By the People For the People

Active Participation

This is vital to an amazing experience at Omdena. Your participation is monitored according to the time commitments you gave at the beginning of the project. This ensures that you are on top of everything regarding the project.

It’s very easy to lose track of what’s going on as there are different tasks and several collaborators working simultaneously by pouring their ideas and suggesting a plethora of methods to solve a problem. It’s okay to not know everything but it certainly helps to spend some quality time knowing what everyone is working on.

People love to contribute. Once you do you get that feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment.

By constantly keeping up to date with your assigned tasks, you get a better chance to make a significant contribution. Also, remember to trust your other collaborators to do the same, It’s only through that mutual trust and collaboration that a team works well together.

Self Discipline

“I could only achieve success in my life through self-discipline, and I applied it until my wish and my will became one.” —Nikola Tesla

Setting goals, having a routine to follow daily, and rewarding yourself for the goals you achieve are essential for a balanced work-life. Here at Omdena, scheduling your time for the project is very important as you can easily get carried away sometimes. The project is developed by each person volunteering to do work and there is no particular task that is assigned to you. 

For instance, we had daily goals in the annotations-related task, where each contributor had to give updates on the number of annotations they completed per day and the annotator with the highest number gets recognized. This practice exponentially increased productivity and also got many people involved and focused.

Building AI for Good, By the People For the People

Culture of accountability

Coming forward and taking up roles is an essential part of the projects. Volunteering also develops a sense of responsibility and accountability to complete the tasks on time. For each project, we have a collaborator volunteering as a task representative for every task and is accountable for updating the status of the task regularly. Further, the collaborators in each task are responsible for completing their sub-tasks, and this way each person is responsible for their work and this maintains the momentum of the progress in the project. 

Essential hard skills to be part of the challenge

Succeeding in an AI project

Contrary to what you might think, you actually don’t need to be a coding guru in Python or R to get to work with Omdena. The most important skill I would say you might need as a Junior ML engineer is the passion and drive to learn more. Apart from these, you might need the following hard skills;

Proficiency in digital tools and technologies

Working with Omdena exposed us to a variety of digital tools and technologies that are essential in day-to-day work. These include but are not limited to;

  • Working knowledge of Github. This is where the project code was hosted. A basic understanding of GitHub is required.
  • Slack – day to day communication with the various team members was facilitated via slack
  • DAGsHub – This is a Git-like product that is perfect for data scientists. It’s sort of an added bonus but we’re glad we were introduced to it.

Domain Expertise

It would be amazing if you found and applied for a project where you have some domain knowledge.

Some prior experience and knowledge in Machine Learning would be vital in any Omdena project. One of the most popular Machine Learning domains used at Omdena is Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision, or Remote Sensing so some experience and knowledge in one of them is a big plus.


Omdena has allowed us to come out of our comfort zone and take that leap of faith into the field of data science. For all new beginners and people aspiring to get into this field, we would recommend Omdena to get that hands-on feel of real-world data science projects. Learn “The 7 Most Important Features of a Successful Machine Learning Project

Not only does Omdena expose you to a real-world AI project where you can test and apply your skills, but it also provides you a platform to collaborate with other talented, like-minded engineers from around the world as well. 

We honestly can’t wait to get started on the next project and grow further in this community!

Collaborating in an Omdena AI project

Ready to test your skills?

If you’re interested in collaborating, apply to join an Omdena project at:

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