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Robert Lacok

Prague-based Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics graduate Robert shares his journey to his dream job at a San Francisco startup.

Name

Robert Lacok

Degree 

BSc. (Hons) Artificial Intelligence & Mathematics

Year of graduation 2016
Robert Lacok portrait image

 

 

 

 

At the moment 

I live in Prague and work for a San Francisco based startup called Deepnote. It’s a dream come true, the experience is not too far from the TV show Silicon Valley. We’re a small team, the problems are very interesting, the opportunity is big and we have a nice investment to support us.

Your time at the University

I was mostly applying for Computer Science degrees at other universities, but then I noticed Artificial Intelligence at Edinburgh. I remember thinking – cool, robots! I knew very little about the field at the beginning.

In the end, the robots didn’t happen, there was like one course for robotics, and they were only in a simulated environment (programming a Roomba solving a maze). But somehow I hit a jackpot anyway. During my studies, data science and machine learning became the hottest topics in the industry, and somehow my degree was the perfect background for getting the job. I also find it super interesting, much more than robotics to be honest.

My favourite memories are actually doing coursework late into the night. I got to spend a lot of time with my friends, working on interesting problems with many whiteboards around us. Of course, at the time they were very difficult.

A close second was all the options for sports. It’s never been easier to get into a new sport. I picked up volleyball when I joined, and by the time I left, I was the captain of one of the university teams. Five years later, and I still haven’t been to a better gym than the university one.

Your experiences since leaving the University

When I was graduating, I was interviewing for a lot of the big companies, thinking they’re the best. My preference was anywhere in Europe, but not London for various reasons. So naturally, I ended up in a small company of six in London, called Datatonic. Again, it turned out for the best. It was a consulting company, so I ended up working on big company projects anyway, but with a lot more impact, and I learned tons every single day.

The next step in my career led me to Exponea, a product company, selling software as a service. That’s generally a pretty great business model, so these types of companies grow very quickly. In my two years there, it grew from one hundred to almost three hundred people. I also changed focus a bit and moved from engineering to product management. It mostly means talking to people, and thinking about what’s important for users.

Out of my 3 roles, I enjoy working at Deepnote the most. In a small company like that, everything can be your responsibility. So while I’m mostly responsible for product management, I get to do marketing, sales, growth hacking, and a little coding sprinkled on top. I get to decide what’s the most important thing for me to work on, and then I do it. Having venture capital at your disposal requires you to shift thinking away from the scarcity mindset. Instead of thinking “how could I save some money”, you need to actively think “how can I spend money to grow faster”. It seems like a good problem to have.

Covid experience

In the beginning, it was a big struggle – mostly getting used to less freedom. Staying home, breathing through the face masks. But then my girlfriend and I found different ways to spend time, going for more hikes, and it’s not too bad in the end. I used to think cities were much better than living in the countryside, but in times like now, having a big house near a forest seems like a much better option.

Alumni wisdom

University is a unique time in life where you have a chance to get deep into some topic and emerge as an expert on it. I kind of wish I spent more time on some side projects, learning more about one topic. It’s hard to know which topic of course, before you’ve seen what’s out there.

Related links

School of Informatics

Deepnote (external link)