Meet Luke Zhang, Machine Learning Engineer at DemandJump
Job Title: Machine Learning Engineer
Degree Path: Triple Major, Bachelor’s Degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Hometown: Wenzhou, China
Current City: Indianapolis, IN
What led you to your getting into tech and this occupation? What was your first job in tech?
I’ve always been really good at math and programming growing up. Data science is the perfect bridge that connects math and programming together. Naturally, I’m attached to this field. A huge credit and shout out to TechPoint and their Xtern program, which is where I got my first internship as a freshman in college working for KSM Consulting (KSMC) as a Data scientist intern. At KSMC, I met my boss, the Chief Data Scientist Tyler Foxworthy, and we instantly clicked. Tyler led me to this brand new data science field and became my mentor. We kept in touch when the summer internship was over. He has given me valuable advice throughout my college and career.
What has been your career path so far?
Throughout my college life, I worked part-time and interned at multiple companies from both West Coast and Midwest. After I finished my triple major, Bachelor degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, I joined the Indy Tech Fellowship as a Class of 2017 fellow and worked for DemandJump as a Machine Learning Engineer. I got elected as the Curriculum Chair for Indy Tech Fellowship back in May 2018.
When you think of a day in your life, what are the main work activities you do or responsibilities you have?
Since DemandJump helps so many different companies to transform their digital marketing strategy, I get to design and build a unique model to perform advanced marketing optimization using cutting-edge machine learning algorithms. I work closely with our wonderful customer success team to get feedback for my model, deliver a new solution and update my model or algorithm upon customers’ requests. I read a lot of books and research academic papers to keep up with the data science and machine learning field.
Help us picture your work environment.
DemandJump’s office is located on the 19th floor of the Market Tower, which is right next to Monument Circle. I have the luxury of a downtown view from my desk. The work schedule is pretty flexible. I get to work from home whenever it’s needed, which is really nice, but I do enjoy coming to office since I get to work with and learn from my co-workers. They are super friendly and have way more experience than me. I spend most of my day working at my computer and communicating with my co-workers.
What do you love about the work you do?
I love being challenged by different kinds of problems and projects. I feel really accomplished when I come up with different algorithms or models as solutions. With DemandJump, I get different requests from different customers and work on different features or projects. Even with the same problem or project, there are always multiple ways to solve it. I never get bored with my work.
Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy this occupation?
Be conscientious enough to plan ahead and be serious about your work. But also be flexible so if some requirements/data changed, you can modify the algorithm, model or solution.
Treat others the same way you want to be treated. You learn so much by helping others.
Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for a person in your job to be proficient in?
Python – Primary programming language
Sql query – Get data from most relational database
Neo4j – Graphical database
NumPy, SciPy, Pandas – Core data science packages for python
Matplotlib, Seaborn, Bokeh – Visualization packages
SciKit-Learn, Keras, TensorFlow – Machine Learning packages
Which soft skills (aka general business skills or employability skills) are particularly important for a person in this occupation to be proficient in?
Being a problem solver really matters to work in the data science and machine learning field. Every problem is unique and challenging in its own way. But if you dig deep enough, all these problems share similar patterns. Communicating with other people, asking for help and knowing the questions you need to ask are the 3 keys things that helped me. My favorite quote from Ziad K. Abdelnour – “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
From your experience with new grads applying for and beginning jobs in this occupation, are they missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back? Please describe.
Finding a good mentor who has experience with data science or machine learning field really helped me. I ask for guidance from my mentor Tyler all the time and I learn so much from that advice. Making mistakes is ok, but try not to make the same mistakes over and over again. Working as a team player really helps you to grow.
Which resources, people, books, websites, etc. would you recommend to those who want to learn more or advance their skills in this occupation?
Personally, I read a lot of books and academic research papers to keep myself up with the field. I also take a lot of online courses. There are so many good resources online: Coursera, Udemy, Udacity all offer great online courses. Highly regarded universities such as MIT, Stanford all have online lectures as well. Indianapolis has so many different MeetUp events that provide free drinks, food, and learning opportunities.
What encouragement or advice would you offer to others considering this occupation or wanting to stand out amongst others?
There are so many buzzwords and hype floating around the data science/machine learning field. Also, there are crazy degree requirements for data science/machine learning job. Don’t be scared away at all. At its core, data science/machine learning is just a fancy title for advanced math. If you put enough time and energy into the field, you will learn and apply different crazy techniques to solve real-life problems. Everything is possible. Just go do it.