Fly Fishing, Philosophy, and Python: Meet Junior Data Engineer Wyatt Marshall

Read how this polymath is supporting our data efforts, with a dash of curry.

March 8, 2023
Our MediaWallah Careers Q&A offers one-on-ones talking MediaWallah, career paths, and life beyond work with MediaWallah teammates. Today’s guest: Wyatt Marshall, Junior Data Engineer

What’s your role at MediaWallah, and what do you do in the day-to-day?

My job is to work closely with our Data Science and Operations teams to support the design, development, deployment, and debugging of our data infrastructure. 

Doing that work involves many components: checking our logs to ensure our various automated jobs ran on schedule and completed successfully; setting up data evaluations; refactoring old scripts; and getting new code deployed to production – to name a few. 

To help make all that happen, I write python scripts to monitor our ETL pipeline and automate various AWS tasks, Bash scripts to help deploy code from our Data Science team, and the occasional SQL command or stored procedure. 

Sprinkled throughout the day are meetings with teammates or clients, status checks on our automated jobs, and keeping an eye on Asana for new tasks to complete. 

Of course, there’s also daily soup runs with my manager Tulio (coconut curry is currently my go-to!), sports talk with Ryan, our Operations head, and the occasional video game with our Chief Product Officer Ann.

When did you join MediaWallah? What drew you to the company and/or role?

I joined MediaWallah in early December 2022. I was looking for a role where I could be more “hands on”, and where I could be exposed to new learning opportunities and an experienced mentor. From my first interview with the team I saw that MediaWallah checked all the boxes. Everyone impressed me with their industry knowledge and expertise, the role was a change so there’d be challenges to tackle and avenues for growth, and the size and structure of the team was such that my work would have a direct impact early on. With every subsequent interview conversation, I increased my confidence that this was the right fit for me.

What’s a new development (doesn’t need to be tied to MediaWallah) in data, computer science, tech, or marketing that you’re excited about? Why is this cool?

One of the most exciting developments currently happening in the tech world is the rapid adoption of AI and machine learning. Large Language Models (a subset of Natural Language Processing) like ChatGPT and Github Copilot have captivated the populus, receiving both glowing praise and scathing critiques. However, LLMs are just one flavor of AI: there’s Computer Vision, as seen in Google’s use of a Convolutional Neural Network in its photos application to remove unwanted parts of pictures. Recommender Systems, such as the collaborative filtering algorithms used by Netflix, Spotify, and Instagram, recommend content based on the preferences of similar users. Reinforcement Learning powers most of the AI that Tesla uses in their cars, robots and chips. The utilization of AI and ML is only going to grow as people find more use cases, and I believe this applies to the adtech space as well. MediaWallah’s Data Science team is already developing ML models for probabilistic identity matching, and I turn to ChatGPT as much as StackOverflow to help me build out code. There may well be some valid reasons to be wary of the AI explosion, but I see it as more tools in the toolbox, and some new, potentially better, solutions to old problems.

What are some things that excite you most about working for MediaWallah? 

It’s an exciting time to be at MediaWallah. Most of the tech stack was new to me, so it’s been a great opportunity to acquaint myself with new concepts, and I’ve gained a lot of valuable insights since starting here three months ago. I’m learning new programming languages, working with distributed cloud services like Snowflake and AWS, and leveraging fundamental computer science concepts to automate tasks in a way I never thought possible. With that said, I’m most excited about the people. Working under Tulio has been incredible; he’s done a fantastic job of getting me up to speed, onboarding me to the various aspects of our workflow, and giving me projects that are both challenging and practical. Additionally, having our CEO Nancy; our Chief Product Officer Ann; and Ryan, our GM-Partnerships & Operations in the office every week has enabled me to discover more about different aspects of MediaWallah and deepened my understanding of the industry. And most of all, the weekly meeting has shown me how passionate and knowledgeable everyone here is about not only their specific role, but the company as a whole. It’s truly exciting to work with people who are intelligent and dedicated, and that’s absolutely the case here.

What are some ways you’ve advanced your own skill set at MW?

I’ve learned more about Bash and SQL, as well as their paradigms and design standards. I came in with Python experience, but I’m now using it in ways I didn’t realize were possible, and Tulio has helped me clean up the organization and style of my programs. We use Linux to organize our code and run our jobs, so I’ve become more familiar with its advantages and nuances. I’m also discovering the capabilities of Snowflake and AWS, using their APIs to integrate programs with their services, and seeing firsthand the advantages of cloud based infrastructure.

What advice would you give to someone looking to advance their data career?

Don’t be afraid to dive in! I was apprehensive about the switch from software to data engineering; I wasn’t sure if I was prepared. But I quickly learned that the underlying computer science principles are the same, and almost all my previous experience transferred over.

It’s also important to keep up with the latest industry news and trends. The space is evolving rapidly with new hardware, AI/ML developments, cloud products, and design paradigms coming into the picture. Staying up to date as best practices shift is crucial to success. With that said, sometimes the best solution isn’t necessarily the newest one. For example, Bash fits some use cases better than Python. There’s always more than one way to solve a problem, so analyzing the tradeoffs of different approaches is a necessary skill to have.

What’s something people might not know about you?

I’m passionate about philosophy. Philosophy and technology are more intertwined than most people realize, and there are concepts from works written hundreds or even thousands of years ago that apply to the digital world we live in today. I’ll happily talk philosophy with anyone bored enough to listen!

I also enjoy being out in nature, and specifically love to fish. I started off bass fishing in ponds and lagoons around my hometown. By senior year, I was the captain of my high school’s Bass Fishing team! After high school, I started to get more involved with fly fishing, and it quickly became my favorite activity. If only we could move MediaWallah out to a boathouse… ♦️


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