100 jobs planned at New Orleans center that ‘teaches’ artificial intelligence
By: Greg LaRose | NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | 4/25/2018
How do self-driving vehicles learn how to drive? How does artificial intelligence become smart in the first place? It all starts with data.
An international company that applies data to a variety of practical uses has chosen to place its first U.S. “delivery center” in New Orleans and will hire 100 people within the next 12 to 18 months to staff it. The available jobs range from entry-level to more skilled positions.
iMerit serves clients in various sectors, including defense, insurance, health care, government and technology. Its offerings are wide-ranging and include online customer support and digital transcription services. Employees also work on computer vision – or helping computers learn from pictures and videos – and natural language understanding, which is basically teaching artificial intelligence how to read.
“New technologies like natural language understanding and computer vision, rely heavily on humans to create the nuanced data that fuels the algorithms. We operate where people are eager to develop digital skills and to transform their lives and those of their families. New Orleans has huge potential as a multilingual and multicultural hub with strong local backing for business.” iMerit founder and CEO Radha Basu said in a statement.
Merit describes itself as a for-profit social impact business. Its mission statement explains that the company provides “the human element in data innovation while empowering women and youth in underprivileged communities to join the digital economy.” Its global headquarters and the bulk of its 1,300 employees are in India, and it has U.S. base in California.
The company claims women comprise 50 percent of its workforce, and that 80 percent of its employees are from low-income families. It was founded in 2012 with funding from the social entrepreneurship investment group Khosla Impact, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the philathropic Omidyar Network.
Jeff Mills, iMerit’s global vice president of sales, said a major company that iMerit services — he would only describe it as a “Fortune 15 company” — was specifically interested in establishing a center in New Orleans so that it could provide jobs here.
iMerit has already hired 15 people locally, and its founding team is “fully bilingual Spanish-English,” according to a statement from the economic development organization Greater New Orleans Inc.
Matt Wolfe with GNO Inc. said iMerit’s new hires typically aren’t software engineers or IT specialists sought by other tech companies. And although some of the work the company envisions for New Orleans will involve translation services, new hires don’t necessarily have to be multilingual. “These are very attainable jobs,” Wolfe said.
Mills would not provide a specific salary range for the jobs iMerit is filling in New Orleans, instead emphasizing the company’s 95 percent employee retention rate and its training programs. “You’re learning a whole new trade in a new industry that’s going to help you in your career,” he said, stressing that the positions are full-time, not seasonal.
iMerit is “working with GNO Inc. to make sure we’re paying people wages in New Orleans that make sense, that are reasonable,” Mills added.
Louisiana Economic Development is providing iMerit access to its FastStart job training program. GNO Inc. assisted the company with finding its New Orleans offices, which are at 1515 Poydras St.
“… This represents yet another high tech company investing in Greater New Orleans,” GNO Inc. president and CEO Michael Hecht said in a statement. “iMerit will not only be creating local jobs, but will do this via employing an underserved portion of our citizenry — another example of ‘inclusive innovation.'”
To start, iMerit is advertising for project contributors and a sales development representative at WorkNOLA.com.
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