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May 9th, 2023

The Humans Behind the AI: Radovan Živković

  • 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 AI.I

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

It was diverse for sure. I always loved the fact that computers were so versatile, you could make them play music, video, control your remote (toy) car, govern critical infrastructure etc.

I started programming in High School with languages like Pascal, C and assembler for PLC controllers. After that I graduated Computer Science at Belgrade University, department of Mathematics. You could say that math and programming were my two biggest points of interest in my early years.

My professional career started in a very small startup where we were developing brand new PDF Editor. We were thrown into the fire of coding, product discovery, release scoping and planning all in one team. It was a place where I met a lot of talented developers, many of which stayed at the top of the game today still.

Afterwards I was a contractor for Cisco and Ubisoft on different projects where I had the opportunity to bring my coding and organizational skills to a new level, with Scrum and agile development practices.

Next milestone in my career was returning back to the startup waters, which I found to prefer. I joined Emboker which at the time was a small startup from San Francisco. I had a chance to work in different roles, ranging from senior developer, tech lead, team lead, manager and software architect. Company organically grew to a size of 300+ employees over a course of time and I had the front row seat to witness all of that. I am glad I had a chance to have such experience.

2. Take us through a typical day as a Staff Software Engineer and Tech Lead. What types of projects do you work on?

My typical day or better say week, since there are a lot of things going on to fit in one day, include: design and review of new and current architectural decisions, meetings with people from various departments to make sure that team’s scope and priorities are clear and on track.

Beside those, as a tech lead in the team, I am performing code improvements, code-reviews and reviews of our tech pipeline to determine appropriate actions so that pipeline is unblocked and to make sure it scales properly.

Additionally, there is a constant explore & review of new technologies and the potential they have to alleviate Rasa and experience of our customers to a new level.

3. Which areas of your work are you most passionate about?

Firstly I will always be a part of the team so working with others and enabling each other to grow is something I greatly value.

I really like to explore the world, so finding new technologies and realizing how to incorporate them to improve new and existing architecture and system designs really brings joy.

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

I believe that well organized projects with clear focus and commitment provide an environment which encourages others to grow and to bring their ideas to the table.

Also, having a tech pipeline which can support this and easily scale as the project evolves is very important for the team. This is essential in a startup environment where a good idea could become a game changer, so having an environment which is designed to help ideas flourish and mature is essential.

5. How would you describe Rasa in three words?

Engaging. Supportive. Honest.

6. How do you collaborate with other teams at Rasa?

Zoom meetings, Slack and Notion are the tools which enable everyone at Rasa to collaborate on any issue they are working on.

Engineering forum in a great place at which engineers exchange ideas and form focus groups to work on those ideas.

We also have regular sync meetings on various levels which help us to keep the ship steered in the right direction.

When someone has an idea, they are encouraged to invite others to discuss it, incorporate feedback and develop it further. Discussion helps ideas to flourish and mature into a viable feature/product for our customers.

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

To me it would mean that regardless of your expertise and seniority you are included in all processes whether those are idea discussions, feature implementations, technical improvements. It allows everyone to contribute, which fuels growth of the individual and the team and consequently the company as well.

8. How has working at Rasa helped your professional development?

As I have recently joined Rasa, I have experienced encouragement to delve into new and uncharted territories.

I was already a part of new feature implementation, several feature improvements, architectural discussions for new products, and a few process improvements we introduced in the team. Being able to provide that level of impact in my first few months was something which I had not experienced before.

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

I can count two things. First: make features easy to use correctly and hard to use incorrectly. Second: being fascinated with math, during my college years I learned about Goedel’s theorems of incompleteness in mathematics. They are more related to math but one conclusion can be extrapolated and that is, that we will never be able to prove that every statement is true using only the current knowledge base we have. We always have to keep pushing and increase our knowledge base if we want to be able to explain and understand the world around us. Beside that one consequence of these theorems is that not everything in nature can be computed. The fact that we (humans) were able to prove this, was mind blowing to me.

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

When uncertain, take a step back and rethink. It is good to slow down and rethink about something before committing yourself fully to it.

Also never rush through new technologies, take some time and read the docs and understand it fully before using it professionally.

Thanks, Radovan! You can find Radovan on LinkedIn.