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UCI’s Master of Data Science Program (MDS) and the Southern California R Users Group (SoCal RUG) co-hosted “MLOps at Scale: Insights and Advice From Industry Experts” on Feb. 7. SoCal RUG member and Oracle data scientist John Peach moderated the discussion, which included panelists Sarah NooraviChristopher Talucci and Matt Weiss, who shared their knowledge and experiences on machine learning optimizations (MLOps) and career development with the data science community.

MLOps in the Industry
One of the first questions Peach asked the panelists was what tools and technologies they use to help them build their MLOps.

Amazon Senior Data Engineer Christopher Talucci said he often uses the Python programming language and PyCharm IDE along with AWS Lambda, Kafka, Kinesis and Redshift. Sarah Nooravi, a revenue strategy lead at Snap Inc., uses Airflow, Python, Git and BigQuery Machine Learning.

Matt Weiss, who is a data science manager at Meta, shared more holistic advice on building good MLOps.

“Think of the whole process in mind, think of the downstream user in mind,” Weiss said. “Think of what this model is going to be doing and how it will utilize its actionability in a business sense, in a product sense.”

The first half of the discussion concluded with panelists sharing some mistakes they made in the workplace and the lessons they learned from those mistakes. Weiss, in particular, talked about an instance in which he analyzed and interpreted data based on his own assumptions without consulting his colleagues.

“If you are creating anything … do something that’s already been solved. Do something that’s already been established,” Weiss advised. “Don’t make assumptions, and find the source of truth. … If you’re trying to recreate something, you may have some big things you missed.”

Career Development
Nooravi detailed the challenges she experienced when transitioning to her first career after college. At her first job, Noovari was the youngest and only female employee on her team and several of her colleagues had Ph.D. degrees or had more work experience than her, leading her to feel and be isolated and have imposter syndrome.

“I had managers who were very supportive. I had friends who were very supportive,” Noovari said, explaining that her support system helped her overcome difficulties at work.

She also highlighted the importance of diversity in the technology industry, sharing a time when she was asked to speak on a panel at a conference that typically only invited male speakers. The conference later developed an all-woman panel.

Peach then asked the panelists several questions about what they wished they had done early on in their career and to give the audience advice on how to succeed in new roles. Weiss said taking “big swings” by making high-impact decisions “is a powerful way to move forward,” and Talucci suggested asking for help when you need it and documenting processes.

“Especially when you’re new anywhere – I do this every time I’m new to a job – being able to document all the processes that you’re going through is always helpful,” Talucci said, giving examples such as tracking failures, taking screenshots and more to put in your documentation.

Level setting, according to Noovari, is another important skill that helps when working in teams or with stakeholders.

“What I tend to do is err on the side of over-communicating,” Noovari said, which she explains is a good strategy when being given requests with unrealistic deadlines because stakeholders better understand where she is in the process and can shift their expectations. “It’s when they don’t know what’s going on … is when I think issues come up.

The last major question of the night was what hard or soft skills will help people level up in their career.

“Intellectual curiosity,” Weiss said. “Specifically in my world, I look for … who can take the question and build the biggest impact and influence with their insights … someone who’s willing to go the extra mile but be able to really formulate everything from start to finish so they can sell it.”

Noovari emphasized developing your communication skills, noting that this is not limited to verbal communication like speaking up in meetings.

“I have a lot of introverts on my team and I tell them if it’s a Zoom call, just add things in the chat. They can be really good at communication via email. Written communication can be very strong and offset them not speaking up in meetings,” Noovari said. “So being an introvert isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually just finding a medium in which you can exercise your skills.”

— Karen Phan