Self-introduction: The candidate is working as a Data Scientist for a company which provides an eBay-like platform for buying and selling used items. The mission is to build services that support customers via content-driven models.

His current project is about applying Machine Learning in Computer Vision. A buyer can take a photo of an item similar to the one he is looking for and can use this for search. Based on the picture, a recommender suggests similar items. Another use case is to detect illegal items, i.e. objects which are not allowed to be sold in certain countries.

Question: Tell me about a time you stepped out of your comfort zone to learn something new.
A: The candidate described an NLP project. The company has a product that integrates an NLP pipeline with many steps, including stemming. For stemming, an open-source tool is used. That open-source tool had support for 15 languages, excluding Dutch. The company had the goal of deploying its product in Holland and Belgium. Intent recognition in Dutch was needed and not available. The candidate used a week of vacations and time beyond to learn Dutch basics and to study research papers about stemming. Stemming was new to him; he learned about suffices, prefixes, inflection. He developed a component for Dutch stemming and submitted it for integration into the open-source tool. He got feedback from the creator himself, which was about simplifying the candidate’s algorithm and technical issues using Unicode. The component developed by the candidate was integrated into the open-source tool and is now used as part of the company’s product today.

Analysis

Competency asserted: Learn and Be Curious
Job title: Software Development Engineer II, SDE II
Interviewer role: Software Development Engineer

Vote: 👍

The candidate raises the bar for Learn and Be Curious. As a software developer, he did not know about stemming (NLP) and did not know anything about the Dutch language. He explored these new territories and developed a component for Dutch stemming. It got it integrated into the Open-Source Tool, which is integrated into the product sold by his current company.

Learnings

This candidate raised the bar to a whole new level when it comes to Learn and Be Curious! Don’t feel like you have to learn a new language to nail this question, though. What you learned doesn’t even need to be work-related. This is why it is one of my favourite questions.

Notice that the candidate introduced himself. I’d discourage doing so unless explicitly asked by the interviewer. You may be shooting yourself in the foot by stealing time you will need for the actual interview.

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