Moritz Kremb, a product manager at a German startup for the last three years, always dreamed about starting his own business. Then OpenAI's ChatGPT came out.
When Kremb went on parental leave in February 2023, he spent some time learning the ins and outs of the technology. He'd already used the chatbot in his job to brainstorm ideas, conduct research, and draft strategy documents, and was floored by how much time it saved him.
"You just knew that this was a paradigm shift technology," the 34-year-old told Business Insider.
Then, he got an idea: he could create social media content about AI tools like ChatGPT — and monetize it.
By April, Kremb was posting daily on X, formerly known as Twitter, on AI-related topics like ChatGPT prompts and AI assistant tools. In just a few weeks, his page drew in thousands of followers — and with that, paid opportunities. Startups like 10Web and Personal AI approached Kremb, he said, to run ads for their AI products, and followers asked him for ChatGPT coaching.
Weeks after Kremb's parental leave ended, it was clear to him that he wanted to focus on growing his business. By June, he quit his job to pursue the AI venture full-time.
There's an explosion of jobs in AI
Kremb is not alone in jettisoning his full-time job to chase a career in AI. The changes come as billions of dollars pour into new AI initiatives and startups in the wake of ChatGPT.
Earlier last year, companies like Meta, Netflix, and Amazon were looking to hire people who can develop AI models, even offering some salaries as high as $900,000 a year. Non-tech companies in the health, education, and legal industries have been looking for employees who know how to use AI tools.
Generative AI has also created new types of jobs like prompt engineers and chief AI officers, and paved the way for a cottage industry of lucrative side hustles like ChatGPT course instruction and AI content editing.
As a result, workers now appear to be betting their careers on AI to cash in on the hype. While some left their jobs to start their own AI-related businesses, others are learning a whole new set of skills in order to get a leg up in the job market.
BI spoke to five people, including Kremb, who've taken that plunge. So far, none of them have any regrets.
The AI space is ripe with opportunity
Justin Fineberg is a New Yorker who left his product manager job at Blade, the Uber for helicopters, to start Cassidy.ai, an AI assistant company. He said he quit because he's certain that the technology will be a top priority for businesses for years to come.
After all, the evidence was clear: his AI content was blowing up across social media. In the months leading up to his resignation, the New York-based 25-year-old made TikTok videos on ChatGPT prompts, AI tips for businesses, and the latest AI developments which racked up millions of views. By December, he gained more than 220,000 TikTok followers.
Even though Fineberg said leaving his job felt like "jumping off a cliff," the success of his content reassured him that there's a demand for AI services that can help people in their personal and professional lives.
Jacqueline DeStefano-Tangorra, a PwC accountant-turned-consultant who quit the firm after six years to focus full-time on Omni Business Intelligence Solutions, her business analytics firm, echoed the sentiment.
After working on an AI project at PwC to develop predictive software, the 30-year-old realized how useful it can be in the corporate world. The realization was compounded when she used ChatGPT for the first time. Seeing how much AI has advanced — and how generative AI can be used to automate tasks — presented an opportunity to become a so-called generative AI expert. "My mind was blown by what is on the horizon for the world," the ex-PwC employee based in Long Island said. "I realized I needed to find a way to lean into this and to learn it."
Learning AI skills is hard — but not all of them are new
While some career changers have dived headfirst into the AI industry, others have taken some time to prepare for jobs in the space.
After testing missile control systems at Lockheed Martin for nearly eight years, Ted Lebantino left the defense company in the San Francisco Bay Area to learn the skills he needed for a job in AI.
For months, the 32-year-old took free online courses on algorithms and machine learning on sites like Coursera. He then started as an apprentice engineer at LinkedIn through REACH, the job site's career transition program. He was placed on the team that trains internal machine learning models in a way that protects user data.
Learning how to build AI models, he said, wasn't easy. There was a "high learning curve," given that AI is a "very technical" field that he said was completely new to him.
Seven months into the program— and with additional help from ChatGPT — Lebantino now feels more confident doing his job. He has learned new programming skills like multi-processing and multithreading, as well as soft skills like getting comfortable with reaching out for help.
"Having the opportunity to have a mentor and just learn on the job was the best way for me to transition into the field," he said.
But not all workers who pivoted into AI needed to learn an entirely new set of skills from scratch. Javier Orman, once a professional violinist and music teacher who now works as a full-time machine learning engineer at LinkedIn, told BI that many of the skills he learned in the music industry were applicable to his new Chicago-based role. Those include communication, collaboration, presenting ideas with clarity, and the ability to overcome learning obstacles, said the 39-year-old.
DeStefano-Tangorra said that cleaning, structuring, and analyzing data — skills she said she picked up from her days as an accountant — were useful when providing AI-services to her clients.
Breaking into AI may require education — and a bit of ego
All the workers BI spoke to who now work in AI agree that changing jobs was the right choice.
As of November, Kremb said that he is making the same amount of money from his AI business as he did when he was a product manager through sponsorships, audience growth coaching, and teaching clients how to use AI. If all goes well, he plans to expand his services to sell prompt libraries and make custom AI chatbots for companies.
Fineberg and DeStefano-Tangorra also appear to be happy with the progress they've made with their career pivots.
Since Fineberg launched Cassidy.ai in March, the CEO has raised $625,000 in VC funding, got thousands of potential clients to join the waitlist, and hired multiple full-time employees. In just three months of going solo full-time, DeStefano-Tangorra landed $128,000 worth of new contracts teaching clients how to integrate AI into their workflows and is now looking to work with clients to build custom chatbots using GPT models.
To make the jump into AI, Kremb suggests making a name for yourself on social media by creating content about AI. That way, people online will see you as an expert, which could potentially lead to monetization opportunities down the line.
DeStefano-Tangorra suggests staying informed on the latest AI news and to reinvest in education through courses.
For those who may not have a tech background, Lebantino and Orman advise job switchers to not let the fear of a completely new field get in the way of pursuing their career goals.
As for Fineberg, the AI startup CEO says you don't even need to quit your job to break into it. Becoming the go-to AI person at your current employer who knows how to automate workflows, he said, is a promising first step to move forward in your AI career.
"Every company right now wants to implement AI," Fineberg said. "And you'd honestly probably get a promotion."