Inside Ople – Michael Schock
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I graduated Cal with a major in Physics and started my career as a software engineer. Along the way, I was introduced to machine learning at work and became fascinated by it. It almost felt like magic but scientific at the same time. I wanted to learn more so I started Andrew Ng’s courses on Coursera and right now, I am getting my Online Master of Science in Computer Science from Georgia Tech.
Can you explain more about your first encounter with Machine Learning because magic and science don’t usually go together?
I studied Physics because I like the scientific method of collecting data from experiments and validating hypotheses. Machine Learning is very similar. You need to gather the relevant data, create models - which is equivalent to collecting and inspecting data through experiments, test the hypothesis, and produce a final model.
The magical part is the machine learning part. It’s really intriguing to watch a model step back, watch how different algorithms perform, and learn to find the best fitting model. It’s like a meta-level of software engineering, and this is what feels like magic.
You seem very passionate about machine learning.
Yes, I am. I think technology is really revolutionary because it can be used across different industries and empower everyone. Traditionally, one would say that big companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have an upper hand when it comes to analyzing customer churn rate, for instance, because they have been in the business collecting various data for over decades. However, with the power of machine learning, small businesses are using intelligent ways to get more accurate predictions. Moreover, many companies are opening their data to grow the data science field, allowing more businesses to utilize machine learning. I think of this movement as democratizing the data for societal improvement, which I truly support.
That’s very thoughtful of you. Now, what are some challenges that you face every day?
The first week was all about understanding the pipeline and the technology at Ople. Right now, I am working on a couple of new features, and my challenge is figuring out the right scope. Actually, it is the asking part to narrow the scope.
Can you explain more?
Sure, I tend to become very focused when I am faced with a problem. I try to find a solution on my own. Yes I can ask for help, but I fear that by asking, I may not learn as much as I wanted to. This comes back to me as another problem because now I am spending more time on one problem that could have been resolved quickly. I am still figuring out the right balance.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like CrossFit. It’s something that I have been doing for years, and it gives a good amount of exercise so I am trying to spend a few times at a gym. Other than that, I like watching TV shows on cooking, like Hell’s Kitchen.
What’s your favorite number?
That is a very unique response. Not 42 nor 49. May I ask why?
I like the oddness of the two numbers. I like 7 because it is very sharp. On the other hand, 4 can be both sharp and smooth, depending on how you write it.