Itamar Berger

R&D Manager @Autodesk

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Take The Lead

Wanting to become a team leader is not enough to become a team leader.

You will have to learn how to manage yourself, do the things that are needed but not written in your job title, initiate, push, stand on what you believe in, stay positive, stay calm, learn to listen, learn to act and react. The teammates must be familiar with your ambitions. Track your strengths and set goals. Consider advises as advises, trust your intuition, if someone think that you cannot lead, he is wrong. Don’t underrate people, appreciate and be appreciated. Believe in what you do and if not, change it or leave. Take into account that one leader is different from another.

But most important everyone have to see that you have the strive to lead. Don’t wait for someone to give you the opportunity to lead, take it.

In your path for finding the leader you are, you will do mistakes, I did, a lot and still do...

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On Being Initiative

You have an initiative, maybe it came from a post you read on a company that changed it’s engineering culture, or another one that re-invented their deployment process, maybe you listened to a podcast on how moving to technology X is a game changer. You believe that your initiative is awesome. You are doing everything right to push your initiative forward, but it seems to fail over and over. It sounds sooo good when you first thought about it, so why are you failing? what are you doing wrong?

Sometimes you will fail pushing your initiative, no matter how good you think it is and how everyone praise it. This failure is not because it is a bad idea, but it may be be because that it just does not fit the company or it is a bit premature for the organization to adapt it. Each company has a unique DNA based on the CEO, the people, the history, the value and many other parameters that impact...

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The Unlimited Developer

Limited developers are not limited by their skills or experiences, they are limited by their dreams.
They come to work every day, do their job (maybe even a very good job), and passively dragged by their career. One day they will be promoted to a “senior” position because it is that time of their career, some will even get chosen to become the next team leaders and a few will climb even higher. Their developer career path appears to be limited.

Unlimited developers are driven by their dreams. They will become team leaders as well and get into senior positions, but they all have dreams that are pushing them forward. They have a dream job that they dream of, they eager to work on a product, they want to build their own product, open a start-up, do something big, think big.

I’m always excited to work with unlimited developers, even if I’m only a bus stop in their career.

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How do I Choose My Next Career Adventure

By writing answers for the following three “simple” questions:

What is the company culture?

Many junior developers don’t understand how important this question is and many companies don’t understand how culture is taking into account in the final decision. The culture reveal itself already in the first phone call, following the working environment, continue to the interviewers attitude and so on. See Netflix Culture Slides as an example (do assume that they are somewhat biased and you need different kinds of inputs)

What is the product and the domain?

Do I understand the product, the motivation? Why it is challenging and how it can be further developed? Who are the users? the competitors?

Can we assembled into a great team and benefit from each other?

It’s not just about working with the best ninja developers, it is about understanding how you can complement the different...

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The Rise of Online Courses

The ability to watch online educational videos is not something new. There are hundreds if not thousands of channels and clips in YouTube, Vimeo, TED and others that provide valuable education videos about almost anything we desire to learn. In addition, for years, famous universities like MIT and others have been offering low-quality-non-optimized-for-online-learning recorded lectures.

In the last 2 years, the domain of online education have been shifted to something much more organized and correct. Sites like Coursera, Udacity, KhanAcademy, edX and others have created a new channel for online courses given by the best lecturers and universities in the world - for free. Up till recently those sites were providing mainly Computer Science & Math courses. However, this has changed and now we can take courses in many other areas, starting with “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior”...

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File > Make

A few weeks ago I went to hear a meetup lecture about The Maker Culture , from Wikipedia: “.. the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing…” . Basically it saying that the development doesn’t end when the compilation is successful. Being a Software Developer, I’ve always been intrigued by the potential of learning how to combine software with hardware and how it can extend my creativity belt. One day, it will be intuitive to us to have “File > Make” in apps as File > Print.

My wife studies Design Management. Last semester she took a course in HCI. Their project was to do something “interactive”. They learnt how to write code and how to use Arduino. Being managed by her (I’m not going to do that again…!) , she designed a model and I assisted her coding it into the Arduino. Her vision was to make a lamp, a real lamp inspired by Pixar...

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Thesis Final Countdown

After a very intensive month and a few days of recovery, I’m back! A few notes for myself:

  • Hard deadlines focus the team on what is important and what is not. It was amazing to see how our decisions improved the more closer the deadline was, and how fast we were able to agree on them.
  • Working with teammates from different time zones require higher level of attention. It can create a 24h continuous working cycle or it can create a delay of 48h. It took us some time to figure it, but eventually it was awesome.
  • I’ve found myself coding, running experiments and writing algorithms till 5 in the morning. A common misconception that I had in the past, is that if I work so late, eventually I will loose the day after and it just ain’t worth it. That’s incorrect. I’ve found out that when I’m in-the-zone working on a problem that I want to complete then it’s OK to burn some nights. I slept much...

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My Golden Bullet

Oh,what a month!

After almost 3 amazing years, I’ve decided to leave Sears Israel. In those years, I’ve learnt to appreciate the power of people and the craftsmanship of building a something together, piece by piece, as a team. I’ve also learnt to appreciate the importance of patience and mutual respect. I will take those values with me where ever I choose to go. This workplace eco-social system is unique in so many ways.

About 11 months ago, I’ve posted here my Geeklist for the upcoming year. I’ve been able to accomplish a quarter of the list, which is way more than I expected. There was a bullet in the list that appeared to be very unrealistic in that time - my golden bullet, getting a paper accepted for SIGGRAPH 2013, the most important computer graphics conference in the world. When I wrote that list, I gave about 0.00001% success chance for this one.

Two months ago, after...

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The Fun Factor

Developers should learn to master the art of trade off. There is an endless need to find the balance between the opposites factors that push a feature forward. There is a fairly known triangle model for trade off: time, quality and quantity (TQ2):

Time - Complete a feature on time, obviously before the deadline.

Quality - Complete a feature with the best quality, without bugs.

Quantity - Complete 100% of the feature specifications.

Since developers are unique and have different characteristics, some have more ambition to complete the feature on time rather than deploying a zero-bugs feature, while others might prefer delaying a feature in a week and not releasing a buggy feature.

While it’s great to strive for perfection in all three, it is unrealistic to find the optimal solution for this problem. The best way to handle it is to communicate of what’s is expected to be done, in what...

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Rules of Thumb for Building Recommendation Systems

Here are my rules of thumb from a few years of experiencing in building recommendation systems:

  • Own the input data - Duplicate the data if needed, decouple the data from the persistence service or any other related service.
  • Avoid schedulers, use events, use jobs queue. Every task in the system should be pass through the jobs queue.
  • Independence - If possible, build a system that is decouple from any other service in terms of deployment, storage, downtime, logic, performance, analytic, etc.
  • Randomness - Adding randomness here and there is never too bad, but you should always have control of it, actually, strive to understand and be able to explain the reason behind each recommendation. Don’t forget the Richer get Richer problem.
  • Simple models - Start with a simple model, work in iterations, you don’t need to be a Machine Learning expert to make things work. Don’t jump and use the...

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