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Meet the Trulian: Sewook Wee

A Series to Connect You to the Trulians Behind the Magic

Today’s “Meet the Trulian” features Principal Big Data Engineer and one of the Lead Engineers on Trulia’s personalization team, Sewook Wee. Sewook has been a Trulian for more than two years, and as of late, has been focused on building a real-time personalization platform, combining Big Data technologies and Data Science models. Read on to learn more about Sewook.

What’s your role at Trulia?
I’m an engineering lead for Trulia’s personalization team. I’m focused on building a real-time personalization data platform to collect various consumer intents, infer their multi-dimensional preference, and serve individually and timely relevant content to them.

What inspired you to get into your role?
Every day at Trulia, I get to answer million dollar questions for people who are just like me, and that’s so inspiring. When you’re buying a house, you’re looking for a place to build your “core memories” and you’re basically asked to use 100 percent of your liquid assets and 30 years of future paychecks; it’s a big decision and a crazy experience. Just a few years ago, I spent nine months searching for a house for my family and me. It was a scary whirlwind. At the time, I didn’t know which neighborhoods to look in; I didn’t know whether something was a good deal or overpriced. I didn’t know how to find and interview agents and I sure didn’t know if something was a good investment. Without the reliable information Trulia offers, consumers are placing blind bets on the biggest – and most important – purchase of their lives. Helping people make the right decision with this million-dollar question is an amazing feeling.

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?
Nehemiah. He’s my professional role model. He was Jewish, lived in Persia around 400 BC. His lifetime mission was to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Think about it – building a wall surrounding a city is a huge, non-trivial project. He was passionate. He knew what it was going to take and asked his sponsor for specific resources. He gathered coworkers, built a team, shared the vision, and collaborated. He cheered the team and overcame obstacles along the way. And, at the end of the day, he successfully completed the mission and was respected by people, yet he remained humble. I would want to ask him what sustained him when things were only getting worse and he felt like he was hitting rock bottom.

What’s the one gadget or personal tech item you cannot live without and why?
I’m a bit of a minimalist and in 2014 I even challenged myself to live without a mobile phone. I loved it, but friends, family, and colleagues didn’t really like it as much. That aside, I cannot be myself without my laptop. After all, being an engineer is part of who I am.

If you could master one talent or skill that you don’t have now, what would it be and why?
I want to learn how to play guitar. I sing and lead my church band every Sunday, and being able to play guitar would make a big difference. My wife actually bought me an acoustic guitar as her first gift to me after we married, but unfortunately, even after 8 years, it still sits inside its case for the most part. I think I’d need a two-month vacation without actively doing anything to learn how to play it. Well, that’d be too good to be true. After I retire?

If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
Telepathy! I tend to be bad at charging devices, thus my phones are often out of battery, so if I could talk to anyone, anytime, with no device, without even whispering, that would be cool. Also, it’d make it so easy to say the more difficult things, like “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.” Yes, I’m shy. Sometimes.

If you could time travel, would you go into the future or past, and why?
I’m very curious about what the future looks like, especially how self-driving cars may change our lifestyles. However, as curious as I am, I don’t want to ruin the excitement of the unknown. Life is way more interesting when you don’t know what’s coming. Therefore, I would go into the past. Specifically, I’d want to go back to the moment when I first met my daughter because it was the most delightful moment in my life. Yet, I’m well done with infant caring so I hope it’s a round trip!