‘Big Chips’ to ‘Big Ideas’

By Clint Kelly,


Greetings!  I have been a WibiData employee for almost a month now and I am ecstatic to be a member of such a great team. I took a somewhat unconventional path to joining the company, having worked in the semiconductor industry since 2000.  Below, I’ve outlined how I came to join WibiData and why I am so excited about my future here.

My first exposure to 'Big Data' happened early this year, when, somewhat on a lark, I decided to sign up for several online classes on Coursera.  At the time I was working at Achronix, a small semiconductor company in Santa Clara. 

I live in San Francisco and spent 90 minutes everyday on the Caltrain commuting, so I thought taking Coursera classes would be a productive use of my commute.  I chose my first classes, Introduction to Data Science and Machine Learning, fairly arbitrarily. 'Big Data,' I thought as I browsed the course descriptions, 'that seems like something that a lot of people care about.  I work on ‘big chips,’ maybe I should learn about this!'

I found both of the courses immediately fascinating.  The challenges inherent in processing and analyzing massive amounts of data are truly awesome and peaked my curiosity.  In my position at Achronix, I often wrote tools to process batches of data on the order of several gigabytes, and I enjoyed learning how companies like Google and Yahoo! process terabytes or petabytes of data.  As the weeks passed by, I began looking forward to boarding the Caltrain everyday and deeply focusing on lecture or two.

I become so interested in the material from these classes that I continued working on them during my honeymoon this summer, watching lectures on my iPad by the swimming pool and writing code on my laptop on the beach.  The final project for one of the classes required us to develop machine learning models to predict the fate of passengers on the Titanic for a Kaggle competition.  Despite the macabre nature of the assignment, I enjoyed working on it to an almost unhealthy degree. I spent several more days sitting by the pool with my laptop (and several mango mojitos) creating and optimizing different linear regressions, support vector machines, and neural network models to try to get a better score.  I spent dinners regaling my wife with stories of bias and variance, dealing with missing data and the cabin floorplan of the RMS Titanic.

The machine learning and data science courses ended while I was on my honeymoon.  The end of the latter featured several guest lectures, one of which was from Aaron Kimball, cofounder of WibiData.  The work at WibiData sounded like a fascinating mixture of 'big ideas' (e.g., massively parallel computing, machine learning) in computing and down-to-earth technical challenges.  I jumped on the company website (while still at the pool,) and started reading about WibiData.  I enjoyed reading about the dogs in the office, board games, silly hats, location in the city, the discoball, and thought that it looked like a fun place. Then I got back to my honeymoon.

A few months and several additional Big Data/machine learning courses later, I decided to take the plunge and pursue a career in the software industry.  I wanted to work at a small company, and I remembered reading about WibiData earlier in the year, so I put together a resume and a cover letter and the rest is history.

My first month at WibiData has been fantastic.  The Wibis are technically adept, yet skilled communicators. To boot they are also very nice people.  The company has increased dramatically (over 2x) in size in 2013, but the employees have managed to maintain a friendly, open culture in which everyone is accountable and focused on the same goals.  And we have dogs in the office!  I feel fortunate to have discovered WibiData and I look forward to working here for a long time.

Find Aaron Kimball’s Coursera guest lecture on Data Science here.