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November 4th, 2019

The Humans Behind the Bots: Justina Petraityte

  • portrait of Rasa


At Rasa, our team is building the standard infrastructure for conversational AI. Behind the scenes, the people of Rasa come together from diverse backgrounds to solve today's most interesting challenges in NLP and dialogue management. We're pulling back the curtain to highlight a few of the humans behind the bots.

Today we're talking with Justina Petraityte, Head of Developer Relations at Rasa. We'll learn Justina's story and explore the day-to-day projects and technologies she's passionate about.

Hi, Justina! Tell us about yourself! What was your path to joining Rasa?

I think my path to Rasa is not a very typical 'job story'. I grew up in Lithuania where I got my degree in Statistics, specializing in Econometrics. I absolutely loved everything related to predictive analytics and became very curious about how mathematical models could be applied to predict human behaviour. This is how I got introduced to the world of Machine Learning and started playing around with various models in addition to my studies.

After graduating from Uni, I wanted to challenge myself and decided to get a job abroad. That led me to the UK, where I spent almost 3 years working as a Data Scientist at a video game studio called Radiant Worlds. There, I had the chance to work on a wide variety of ML problems, including retention prediction, clustering the players based on their behavioural profiles, building recommendation engines, toxic language identification models and more. One of those problems was building a chatbot: an assistant for data reporting called SHIBA (Slack Hosted Interface for Business Analytics) which I built for the internal use of the company.

Through that project, I found out about Rasa and fell in love with the tech and company's approach to making frameworks open source. Back then, it was very early days for Rasa, and there were little to no resources on how to use it. I decided that I would give it a shot and make some tutorials about Rasa and talk about my experience using the framework at local meetups. Not so long after that, Rasa approached me regarding the Developer Advocate position, which looked like a nice mix of things I highly enjoy- Machine Learning, tech, constantly learning new tools, teaching and helping others to understand difficult things more easily. I decided to embark on this new adventure and ended up moving to Berlin to join the team at Rasa.

Take us through a typical day as a Developer Advocate. What types of projects do you work on?

It's very difficult to describe a typical day as a Developer Advocate because it constantly changes. Some days I spend my time hacking around and building applications using Rasa and other cutting edge tools. Other days, I write technical content covering how various Rasa features and models work under the hood, or I stand in front of the camera making videos like Rasa Masterclass. Other days I travel around the world giving talks on conversational AI, running live coding workshop and meeting developers at various conferences (this year alone I had the opportunity to speak at around 30 events in Europe and the US!).

Last but not least, some days I focus on bridging the gap between Rasa and the developer community, looking for ways to improve developers' experience while using Rasa. That includes testing or proposing new features requested by the community, filling in gaps in the docs, building demos, making it easier for people to contribute to Rasa, and helping developers build great applications.

At Rasa, I see myself as 50% developer/data scientist and 50% teacher/educator, which is a huge responsibility! But this is what makes the Developer Advocate position very interesting and rewarding.

Which areas of your work are you most passionate about?

I love tech, and I feel thrilled every time I get a chance to build a new project, play around with new ML techniques, and learn new things. But what makes me the most passionate about my role is educating others. I believe teaching is a great responsibility, as there is a fine line between helping people understand a complicated topic and confusing them even more when it's done in the wrong way.

The fact that I deal with a very diverse group of people, from beginners who are just dipping their toes into conversational AI to people who are highly experienced, requires me to keep my skills and knowledge sharp and be able to adapt to different audiences. After all, there is nothing better than seeing people's eyes light up once they understand a new concept or get inspired by what they can do with the technology I am covering.

What's an important problem you're solving at Rasa?

My main mission is to make sure developers have the best experience when using Rasa tools-that they understand how those tools work and they know what they can build with them. I am trying to achieve this by being a conduit between the developer community and our engineering and product teams. This means that I communicate things we are building at Rasa to our worldwide developer community and collect valuable feedback which then helps us improve Rasa tools.

How would you describe Rasa in three words?

Ambitious, innovative and fun.

How do you collaborate with other teams at Rasa?

One way or another, I get to collaborate with pretty much every team at Rasa (that's another quirk of being a developer advocate).

I collaborate with the engineering team when it comes to the technical side of my work-deciding which projects and demos to build, learning about or testing new tools and features. I also get to work with the product team, delivering the feedback I get from our developer community and helping to prioritise which new features should come to Rasa next. I am closely connected to the marketing team to distribute the educational resources I create and make sure we utilise the best communication channels when reaching our developer community. Sometimes I am even collaborating with our sales team to help prepare training resources or other useful materials for our enterprise clients. So, as you can see, it's an interesting mix of collaborations.

What does a culture of diversity mean for you at Rasa?

I understand diversity as a variety of skill sets, opinions and ideas, which I think is very important for every organisation. The Rasa team definitely consists of people of different backgrounds and industry experiences, and what I like the most is that everyone is always encouraged to challenge each others' opinions and ideas. This is how great conversations start and good decisions are made.

How has working at Rasa helped your professional development?

The most important thing I look for in a company is an environment where I constantly feel challenged, and that's definitely something I found at Rasa.

Learning new tools, technologies, and keeping my programming and ML skills sharp is a big part of my role, but the things I have learned during my time at Rasa go far beyond technical skills. Since joining Rasa I have expanded my skill set to include areas like technical writing, video production, organising and running events, public speaking and many more.

Also, since joining Rasa about 1.5 years ago, I have had the amazing opportunity to grow in my role as well. After starting as the first person on the DevRel team, I am now leading developer relations efforts at Rasa by stepping into the position of a team manager.

What's the best career advice you've received?

Seek to be the hardest working person in the room and strive to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. For me, it's advice that I apply to pretty much everything I do, not only in my career but life in general. I am a big believer that consistent, dedicated and hard work is the key for achieving anything that is valuable, and there is no way to grow as a professional or as a human being if you don't challenge yourself and push the limits of what you are capable of.

Sometimes it means doing something you have never done before, something you don't feel ready or confident enough to do-learning a new skill, stepping into a higher position at work, moving to a new country, giving a talk in front of hundreds of people. Whatever it is, as long as you are willing to put the work in, there is always something good waiting on the other side of fear and self doubt.

Thanks Justina! You can find Justina on Twitter and on YouTube, where she hosts the Rasa Masterclass video series.

Want to team up with Rasa? We're hiring! Find open positions for Developer Advocate and other roles on our Jobs Board.