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Machine Learning Skills in Colombia Boost Nearshore Software Development Engagements

As machine learning solutions come under increasing demand around the world, nearshore software development companies in Colombia are exploring new ways to develop the necessary talent to thrive in this field.

True machine learning experts require a mix of skills and must be highly proficient across the board, so they are extremely valuable in today's market. Global demand is convincing most of the country's machine learning experts to move abroad, either for attractive job offers or higher education. However, Colombia's remaining talent pool is highly diverse, with people possessing the skills and potential to set themselves up for a career in machine learning.

Here is PSL's take on the state of Colombia's talent pool and the skills that must be nurtured in order to develop world-class machine learning solutions.

Computer Science and Development Skills

Perhaps the most obvious skill is the ability to code or program software in multiple languages. Right now, the most common language for machine learning algorithms is Python, but R, Java, and Julia are also growing in popularity.

A lesser-known trait of machine learning specialists are those with exceptional problem-solving abilities. By assessing programmers or computer scientists on the effectiveness of the problem-solving process they follow, rather than the end product, it becomes much easier to find potential machine learning experts.

While this technical side is extremely valuable and necessary for machine learning projects to succeed, it is only one piece of a much broader skill set. Coders must be adept with the other necessary skills that machine learning requires, instead of focusing on programming alone to solve problems. 

Knowledge of Statistics and Mathematics

The process of building a machine learning solution might only require 10% effort on the coding and development side, with the remaining 90% effort going toward making data more accurate and aligning it with business goals.

Individuals with a good understanding of statistics, data, and mathematics are naturally well-suited to a career in machine learning because they already understand data and can make it work better for the business. People with these skills know how to gather and analyze data, sample that data, provide reports and visualizations, and connect the dots for the business—all essential to the success of a machine learning solution. Those with an understanding of basic statistical terms are well-positioned to start coding, testing, and applying machine learning algorithms to real-world problems.

While universities in Colombia have several courses available in statistics (and that number is growing), there is still a gap between academics and real-world problems for businesses. However, software development companies are trying to close that gap, bringing students in from universities and introducing them to these issues. PSL also just recently introduced a partnership with Holberton Medellin, a software engineering school where students complete a comprehensive, 2 year project-based curriculum and only pay for their education when they have secured a job. It's a new model of education that expands access to jobs in technology and boosts the local talent pool for companies. 

Industry and Business Knowledge

Along with the necessary technical skills, the best machine learning experts also have experience in working with specific industries. While not as essential as coding or statistics skills, workers who understand a specific industry have an easier time solving problems in that sector, so it's important for machine learning specialists to spend time learning about their clients.

With the vast adoption of software and technology in the banking and retail industries, it is more common to find developers or data experts who have already worked in these sectors. Furthermore, as most industries are now increasing their focus on digital transformation, developers are organically learning more about the issues they face, which is good for everyone in the long term.

Colombia's Interest in Machine Learning 

While machine learning is a relatively new field in Colombia, the country's talent pool is uniquely positioned to work with it, as it matures at breakneck speed. There is also keen interest in machine learning among graduates and experienced workers, suggesting a possible surge in popularity in the employment market.

At PSL, our solution to Colombia's machine learning talent shortage has been to bring people in and develop their competency with the necessary skills. We teach courses at universities in Medellin and Bogota, where we engage with talented students, train them in statistics, and introduce them to coding and business. These juniors are then put to work with more experienced team members before being tasked with the management of their own projects. We also have a pool of talented experts that have spent time collaborating with international clients to solve challenging problems in machine learning and have become resident experts in the Colombia community.  

Colombia's talent has the right mix of enthusiasm, competency, and potential to support the growing popularity of machine learning solutions, so with the proper guidance and strategic preparations, the country can build upon its strong foundations in software development to meet the global demand and expand its value proposition even further. 


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Tuesday, 15 October 2019

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