Dallas AI - Giving Back to the North Texas AI/ML Community

How Capital One’s C4ML leaders are sharing their expertise with the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex region

Many companies in the tech industry place a great deal of emphasis on giving back to the community while encouraging their associates to do the same. Here at Capital One, we strive to use our time, talent, and resources to improve the quality of life in the communities where we do business. Our leaders at the Center for Machine Learning (C4ML) have an equal passion for sharing their wealth of knowledge on cutting edge AI/ML topics such as Deep Learning, Explainable AI, Graph ML, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning Scalability and many more.

From small beginnings, a big AI/ML meetup was born

One example of our ongoing community outreach comes from C4ML Director, Aamer Charania. In October of 2017, Aamer founded the Dallas-based meetup group and grass roots educational forum Dallas AI.  Since its founding, the group has relentlessly advocated for AI and machine learning education within the North Texas professional and leadership community. And in little over three years, Dallas AI has attracted close to 3,500 members, making it the largest and fastest growing independent AI-focused meetup group in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex region. Dallas AI’s large membership base is also incredibly diverse. Members come from various backgrounds and are at different stages of their careers, ranging anywhere from soon-to-be graduate students, working professionals, and senior leaders of local companies, all with one common characteristic, a passion for machine learning and AI.

According to Aamer, the forum had somewhat of an accidental beginning. Towards the end of 2017 Aamer was in search of a meetup group in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex region where he could share and discuss his AI and machine learning ideas while learning from others in the space. After an exhaustive search, he failed to find a group that was independent enough or one that was not aligned with a company or product offering -- this prompted him to create his own. Anticipating a gradual build, he was shocked and thrilled to see the group attracted more than 300+ members signing up in just the first month!

It takes a village to run Dallas AI

Cognizant of the fact that one cannot succeed alone, Aamer’s immediate task was to find the right person to partner with. He immediately started digging into his network from previous community and academic engagements. Fortunately, having served as the President of the MIT Alumni Club of Dallas & Fort Worth for four years and VP of Communications for another four prior to that, Aamer had good access to local talent; particularly among folks that were interested in giving back to the local tech community.

That landed him at Babar Bhatti’s door, another MIT alumnus and former chairperson of the MIT Enterprise Forum of DFW (a past MIT initiative promoting local startups around the Dallas region). Together the duo took the Dallas AI group from humble beginnings to becoming the largest and fastest growing AI focused independent community forum in the North Texas region. Along the way,  Aamer, Babar, and Dallas AI partnered with several big tech brands and academic institutions including Google, Microsoft, IBM, Verizon, the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

These collaborations have helped bring speakers and institutional expertise to Dallas AI while continuing to maintain the forum's independence and policy of not exclusively endorsing any individual product, offering, or company.  Since its inception, the group has hosted 40 exciting events covering a variety of topics on AI and machine learning. All to the benefit of the many Dallas area leaders, professionals, and students who have taken advantage of Dallas AI’s quality talks and networking opportunities.

Two images - one of a diverse, crowded lecture hall of attendees for the Dallas AI Kickoff in 2017 and one of a panel discussion of four people talking to a diverse, crowded lecture hall of attendees for a panel discussion in 2018

Dallas AI Kickoff, First Event on Deep Learning, Nov 14, 2017 and Panel of local industry & academic leaders, Mega Event at UTD, April 9, 2018

How Dallas AI is educating and inspiring machine learning leaders

Last year was both unusual and exciting for Dallas AI. It started with Dallas AI and Google Cloud partnering to deliver an inspiring Machine Learning Leadership Workshop, a full day educational session for local technology and business leaders looking to learn machine learning fundamentals and apply to various use cases in their respective industries. The workshop was a resounding success with many senior local leaders benefiting from the talks and exercises in this first-of-its kind Dallas AI event.

Man standing up, speaking in front of two projection screens to an audience seated at small conference room style tables

Dallas AI & Google Cloud partnering on ML Leadership Workshop. Jan 9, 2020

However, the COVID-19 pandemic caught Dallas AI, like most of us, by surprise. In March of 2020, for the first time in its history, Dallas AI had to cancel one of its events, which was to be sponsored by Capital One at its Plano TX location, with over 200 AI/ML professionals registered to attend.

After a brief pause, and the realization that virtual conferences would be the norm for quite some time, Dallas AI began hosting virtual talks with powerful speakers such as Fred Chang - Former Research Director at the NSA (National Security Agency), Cybersecurity expert witness at US Congress hearings and SMU Comp Science Chair, and Lori Glover-Managing Director at MIT CSAIL, the largest AI research lab at MIT, to name a few.

As Dallas AI continues virtual speaking sessions, it's exciting that their upcoming virtual event is featuring Abhijit Bose - head of Capital One’s C4ML and a renowned leader in the AI space. With multiple Ph.Ds and consistent success building highly effective AI/ML organizations at companies such as Facebook, Google, and IBM, Abhijit Bose is on a mission to take Capital One’s machine learning organization to the next level. The Dallas AI community will have an opportunity to hear how Abhijit Bose is planning on shaping the future of machine learning at Capital One, both from a platform, as well as an organizational development perspective.

Whether it’s professional forums like Dallas AI, school alumni clubs, or other educational engagements, we encourage our leaders to get involved in their communities and the future of the tech industry. Dallas AI is just one of many examples of how our leaders are passionate about giving back to the community.

For additional information on Dallas AI and future Dallas AI events visit their website here.

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