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Meet Robert Amanfu: The Fast Interview


Robert Amanfu, machine learning engineer at Fast

Robert Amanfu

Role: Machine Learning Engineer

Team: Data Science and Machine Learning

What do you do at Fast?

I work in multiple areas on our team. In one, I’m responsible for setting up our data ecosystem to enable Fast stakeholders to answer their questions about the company in a self-service manner, because we believe in democratizing that information, so I build processes around the data to make it easy to use. In the other, we build and maintain data products, which means bringing in the tools to make risk assessments or compile user data.

Describe your typical day at Fast.

30% meetings, 15% recruiting, and 55% coding and building. We try to be very intentional about limiting meetings in our team. We meet enough to know what’s happening, but not too much to throw the balance off. We have a Deep Focus Day for this purpose.

Where were you before Fast?

Stripe and Capital One, as a data scientist.

Why did you say yes to Fast?

I saw Allison (Barr Allen, COO and Co-Founder of Fast) give a talk about what they were doing at Fast. For most of my career, I didn’t get to build things that would have a huge impact – it was mostly incremental improvements on current products. To be able to get in with a team to build V0 – the very first version of something – was part of my professional journey I hadn’t experienced, and that excited me. 

Where did you grow up, and what were you like as a kid?

Accra, Ghana. I’ve also lived in Southern Africa, West Africa, and Europe for a year by the time I went to college. I was quiet as a kid. I liked to break things just to see how they worked. Sometimes I’d succeed in putting them back together. I read encyclopedias for fun; that’s how I explored the world. 

What led you to engineering?

That love for tinkering. It led me to biomedical engineering, actually, before moving into machine learning in 2014.

What are Fast engineers doing that stands out?

We have so many experienced people here, the question is really what doesn’t impress me? There’s rarely a problem where the answer is I don’t know! This is so new to me! There’s no dictatorship culture; there’s a lot of collaboration. And this is the first time I’ve worked inside an engineering organization; I’ve mostly worked in Product. I'm amazed at all the seemingly little things colleagues bring up, both because of their attention to detail and our comfort in speaking up.

Proudest moment as an engineer?

I was part of a team that launched a machine learning platform at a prior job. It gave me a taste of building something from scratch that affects users on a large scale. It felt like a bit of a startup inside a large company. It definitely informed my path to Fast.

Favorite thing about being an engineer?

There’s the opinion that you should write great code from the get-go, but I like to play with it and figure out how to learn something new.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning person. Left to my own devices, I'd start work at 5 a.m.

What’s something you regularly do, but know you shouldn't?

I’ll binge watch Marvel shows, and I always think I should be doing something else.

Your non-negotiables for life?

Treat people kindly, whether you're the commander of the ship or the person cleaning the bathroom. Everyone’s equal. There doesn’t need to be a hierarchy everywhere. Everyone’s questions count.

One thing about you that has been and will always be true?

I don’t do well in large crowds. 

Where can we follow you?

LinkedIn

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