Get All Access for $5/mo

How a $10,000 Investment in AI Transformed My Career and Business Strategy A bold $10,000 investment in AI and machine learning education fundamentally transformed my career and business strategy. Here's how adaption in the ever-evolving realm of AI — with the right investment in education, personal growth and business innovation — can transform your business.

By Jacqueline Ann DeStefano-Tangorra, CPA, CFE, MBA Edited by Maria Bailey

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2023, I took a gamble that paid off beyond expectations: a $10,000 investment in AI education, a decision that reshaped my career and business strategy. Despite my background in accounting and business, diving into AI and machine learning was uncharted territory. But before we dive into the impact of this decision, here's a little background about me and some of what I did in 2023.

One thing that I want to stress for those reading this article is that you don't need to go to school for artificial intelligence, machine learning or data science to be truly great at leveraging it. Sure, having a formal background will never hurt, but it should not deter people who are interested in this field from exploring it. I can attest to my statement because I went to school for a B.S. in accounting and a master's in business administration, obtained a CPA license in New York State, and then pivoted my career through self-learning business intelligence and AI/ML data science consulting–building a business securing over 135 clients in less than a three year period from scratch — some of which include clients like Microsoft, Tory Burch, U.S. Army, Danaher, etc.

Why am I saying all of this?

Well, on November 30, 2022, I met ChatGPT3 for the first time, but I was just another end user. I wasn't this AI subject matter expert or guru who could break concepts down for people and develop business strategies for AI implementations yet. I was simply present for the initial debut of the large language model technology era and cared enough to want to know more because it was at this point that I knew this technology would change the world forever.

My mind began to contemplate how generative AI would disrupt many career paths, but it would also create an abundance of opportunities for individuals and companies that know how to use it effectively. Immediately, I started searching online for courses that I could learn about generative AI, and unfortunately, at the time, there were none available, but I didn't let that stop me. I just started with understanding the basics of AI/ML, even without the deep learning or generative component and signed up for two certificate programs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where one focused on building data science solutions leveraging machine learning and AI. The other one focused on building AI products and services and deploying them into production.

Additionally, I took a few courses on Udemy that focused on how to use the OpenAI APIs and learned important prompt engineering techniques, such as the COSTAR framework. Lastly, I invested in some subscriptions to AI tools such as Midjourney via Discord and others, which enabled me to join a network of other creatives who want to use this technology. I joined plenty of networking groups online across various platforms, which enabled me to soak up information and updates at a rate that was far faster than any media outlet could provide. In total, all of this education bundled to nearly $10,000, but it was an investment that was 100% worth it. Here are three key reasons why:

1. Network expansion

During my education reinvestment phase, I identified my go-to AI networks for updates and idea exchanges. This serves as a tremendous resource, especially as the pool of individuals within these networks is so diverse, representing companies, products and services across various industries. This network has led to additional referrals and opportunities to expand business and collaborate with others on projects in an informal setting. As a result of this network, I built an active community on Discord and LinkedIn group of IT AI/ML professionals across various industries of over 400 professionals and have partnered with a couple of them on some innovative AI projects.

2. New service lines

After I truly began to understand and see how generative AI worked and what skills people and businesses lacked to effectively deploy solutions and strategies of this nature, I was able to build a team within my business that understands the market need for companies who are looking to adopt generative AI solutions. This decision enabled me to open additional service lines within my business, bringing additional value to our existing client base and referral partnerships and winning new work in the marketplace that previously did not exist. For example, I started offering playbooks for enterprises on Copilot deployment strategy, as well as training and education for SMBs on prompt engineering, doing company-specific webinars tailored to their business needs.

Related: I Tested AI Tools So You Don't Have To. Here's What Worked — and What Didn't.

3) Now an official paid speaker in AI

Some say it would be their dream to get paid to speak. It's an amazing thing for me to be able to say that I am a paid speaker for foundations, SMB organizations, women entrepreneur groups and other networks at a rate of $5,000 a gig. It was because of my reinvested education, along with client experience in this space, that I could parlay my understanding and knowledge over every genAI project I worked on or a concept I firmly understood into a brand new revenue stream I had not yet considered before. I remember my first paid event — it was a webinar for over 70 SMB owners, and I had the pleasure of broadly sharing the impacts of AI across businesses and industries, giving them lots of ways to consider the impacts of the technology and how it may relate to their day-to-day lives. My goal was to provide them with as much value as possible, and based on the responses and feedback, that goal was achieved.

This journey taught me the value of continuous learning and adaptation in the fast-evolving world of AI, and for those who are reading this, your next game-changing business strategy could be just one learning experience away.

My motto has and will always be simple: If you're going to do something that you believe in, why not go all in?

Jacqueline Ann DeStefano-Tangorra, CPA, CFE, MBA

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO and Founder at OBIS

Jacqueline Tangorra, CPA, CFE, MBA, founder of Omni BI Solutions, excels in strategic AI and business intelligence. OBIS serves 150+ businesses across 35+ industries. Recognized by Business Insider, CNBC, and NASDAQ, and Top 1% of Global Talent on Upwork. Jacqueline is an AI speaker and author.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.

Leadership

This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.

Leadership

Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.