“Daddy, what is that you are doing at work?”

By Igor Ivanov

… my 3 y/o, Robin, asked me one day.

Me: Daddy is, uhm… daddy is building algorithms on his computer…

Robin: o_o

Me: Ehm… daddy takes cameras and makes them smart

Robin: o_O

Me: Nevermind, son, daddy is going to work to make money, and then buy you presents.

Robin: I want a big green garbage truck!

The struggle is real.

My son wasn’t the first one that made me stutter — it has been like this for many years already.

I’m in a desperate chase behind a simple, easily understood definition for “Algorithm Engineer”.

A definition that I can proudly present to my son, my wife, my parents, and my friends.

So, if you are an Algorithm Engineer, Data Scientist or working on blowing magic spirit into machines — you can help me put an end to this struggle.

If you are here to read about geeks making fun of themselves — you came to the right place.

To get an idea of why it is so tough to define this profession, I will try to explain to you what comes into the minds of some of the people when they hear the term “Algorithm Engineer”.

I believe many of the readers will relate.

Please bring a glass of your preferred alcoholic beverage and a good mood before proceeding.

Wikipedia

What is the first place we always check for answers? Of course, it’s my wife, sorry, it’s Wikipedia.

So here it goes:

source

Ok, thanks a lot Wikipedia, very helpful.

My mom

My mom is an old-school doctor, raised with the Soviet Union mentality. Having a son who is not a successful doctor is nothing less than a disaster. Of course, she’s got used to it already.

My mom, when hearing that both of her sons are Computer Vision and Image Processing engineers, is thinking about something like this:

source

Sorry, mom, I hope one of your grand-children will become a successful doctor one day.

My dad

My dad is an Electrical Engineer, an old school one too.

One of the few that are left, that can actually build working machines with his bare hands, out of metal, plastic, and air.

He was happy to know his sons are Electrical Engineers too. He was disappointed when he understood that we are “not the right kind of Electrical Engineers”.

My dad, when hearing about Image Processing and Computer Vision, is imagining something like this:

source

Dad: “Do they really pay you for this?”.

My wife

For my beloved wife, anything that does not involve spending time with the family is a waste of life.

When I spend hours in the office or the lab making some new features work, she is absolutely sure that this is what’s going on there:

In this specific case she was right, but only in this one.

My friends

Explaining Algorithm Engineering to my friends with or without a technological background was never easy.

It always comes to:

“So you’re doing software…”

I must admit, this is what I’m usually saying for several years already, when meeting new friends, to avoid long and awkward discussions that come up to the same conclusion…

Human Resources

This time it will be easy.

A typical HR, when hearing about Algorithm Engineering, is thinking about people that have the terms “algorithm”, “machine learning” and “python” on their Resume. That’s it. Pretty simple.

Don’t need to be offended, if you are from Human Resources and reading this post — you are already not a typical HR, and have a great sense of humor too.

People seeking Algorithm Engineering/Data Science/Computer Vision positions

I believe this is what comes into their minds:

source

Well, the grass is always greener on the other side.

In the last few years, the hype is too high for those positions.

Reaching an awkward point where some use Deep Neural Nets on ridiculously simple applications, just for the sake of being cool.

I really appreciate those engineers that find a simple and practical trick to solve a complex problem, rather than “stacking layers” to impress their friends.

Although, I can totally understand the rush watching GAN loss finally converge… oh God yes!

My boss

My boss genuinely believes we are blowing magic spirit into machines:

source

Sometimes the magic spirit is SVM.

Me

I will keep this for later posts, we’ve only started.

Now let’s be serious for a minute.

Some say it was Albert Einstein that has taught us one simple truth:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

So please

Other kids in my son’s kindergarten have doctor dads, firefighter dads, pilot dads, policeman dads, and other cool dads.

I want my kid to have a cool dad too.

Please help… help me explain my 3 y/o what is daddy doing, for God’s sake.

P.S:

Robin, my dear son, if you are reading this as a grown-up…

Daddy loves you! I hope the world is a much better place now.

I Got Hit in the Head 1000 Times and This is What I’ve Learned

Igor Ivanov

Jan 12 · 9 min read

This post is about boxing, career, people and a geek getting hit in the head 1000 times.

This post is also about “cheap life philosophy”.

I love cheap philosophy, the one that goes well with a morning coffee, or while taking the train to work, or sitting on the toilet.

In our fast-paced and busy life, sometimes that’s the motivation you need to get through the day.

So if you chose to read this post during your toilet time, that’s already a great success.

