This week we’re chatting to our Data Scientist Simon Stiebellehner who joined our team at the beginning of this year. Alongside working at craftworks, Simon is also a lecturer at the University of Applied Science Wien (FH Wien) and Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Wien). We hope you’ll enjoy!
Could you start by explaining how you ended up at craftworks?
When I came back to Austria from London, I had no idea of the Austrian landscape of companies tackling Machine Learning/AI problems yet. So I did some research and stumbled upon craftworks after a minute of googling. I liked their philosophy and found the diverse projects they were working on highly interesting, so I bookmarked the website, and eventually, when at some point I felt like it was time for a change, applied.
What were you doing before craftworks?
I did my Bachelors in Information Systems, then took a gap year working for Microsoft and in Consulting. My interests were quite clear, so I chose to do my Masters in Data Science/Machine Learning at University College London and started my PhD in Computational Advertising here in Vienna straight afterwards. Due to my Masters and my PhD studies where I focused on quantitative and machine learning methods in real-time bidding advertising, I was already fully on the ML track.
Could you describe craftworks in 3 words?
Honest, passionate, professional
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out in your field?
It’s really important to understand the concepts and the maths when it comes to machine learning and data science in general. Don’t start with stuffing things into packages, but go through the derivations of the algorithms. The learning curve may be steep, but you will have a significantly easier time picking up novel things in the field once you have mastered the basic principles.
Which book would you recommend reading and why?
Reinforcement Learning by Richard Sutton/Andrew Barto. Reinforcement Learning research has been picking up pace rapidly and there’s a wide area of potential applications.
How do you go about continuing to develop your professional skills and knowledge?
It’s a mix of books, blogs, MOOCs, reddit and trial & error.
What does your typical day at craftworks look like?
I’m usually one of the first in the office at around 8am. Then I get a coffee and a smoothie before I open my notebook and continue where I left off the previous day. Apart from lunch, some table soccer and some quick meetings, I am really focussed on coding, which makes time fly by.
You also work as a lecturer. Can you explain what you like about this the most?
I believe that being a lecturer has two big pros: Firstly, in order to be able to teach in a credible way, you really need to understand what you’re talking about. Consequently, you are forced to constantly stay up-to-date and question your own understanding of every tiny bit of the subject. This continuous learning and self-criticism eventually lets you accumulate true expertise. Secondly, lecturing teaches you to break down complex content into digestible pieces, communicate them in a way that meets your students‘ needs and finally reassemble the parts to form the bigger picture. Overall I really see lecturing as an opportunity for professional and personal development. Additionally, of course, it’s a also fun to work with interested and passionate students in an academic environment.
How difficult is it to combine this with your work at craftworks?
Craftworks really supports any kind of teaching and learning activity. Life-long learning and sharing of knowledge is an integral part of the company culture. Therefore the lecturing couldn’t be easier to combine with my work at craftworks.
3 short questions:
Mac or PC?
Office or remote?
Office … it feels like a living room.
Which music is playing on your player right now?
Von Seiten der Gemeinde – Lignano
Thank you Simon!
Thank you Natalie!
And thank YOU for reading our interviews! As our team is growing at breakneck speed, we might have a new one quite soon! Stay tuned! 🙂
PS: Due to the large amount of new projects we have, we’re currently hiring more team-members. Sounds interesting? Check our career page.