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IIoT Talent: Sébastien Dion, Wx Backend Developer

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By Deanna Radford - July 05, 2018


Can you talk about your job role at Worximity?

My official title is Backend Developer. Backend meaning everything that is data-related. All the ways that we collect, store, modify, aggregate data is basically what me and Ben (Technical Lead) do. We develop tools that other teams say, on the front end, use to get the data that we have.
I've been working on using all the data to work on the big analytics. There's Tileboard—the historical app we've been doing for many years. It presents data in real-time. Well, in real-time but, it presents a timeline of the data at that time [your factory line was] up or down

The new analytics platform is how can we take all the data from years ago from all of our clients and present it in more intelligent ways. For example, the new analytics page we're working on enables you to see the up-time and down-time of all your production lines for extended periods of time.

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Where did you work before Worximity? 

Stingray Digital. It's a music streaming company. It's a B2B company—they sell music streaming services to other companies. It could be restaurants, shops, TV or cable providers. They pay Stingray to have music offerings on their channels. I was there for nearly two years. 

Before that I was a consultant in France. I went to work in France for 2.5 years. A company here in Montreal would hire software developers to work on very specific software for—it wasn't the manufacturing business but more for all that is mechanical. So, for your car, for tires, for everything that pieces or parts of plane are manufactured. We need special software to track the life cycle of those parts. Say we're doing revision A on this part and revision B on that part. Big companies buy software and customize it for their specific needs. That's what I was doing. They'd send us all around the world to consult with clients.

Do you have a favourite place you visited during that time?

I had gone all over Asia. Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is like a more chill version of India. It's so small. A whole island! I had been to India and to Bangalore. There's a big electronics city there. It's a big electronic centre. Giant offices, like Microsoft. Everyone's there. It's crazy!

There's so much tech development happening in India—it must have been interesting to visit.

There's a big trend of outsourcing a lot of development to India because there's a massive work force of qualified people. They are qualified. I did work on a project that parts of it were outsourced to India. But there is a limit to what you can do by outsourcing because the whole designing of a system and finding out what requirements are and writing everything down and thinking about what the system will be—you cannot outsource this. It's pretty hard. You have to be in the business.  You cannot do that on the other side of the world. But once you've actually done that, then it's perfect.

 

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Software engineering is so much more than writing code.

What did you study to get to where you are?

I studied software engineering. Which isn't really engineering. It's called software engineering,  but it's the same as someone who's got a degree in IT, let's say. I did do a degree in engineering with software, but it's the same as someone who did a degree in IT.

[The field] is pretty young. The term software engineering or the actual study of software engineering. Software has been there for years. But [it's] the actual thinking of engineering software instead of just coding it—it's not actually just writing code. There's so much more surrounding it!

Software engineering is learning to learn new technologies.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the field?

There's no advice to give—it's so easy to find work right now.

There is one thing. When I started, you have this, when you study, the advice would be to not plan to learn every single new technology there is. Just learn to learn those new technologies. When I started, I thought, 'Oh my god, how can do this stuff?' But then you realize that especially in IT, there's always new things that you haven't learned. But you have to learn how to use the new technology. It shouldn't be a problem that you don't know stuff. When I started here, half of what I'm doing right now I had never done. In terms of the precise language that we use to develop things or program - it's not a problem anymore because you just learn when there is something new to read up on it.

Don't be scared to apply on jobs where there are things that scare you! When I started there were jobs that I thought, 'this job looks really nice but, I don't know half of it,' and thought there was no way they'd take me. But if you find the right place and they want to hire good developers, they don't want to hire the guy or girl that knows everything. They want to hire someone that's good and that will learn as they work. 

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What excites you about working at Worximity and your work with IIoT?

We'll the first thing that pushed me to come here—where I worked before, we weren't working on something concrete—we were selling music, which physically isn't anything. For me when I heard about Worximity and what we're doing, here's this actual box that we give [clients] that does something and you'll see your data in real time. I thought, 'that's the thing I want to do.' There's a special need that's being addressed. This magical box will collect all your data in real time. We give [clients] an iPad and there's an app that shows you everything. I never worked on a system this precise, this real-time. What I did before was software but it was kind of boring compared to this. Here's an app that shows you everything on your [factory] line in real-time.   

It was pretty exciting when I had my interviews with the guys here. In terms of technology that we use, it's pretty up there, which I never had before. That's pretty cool. That's what sold me.

Is there anything else you enjoy about working at Worximity?

I worked at companies that were much bigger than here and one thing I really wanted when I came here and it's happening since I started. We're so small that in terms of choices of technologies that we use—one day we can choose something and another day we can say that's a much better choice for this and that reason, 'let's do this.' Whereas in a big company it has to go through 10 different people who have something to say about it and two weeks later, it's still being discussed. Here, it's like we're 15 or 20 people. There's a flexibility we have in terms of technology. For us it's just talk about something, 'Oh, have you seen this new database system?' And we just work on it.

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You have the freedom to explore the technology, like a laboratory.

Yes. We still have features to work on for our clients, that's what we focus on. But otherwise, there's a freedom here that you won't have at a bigger company. That's pretty cool. You can challenge yourself. To learn! You're not in a mold that you have to fit into and follow. That's really cool.

Other aspects?

Everything's cool! There are things, the fact that we're less than 20 people for me is massive. I really have to [have] the personal contact. It has to be more than colleagues for me. It's easy to talk with people and get to know people and do things together here. [It's] more than coming in at 9 am working all day and then leaving.

That's common in bigger companies?

Typical. The typical developer is more of what I just mentioned than someone who wants to know people. I've known more people that way. It's okay. There's so many good developers and you can work where you want to work. I need that connection with other people.

What you can see sometimes is that people who work in tech become farmers because they've been isolated.

Yeah! When I first came here for my interviews, I could see right away that there is a good team of people here. As much as we're a small team, we do need a few more people.

How long had you been working in the industry before starting at Worximity?

Five years. I started at Worximity in January 2018.


What are your current tech-related obsessions? Fave websites?

I rediscovered chess recently. I used to play as a kid. I found a really nice channel on YouTube which shows current chess games. I bought books about it! It's not technical. I'm also always on Reddit.

Since in the '80s, the first computer program beat the world champion of chess. The most powerful computers now can't be beat by humans. Google made one and they used the same AI. They did one for the Chinese game Go. The current engines have so much computing power they analyze any possible combination of moves and that's how they play. The Google one learned by itself by playing games and played against the strongest engine and that completely beat it. When you watch the game, no human can possibly think of that stuff, but it works. It figures out the most possible number of moves and this is something else.

Can you talk about AI development? 

This is one thing we're trying to work on as well, AI. There's the analytics part, which is presenting data in different ways, calculations based on time. But with AI what you can do that is the real intelligence part is, [in Worximity's case] use two years of data from a specific period of time. You could have people who know math and statistics working on it. You could determine five different inputs, like the [factory] line speed or the number of employees working on a line and use this model and run all the data you have from the last two years through it. You could, say, with the five inputs, come up with the optimal speed the client would need to run a line to achieve its desired quantity. If you wanted to produce 10,000 units, according to all the data from the last two years, we could determine that you should run your line at this particular speed. Or, according to our model, determine when your machine is due to break, and clients can do something about it instead of just reacting.

These are insights that humans typically make now. They don't have a model for it though and they don't have the data to compute this. These are the next steps.

We've tried a few prototypes here and there. AI is not just software. It's mathematics. If we get more money from the next round of venture investments, maybe we can hire an AI expert to help us. The first step was to let people discover and monitor their data. Next step is artificial intelligence. It's a bright future!

 

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