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Meet Mariano Semelman - A conversation with our Head of Data Science Platform

Mariano Semelman is the Head of Data Science Platform at Veriff. He is originally from Argentina, but he moved to Europe in 2018. After living in Berlin for three years, Mariano decided to live and work in Barcelona, and shortly after that, he joined the Veriff team. 

September 9th, 2022

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Mariano Semelman is the Head of Data Science Platform at Veriff. He is originally from Argentina, but he moved to Europe in 2018. After living in Berlin for three years, Mariano decided to live and work in Barcelona, and shortly after that, he joined the Veriff team. 

He has a huge passion for data science. In his free time, Mariano likes to research and learn about various random topics on the internet. We recently had a fascinating conversation about his career, interests, and life at Veriff.

Let’s kick things off with your professional life. Tell us about your first job experience in your field. 

I started working in data science during my university years in Argentina. My first role was to be a Data Analyst. There I had various projects taken over. One of them was matching users’ addresses to their real-life addresses to pinpoint their latitude and longitude. 

This was before Google Maps existed. Nowadays, it’s much easier to use the service, but it was an exciting challenge to work on something like this back then. 

Working with this company helped me to set my career in this direction and think more about the field of data science. Because of this experience, I understood more details about the area, which gave me more insights on what to focus on in the future. 

I learned a lot about personalization, recommendations, search and rankings, email marketing optimization, etc. At the same time, I had a lot of flexibility to explore different tools with the proper guidance from the management. 

What’s the story behind you moving to Europe from Argentina?

It happened in 2018 when I worked in my previous company, OLX Group. I was a Senior Data Scientist at that point. 

This company was setting up a shared service in Germany, and my role was a good fit for the project. With this in mind, I decided to move to Berlin and continue my career there. 

After that, I advanced within the OLX Group and became a Data Science Manager, which was a great professional experience. I worked with three different types of markets, which gave me a lot of helpful knowledge and experience in my field. 

In 2021, I finally decided to move to Barcelona from Berlin and have a base here. I did it with the same company, and I’m thrilled with the choice so far. 

Great! Let’s talk about your current company now. How did you find your way to Veriff?

When Veriff decided to start operations in Barcelona and open the office here, one of my old colleagues, Duncan Steblyna (VP of Product), approached me to ask for various details about this city – where to look for talent, what are the good areas for office space, etc.

This is how I learned about Veriff as a company. I did more research about the company, and after conversations with Veriff team members, I felt aligned with the mission and decided to apply to join. 

On the other hand, the Veriff team was looking for someone with a similar background, so I decided to take this opportunity and start a new career journey. 

What are the biggest challenges of being the Head of Data Science Platform here?

As the company is growing fast, many challenges have also come up for our team. 

In our case, it is essential to consider how to scale the architecture to support many people simultaneously working on the same components. We must ensure that the overall experience is smooth and that our solution meets users’ needs. 

As the team grows, we should think about the most effective ways to organize teams and set up systems that make it easier for everyone to work on tasks they are responsible for. 

Which one of Veriff’s values resonates with you the most?

It would be “always come up with a solution.” I have always enjoyed working in an environment where people offer their solutions to various problems in the company. It makes the process easier and more enjoyable for everybody.

It is essential to surround yourself with people that have a problem-solver mindset. I think that’s one of the most significant components of Veriff’s success. 

Thanks for the answers! Let’s move on to the rapid-fire questions now. 

Tell us about your hobbies.

One of my biggest hobbies is researching different things. I love reading and exploring various pages on Wikipedia. I have an app on my phone, and I use it daily. I always try to find different ways to learn about new things that are related to the field of my interests. 

I also love doing sports activities like climbing and playing video games in my free time. 

What is a ‘Must Read’ book for you?

One of my favorite authors in fiction books is Ursula K. Le Guin. I enjoyed reading “The Dispossessed” and “The Left Hand of Darkness” from her books. 

If we talk about more technical books, I recently read “Clean Code” by Robert Cecil Martin. I think there is very useful information for everybody working in the field.  

What’s your favorite podcast?

I’m a part of a community called MLOps in Spain, and they have a podcast where they invite various interesting guests working on ML Ops and ask how they are working, their challenges, and what their everyday work-life looks like. 

There is also another podcast called “Revolutions.” There they talk about the history of revolutions in the world, and I find it very interesting to learn more about those topics.

If you weren’t a data scientist, what would you be?

I would do something related to Farming and Gardening. It would be interesting to have my own mushroom production or something similar. 

What would be your advice to everyone who wants to kickstart their career in data science?

Don’t let mathematics scare you. Learning math and understanding the science behind numbers is a lot of fun. Once you get used to that, then it gets pretty stimulating. 

Whenever you have an idea in your head, try and go for it. It might not work the way you imagine it, but it will surely leave good knowledge for you that you can use for other projects. 

So, don’t be afraid to fail and go for the project you feel the most passionate about. This mindset will surely help you advance in your data science career. 

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