In this article, we interviewed Jonathan Engel, a Software Engineer at Megagon Labs. Jonathan shared with us his passion for language and technology, new developments in his work, and his favorite food spots.
What put you on the path to your current role at Megagon?
I’ve always been passionate about both languages and technology. I grew up in a household that was very multilingual: our family was Jewish, and my mom’s side of the family was from Mexico. My sister and I grew up speaking English and Spanish, learned Hebrew at school, and also overheard our parents and grandparents speaking Yiddish with each other. As if that wasn’t enough, my mom’s side of the family also invented their own “language”, largely derived from Spanish, but which was not mutually intelligible to other Spanish speakers. I continued studying languages since then, picking up German on Duolingo in high school and studying it further (alongside Russian) in college. During my undergraduate career, I wanted to focus on the intersection of technology and language, so I found natural language processing to be a perfect fit. After graduating, Megagon Labs’s focus on NLP was exactly what I was looking for as the next step in my career (the free Japanese lessons every week are just icing on the cake).
What’s the most surprising or interesting thing that happened with your work at Megagon recently?
I think that the most interesting thing that I’ve gotten to work on recently has been getting to analyze a huge data set of company reviews from a client running a job search website. Being able to compare the breakdown of people’s opinions about their work across companies, sectors and locations was quite cool. The results were interesting both from the perspective of insights about the companies, and about the strengths and weaknesses of the clustering algorithms that I was using to try to extract some sense out of the massive amounts of data.
What are you looking forward to with your recent work?
Right now I’m primarily working on writing a paper about a new document representation method. We’re still working on the experiments themselves, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out. With any luck, we’ll be able to successfully leverage some of the technology developed by our research team to build better document representations.
What advice would you offer to aspiring software engineer?
Think about what subfield of computer science you’re interested in working on. While there will be opportunities to retrain on the job and switch specialties down the road, your time in school is a great opportunity to get a head start on learning the ropes of the technologies that you’re most interested in working on.
What’s the most underrated activity or place in the San Francisco Bay Area?
What with the pandemic and all, the thing that I appreciate most about the Bay Area is the variety and quality of take-out options. California generally isn’t known for its pizza, but in the Silicon Valley we have a hidden gem in the form of Slice of NY, which genuinely lives up to its name. Meanwhile, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rincon Sabroso, which has the best Latin American food that I’ve found in the Silicon Valley.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this special interview with Johnathan! Check out our blog to see other team member profiles and learn more about Megagon’s recent work!