Prague-based Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics graduate Robert shares his journey to his dream job at a San Francisco startup.
BSc. (Hons) Artificial Intelligence & Mathematics
|Year of graduation||2016|
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.
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.
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.