Data Science and AI in the Spotlight with our VP, Alex Rahin

by Natali Vlatko - 26 Oct 2016

As our work and investment in Data Science and AI continue to grow, we’ve added to our recent good news on the hiring front here at Zalando Tech. Now that he’s fully onboarded, we’d like to introduce Alex Rahin, our new VP of Data and Machine Learning Platforms.

Alex joins us with extensive product experience from Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, and several technology startups. He is responsible for Zalando Tech’s Core Data Platforms and Applications, such as Data Infrastructure, Machine Learning, Business Intelligence, and Web Analytics. We wanted to share more about his role and what his future endeavours will entail for Zalando in the world of Data Science.

Zalando Tech: How have your first months been in Berlin? Are you looking forward to engaging with the tech scene here?

Alex Rahin: It has been incredibly fascinating to meet and connect with my colleagues in and outside of Zalando within the Data Science and Data Engineering fields. This also includes contacts in academia and research. I have also really enjoyed getting up to speed with the challenges and opportunities related to Data at Zalando. It’s going to be a great 2017!

Zalando Tech: Your role oversees the data we own and collect – can you tell us a bit more about the vision you have for our future collection and use of this data?

Alex Rahin: There are many dimensions and elements to data, such as the type, the attributes, and the structure, or lack thereof. For instance, you can derive data from a variety of sources, whether it be emails, databases, pictures, audio, or mixed media. Data is exploding in volume, in complexity, and in connections with other data.

We aim to understand the different sources of data that are relevant to our business, and provide a common platform that simplifies, automates, and scales our workflows and data-driven decision making. In other words the storage, access, and applications of this data both internally and externally. To support such a big scope, we’re currently hiring to help us better deal with the volume and complexity of data that we’re handling, and the use of data to solve challenging problems. It has been a pleasure to connect with the candidates who have shared their ideas concerning how we can excel in this field.

Zalando Tech: What does Zalando do with this data? What are some of the applications of this data and how do we use it?

Alex Rahin: We’re using our data capabilities to transform Zalando. We want to fashion a mindset driven by data and ultimately transform our culture. This includes developing tools and processes that support this push. Our vision is to bring data intelligence and machine learning to every single corner of Zalando. Imagine a day in the near future where a Zalando customer, partner, or employee cannot touch any part of Zalando without interacting with data science or machine learning… That is our ultimate goal.

The harder question is how do we achieve this? There are many things that you can do with data. You can use it for backwards-looking applications, helping you understand correlation, causation, and the impact of decisions on our customers, our partners, and our business overall. You can also use data in predictive use cases, such as making predictions about what the next trend is likely to be for the upcoming fashion season. We’re building and embracing data-driven products and making data-driven decisions that will help realise all the potential uses and applications of data for Zalando.

Zalando Tech: How are you connected to the new Zalando Research arm that the company has just established?

Alex Rahin: I am incredibly close with our researchers here at Zalando, and an important role that my team plays is understanding the areas of research that are promising to explore. We’re then tasked with helping to experiment, prototype, validate, and eventually create real products.

Our customers can look forward to some very cool features and further developments in personalisation that will amp up their user experience in the Fashion Store and our mobile apps in the near future. It’s a fantastic time for AI at Zalando!

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