5 Questions with Dhanashree Balaram, Applied Machine Learning Research Scientist

by Adobe Life Team

Posted on 01-15-2020

“Two years ago I wanted to be the CEO of a giant company,” she laughs when I ask her what she hopes to accomplish in her role as an Applied Machine Learning Research Scientist, “but after this first year at Adobe, I realize I really want to hone my skills. I want to visualize the different solutions to a problem and narrow down on the best one using my intuition, experience and education. As I grow my career I want to be the go-to person and climb the leadership ladder steadily.

Dhanashree Balaram, who’s on the Sensei & Search team, gets to work closely with complex problems every day. While her work explores the cutting edge of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and more, she’s faced a fair share of curve balls. “You fail and pivot a lot when you’re working on projects that explore uncharted territory, but when things move forward, it’s so satisfying” she says. To learn a little more about Dhanashree’s experience at Adobe, we sat down with her for a quick 5-question interview.

1. What initially drew you to Adobe?

When I was in eighth grade I remember using Adobe Photoshop and it really left an impression on me. I remember I always wanted to be an engineer—I loved math, but I also wanted to do something creative. Also, during the career fair at Carnegie Mellon University during my Masters, I saw a number of people standing in line to talk to recruiters at the Adobe booth. I remember I thought to myself, ‘the little 8th grader in me wants to take a shot at this career direction.’ So, I went for it!

2. What were some of your initial impressions of Adobe once you joined the team?

When I first began interviewing, I enjoyed my interactions with the team. I was asked very interesting and relevant questions. So, right from the start I had high expectations. When I joined, it all aligned.

3. Can you tell me about your role and what you work on?

I’m an Applied Machine Learning Research Scientist for Adobe Intelligent Agents on the Search & Sensei team. When I started, I’d be assigned research and implementation tasks such as coming up with say, a mapping algorithm (for text boxes) and coding it up real fast on the backend. At the end of 2 weeks, I would present my progress to the rest of the team including engineers, designers and Product managers. Slowly, I began working around the whole stack—lots of frontend and machine learning work. Now I mainly work on my own modules that include personalization and recommender systems for the Assistant experience.

4. What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

I feel like my work has impact. Our projects touch upon new concepts in the industry. I think the most unique part of working in this team is the approach to solving problems. Receiving validation for whacky ideas is something I find very rewarding here at the Agents team!

I also got to attend NeurIPS, which is the biggest Machine Learning conference ever! I got to represent our team and I met people who have authored some of my favorite research papers. It was an amazing experience, and it was all because my manager facilitated my trip. It goes to show that Adobe cares about learning and development.

5. What would you say to potential candidates who want to join the Sensei & Search team?

When you join our team, expect it to be like a startup, but with the benefits of a big company. Also, be prepared to do a lot of work in machine learning and research. If you’re willing to fail and try again, this is the place for you. In order to succeed on the team, you need to have an experimental and exploratory nature. You’re going to be thrown a curve ball—you think it’s going in the right direction but then you have to pivot. It’s challenging but it’ll be the most rewarding work you ever do.

Interested in pursuing a career at Adobe? Apply today on our career site.

Topics: Adobe Life, Employee Impact, Brand, University