Michal Romi - Sr. Manager – Core-AI Data Operations
She says she’s a people’s person. If three years ago you’d have told her she would be in the Computer Vision business, she would have laughed.
But Michal’s decision to say “YES” to the career opportunities that came her way on eBay, has led her to many positions she’s never considered, while learning a lot of new things she’s never thought she’ll know.
Hi Michal, We’ve heard you have been working at eBay for seven years now! What do you do?
“My group provides data services for different groups at eBay, especially those who specialize in AI, and more specifically – Computer Vision and Machine Translation. Our services also include preparing data sets, which are used for training models and analytics – analyzing and checking those models, and also monitoring them after they go live.”
How did you get to work in eBay?
“I came from the world of system information. I was a developer, and later worked as a project manager. I wanted a change, so I took an interest in e-commerce. At the time, I didn’t even know eBay has a R&D center in Israel.
During that period of time, an acquaintance approached me via LinkedIn and suggested I should come for an interview. The minute I arrived at the site, I knew there was magic in the air. Something about the atmosphere, the people who worked here – it felt like coming home. I am a people’s person before everything – I fell in love with the people, the atmosphere and the place. We spend so many hours here, I think it’s nicer to like the place you work in every day.”
Ever since then, what did you do in eBay?
“I started as Program Manager and advanced through various positions, such as Product Manager and Team Manager. It’s not always easy – I had to learn new things for new jobs, but it’s part of the fun – the ability to learn, develop, and not being stuck at the same place. I worked with different departments inside the organization too.
Today’s market demands that you will be able to learn things by yourself – we need to read the trends and adjust accordingly. “
What are your challenges on the job?
“First of all – the amounts of data. The fun (and frustration) on eBay comes from the huge amounts of data. On the one hand, it provides you a huge playground, if you love Big Data, but on the other hand, you can’t deal with it with regular tools. Everything we do here requires unique tools.
For example, you can’t run on all of our data with a relational database. We have to use systems like Hadoop. It means that regular SQL isn’t enough, and we must use tools such as Hive or Spark. It’s challenging and fun, but to be honest – it can also be very frustrating.
The second challenge is Machine Learning technology. It’s a field that is constantly developing, and we need to learn new models and techniques all the time. Furthermore, developments in this field aren’t always compatible with the huge amounts of data we have.
Eventually, a model can only be as good as the data it receives. Therefore, all of our data needs to be well tagged. For example, when someone sells a dress, our system needs to understand it’s a “dress” and not a “cat”, but it also needs to be able to perform object identification, and recognize the outline of the dress inside the image.
At the same time, we are always checking how can we use data sets that we built, in various models all over the world. This is where we can collaborate with different teams on eBay, globally.”
It’s 2020, but high-tech is still considered a man’s world.
“Gender was never an obstacle for me. I never felt I was being held back at work because I am a woman, but I was also never given special privileges for being one. I present myself with emphasis on my abilities. I know my skills and I can say directly what I can contribute.
I am happy to say eBay is very supportive of work-life balance, regardless of gender. For example, when my husband went to Germany for his post-doctorate he was rarely home. For three years I was practically a single mother. During that time, I continued my managerial work on eBay, and got full support. The company enabled me to work from home or in flexible hours, so I was fully productive and delivered on time. My home and my family never became an issue.”
“I think one of the greatest things about eBay, is that the company really emphasizes community and involvement. For example, I am a part of a group of eBay employees who volunteer in different places all through the year. eBay really creates opportunities for its employees to learn and develop themselves, but also encourages us to give back to society and to become active, contributing citizens.”
We are glad to have you onboard and we wish you many years of challenges, satisfaction and enjoyment at work!