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Facebook AI’s RAISE program: A new pathway to make careers in AI more accessible

March 3, 2021

The field of AI has advanced with remarkable speed in recent years. This growth presents tremendous opportunities for new researchers and engineers who are just starting their career. But it may also pose a challenge for software engineers who are interested in transitioning into AI. When experienced engineers want to make such a transition, they find many openings require prior professional experience in AI. These requirements can lead some jobseekers to pursue additional degrees or certifications -- either in their free hours while also working or by committing to a full-time program. But this can be difficult or impractical for some professionals. To provide an alternative path into AI, Facebook is launching Rotational AI Science & Engineering (RAISE).

RAISE is a 24-month program offering participants full-time employment with the Facebook AI team. It is designed to bring a cohort of software engineers together from a variety of industry experiences and backgrounds -- ranging from individual contributors just a few years out of school to experienced engineers. After completing the 24-month program, the goal is for RAISE alumni to seamlessly continue their employment at Facebook by selecting a permanent Facebook AI team to join that aligns with their skills and interests. What sets RAISE apart from other programs in the industry is that all participants are full-time employees at Facebook from the start, providing each individual with all the benefits of being an engineer in Facebook AI. With this innovative approach, RAISE can bring talented people from diverse backgrounds and different experiences into the field -- giving participants the opportunity to start their AI journey full-time at Facebook.

RAISE will give participants a valuable toolkit and portfolio of projects along the way. While taking part in research engineering rotations across the AI team, they will learn how to apply cutting-edge research to current and upcoming products. Additionally, participants can gain experience leveraging PyTorch, developing state of the art models, architecting machine learning pipelines, and more. RAISE will provide a unique AI foundation through hands-on experience in the full lifecycle of exploration, development, measurement, and deployment.

RAISE’s program design makes this opportunity more than a series of high-impact rotations. Participants start together in July 2021 as a cohort and will all follow the same program timeline. This structure allows the group to learn together, share experiences, and build connections with others in the program. Although they will work with many peers and teams throughout their rotations, each participant will have a single manager for the duration of the program. These managers have demonstrated their ability to create effective, diversified teams and effectively lead and mentor others. To enhance the experience, RAISE will facilitate participation in networking events, ongoing development opportunities, academic conferences, and cohort-tailored experiences. Participants will also have the chance to travel internationally to get hands-on experience working with Facebook AI colleagues around the globe.

Building an important new way to enter the field of AI

There are, of course, many early-career talent development programs in AI, including internships and AI residencies designed to give B.S., M.S., and Ph.D students and recent grads exposure to opportunities across the field. These initiatives can be extremely valuable but they are typically temporary in nature. This means they aren’t well-suited for the vast majority of software engineers already holding a full-time job. With RAISE, there is no conversion process to full-time and participants will take a direct path to pursue a future in AI.

"The RAISE program is a great step towards creating a more inclusive AI ecosystem which is needed to address the challenges in AI today. This program could serve as a blueprint to create full-time opportunities in AI for diverse communities," said Susan Gonzales, CEO, AIandYou, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate diverse communities about AI.

As part of RAISE, we are reaching out to thought leaders and organizations serving tech professionals from diverse backgrounds, so we have a wide-ranging and inclusive pool of talented applicants.

“As AI technology continues to transform daily life, it is critical that those responsible for its creation and deployment are representative of everyone. However, women and individuals from other underrepresented backgrounds continue to face challenges in making inroads into the field of AI. Programs that forge non-traditional pathways into AI are an important component in making AI careers more accessible,” said the board of directors of Women in Machine Learning.

When experts with different perspectives collaborate, progress in AI comes more quickly. AI should be researched, built, and deployed by a diverse group of people to ensure that technology reflects and serves everyone well. The field needs to make significant progress toward this goal and we hope that RAISE will help attract people who might not have otherwise pursued a career in AI.

"There are real biases and challenges throughout the field of AI and ML, which make it all the more imperative that companies walk their inclusivity talk. And it's about a lot more than just giving Black people a seat at the table," said Rhonda Allen, CEO of /dev/color, an organization focused on career advancement for Black software engineers. "We need Black leaders and people from historically marginalized backgrounds to build and steward the future of the field at every stage - from design to launch, scale, and most importantly - critical decision making. Programs like RAISE and other similar industry initiatives are only going to be stronger as a result. Tech gets better when we center the perspectives and leadership of people who are closest to the challenges we're solving for and the opportunities ahead."

If you are interested in applying for the first cohort starting July 2021, check out the RAISE program page.

Learn How to Apply

Written By

Tony Nelli

Facebook AI Program Manager