"I am a European citizen with a wide range of career options across Europe"

Meet our alumni: Júlia Hermann

lia Hermann, the new Secretary of the EIT Digital Alumni Board, feels a responsibility to keep the EIT Digital Alumni community alive. She owes her career prospects to EIT Digital, she says. She believes in person to person connections. You always learn something from meeting new people and from reconnecting with your peers.” Meet the Hungarian Hermann, a machine learning engineer at adidas Runtastic in Austria.

The EIT Digital Alumni Foundation established a new board this summer. That is a reason to talk to the new board members about their motivation, their work, and to reflect on their education. Hermann is the fourth of the seven board members we speak with. She studied Software and Service Architectures at the EIT Digital Master School at Eötvös Loránd University and University of Trento. This programme is now part of the programme Cloud & Network Infrastructures.

Please, would you introduce yourself?

"I work as a machine learning engineer at adidas Runtastic in Austria. This means I combine my skills in software engineering with my experience in algorithms and data science. For me this is a perfect position due to the different fields I studied: financial analysis and computer science."

"I grew up in Hungary, where I did a bachelor and masters in finance and worked at Morgan Stanley as an analyst. Due to my family’s economic situation, I knew early on that I could not afford to choose my field of study purely based on my interests. I chose finance for a secure future and good job prospects. Having worked as a financial analyst, I soon realised I don’t have a passion for finance. I felt like I wanted to build something cool and saw great potential in software and digital. That’s when I decided to change my career. As I was searching for master programmes in that field and found the EIT Digital Master School."

What was the hardest in pivoting from the financial to the digital field?

“I was still finishing my masters degree in Finance, so I needed to split my time. The hardest part for me was to keep up with other students with computer science related backgrounds. They could program on a much deeper level than I could. I had to take extra programming classes. The first year was quite difficult, but it was worth it. I got plenty of help from the co-location centre in Budapest. They even organised extracurricular programming lessons for me.”

You are now a machine learning engineer at adidas Runtastic in Austria, since January 2021. How did you get that job?

“Last year, I was living in Italy, working in a similar position at SpazioDati. However, I felt far from my family and friends in Hungary, especially during Corona times. At the same time, I was struggling to integrate because I do not speak the Italian language. That’s when I decided to move and found my current job in Austria. By the way, it’s a small world - I have a colleague from EIT Digital. We did not know each other before, but we work closely together now. The soft skills and entrepreneurial mindset I gained during my studies at EIT Digital helped me a lot during the recruitment process and afterwards in delivering value to the company.”

What does adidas Runtastic do?

“Our company operates within the digital fitness industry. We believe that through sports we have the power to change lives by engaging and empowering 1 billion connected athletes. We develop two mobile applications, adidas Running and adidas Training. With our apps users can track their sport activities, connect with others and stay motivated to achieve their fitness goals. adidas Running is designed to track running and other activities, review statistics, join challenges. With adidas Training users can do standalone workouts and enjoy expert guidance with workout plans for every level. We make more than 155+ million users live a more active life.”

What is your role within Runtastic’s mission?

“I believe that machine learning and innovation is the means how the company can work towards its mission. My main contribution to that is bringing innovation closer to our users. I do that by delivering machine learning based features to our applications. I work closely with different internal stakeholders. On one hand, with data scientists, who develop prototypes for cool projects, such as recommending personalised workouts to users. On the other hand, I collaborate with our cross-functional product squad (especially with backend engineers) to integrate machine learning models in the backend systems.“

“I do use these apps myself. I am a keen yogi. I’ve recently started to do barre, which is a mix of ballet and yoga. I love hiking, and in the winter skiing. Our company encourages us to live a healthy life-style and share feedback about the apps. The feedback is then integrated into the product roadmap.”

Are there any specific projects that you have worked on and you are proud of?

“Our apps have a social network feature and just like in other social networks users can follow each other and share their sport activities. Seeing others doing sports, is motivating. Therefore, the social aspect is very important for our users. Currently I’m working on making our social network even stronger: based on their existing social connections we suggest users who to follow. My team collaborated with a cross-functional product squad to bring the suggestions generated by our algorithm to the users. I am proud to say that the first iteration of this feature is already live and it works well.”

Prior to joining adidas Runtastic you worked at Spaziodati in Trento. How did you find that job?

“In 2019, I attended the annual alumni meeting in Porto. There, I met the former alumni board president Francesco Bonadiman and fellow alumni Michele Pittoni who were presenting the company they worked for. They were hiring a machine learning engineer at the time. Having talked to Francesco and Michele in person gave me a great impression of the company and the role so I decided to apply and got hired.“

“During my time at Spaziodati, I had the chance to work on interesting projects, like building a machine learning model to predict if certain Italian companies export products and services. My colleagues were great, I worked with two fellow alumni of the EIT Digital Master School. I was living in the mountains surrounded by breathtaking hiking and skiing opportunities and beautiful mountain lakes.”

How has the EIT Digital Master School impacted your work?

“I would not have a career in Machine Learning Engineering at all without EIT Digital. Because of the international aspect, I feel like a European citizen who has options all over Europe. Somehow, through the master school, national borders do not seem like high barriers anymore. Having studied at the EIT Digital Master School, I have wide range of possibilities to work in different industries and in different countries. It empowered me with the freedom to work on projects I care about and helped me grow in my career.”

How did you learn about the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation?

“During the Kick-Off in Rennes in France. At first I wasn’t really engaged with the alumni foundation. I was just too excited that I was studying at the EIT Digital Master School. When I studied in Trento, I became more curious. I also met Francesco Bonadiman - President of the Alumni Foundation at that time - in person and I got more connected with various alumni members. I became friends with Anna Prudnikova, for example. So, I had now different strings leading to the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation. At the Annual Meeting in Porto, it was clear to me that it was a cool community of which I wanted to be part of and to contribute to.”

How do you think you can contribute to the community?

“For me, the alumni foundation is about the individual connections between people. I have good friendships with people from different countries and different majors. I want to keep these alive and build new ones. In the coming two years, I will try to focus to strengthen one on one connections within our community. In a time where organising big events is not easy, building these connections between alumni is key. This is one of the topics that we discussed with the other board members: focus on local communities. As a secretary my main responsibility is enabling the board to deliver our vision and make us as efficient as possible.”

Why do you believe EIT Digital Alumni should join/engage with the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation?

“The biggest benefit is the networking aspect. If you register on our website, you have the option to connect with others. In the alumni directory, you can look up people to see who came from the same major, who are in the same country as you are, or simply give options for others to contact you. We are also trying to help members in fulfilling their career aspirations. We have a job portal, as well where they can look for and publish jobs. I also publish roles when adidas Runtastic is looking for new people. And we are in contact with companies to get discounts for career counselling services. We have a good value proposition for our partners: they can tap into a valuable market of over 1000 digital innovators across the globe.”

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