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Huawei Connect 2018: China on the hunt for AI talent

At Huawei Connect 2018 in Shanghai, Huawei shared insights into how the developing artificial intelligence industry is changing the face of IT talent development in Asia-Pacific

The advent of the era of artificial intelligence (AI) demands new approaches to talent and skills development, and China is surging ahead, with over 95,000 AI experts finding tech jobs through Maimai, the local version of LinkedIn.

At Huawei Connect 2018 – Huawei’s annual customer and technology event – the supplier shared some insight into how businesses in China are nurturing AI skills.

Wang Qian, co-founder and commercial strategy lead at Maimai, revealed how her organisation is itself using machine learning techniques in its proprietary algorithms to better connect employers with artificial intelligence experts.

“Ten years ago, enterprises needed engineers, people who understood technology. Today they need scientists, because enterprise development now relies on capabilities like deep learning, cloud and IoT [internet of things],” said Qian.

“Talent has become critical as enterprise needs change. This will also cause a change in talent development. We need talent with comprehensive knowledge,” she added.

According to Qian, new graduates with an AI specialism can make around ¥12,000 (£1,367) per month, rising to ¥25,000 after three to five years and over ¥50,000 after 10 – well above average for China. The biggest Chinese hubs for AI development currently are Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

“To attract good AI talent we need good compensation and salaries. However, these people don’t come just because of the money – they want the company to have other attractive points. For example, the company should have enough investment and the right conditions to encourage R&D,” said Huang Weiwei, a senior management consultant at Huawei and professor at the Renmin University of China School of Business.

“Ten years ago, enterprises needed engineers, people who understood technology. Today they need scientists, because enterprise development now relies on capabilities like deep learning, cloud and IoT”
Wang Qian, Maimai

Huawei’s internal approach to developing AI is predicated on adding intelligent capabilities to its existing network product lines, and automating its services capabilities, an area in which it thinks it can see quick results. In 2017, it also introduced AI capabilities into its technical services division to support its global customer growth and network maintenance capabilities.

To do this, Weiwei said Huawei aimed to promote a “positive, open and diverse” approach to talent management on a global basis, not just in China, with the emphasis placed on AI experts working with Huawei, not necessarily for Huawei.

Hao Lv, chief innovation officer at Yitu, a Chinese developer of facial and speech recognition technology, said AI was causing rapid change in one of the most fundamental parts of the IT stack – namely writing software.

“Machine learning has already changed the way we write code,” he said. “We used to use tools to build code, but with machine learning we now gather data and use that to generate code. This changes the face of the engineering team.”

Beyond this, said Lv, AI experts also need to be big data experts, able to evaluate and adapt in response to the constant discrepancies between training data and reality, and able to spot errors – since AI still generates many while, at the same time, making human errors harder to detect.

Read more about artificial intelligence in APAC

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