Life at Yahoo

This is what it's like to work at Yahoo.
9 posts for Employee Profiles
Big Thinkers 2013

2013 Big Thinkers India Series: Yahoo! Labs' thought leadership in research and science

Posted: 7th of June, 2013

Ronny Lempel
Chief Data Scientist, Yahoo! Labs, Israel, drew an extremely engaged audience from across industry and academia at his recent Big Thinkers session in Bangalore. Ronny’s talk kicked off the Yahoo Big Thinkers India Series for 2013, a well-regarded lecture series by Yahoo Labs on cutting edge areas in science, technology and the Internet. Ronny’s topic was Recommendation Challenges in Web Media Settings. He spoke about how recommendation technology is at the core of the effort to personalize media consumption on the Web, be it news stories or streaming music. Outlining research challenges and trends in the art of recommendation technology, Ronny said, “The key problem researchers are looking at involve the ability to suggest sequences, frame the user’s context, find people with similar interests and, finally, recommend to people things their friends have experienced.” 

With Yahoo!’s focus on building highly personalized experiences that connect people to what matters most to them, technologies like recommender systems are central to personalizing user experience.
 Ronny’s visit to India served to highlight Yahoo!’s thought leadership in research and science, and how it links to our business, in this case personalization and ad targeting.

The talk 
brought together over 130 researchers and practitioners around the emerging topics of recommender systems from leading tech companies like GE, Bosch, Siemens and Flipkart, along with several start-ups. “This kind of participation stimulates an exchange of ideas among the top minds in industry and academia and promotes a culture of open collaboration,” said Dr. Sridhar Mitta, an industry veteran and founder of NextWealth, who attended the talk. 

During his visit, Ronny also visited IIT-Bombay, a top tech college in India, where he guided several students on their research topics around recommendation technology.

His interactions through his India visit were characterized by deep technical discussions in research areas like Recommendation Technology, evolution of big data and the challenges of maintaining a balance between personalization and contextualization of the Internet. On his role as Chief Data Scientist, Yahoo Labs, Ronny Lempel explained, “It is about looking at the areas where Yahoo Labs interacts with our product groups to develop Yahoo products. A lot of it has to do with personalization and ad targeting, which has a big reliance on recommendation technology. Machine learning, natural language processing and search technologies are all aspects that are important as to me as Chief Data Scientist. Beyond that, I also interact with our systems teams to define what the next generation of big data computational systems might look like or what is missing in our current generation of systems.”

Ahead of his Big Thinkers session, Ronny interacted with the media and was featured in-depth in some 
of India’s leading mainstream and financial dailies. You can see a snapshot of the coverage below:

Personalization and ad targeting rely on recommendation – The Financial Express 
Big data is not a new thing: Ronny Lempel – Mint
Yahoo! bets big on personal recommendations – Deccan Chronicle

youtube video

The Mobile and Emerging Products Team at Yahoo!

Posted: 7th of June, 2013

“After a year of promises and hints, Yahoo is finally giving consumers a glimpse of its future: beautiful apps, modern design, and full participation in the future of mobile computers.” - Jolie O’Dell, VentureBeat

At Yahoo!, our Mobile and Emerging Products team is at the forefront of innovation and is constantly working on fantastic apps for our millions of users to enjoy every day.  

Adam Cahan, SVP of Mobile and Emerging Products, says,  "Our opportunity at Yahoo is to boldly envision tomorrow, and then we will bring that into reality today.”  Our mobile team is taking bold steps into the future, leaving their mark on the tech landscape. Hear directly from the team in this video!

Check out some of the apps our mobile team has recently launched:

Interested in joining a team that creates amazing experiences for our users? Click here.
Experience WOW with Yahoo!

Experience WOW with Yahoo!

Posted: 2nd of April, 2012

Why do Yahoos love coming to work? What makes their world rock and their hearts bleed purple? Hear out Yahoos as they tell you their stories of working and growing with this organization.

Sandeep Datar

Sandeep: My WOW experience

Posted: 12th of October, 2011
Senior Director, User Experience Design for India and Middle East

We are responsible for innovating and designing products that are meaningful for our end users and ones that engage and delight them. We focus on creating that “wow” experience that actually touches a user’s heart. 
My team works on products that span from media sites like Yahoo Cricket, OMG to business applications that are used by consumers and advertisers. Some of these products are targeted at the global audiences while some are unique to the India and Middle East markets.

This space is becoming exciting as our products are consumed on multiple devices like PC, mobile , tablets and connected TV’s. Designing a holistic experience that is device agnostic is truly challenging and rewarding. Good designs that are relevant, meaningful, engaging and entertaining contribute to our product metrics and also help build customer loyalty. This in turn helps build a better brand that people trust, love and follow.

In my group we also take care of accessibility requirements that help users with disabilities use our products.

Its been a little over 3 years at Yahoo and I am delighted to work with a whole bunch of talented people. Every day I learn something new and this is extremely rewarding. My role has taken me to other Yahoo offices in Jordan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Singapore as we design products for these markets. Learning about these diverse cultures and markets and interacting with brilliant Yahoos in different parts of the world has kept me on a consistent high!

