Matas Minelga is part of the AI Team at Zyro. He joined the team when Zyro had just a few employees, so he has enjoyed a front-row seat to watch the company grow, diversify, and establish itself in the market.
His job is to build the artificial intelligence-powered tools that underpin the success of Zyro users.
We chatted to him about his role, starting at Zyro and watching it grow, and the kinds of challenges new employees can expect to tackle at the company.
What is your role at Zyro, and what does an average project look like?
I work as a data scientist, or ‘machine learning engineer.’ I work on little projects that are later incorporated into Zyro.
Take, for example, the Heatmap feature. It all started with a small presentation about all existing technologies at the time and state-of-the-art machine learning research. We were only 20 people at Zyro then, and we really liked the idea of heatmaps, so we decided to do a proof of concept (POC).
We did the POC in a couple of weeks, and we got a great result, so I spent a few more weeks basically iterating the model and tinkering with it to get a better output.
From the date of the presentation, a month later, we had the Zyro Heatmap feature.
Of course, sometimes you have to do ad hoc tasks for other teams. So maybe there’s an idea or problem that needs solving.
Right now, for example, the Customer Success Team is tagging conversations manually, but the AI team wants to help them with that. We’re writing a model that will tag the conversations for them, making the work of the Customer Success Team easier.
At Zyro, you generally start focusing on one project, then you start to move to help with other projects. You will give support, change things, iterate projects.
What is the latest project you worked on, and what kind of challenges has it thrown up?
Right now, one of our biggest bets is the Website Importer. With it, you can import any site from anywhere into Zyro.
The problem with this is that you need to take features from the original website and import them into the Zyro grid.
What I’m working on is called ‘Layout Generator.’ It takes the original element, works out their position on the original website, and tries to place them so the website looks beautiful on the Zyro grid.
This throws up lots of issues because sometimes, when elements are placed on the grid, they start overlapping, they don’t fit, they change the aspect ratio too much, or they lose their relationship to one another.
We wanted to try Genetic Algorithms for this to solve the issue, to create designs quickly and iterate them quite easily with these algorithms.
That’s the main focus for me, and I’m deep in the code of Layout Generator.
What tools and programs do you use for your work?
We are all free to choose the tools and frameworks that we like, whatever we think is best for the project, or the tools we’re most efficient with. So, the team works with a lot of different tools.
Everyone’s favorite machine learning framework is PyTorch, but we also use TensorFlow, Keras. For quick experiments, we use Google Collab, because you get really great machines for free.
When it comes to production, we use Google Cloud Platform (GCP) VMs or Cloud Run. And as far as IDEs, we use Pycharm and Visual Code.
When I first started working at Zyro, I was given a MacBook, and it was always overheating, so I wasn’t able to run any models on it. I asked my team lead if I could get a more powerful machine, and now I have a really strong gaming laptop that I can run my models on.
What expectations did you have when you joined Zyro?
When I started, Zyro was around 17 people and things were just starting to get moving. There was a lot of flexibility, and we could focus on pretty much anything that we wanted. I was happy with that, and was afraid this dynamic was going to disappear as Zyro grew.
Luckily, that’s not the case.
A year and a half later, we have a fast-moving and flexible team, even though we’re now much bigger.
In some companies, people are like robots – they just go to work, do their work, then leave. At Zyro, many of my colleagues are my friends, and I even brought a couple of my friends to work here.
Zyro has surpassed my expectations. I did not expect it to be this good. I don’t think there are many other companies like this, at least in Lithuania, that can offer you opportunities like Zyro.
I’m really happy here.
Zyro has a core set of values. Do you think they’re put into practice at the company?
Short answer: yes, of course they are put into practice.
I remember the first time I was introduced to these values when I was just starting at Zyro. I had a buddy from Hostinger (Zyro’s parent company) who made me memorize all these values, and I was like, “Why? I don’t need this. This is bullshit.” I thought it was just some new-age corporate garbage.
