Meet Dovydas - Machine Learning team lead here at Vinted. He shared a story about his inspiring way to a leadership role, his different perspective towards sustainability and the ways he improves himself.
How did you join Vinted and why?
It was a total accident! Some time ago Mindaugas, our head of engineering, sent me a message on LinkedIn saying he`s expanding his team and would like to meet me up for a coffee. At that time I wasn't thinking of my career changes. However, I was curious just to meet Mindaugas himself since he`s a great professional of his expertise and for me it's always inspiring to get to know such people.
During our meeting, Mindaugas told me more about the role, the team and its ambitions. And I got indeed excited about it! I saw here many opportunities to do the things I want to do in my professional life, to apply my skills in practice and soon realized this position is a great match for my own goals. And I still feel that way every day! So I`m now happy at that time I decided to apply for this position and started working at Vinted.
How is working at Vinted different from other organizations?
I think its culture and attitude towards the employees make Vinted to stand out. This organization enables its employees to make an impact. And this is something very inspiring! Here everyone has an opportunity to apply the skills and make the life for our users better. Vinted has also a very strong product team ensuring that we build things that indeed matter for our customers. Last but not least, Vinted really cares about its employees and their happiness! Here you have many extras, freedom to create and you feel heard and understood.
How did you come into a leadership role?
I`d say it happened very naturally. At first I was the only one ML (Machine Learning) engineer in the team. We developed ML processes within the organization, and soon I was able to hire other people to our team. It expanded a lot, and I took a leadership role. I`m enjoying this position because I`ve always wanted to make an impact, and by leading the team I can do much more than as an individual contributor!
Tell us about something you feel really proud of achieving at Vinted.
It's hard to exclude something and apply it only for myself because at Vinted we co-create. So everything I've achieved here has been done as a part of the team, and it's amazing how much a united team can achieve and do together! But I think that the main thing I`m the most proud of is that we have an ML engineering team in the house. This is what makes Vinted unique.
When I joined Vinted, I was the first and the only one ML engineer. My very first implemented project was category classifier - this I remember so well! Step by step we've created our own ML platform and formed a unique ML team. Currently we have a dozen of ML engineers, ML Ops, and ML platform is the thing. It's because in the field of ML, many of the things we`re doing are only being done by a few dozen companies in the entire world. And internal ML platform is not an exception. It's for sure still under development and there are lots of ways to improve it, but we`re moving forward and this is something we can already be very proud of!
Actually, I think Vinted is good at applying engineering and this is something we need to move further. In ML this is how it works - China and the USA with its startups create new models and make innovations, and here in Europe we take those innovations, apply it to our case and get benefit from it. So I think it's another thing we can be proud of because we're moving in the right direction by applying the best world`s cases to our channels.
And right now I`m very excited because we’re in the process of some great AI (Artificial Intelligence) transformation. Also, we`re in the deep learning era. It's like the thing that changes everything! Text auto-correction, language, color recognition and lots of other smart things. It makes our life way easier and allows our users to enjoy the services even more.
What principles do you follow in your life and work?
Here at Vinted we always ask ourselves - Can I do more?. I think that many people think they can do more and better! And so do I. I apply this principle to myself. It's a simple question that forces me to evaluate my actions objectively and help improve or set new goals. I like doing it long-term, and then I`m moving slowly, but confidently. For example, I think that in a 10-year horizon I can do a lot of, but what motivates me the most is going step by step to that goal! Many details can inspire in this process.
Actually, it's not the only one principle because I follow about a dozen principles! And it may sound funny, but all of them are written down in my Principles document. I actually created it at the school times when I was looking at the future and was trying to figure out what I want to do in my life. Sometimes some other ideas pop into my mind of how anything in the world can be improved, so I take a note also. This document already has the 3rd iteration, and it's still being improved. Because I always evaluate it as I can do more! So it's never ending cycle and my life project, I guess.
At work, I`m also flexible to mistakes. I think it may happen to everyone, and I even think it's fine to make a mistake. But it's not OK to make the same mistake again. So together with the team we try to create processes for not to repeat the same mistakes again.
As for the team, I also think we should complement each other with our own expertise, skills and personality traits. This helps create a team spirit and do more. So I follow this principle with newcomers.
Are you currently learning something? If yes, what is it and why? If not, is there something you would like to improve?
I like learning but I believe that it's pointless if it doesn't lead to delivery. If you learn something, you should take time to practise it, otherwise it's a waste of time.
It's like some life cycles. And currently I`m in that cycle of practising. For the last couple of years I've made a great input into my professional development and spent a lot of time on AI - learning, acquiring knowledge, getting new practical skills. At the moment, I`m trying to maximize my output, and apply all this knowledge in practice at work.
But I think learning is always great. When I look towards the future, I see that ML will evolve and require new skills. Not only technical processes, but also project management will be important. So I think ML product management can be that area where I`ll deepen my knowledge in the future, or this will be what the next generation will work on.
Do you share your knowledge anywhere else except for your work?
Yes, I`m trying to be active in the AI community wherever I can. I`m currently the president of the AI Association of Lithuania, and I’m the founder of the Tribe of AI community here in Vilnius. We host regular meetups and dedicate our time for learning ML and AI.
Actually, I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others, especially what's related to AI because it's still a new thing not only in Lithuania, but also in the whole world.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Here at Vinted we talk a lot about sustainability because our main goal is to make second hand fashion the first choice worldwide. And I truly believe in it. I`m also trying to make my own life as sustainable as possible.
Maybe I`m not the most sustainable person in the world in terms of ecology and similar stuff, but I`m expanding this concept into many other areas of my life. For example, I apply sustainability factor for my team. You may wonder what it is, but by this I mean I want my team to see Vinted as a happy and nurturing workplace just very right for them so they'd like to stay here! I think that growing consistently together and feeling great at work every day may lead to a successful and sustainable team.
In my personal life this sustainability concept even broadens. I think sustainability starts from your thoughts. So I'm that person that likes to give some time only for myself, my thoughts and relax properly.
So how do you relax?
Usually, I spend around 15 minutes a day doing Lumosity brain training, 9 minutes HIIT workouts, and at least 10 minutes meditating! I also try to sleep at least for 8 hours per night.
Relaxation is indeed important for me and it's not just for my vanity. I feel like I need to have enough rest in order to feel effective at my work. It also helps lead my team properly. Giving some time only for yourself and your thoughts is something everyone can do to be more effective at your professional path.
Also I like spending time with my friends or family. If I have an opportunity to go for a walk, I take it. I like using this time meaningfully so I usually listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
What podcasts or audiobooks do you love listening to?
I'm more like an audiobook-kind of person. I listen to audiobooks almost all the time - when walking or just staying at home. I actually mostly like science fiction, so my audiobooks are pretty much about it. It's like an analog for most people`s beloved Netflix.
From the podcasts, a few really stand out. In The Rational Reminder Podcast Benjamin Felix and Cameron Passmore talk about financial behavior and make the listeners more rational investors. Although it may seem as some difficult topic, but it's actually very useful for everyone. It's easy to listen because the authors manage to touch those questions that you`d probably ask at first!
For history fans I`d recommend Dan Carlin`s Hardcore History - for me it`s better than any movie I`ve ever seen. If you`re interested in AI, AI Today by Cognilytica or Artificial Intelligence with Lex Fridman are definitely worth your time.