The rich product development ecosystem at the Bangalore development center, gave me an opportunity to work closely with Product Managers. This has immensely helped me understand the business perspective of designing and building products. This again has been a huge learning.

Creativity at Yahoo goes beyond designs or products – we try to weave that into our lives too. For me, that comes with being an applauded (okay, lets settle for appreciated ) barista.  Be it the espresso machine, an Italian mocha pot, a French press, an American drip coffee maker, the Vietnamese coffee filter and or the desi south indian coffee filter – brewing that well-deserved cuppa at the end of an interesting day is my idea of nirvana!
Pragjyoti Nair

Pragjyoti: The World of Platforms

Posted: 12th of October, 2011
Director, Program management & Business Operations, Cloud Platforms Group 

 I run the program management and business operations for the Cloud Platform Group (CPG) at Bangalore. At CPG, we deliver the powerful infrastructure and platforms that help developers innovate and add new features rapidly and efficiently.
Leading a team of program managers, I track strategic initiatives in this Group by monitoring progress towards meeting goals and achieving benchmarks, analyzing data, ensuring follow-through on the part of key players, and sustaining momentum needed to drive these initiatives. We take accountability for planning, structuring, leading and executing the largest projects or programmes, which are often of great complexity and high risk.

Sounds complex, well that’s what the world of Platforms is all about. But actually, that’s not all – we do have our “fun” moments too.

I remember an instance, when the team pulled a fast one on our boss (who had been newly promoted) to come to a nearby restaurant - on the pretext of conducting an interview. An unsuspecting boss was shocked to see a table full of his team members waiting eagerly for him to sponsor a lunch treat! Since then he has been very cautious about our interview invites especially when it is at some fancy restaurant!

I have been with Yahoo for about 3 and half years and it has been one great ride! One of the most compelling reasons to work at Yahoo is the culture of the organization - we live life with an exclamation mark!  In the unpredictable internet world, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the demanding and dynamic nature of the work. What I love about Yahoo is that here everyone gets the opportunity to make a difference.  You are a part of a diverse and inclusive work culture, and surrounded by some of the most brilliant, innovative and creative minds in the business. We exemplify work-hard-and-play-hard.  It is exciting, energetic, passionate and fun! Truly, a great place to be.
Jijin Gopal

Jijin: Never Fail to Make an Attempt

Posted: 12th of October, 2011

Project Manager, Yahoo Small Business

In my role at Yahoo Small Business, I am responsible for managing the process and product updates - coordinating product releases and ensuring a smooth ramp-up so that our end-users are not affected.

We are part of the customer advocacy group which handles Yahoo Small Business products such as e-commerce, hosting and domains; and are responsible for critical users and revenue generating customers and a potential failure in this group could have drastic impact. And that’s what makes my role interesting and challenging every day.

I complete 4 years with Yahoo in 2011. My journey has been a rather life-changing experience – with every job, one faces ups and downs, but the important thing I have learned at Yahoo is to never give up. Here, we simply learn from our mistakes and move on in pursuit of our goals.

In all these years, there have been some awesome moments – the beer fests, the regular foosball matches, and the annual bashes. The one that stands out is when I got a chance to speak with my hero, David Beckham – Yahoo!’s global ambassador!  I am still thrilled about it!

At Yahoo I found the opportunity I was looking for – from being just another techie to someone who stands out. I got the platform to enhance my tech as well as creative skills, and of course I got to master foosball.

So here I am, standing tall in my belief: “An attempt is never a failure, so never fail to make an attempt.”
youtube video

Opening Eyes to Accessibility

Posted: 7th of June, 2013
Victor Tsaran is one of those people who leaves people with a long lasting impression. He grew up in a Ukrainian orphanage and is now a talented computer engineer in the U.S. He’s an accomplished musician and songwriter. And he also happens to be blind.

Victor runs Yahoo!’s accessibility program. He helps make it easy for people with all kinds of disabilities to use our sites. When I first met Victor, I had the same naïve reaction most people have – dumbfounded by how he could crank open his laptop and be fully self-sufficient reading email and surfing the web. That’s because I was clueless about all the remarkable ways that people with disabilities use technology.

Victor’s made it his mission to educate our designers and engineers, helping change their assumptions that accessibility somehow requires sacrifice or compromise. On the contrary, Victor argues that accessible design is better for everyone. Just as curb-cuts were designed for wheelchairs, they’re also a great convenience for strollers, luggage and shopping carts, right?

But driving the point home sometimes means making someone walk a mile in his moccasins. Enter the Yahoo Accessibility Lab, which has been toured by more than 75 product teams to date. It’s filled with a wide array of assistive technologies – screen readers, onscreen keyboards, interactive Braille displays, etc. When Yahoos arrive, they’re told they’ve just had a stroke and can’t type with their fingers. They’re given a rubber ball and asked to type their name. Um… Next, they’re fully paralyzed. “OK, try to send an email.” Uh… After they’re introduced to the technology solutions, they watch videos of disabled people in action.

