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March 12th, 2021

The Humans Behind the Bots: Maxime Verger

  • 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 Maxime, Engineering Manager at Rasa. We'll learn Maxime's story and explore the day-to-day projects and technologies they're passionate about.

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

Hi there 👋🏻 I first heard about Rasa from a friend who did an internship on the Research team. He kept mentioning how cool Rasa technology was and how friendly his coworkers were. At the time, I had just shut down the start-up I co-founded and I was looking for my next challenge. I was hired on as an Engineering Manager at Rasa, which has taken me to exciting new places!

Take us through a typical day as an Engineering Manager. What types of projects do you work on?

The good thing is that there are no typical days. I have days where I spent most of my time helping out the team: 1:1s, looking for growth opportunities for them, planning for the next feedback meetings, etc... Some days are focused on "greasing the wheels", where I'm trying to understand why something is not working and come up with solutions (e.g. understanding how to improve cross-team collaboration, helping a team to stay focused, debugging organization misalignments as we scale up rapidly).

Looking over the longer-term horizon, I also work on topics that set the teams up for success in the future, including hiring, team structure evolution, high-level prioritization. Some days are even a mix of these-I never get bored 😄

Which areas of your work are you most passionate about?

I'm an Engineer at heart and I like to find solutions to fix problems. Becoming a manager has allowed me to focus on a different class of problems directly impacting people I work with. To solve them I still use my engineering skills-I just debug teams instead of code. I ask a lot of questions to nail down the root cause of issues, and I analyze data on our habits to drive discussions. Knowing I can make a difference for people on my team really drives me every day 💪🏻

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

Here's one: how do we set the right team structure, interfaces and processes to ensure efficient collaboration between Engineering and Research today and tomorrow? One of our key principles is to "ship applied research to solve real problems" and this will definitely allow us to stay ahead of the curve. Today there's no recipe for it, and few norms to follow, so we're designing this path for ourselves.

How would you describe Rasa in three words?

People. Ambition. Learning.

How do you collaborate with other teams at Rasa?

As part of the engineering team, I interface with a variety of other teams. I work with Product on priorities and planning, I discuss customer feedback with the Customer Success Engineering team, I collaborate with Research managers on joint projects, and I rely on our amazing Ops team to run surveys.

For all of these interactions, the default is async collaboration through tools like Notion or GitHub. As a documentation nerd 🤓 in a remote-first company, I think it's important for things to be written down so that people can easily contribute to discussions on their own schedule. This doesn't prevent us from doing real time collaboration via calls, Slack messages or Miro boards. I'd say we have a good mix that allows for deep focus hours - did I mention I'm a fan of our No Meeting Wednesdays™️?

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

I think I cannot talk about diversity without addressing inclusion, as they go hand-in-hand. The first thing that struck me when I joined Rasa was the average level of empathy that people have for each other. People are kind by default and that's awesome 🤩.

While that's a very good starting point, we strive to do more. We constantly evaluate the inclusiveness of our processes and iterate on them. Last year, we set up a DEI working group, and every team has their own initiatives to foster diversity and inclusion inside Rasa as well as in the broader industry. For instance, in the Engineering team, we've been working with FrauenLoop to mentor under-represented women-identified persons who want to get a foot in the tech industry. It's definitely a journey and we're not gonna stop there. The challenge lying ahead is to actually measure the impact of such initiative on Rasa but also the wider landscape. It'll be key to continue improving.

How has working at Rasa helped your professional development?

Working at Rasa has been truly rewarding so far. 🤗 I'm managing a team of talented engineers, and I helped restructure our engineering squads in the past 3 months to support our future growth. I've also had many opportunities to learn about NLP concepts in-depth.

What's even more exciting is that we currently are at a defining moment in Rasa history. Accelerating our growth comes with a lot of changes. Processes become more important, and we need to find new ways to communicate, align the team and make decisions. How should we structure our engineering teams and their interfaces to enable an efficient product machine?

What's the most interesting thing you've learned lately?

I'm curious about a lot of things, so it's hard to pick one. I'll go with this random thing I learned about people called Pareidolia which is a tendency for our brain to perceive an object we know when actually it doesn't exist. Apparently we do this all the time 🧠

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

Default to assuming the best intentions from people. To be honest, it's more of a life advice!

Thanks Maxime! You can find Maxime on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Want to team up with Rasa? We're hiring! Find open positions as Software Engineer and other roles on our Jobs Board.