If someone finds it motivating, eye-opening, or just helping get through a tough day — my job here is done.

I wish the current version of me could travel back in time and land those 10 lessons on the table of younger me.

I am an engineer, a husband, and a father, early in his life and career (10 years of engineering).

I am learning about life through trial and error. So, stepping in and getting hit in the head seems like a legitimate tool.

Four years ago I stepped in the ring for the first time. It was something that started as a joke in my local gym. I didn’t know then how much I am about to learn from this cruel and violent sport. I was stunned to discover that many of the lessons learned in the ring can be applied in real life as an engineer.

On the other hand, I am glad I came into boxing only four years ago, as an adult, and not on my teenage days, because would it happen earlier- I wouldn’t have the brains to write those lines =)

So, let’s get ready to rumbleeeeee!

[1] You think you know everything about yourself until your first three minutes in the ring.

I have been doing sports all my life, considering myself an amateur athlete. Tennis, basketball, volleyball, soccer, roller hockey, indoor climbing, CrossFit… you name it.

The first minutes in the ring made me understand that I might be in good physical shape, but not in the right shape for getting punched in the face. I might be mentally strong, but not strong enough to find my way up the canvas.

This is when I understood that I have so much to learn and improve.

Lesson:

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself with stuff you have no idea how to do. Is someone trying to challenge you with a task that is way beyond your comfort zone and your experience? Go for it!

In the best case- you will succeed, in the worst- you’ll learn a thing or two about yourself and write a post about it =)

[2] You need to have a plan.

Every fighter stepping into the ring has a plan. And no, it’s not just “hit as hard as you can”. He has a high-level strategy on how to handle the fight. He knows his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Good fighters have a detailed plan for every round. Stepping in without a plan you’ll find yourself exhausted, confused and pathetic.

Lesson:

Working on a long/short term project? Starting a new role at a new place? Starting a New Year with a new resolution?

Take some time to evaluate your next steps, at least at a high-level. Don’t need to delve too much into details, it’s not always possible. But you need to have at least a basic understanding of what you are doing, what are the difficulties that you are going to face and how are you going to deal with them.

[3] “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Mike Tyson

Well, that’s one sad truth of life. It’s good to have a plan. It’s even better to have a “plan B”, in case the first one fails. But, the best thing to do is teaching yourself to embrace the unknown.

You cannot control everything. In fact, there are very few things in life you can control. The only one thing you can control for sure- is the way you respond to adversity, the way you react to things that don’t go as planned.

Well, it’s easier said than done. How do you train yourself for this?

The answer is “stepping in”- taking tasks you are not prepared to in advance.

Lesson:

Train your mind to deal with “change of plans”.

Is your colleague sick, and you’ve been asked to replace him in giving a lecture for a large audience? Present some products to potential customers? Scary, isn’t it? Go for it!

It will be super hard for the first few times. You might fail and look unprofessional. But it will serve you big time in the long run. Your brain will wire itself to respond to adversity almost instinctively. Your brain will memorize some potential tricks you can pull up your sleeve when times get tough.

Moreover, when facing “change of plans” situations over and over again, you learn to stop being afraid of them, and deal with them as they were “regular tasks”.

[4] Make the best out of the next round.

One of the worst pieces of advice I received as a young engineer was “dream big and great things will come”. Well, they didn’t. Of course, things have changed since then, because I have changed.

But, for a young engineer, “dreaming big” is a very hard thing to do. A typical youngster’s mind is not wired that way. This piece of advice can “kill” a young mind in the very early days.

It’s hard to find the right motivation to work on goals that are extremely difficult to fulfill, for an engineer making his first steps. You need small victories in your way to keep you motivated.

This is where the boxer’s mentality comes in handy.

Lesson:

Learning to focus on the next round and get the best out of it proved to have a very strong impact on real life.

Regardless of the opponent/task you are facing, regardless of your performance in the previous rounds, just do your best now, for the next three minutes only.

It will help keep you motivated, less exhausted by the long-term goals.

After completing enough rounds, your mind will find it easier to build bigger dreams and focus on distant achievements.

[5] Age doesn’t matter.

Titles are also overrated.

Boxing history is full of stories where the reigning champ has lost his belts to an unknown opponent.

I got beaten up by 16 y/o several times in the ring.

During my engineering career, I am glad I had the opportunity to work with brilliant young minds without a single college degree.

On the other hand, I had also encountered titleholders that had literally no idea of what they are doing, wasting everyone’s time. Those are the most dangerous by the way, leading people with their charisma and previous achievements into devastation.

Lesson:

Don’t get blinded by titles. Everyone makes mistakes.

