Hailing from Cavan, I graduated in Electronic Engineering in DCU in 1994. In 1995, I joined a small startup called IONA Software, working mainly on tool development. After four years in IONA, I moved to ICL Fujitsu as a C++ developer, working on EDI systems. In 2000, I joined AOL as a Windows C++ developer, developing features for the AOL client. In 2003, I moved to the dark side of the force and joined the ranks of technical management. In 2008, my team and I joined AOL’s ADTECH group, introducing me to the world of advertising technology.
One thing that had been bugging me for some time was that I had never taken the opportunity to experience living and working abroad. I loved Dublin but felt I was missing out on something. In 2014, my family and I decided to move to France to try out life in the Fifth Republic. My wife is French so it seemed like a natural choice, giving our kids the opportunity to experience life in their mother’s homeland. I was very lucky to find an excellent role in Criteo, a high-tech startup, which I knew about from my time in AOL’s ADTECH division.
In September 2014 I started out in Criteo as a Senior Technical Director, looking after the Platforms group, handling the interactions between Criteo’s advertiser and publisher partners. The teams totaled about thirty engineers, but it was clear that things were changing fast; the growth potential was huge. Over the course of the next couple of years, the team continued to grow, expanding last year to include our Analytics and Scalability teams.
My role recently expanded again to take on responsibility for our Engine teams. Engine, in Criteo terms, means the teams who use machine learning techniques to make the right decisions for our customers. Machine learning is really at the core of Criteo’s success. We have access to huge amounts of high quality data and using techniques such as logistic regression and collaborative filtering we can make really smart decisions on behalf of our customers.
We exist in a very competitive market, competing directly against the likes of Google or Facebook, and everyone else in the Adtech space. If we’re not at the top of our game, and are not continually improving, then we will not stay ahead of the market for long. It is this competitive pressure that keeps us innovating and never lets us sit still.
Using machine learning, we predict the likelihood of an internet user clicking on an ad and purchasing products they have previously seen. Then use this prediction to calculate the value of the user to an advertiser. We pay much more for users with a high likelihood of converting and as such can concentrate the advertiser’s spend, generating a higher return for them.
Moving here has felt like being on a non-stop rollercoaster ride. Every time I get the sense that I’m getting on top of everything in my scope, my boss throws me a curveball and asks me to take on something new. This has meant I have never been able to sit still and am constantly having to upskill to stay in touch with what my teams do.
The culture within Criteo R&D is simply amazing. Every engineer is empowered to take control of their own destiny, doing their work their way. We have a lot of fluidity between teams, with people strongly encouraged to work in different parts of the organization, either through temporary assignments (via our Voyager program) or through internal mobility.
My ambition is to keep learning like crazy (in here you don’t have the choice :)) and maybe to increase the community of Irish folks in R&D, currently there are only two of us.
Article first appeared on the Career Zoo blog on Feb 28, 2017.
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