January 31, 2022

Ton Badal: Machine Learning Engineer to Solution Architect

Ton Badal: Machine Learning Engineer to Solution Architect

Ton Badal was one of the first team members to join Synthesized back in September 2019. He started in the company as a Machine Learning Engineer and quickly became a crucial member of the core team. With a deep technical knowledge, a curious and inquisitive nature, and a sharp problem-solving mind, Ton naturally became the friendly interface with customers, ensuring their needs are properly and swiftly met. As a result, the first ever round of promotions inside Synthesized saw Ton advancing to the role of Solution Architect.

Check out the video interview with Ton to find out what it takes to become a Solution Architect in a DataOps company, what challenges he is facing in his new role and what advice he has to offer to all future Machine Learning Engineers.

When did you join Synthesized?

I joined Synthesized two years ago in September 2019. The process was very smooth and quick, which was great. The hiring process speaks a lot about the company! We have all been there in the past in some tedious and long processes, right? Nicolai and Denis (the company founders) were super nice from the beginning and it was a very challenging and exciting opportunity, which was also great. I can even say that I enjoyed the process, which is not something that happens usually!

What made you decide to join Synthesized?

Well, there are multiple reasons why I decided to join Synthesized. First of all, I've always wanted to join an early-stage startup where your contributions matter and you impact the product. Secondly, I have a Machine Learning background and I like Machine Learning and AI. Generative models specifically is a very interesting topic, because to code a product that generates realistic data, it needs to understand the underlying phenomena quite well, which is a very challenging problem in itself. And lastly, it’s all about the people: when I met and talked to Denis and Nicolai, I had a great experience. I could immediately tell they were very knowledgeable and passionate about the topic. I saw a promising future for Synthesized, so I wanted to be part of it!

What do you do at Synthesized?

I started as a Machine Learning Engineer and over the years, I contributed a lot to the core product and the core technology, which I am very proud of. But to build great products, one of the most important things is to understand the requirements and the problem you're trying to solve. How would you best understand the requirements, you may ask? The best way is to engage with customers or potential users and learn. I started talking to customers, which led me naturally onto the path towards the Solution Architect role. In this role, I build the bridge between the product and the customer.

Tell us about your first day on the job.

I remember it quite well, I was warmly greeted to the team by Nicolai and Denis, the founders of the company. I liked it so much and I was curious to learn as much as I could. It was a great day as it happened to coincide with an event in the Google campus for startups, so we went for some drinks and pizza downstairs. Denis and Nicolai were nice, they kept me in the loop and asked for my opinion from the first day. And ever since I was able to contribute to the decisions.

What’s the greatest learning from working with a customer? 

I found it fascinating talking with customers, seeing how they have different ways to solve the same problem. And you gain a first-hand view how each company uses infrastructure, applications, third-party and open source in different ways. While many applications may look the same, in the background very different things are happening, which is very interesting.

What’s the biggest challenge you set to overcome as a Solution Architect?

As a Solution Architect, it is important to understand the customer's needs, the problems they face, feed that into the product, and find solutions. This process can be quite tricky because I have to make sure that the balance between the Synthesized vision and the client's needs is always there. From my experience customers know what they want, but sometimes they don't understand why they want it, which makes the situation a bit tricky. And yes, Synthesized is a very customer-centric company, so we want to make sure that all our customer's needs are fulfilled while being true to our vision and where we want the product to evolve. So I think that's going to be a very tricky balance that I have to manage.

What’s your favourite thing about working for Synthesized?

The people! The team that we've been able to build is great. There are a lot of talented people, and an amazing culture, it feels almost like a family. Besides that, for me probably the most important thing has been the learning. I’m curious by nature, I ask a lot of questions and like to get involved in everything… sometimes even too many things at the same time :). But this gave me a lot of exposure and I was able to learn a lot about different technologies, different processes, sales, marketing and product, which is great for me.

How has the company evolved?

At the very beginning, it was only Nicolai and Denis, the two founders, and Simon, another Machine Learning Engineer. Back then, everyone was helping with everything from product sales, to software engineering. It was great, I learned a lot and got a lot of exposure to different technologies and different methodologies. But it can add friction. 

With the new funding, we were able to grow the team and now, we have specializations, a more structured team and processes in place, which makes things much better.

What excites you about technology?

Technology has great things going on in the present. One interesting trend in technology is de-centralization and how we're going from having some very centric applications to more decentralized. So for example, applications used to be very monolithic architectures, and right now we're seeing the trend going towards more microservices, which are more scalable and maintainable. Then if we look at data infrastructure, the standards are data warehouses and data lakes, but we're seeing the rise of data mesh, which is a very interesting area. But even if you look at finance and the web, right now with the technology of blockchain we can see how decentralized finance and Web-3 are rising and they may be the future, which yet this looks very challenging and very interesting for the future.

Any advice for future ML Engineers or Solution Architects?

Like many others perhaps, as a fresh graduate out of university, I  started applying to any job that I could find because I needed a job. Experience taught me that you should choose wisely 

that first job because it's gonna take a lot of weight in your career path. Make sure you filter out companies and choose the one you are really interested in. When you're in an interview process, you “sell” yourself, but you also have to make sure you understand the company and assess if it is the best fit for you.

Thoughts on the future of Synthesized?

The future of data companies is very interesting. Companies are doing very cool and very innovative stuff, as every developer right now uses DevOps and some Git service like Github or any other DataOps methodology. I think that DataOps is going to be the future, and a lot of companies are going to use it. 

In my opinion, Synthesized is the best option to go for. There's a lot to learn, so reach out to me and the team if you are interested.