But then when I started seeing how they’re put into practice, for example, we have a Slack ‘General’ channel, where the most common messages are customer feedback messages. You see that customer obsession is our main value because everyone is always sharing their experiences with customers, documenting their feedback, and acting based on this.
With the other values, we have one-on-ones with team leads and a ‘Kudos’ channel, where we can highlight how people are living up to Zyro’s values.
We definitely try to grow based on those values, and we try to adhere to them. It’s not that new-age stuff you always talk about, it’s actually applied at Zyro.
How does remote working work at Zyro? Does it feel like you’re part of a team?
Zyro is a great company to work at remotely.
For example, for team building activities, when there is some kind of celebration, we get boxes full of stuff, so anything from cider, beer, and snacks, to clothes, toys, and backpacks.
We also have various post-work activities. There’s a small group of gamers, and we usually gather in the evenings and play games. Sometimes it becomes a team-building; we open a couple of beers, kill some zombies, or build a couple of cities in Minecraft.
For the work itself, Zyro really quickly rearranged itself to make it easy to work remotely. For example, there is no paperwork necessary if you want to do something. You just write to your team lead, send an email, and that’s it.
Zyro gives you loads of opportunities to work from home or from anywhere you like.
Since it’s a young company, it was able to pivot easily to being remote.
Is there anything that really stands out as a success you’ve worked on at Zyro?
Going back to the Heatmap. This was the first project I was working on independently.
There were other projects where I was improving work already done, but the Heatmap was something I built from scratch, and I didn’t expect it to be this good.
I thought, “Oh, I’m just going to try it out and see if it works”, and it turns out everyone really liked it, and now it’s one of the biggest features on Zyro.
I think one of the biggest successes for me, is when I complete a project, and I can see it appearing in the Zyro tools menu one month later. So from having an idea to seeing it appear in the tools menu can be as little as just one month.
Then I can show it to my friends, my family, my grandma, and I’m happy, Zyro is happy, and my friends are also congratulating me on it.
I’m not just doing invisible work.
What learning and development opportunities do you have at Zyro?
Firstly, I’d like to talk about ‘freedom and responsibility’.
I’m giving this interview while I’m walking outside, and I’m free to do so. You’re free to follow your intuition and do things your own way.
That also leads to ‘learning and being curious’. At Zyro, we have many courses you can participate in, we also have a strong culture of sharing. People are always sharing books they’ve read, and when we have one-on-ones with team leads, they’ll recommend books.
We also attend conferences. For example, last year, my team and I attended two conferences (it was only two because of the lockdown), but we try to participate in as many as we can.
We also have learning days, where we take at least one day off a month and spend it reading or looking things up, or learning to do things that are not necessarily required for your job, but associated with it. As a programmer, you can learn tools that you don’t necessarily need for a project, but you’re interested in.
For another example, we had these Zyro baseball cards workshops, and it was organized by me (someone from the AI Team), someone from the Words Team, and just one person from HR. So we’re encouraged to do things that are not necessarily related to our jobs.
Can you recommend any books you’ve found helpful?
Sure, a few titles I’ve found useful are:
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
I think each of them would be a great read for anyone trying to grow their careers.
How is Zyro preparing for your next career steps?
I started at Zyro when I was just out of university with minimal work experience. I think I grew here tremendously.
I’ve learned a lot about feedback. Here at Zyro, we talk a lot about feedback and how to give and receive constructive feedback. It’s really helped me to improve in areas that I wasn’t as strong in.
It’s a very good, comfortable place to be; I think you can count companies like that on one hand in Lithuania. I think it would be hard to move somewhere else, because I’d have to lower my standard a lot.
In terms of professional growth, I have improved in a lot of areas. From taking freedom and responsibilities and my coding skills to machine learning skills and basically everything else you need to be a good coder.
I’ve worked with HR, organized projects across various teams, and learned about all aspects of the business.