Stay humble and give people the respect they deserve.

[6] “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” Rocky Balboa.

Well, why did it take me so long to get to this iconic quote?

Actually, I wasn’t sure it’s a good idea to put this quote in the post at all.

Sometimes, starting with an iconic sentence makes your point look cheap because it is not yours. It is much easier to get credit by quoting some genius minds.

On the other hand, you cannot talk about boxing without mentioning this masterpiece.

Now, since we got this far, I must say I really love this piece of advice Rocky is giving to his son in the sixth film of the ‘Rocky’ series. I really love the ‘Rocky’ series too.

I can’t wait for the day to watch the series with my son. I don’t believe he will find them interesting, he was born in 2016, but still…

Lesson:

The point is simple- you learn much more from losing. Of course, winning is fun. Everybody loves winning — nobody is a masochist.

But winning, only impacts your self-esteem in the short run, leaving you the same exact person after all.

It is your ability to deal with your losses and hard times that defines your personality. It’s not just a “fluffy” quote. It really works if you let it. This is how our mind is wired.

When was the last time you felt an absolute win? I bet you struggle to recall.

When was the last time you felt devastated? Aaah…right in the feels!

Now, it is just a matter of choice whether to dive into despair or to reflect on yourself, learn from the experience and move on. The one who can use his losses to improve himself — is an absolute winner in my eyes. It takes a lot of mental strength to do this.

The fun fact is that we are born with this ability, but somehow we lose it as we grow up. Can you imagine a baby giving up after falling for the first time?

[7] “You gotta be willing to take the hits.” Rocky Balboa

One more gem from the same iconic monologue.

There’s not much to explain about this one. Jumping directly to the obvious lesson learned.

Lesson:

Stepping into the ring? Going for a new challenge? Starting a debate? Criticizing someone or something? Pushing your excellent idea?

You should definitely expect the other side to fight back, and you should prepare accordingly.

Unfortunately, there are mean people over there.

I guess there are some mean people who are reading this post, ready to criticize my morals, my English, and my point of view. Well, my body and soul are ready.

[8] No matter how bad your situation is, all you need is one good hit.

It’s true.

Many boxing victories were determined by a matter of one good, perfectly timed hit from the underdog.

This is what is so special about this sport- there’s always hope. Both fighters know that. The underdog is looking for that one good hit. The favorite knows he has to remain focused till the end, otherwise, he might lose everything he has built in a blink of an eye.

It is something to keep in mind in your life or your career, regardless of which side you are currently at.

Lesson:

Never lose hope. If you believe you are doing the right thing — keep doing it.

Eventually, you will hit it. The right timing will come if you have enough patience.

[9] “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.” Muhammad Ali

Surprising, isn’t it? There’s a debate– is it really Muhammad Ali standing behind this quote? I will leave it to you to judge.

Our life is full of those little things that can easily take the wind out of our sails if we let them.

We lose our biggest fights due to some minor “pebbles” that drain our energy, sometimes without even starting, or without giving ourselves a chance to show our full potential.

Lesson:

Stop agonizing over the little unimportant things.

Most of the “problems” in our everyday life are not worth the hassle.

Choose your battles, and keep your energy for the real “mountains”.

[10] Find the right coach.

…or boss.

This is one of the most important pieces of advice. You can hear about it from other sources too. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good coach, at any stage of your career.

Did you happen to hear the coach speaking to his exhausted fighter in the corner, between the rounds, while the poor guy is looking into the void, bleeding from his right eyebrow?

Do you think the fighter can really hear his coach, and fully comprehend his instructions? Maybe…

That is exactly the difference between a good coach and a bad one.

With a good coach, you can develop this kind of relationship and trust that will allow you to rise above yourself.

A good coach can get the best out of you at your worst times, even when you lose faith in yourself.

Lesson:

It’s not the salary, it’s not the cool company or the cool product — it’s your mentor that you should look for in the new place.

Look for a boss that will be your caring teacher, that will give you room for growth, that will be there for you in your tough times and help you become a better version of yourself.

If you are just going for the salary, you will get stuck exactly where you are.

“In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.” Anne Frank

Wait what? What does she have to do with boxing?

Anne Frank had a brilliant fighter’s mind, at her very young age.

I chose to finish my post with this genius quote by Anne Frank because I deeply believe in this kind of spirit. I can literally imagine our world as a much better place if we chose to follow this path.

I want to remind you that we are not in a fight, we are all on this s#!±ty planet together. Just be kind to one another, and we won’t need the previous 10 lessons.