Jousef Murad, an engineer, YouTuber, and podcast host, recognised the flaws within his own education and used them as inspiration for improving access to engineering information. He talks to The Industry Leaders about digitised education, the expanding field of AI, and maintaining a flexible mindset when facing new ideas.
Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
My name is Jousef Murad. Some people might know me as Jousef from my YouTube channel and the podcast, Engineered-Mind. I'm a mechanical engineer, based in Germany, currently working as a product marketing engineer for the company, Simscale. As I mentioned, I also host a podcast and am working as a product marketing engineer for a company called Monolith, a no-code AI platform that aims to empower engineers all over the world.
I have always been a very inquisitive person. During my bachelor's degree, I focused on finite element analysis, investigating how to subdivide an object’s continuous domain and simulate its deformation when applying stress. Then, in my master's, I transitioned to looking at fluid dynamics and its relationship with thermodynamics.
The transition to my current field happened during my master's thesis. I jumped on the AI hype train and began programming objects in Blender, a computer program that uses a camera to travel around an object, taking pictures, and using those pictures as an input for a convolution neural network. The algorithm then tries to predict what this object is, using the input.
I was then able to apply this technique using mechanical parts, such as turbochargers or crankshafts. That was the first step into AI for me, other than taking some courses and, of course, having great guests on my podcast talking about AI.
The field of AI is vast. How do you stop yourself from being overwhelmed by it?
I'm very overwhelmed by it, especially with the plethora of papers coming out. But I try to stay informed about AI’s latest developments via social media sites like Twitter. I follow accounts that don't spam too much but still give a good amount of information on the latest tech techniques. Also, being on LinkedIn helps me stay connected with like-minded people and AI thought leaders.
What does your day-to-day work involve?
Usually, I wake up relatively early, have a coffee, and then start my work for Simscale. I usually do freelance work for Monolith during the day or after work. And then, in the late afternoon, I record podcasts, work on video projects, etc. So there’s always a lot to do, including my new work in education. I’ve learnt that there are many different ways to educate people. Some people prefer to learn by listening; others like to see more and learn by visualisation. Currently, I’m working on improving education for engineers within the field of AI.
What excites you most about the AI Industry?
My answer for this is two-sided: on one hand, I'm very, very excited to see what AI can offer to the protection of society and making Earth a better place; on the other hand we need to keep in mind its potential military applications. Where will it be used, and what about collateral damages? Maybe in my own dream world, there could be artificial general intelligence, like The Oracle from the film, The Matrix, that answers any question you have.
I would also be really interested to see how we can make machines feel. How do we embed emotions into machines? That’s really exciting to me. I want to see that, whether it comes from Boston Dynamics, or any other company.
It could also create many new jobs. Just 15 years ago, nobody knew what streaming was, or what a streaming service was. And now it’s a huge industry. So I think AI will open new doors. It could close a few others, but I'm trying to be optimistic about the future. Although, we know a lot about the downsides of AI as well, such as the issue of bias in AI algorithms. A documentary on Netflix that I can recommend is Coded Bias. Everyone should watch it.
What motivates you in your work?
I would like to educate people all around the world, and I have a goal of reaching one million subscribers at some point in the future, but this is not my main objective. What I am primarily aiming for is to improve my video production quality. For example, I could make some audio improvements by buying a mic. I also have a side project of launching a new channel for which I would upload videos more in the style of documentaries on AI and its origins.
How did you manage to build your community on YouTube and LinkedIn?
It’s quite an ambitious goal, but I would like to be one of the best channels for AI and engineering information in the future. I am slowly working my way up to that level by challenging myself. For example, I want to learn how to animate so as to aid and simplify my explanations of things so that even a five-year-old could understand them. I might even outsource some tasks in the future when it gets to be too much work for me to handle alone.
Which online educator inspires you most?
There's so many people, but I think the most famous one is Grant Sanderson with his channel, 3Blue1Brown. He does a very good job. When it comes to creating visualisations, I’ve thought about using his library 'manim', hosted on GitHub, which is really cool. I also like TensorFlow’s channel which is very good when it comes to AI education.
Some people think educators like you produce better quality content than university lectures. Are we coming to the end of traditional university lectures?
I definitely agree. One of my main motivations for starting my own channel was that I was frustrated by the ways my professor explained it to me. Because he was an expert in his field, he explained everything in such a difficult way that almost nobody got it. So I had to do something about it by simplifying the teaching so that everyone could understand it. The positive feedback I have received on my videos speaks for itself.
How do you make sure that your videos are accessible for learners?
A lot of research goes into them which is why I'm a bit hesitant now to create more videos. It’s hard for me to find an explanation that can be understood by as many people as possible who all think differently — would an average viewer on youtube find my videos accessible? With each video, I have to think about what questions would a viewer with no knowledge in the field of AI/engineering have and whether I can answer these with my video. These are the questions I have to be asking myself; I try to think from the perspective of a beginner. And how can I cover all of this in one video without it being too long? This is the tricky part.
