MAIDAP Cohort Reflects on One Year of AI Excellence

| MSNE Staff

Microsoft New England MAIDAP (rotational AI program)

Microsoft’s commitment to artificial intelligence — a burgeoning field in technology — drives innovation throughout the company to transform business and empower others. Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence Development Accelerator Program (MAIDAP) works to drive new artificial intelligence solutions and integrate it within our products. This early-in-career program partners cohort members with engineering teams across Microsoft, offering mentorship, research and development opportunities, and the chance to help organizations achieve more with cloud-based AI solutions.

This summer, we were excited to welcome our second cohort of the MAIDAP program, as our first cohort kicked off their second year with us. We’re reflecting on our first year with four members of our first cohort — read more below.

Ari Green, Software Engineer

Ari Green, Microsoft New England MAIDAP

Ari Green, an MIT graduate with a BS in computer science and media studies and a MS in artificial intelligence, came to us with a professional background in game development.

“I was looking at a lot of different options — the thing that really stuck out about MAIDAP was it was this program that wanted to cultivate the next leaders in AI,” Green says. “That was really exciting to me because I was very interested in the AI field. I thought there was a lot of potential in that space and I think there still is.”

Green prioritized having a diversity of experience in terms of projects and teams during his first year with MAIDAP. Part of this varied experience, Green says, was finding rewarding and surmountable challenges.

“On my very first rotation, I was working on the Office code base, a large and mysterious big block of code that is hard for a single person to fully understand,” Green explains. “Getting enough understanding, creating the feature, in order to build and feel confident in the code base was an exciting moment. It was this daunting task, this daunting challenge, where by the end of the rotation I felt comfortable, whereas before, it was kind of an impossible task.”

A big part of Green’s experience here at MAIDAP has been adapting to Microsoft culture, and MAIDAP’s mentoring opportunities have helped shape that experience.

“The thing that I found mattered a lot, which I didn’t realize mattered when I was coming in as a new employee, was the type of mentorship matters a lot,” he explains. “It super accelerated my learning process.”

Liqun Shao, Data Scientist

Liqun Shao, Microsoft New England Data Scientist for MAIDAP

Liqun Shao comes to us after obtaining a degree in computer science at Fuzhou University in China and a PhD in computer science from University of Massachusetts at Lowell. There, her thesis revolved around automatic title generation and processing. She interned with Google twice in their search engine team before heading to MAIDAP.

Shao was attracted to MAIDAP because of its elements of leadership and management. She tells us that the program has provided her experience on leadership on the technical side. This has given her the opportunity to make the transition from research to production and to explore her career options.

“I think our program is a really good opportunity for PhDs or anyone who is interested and is not sure if they are suitable for research or they should go into production,” Shao says. “Here, MAIDAP offers you both opportunities. If you really like to do research, we have projects that are research-oriented. If you are interested in production, we have projects that are production-oriented. During the two years, you have four opportunities to set your own career goal.”

Tom Manzini, Software Engineer

Tom Manzini, software engineer for Microsoft New England's MAIDAP

Tom Manzini graduated from Rensselaer Polytech with a BS in computer science, then Carnegie Mellon University with a Masters of Language Technologies. With a background in networking, language processing, and research, he’s worked on Pinterest’s ads ranking team, LinkedIn’s lifecycle team, and Bloomberg’s search team. He wanted to work in AI and machine learning, and was excited to see the MAIDAP program was hiring.

“I was very impressed with the data infrastructure that exists here [at Microsoft] and the data scale,” Manzini tells us. “Coming from academia, I hadn’t ever really been in the position where you have more data than is feasible to train on. That was a perspective that I never really had to think about before and so it throws in some interesting engineering challenges that weren’t even on my radar.”

Minsoo Thigpen, Program Manager

Minsoo Thigpen, program manager for Microsoft New England's MAIDAP

Minsoo Thigpen joins us after graduating from a five-year dual degree program at Brown and Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in painting and BA in applied math. Before MAIDAP, she interned at a company working on self-initiated research to create a recommendation system with a learning algorithm.

As a program manager, Thigpen has a lot of freedom not just in leadership but with shaping the MAIDAP program, building out infrastructure and leading initiatives to build out both stakeholder communication as well as communication and presence within Microsoft itself.

“I have a lot of freedom and responsibility to help shape the program in a way that I think is the most effective and has the greatest impact, as well as building the relationships that I want to build within the industry,” she says.

So far at MAIDAP, she’s worked in a client-to-customer service role with Azure and an Office engineering and machine learning group, Office Experience ML. And she’s excited to build out the MAIDAP program, including interviewing the upcoming third cohort and shaping the experience not just for her fellow cohort members but also for members in the future.

“Having a class or cohort has been a really good transition from my academic career,” she explains. “A lot of people who’ve just graduated and started their first job can sometimes feel very alone in their struggles and experience, and I think being a cohort helps build a community.”

Learn more about MAIDAP and apply here.