Four years ago, Sanja joined HTEC with already extensive experience in R & D with focus on data science. She has since helped shape and grow HTEC data team. Her unsatiable curiosity and urge to always dive into the unknown to learn new things, and solve challenging problems brought her to HTEC Group where she discovered a whole new world of diversified projects which kept her mind busy and helped her unleash her full creativity.
We are privileged to have the opportunity to be surrounded by inspiring people like Sanja, who are driven by their strong desire to move the boundaries of technological advancements and fuel innovation through their knowledge and expertise. And we were happy to have a chance to talk to her about her journey to HTEC, how she and her team help build ground-breaking solutions through data science and engineering and what HTEC culture and values mean to her.
From an Enthusiast to Data Team Lead
Sanja has always been looking for challenges, because, as she points out, they have inspired her to move forward and consider variety of options before choosing her ideal career path. We asked Sanja what initially triggered her interest in the IT world.
S: “This is not an easy question for me because I think that I actually ended up in the world of IT – I was not feeling too confident with this decision for some time after making it. At the time, I had so many interests that it was really hard for me to decide which way to go. I was fascinated by French language, and I was also in love with science and was pretty good at both. I guess I ended up enrolling in the Faculty of Electronic Engineering in Nis mostly because I was influenced by my mother because she’s also an engineer, and my role model. Once the subjects at the faculty became more focused on programming, algorithms and architecture, and I realized how easily and smoothly I understood all the things I was presented with, for the first time I thought to myself: “This is it – this is what I want to do in future, this is my career path”. I guess that this moment was the trigger. But I was still indecisive about which specific path to take, so I stayed at the collage, started my PhD studies and even worked as a teaching associate and a researcher for some time.”
Data Science and Engineering as the Northern Star
Upon starting her studies, Sanja realized that research and uncovering the world of the unknown is what she wants to do in future.
S: “The best thing that happened to me while I was working at the college was that I was involved in the research process. I discovered that the most comfortable space for me is the space of the unknown. The less I know, the more excited I am about finding the answers or solving problems. Everything else was just too slow for me, and I got easily bored. And that’s why I decided to move on — I needed more excitement, more thrill, more puzzles to solve, more mysteries to uncover. So, when I made that transition from faculty to private sector, I logically ended up in research and development department. And I think I never got out of the research field. This is the main reason why I am so much in love with data — it is full of the unknown. Data Science was on the rise at the time I made a transition to the private sector. But the first company I worked for after leaving the collage introduced me to the world of machine learning and I immediately knew I wanted to explore it further. And I’m still exploring it, obviously.”
HTEC Group – the World Where Creativity Meets Deep Engineering
One of the things that makes HTEC stand out from the rest on the market is a wide range of opportunities not only in terms of growth but in technologies and complex projects as well. As Sanja says, HTEC is the playground for growth which gives you a chance to work on some of the most complex and challenging projects that will drive change in future.
S: “The machine learning department closed in the company I was working in at the time and then I quickly got bored. I’ve been in HTEC for four years, but it feels like I’ve been here for almost ten years. Here at HTEC I have the opportunity to solve complexities almost every day, there are so many exciting things we work on, so many challenges that keep me curious, and I never get bored. I need to be challenged, that’s my main drive and this is something that HTEC gives you – a constant thrill and, interestingly, you are always hungry for more. Also, besides being involved in engineering tasks, I have also been involved in different internal processes and decision-making which is something you don’t get in other companies.”
Building Data Science Capability
Although she says it is hard to choose just one project that helped her advance in her career and driven her to be better at what she does during these four years, she points out that probably the most exciting project she has worked on was building Orbit – a maritime intelligence platform, specifically routing part.
S: “It’s hard for me to choose one project, but if I had to, I would choose Orbit routing. I think this project was a game-changer for both industry and my career. When I first came to HTEC Group, I was introduced to Slavisa who was leading the Stena team at the time. We were talking about routing issue that that client had — they were using some third-party service to get the routes for their ships, which was an expensive option and was not working very well, and there was no other solution on the market at the time. We discussed ways how to solve this problem. I remember Slavisa asked me:” Can you take a look at those data and try to figure out if we can create a routing solution based on those scattered locations all around the world? And that’s how this research began. And three months later, we presented that proof of concept to the client and a year later the project kicked off and now the orbit routing is in production.
So, why was that so important? Because it helped me establish a Data Science team here at HTEC. There was no data team before this. There was a machine learning team in Belgrade, but we didn’t have data engineers and we didn’t have data scientists nor the analysts. And no one here was aware of the broadness of the field. Even I wasn’t aware of how many different positions there are in the data world. Four years ago, we didn’t have data-related projects in the company, at least not big ones or strategically important ones. And now this is one of the company’s main strategies, I would say.”
The Future of Data Science
Data is increasingly impacting system architectures and underlying infrastructures forcing data scientists and engineers to come up with new inspiring and ground-breaking solutions. Also, huge amounts of data and complex processing added are shaping the careers of future Data Engineers and Data Scientists. We asked Sanja how she seen the impact of data science and data engineering in the upcoming years.
S: “That’s not an easy question to answer. It’s obvious how data is becoming a dominant factor in decision-making processes. I keep noticing the rising trend of companies putting “data-driven” into their values and business strategies. With online presence hitting through the roof, the volume of digital information exponentially grows revealing new opportunities for being creative with turning data into features. Those massive amounts of data and complex processing added to it are the ones shaping the careers of future Data Engineers and Data Scientists.
Data has been and will keep impacting system architectures and underlying infrastructures urging for novel approaches that will lead to even more robust, reliable, and scalable solutions. However, the greatest change of focus will be with the data itself. Data observability is becoming a hot topic in data engineering communities. This means more focus on metrics, data monitoring, data change management, data governance, data lineage, data quality – everything needed to really know what is going on with all the data your solution heavily relies on and, more importantly, act on time when action is needed. Data debt is equally important as tech debt is. Finally, ethical aspects of data are gaining traction, and incorporating ethics into data pipelines is becoming one of the pillars of both data science and data engineering.”
Why HTEC Group
To Sanja, HTEC is the playground for growth, an oasis for everyone who is thirsty for new challenges and with ambition to never stop growing.
S: “I am just amazed with the person I have become here at HTEC. And I just can’t wait to see what kind of person I will become in the future — that’s what’s keeping me moving forward. And, again, the unknown. I have a feeling that if I had known what was going to happen in the following years, I would have probably left.
I like the transparency, the openness of the communications and relationships we have built here at HTEC. And when I came here, HTEC was a lot smaller, there were only around 70 people in Nis office. It was one big family. And it still feels like a one big family. We have built some wonderful long-lasting friendships here — another reason why I love HTEC.”
Finally, we asked Sanja which three pieces of advice she would give to aspiring data scientists.
S: “Be curious, don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and always strive for more knowledge and experience. Simple as that. ”
Want to join Sanja’s team? Check out our open positions here.