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Meet the Trulian: Shourabh Rawat

A Series to Connect You to the Trulians Behind the Magic

This Meet the Trulian features Shourabh Rawat, a principal data scientist at Trulia. Shourabh began his career as Software Developer before joining Trulia in 2013. Read on to learn more about him. 

What’s your role at Trulia?
I am a principal data scientist in the data engineering organization at Trulia. In my role, I work on developing data science solutions that help us build a better understanding of Trulia’s consumers and how they are engaging with content on the site. Specifically, I focus on image and text understanding, consumer engagement and recommendations. One example is Project Hero Image, where we extract rich information from real estate photos like image quality, room type, image appropriateness, etc., to select the most attractive photo as the hero image of a listing on Trulia. Another example is Project Casanova, where we use machine learning to optimize our email campaigns by predicting users that are likely to engage with our emails.

What inspired you to get into your role?
My interest in machine learning and data science began during my undergraduate college years in India. At the time, I was intrigued by the idea of designing algorithms that can help machines better understand human language, which led me to join a research group working on machine translation and natural language processing for Indian languages. This experience helped me get a better understanding of the field and made me realize I wanted to pursue a career in it.

After a fulfilling an internship at EPFL Lausanne,  a research institute and university in Lausanne, Switzerland, that specializes in natural sciences and engineering, where I worked on semantic search engines, I worked at Cisco, India as a software developer. I then moved to U.S. to complete my master’s degree in Language Technologies at Carnegie Mellon University. It was there that I developed a much broader set of skills around machine learning and data science and applied them to several problems, ranging from image, audio and video recognition,  natural language processing and generation, etc.

What was your dream job growing up and why?
Growing up, I didn’t have a specific dream job per se, but I was always fascinated by three areas: space, aviation and nature/wildlife (thanks to the Discovery Channel). Naturally, each of these professions resonated with me at different times of my life, and I’m happy with the direction I ended up taking.

If you could have drinks with one tech luminary – dead or alive – whom would it be and why? And, what would your first question be?
Bill Gates. I am particularly impressed by his philanthropic efforts and how he has not only devoted his resources and time towards social good, but has also motivated other leaders to do the same. I would like to ask how he got into philanthropy and what his plans and vision are for the future. 

What’s the one gadget or personal tech item you cannot live without and why?
My phone. 

What was the last movie you saw or book you read and what –if anything – would you change about the ending?
Okja—it is one of my recent favorites. Okja is a touching movie by Bong Joon-Ho that depicts a beautiful relationship between a girl, Mija, and her friend, a genetically enhanced pig, Okja. The movie revolves around the girl’s efforts to rescue Okja from a multinational corporation that plans to use her for commercial gains. The movie acts as a perfect satire on our current food and animal industry.

I don’t want to give the ending away in its entirety, but in my opinion it was a great, emotional ending. 

What’s your proudest accomplishment and why?
My recent completion of the Salkantay Trek, a five day/four night trek to Machu Picchu. This was my first time doing a multi-day trek with altitudes reaching as high as 15,000 ft. It was demanding, but it was worth all the effort – the views of Machu Picchu at the top are unbelievable and worth the challenge.

If you could master one talent or skill that you don’t have now what would it be and why?
Swimming is definitely one skill I would like to master. I am not very comfortable when it comes to being in open water, so mastering this would go a long way to make beach holidays much more fun. 

If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
Teleportation. It would save me time on my commute. But, even better, I would use it to explore all the rich cultures, places, people and food around the globe. 

If you could time travel, would you go into the future or past and why?
I would like to go back to the past. I am a history buff and have a particular interest in how historical events shaped cultures, religion, people, food and societies and how they evolved into what they are today. The ability to visit the past and witness certain events firsthand would be such an enlightening experience.