Welcome to our fourth team profile blog post! In this article, we interview Estevam Hruschka, a Staff Research Scientist at Megagon Labs. You’ll learn what led Estevam to Megagon, what it was like for him to start a new job in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and why following your heart is a must for any career journey.
How did you arrive at your current role at Megagon?
I grew up in Brazil. Since I was an undergraduate student, I’ve always wanted to help advance the frontiers of artificial intelligence (AI), natural language understanding (NLU), and machine learning (ML). In fact, you could say this desire guided my entire career!
My professional journey began in academia, where I spent 20 years working on these technologies. There, I helped to lead the team responsible for creating the Never Ending Learning (NEL) paradigm and the first computer system (NELL – Never-Ending Language Learner) in history (and maybe still the only one) capable of demonstrating the properties of the NEL paradigm. NELL was focused on a general “Language Learning” task and it showed that we can build Machine Learning systems capable of autonomously improving their own performance on NLP/NLU tasks, being able to be self-supervised, self-reflexive (examining and reflecting about its own performance) and to continuously improve its own performance on understanding natural language, every day, over the years.
Over this time period in academia, I worked as a professor, scientist, and consultant at various universities, research laboratories, and companies. These different roles, responsibilities, and environments allowed me to build a stronger foundation in understanding the core problems facing AI, NLU, and ML.
In 2017, I started my first full-time job in the tech industry. This was an eye-opener, to say the least; I realized how much I could contribute to solving real-world problems that impacted millions of peoples’ lives every single day. The new challenges I encountered in my industry role showed me that there was still much to learn and explore. It also taught me that experience in both academia and industry can help elucidate novel solutions to issues affecting society on a grand scale.
I first heard about Megagon Labs in 2020 while talking with a good friend. Not long after this, I connected with Megagon’s team leaders and learned more about the organization’s objectives and principles; I was surprised to learn that they were closely aligned with my own! Thus, joining Megagon Labs felt completely natural — as though I was following my heart.
What's the most surprising or interesting aspect of your recent work here at Megagon?
Starting work at Megagon Labs was a unique experience unto itself thanks to COVID-19. I joined the team just as this pandemic was picking up momentum. Because of this, I couldn’t move from my current location in Seattle to the Bay Area, Megagon’s U.S. headquarters. So I’ve been working remotely since my first day on the job.
Normally, I would have held some hesitations about starting a new role remotely. But interacting and collaborating with Megagon’s amazing team of researchers and engineers has been absolutely seamless. They have accepted me with open arms and make me feel completely welcome.
Are there any exciting work events or developments coming up?
Yes! I love venturing beyond the boundaries of state-of-the-art technologies to solve long-standing problems that couldn’t be tackled before. Megagon allows me to do this every day as a Staff Research Scientist. Best of all, much of the work we do at Megagon Labs is aimed at resolving tremendous issues impacting our society.
Many of these endeavors are still in stealth mode, so I can’t discuss them in detail. But I do hope to see the fruition of my contributions to these projects soon!
What one piece of advice would you offer to aspiring research scientists?
Follow your heart. Find out what you really love to do, and then go for it! Never stop learning. And never stop striving to improve.
This may sound corny, but it’s true. And it may sound simple, but it can be difficult. Put another way, always do what you love, and always do your best! If you follow these two steps, you’ll always move your life in the right direction.
What’s the most underrated activity or place in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Unfortunately, I can’t fully answer this question yet, as I just moved to the Bay Area in the past couple of weeks. But I can certainly say that if you are going from Seattle to the Bay Area during this time of the pandemic, and you do not want to go through all the stress of airports, security checks and long lines (with kids), then I recommend a week-long adventure driving an RV and discovering/checking many of the amazing places you will find while on the West Coast roads. I just did it and I assure you it is something you and your family will love and you all will have memories for a life-time.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this special interview with Estevam! Check out our blog to see other team member profiles and learn more about Megagon’s recent work!