All this leaves developers making accessibility a goal before they write their first line of code. It’s why anybody can access rich features and tools on products like Yahoo Sports, My Yahoo!, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo News, Yahoo Search, Yahoo Messenger for the iPhone. It’s why third-party websites that are inaccessible in their own right are now entirely accessible via the new “favorites” area on the Yahoo Homepage. Victor has helped Yahoo make enormous strides since joining us four years ago, but there’s still more to come.

We spent some time following Victor with a video camera to not only understand his work, but to appreciate his daily experience. Commuting by train. Playing guitar. Making lunch with his wife Karo Caran, a fellow student from the Overbrook School for the Blind. We watched as sighted people had their first awkward interactions with him. He laughs when he describes how often people raise their hands when he asks questions during his new hire orientation briefings. Well-meaning commuters sometimes escort him to the wheelchair zone on the train platform. It took me a while to realize he’s not offended by questions like “Did you see my email?”

Spend any amount of time with Victor and you realize that his blindness doesn’t really make him all that different from anyone else – except that his computer talks to him. Really, really fast.
Hemant Sambrani

Hemanth: Think, Work, and See it Through

Posted: 12th of October, 2011

I am a Product Manager with the Yahoo Cloud Platform Group.
I drive the product definition of Comments, Conversations and Message Boards on User Generated Content Cloud, or what we call as UGC Cloud.

The UGC Cloud group provides a performant, scalable platform and widget solutions for Yahoo properties to enrich their content pages with User Generated Content constructs.

Sounds quite complex, doesn’t it? Well what we work on provides users with mechanisms to express themselves and engage in personally meaningful conversations with the rich community on Yahoo verticals.

We believe that creating an awesome digital experience is about engaging and delighting the user in ways which bring personal meaning to their experience and discoveries on the web.

For me, it is always an exhilarating experience to define a product and see it through as it comes alive. And this does involve a lot of work around benchmarking competitive products, carrying out some market and products research, talking to loads of people and teams, and finding  opportunities to improve the product or patent ideas. Sometimes, it is a ton of work, and quite layered as well.  What helps me craft a solution, I guess, is my belief that if we keep chipping at it long enough, we will find a way to deal with it.

I am a man of few words. So I describe my past 5 years with Yahoo with only one word – Fun! Exciting, cool work culture which feeds on passion, innovation and creativity. Absolutely flexible and open about things that matter! I have also found it very helpful the way Yahoo has connected me to several workshops, conferences and events which help me understand the ecosystem around us and then contribute to it.

And of course the best part is that the culture completely vibes with what I believe: Think, Work and See it through.  
Sushant Sinha named one of Indias top in

Sushant Sinha named one of Indias top innovators

Posted: 7th of June, 2013

Indian Kanoon search engine helps people understand their rights.

Sushant Sinha, part of the Cloud Platform Group in Bangalore, was recently named one of India’s top innovators. He was featured in Technology Review's prestigious TR35 2011 – a list of outstanding innovators in India under the age of 35.

Sushant earned his place in this exclusive list for developing Indian Kanoon, a free search engine of Indian law (Kanoon means ‘law’ in Hindi, the official language of India). The portal provides the most relevant Indian laws and court judgments in response to a query.Since its launch in January 2008, Indian Kanoonhas been embraced by the Indian public, and is empowering citizens to seek justice.

Traffic is growing exponentially - 10 times in the past year and a half. Indian Kanoon currently receives half a million unique users a month, with roughly 2.5 million page views.

And here’s why. Prior to Indian Kanoon, there was no website which provided information about Indian law, at least nothing that was easy to use. Asignificant portion of the population remained completely ignorant of their rights and privileges.

“Most existing law websites charged a hefty fee and were designed by lawyers for lawyers,” explains Sushant.”The technology was stone aged, compared to the advances in the information retrieval brought about by current search engines.”

He filled these gaps when he developed Indian Kanoon. “I started the project as a way to enrich court judgments by linking them with laws and other references. The linking turned out to be so useful that I went on to build Indian Kanoon,” he adds.

Besides the standard information retrieval techniques for relevance, Indian Kanoon brings in a couple of other innovations to make law search effective. First, it breaks down law documents into the smallest possible clause. It then determines the important law sections at the granularity of the smallest possible law section. Secondly, it tightly integrates law/statutes with court judgments, which allows automatic determination of the most relevant clauses and court judgments.

It isn’t just the man on the street who’s benefiting from Indian Kanoon. Lawyers and law students form a big chunk of the user base.

Sushant, who has a PhD in Internet Security (“nothing related to search,”) is currently working on the document enrichment framework Sombrero at Yahoo!. He balances his day job with Indian Kanoon by working on it in the night and on weekends.

On what it takes to be an innovator, Sushant believes, “It takes identifying important problems and working hard to solve them. Sometimes the identified problems are just minor issues when others view it and so what really matters is whether you are convinced about the importance of the problem.”