#60 Building Self-Driving Cars in Silicon Valley with Vladimir Iglovikov, Ph.D. – Senior Computer Vision Engineer and Kaggle Grandmaster

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Vladimir Iglovikov graduated from university with a degree in theoretical physics, he moved to Silicon Valley in search of a data science role in the industry. This led him to his current position in Lyft’s autonomous vehicle division where he works on computer vision related applications. In the past few years, he has invested a lot of time in Machine Learning competitions leading to his title of Kaggle Grandmaster.

In this episode, Vladimir explains how difficult it was to find work in Silicon Valley. He had harsh requirements for a salary, no one looked at his resume. Companies in Silicon Valley are willing to pay big bucks, but at the same time, they require the person to be skilled in software engineering, machine learning, and statistics. His biggest issue when applying for jobs was assuming that all people are similar to the people in academics. At his interviews, he felt no connection with the interviewers. After sending his resume to over 200 different companies, someone finally bit just before his visa expired. Vladimir worked at Bidgely for 8 months then moved to TrueAccord and eventually got his job at Lyft. 

As a manager, you need to learn to communicate and excite people in different teams about your project. When people come from academia, they are smart on paper but may only get a mid-level job. People with soft skills, like management and marketing, will be more impactful for the company. Around four years ago, Vladimir started with Kaggle. He needed to do something to help apply his skills. He compares working with Kaggle like working out at the gym. You lift weights, but you may not necessarily lift weights when you are outside of the gym. However, it does impact your appearance, strength, posture, and confidence. So, Vladimir started participating in Kaggle competitions and epically failing. Every competition helped Vladimir strengthen a particular skill. Machine learning is an applied discipline, Kaggle teaches this really well. 

Later, Vladimir touches on hiring data scientists. He says nobody knows how to hire. In Silicon Valley, so many people are competing. If you are performing well in the company, you get promoted. However, you can invest in looking around and finding another job where you can get a raise. These companies are also looking for an applicant with at least 10 years of experience when, in reality, they just want a nice person who can code. Stay tuned to hear Vladimir discuss machine learning, autonomous driving, and why he is not in a rush to pursue his own startup. 

Enjoy the show!

We speak about:

  • [02:00] How Vladimir started in the data space

  • [12:30] Transferring from academia to industry 

  • [21:40] Benefits of having soft skills   

  • [25:45] How Vladimir manages stress 

  • [31:30] Kaggle is like lifting weights 

  • [35:30] The hiring process for data scientists  

  • [40:45] Excitement for machine learning 

  • [46:00] Autonomous driving   

  • [47:55] Pursuing a startup

  • [51:40] Aiming to maximize mistakes in a day 

  • [61:00] Social life comes first 

Resources:

Vladimir’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/iglovikov/

Kaggle: https://www.kaggle.com/iglovikov

Quotes:

  • “When you are coming to work at a startup, you have to wear a lot of hats.”

  • “On average, people work in Silicon Valley 1.5 years.”

  • “I encourage everyone to move to Silicon Valley for some time while you are young.”

  • “Building a startup is a rare and complex job.”

Books:

The 48 Laws of Power

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

Mastery

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Vladimir Iglovikov is based in San Francisco, California.

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