How do you ensure the quality of online free resources?
There isn’t an ISO standard like there is for more formal education. As creators, we have to make sure that we are doing the best that we possibly can in terms of quality, whether that be in the production or in the actual educational content itself.
You could use Grant Sanderson from 3Blue1Brown as an example of high-quality content to aim for, but you could also use him as a baseline and aim to become even better than him. It's a very ambitious goal, but if everyone saw those at the top as a baseline level instead, then we would be on our way to providing an even better education for everyone.
What’s the most challenging situation you’ve overcome?
There have been so many, especially because I work for startups that come with everyday challenges I have to overcome. For example, I have these special projects I have to work on with colleagues, and I have to be constantly learning new skills. But that’s part of the beauty of working for a startup — you don’t have a fixed niche to work in; instead, you have a range of responsibilities, although this can be daunting and frustrating at times as well. But, then, I think that every day is a challenge in itself, and I like to think that, if we are alive, we've survived 100 percent of our bad days. There isn’t that big a difference between private or work-based challenges. So finding a way to overcome these low points is something that everyone has to figure out by themselves, or solve by asking help from others.
I’ve also experienced personal failure in that, when I was younger, I had a lot of issues with teachers. I was a bit of a rebel. That had its advantages as well as its disadvantages. I had to change schools, but, despite that, I would argue that you don't have to be an A-grade student; you can be a C-grade student and still do great stuff and change the world. You don't have to be at the top to achieve those things.
What are your thoughts on students who don’t know what they want to do so they go down the traditional routes of consultancy, banking or law?
It really depends on each individual situation. If your parents wanted you to do a particular job due to their thoughts on status and what it would mean for the family, then that isn’t something that I can give much advice about. But if you are someone who has a bit more freedom and you have been daydreaming about something a lot, and you are free to pursue that path, receive ok pay and be able to feed yourself, I would suggest that you go down that path.
In fact, I couldn't do YouTube full time right now as it doesn’t pay well enough. But it's something that I'm working on, on the side. I advise that you do something while you're studying. For example, you can be writing blog posts, building your own website, and just sharing everything you can about what you have learnt during the week. People from HR, potential employers, will look for projects that you have done on the side as well as looking at your grades.
You could be an A student but also be horrible at teamwork and have poor social skills. During my bachelor's, I was a B/C student, and then, during my master’s I was an A student, but my grade dropped back down because I wanted to work on other side projects as well. Everyone has to decide for themselves what kind of student they want to be. Some people who do get As like to show that off, but that all becomes kind of irrelevant after a while because, say, five years after graduation, employers only want to see what you’ve worked on in the industry. It’s just my opinion, but I think that that part becomes far more important over time.
What would be your advice for young people who are trying to meet the expectations they set for themselves while being happy at the same time?
This can be so difficult, because, if you're a perfectionist like me, it can be very hard to be happy at the same time as meeting those goals. It can be frustrating sometimes if your happiness is dependent upon reaching a goal. There's something in psychology called the hedonic treadmill. The theory states that whenever you reach a certain level of stability, whether this be emotional or material, it won’t be long before you start wanting something more. So, if your happiness is dependent upon materialistic things like money, I think that you will definitely become unhappy. But if you can link it instead to something less materialistic such as being healthy, happiness can be a much easier state to achieve and maintain.
Maybe you could have some kind of daily journal, where you write down your three favorite things that you cherish or highly value. That could help reaffirm your state of happiness. I think that, when we reach the end of our lives, when you’re lying in bed surrounded by your relatives, none of them are going to talk about how you were the hardest worker in the world.They’re going to be thinking about how you made them feel, not how hard you worked.
How do you navigate your moments of doubt?
We always have doubts. Whenever I looked at my subscribers in the beginning, I was refreshing my YouTube studio app every second, measuring each subscription as it came through. And I built my confidence on this kind of metric, which isn’t the most helpful way to go about it. Now, even though I only have 13,000 people following me, getting an email from just one person saying that I made an impact on their life or helped them to make a career choice, makes all the difference in terms of my own confidence. This kind of measurement is way more relevant than a subscriber count.
The main goal should always be — and I know my podcast listeners hate me for this because I always say it — egoistic altruism. You want to be aggressive in chasing and fulfilling your personal goals, but you can be altruistic as well by helping people to accomplish their goals at the same time that you are accomplishing yours. Keeping that balance between egoism and altruism is, I think, the perfect way to approach projects like YouTube blogs and courses.
Is there a book or podcast that everyone should know about?
I think Joe Rogan has a very good podcast, especially his episodes with Elon Musk, Naval Ravikant, and Mike Tyson. Naval Ravikant is definitely someone you should check out. He has so many good quotes. There's also a book from Eric Jorgensen, who was on my podcast, called The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness. I recommend that to everyone who wants a bit of context from Eric about Naval. And if you don't follow Naval on Twitter then you definitely have to.
How should people connect with you?
Jousef Murad is my name on LinkedIn. It’s the same on my youtube channel, my Twitter and my Instagram.
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