Welcome back to the Beyond The Data blog series! This month, we’re highlighting Phil D’Amore, a Senior Machine Learning Platform Architect who has had a significant role in building out our new MLOps practice and framework.
Tell us your name, where you’re from, and a little about you.
My name is Phil D’Amore. I’m a New Jersey native, but for most of my adult life I’ve called the Triangle region of North Carolina “home”. I live here with my wife and two spoiled-rotten dogs.
I hold a B.S. in avionics, but I’ve never practiced as an avionics engineer. Instead, I’ve spent the last 20+ years working in IT, and I’ve worn most of the hats you might think of wearing during that time.
What does “Senior Machine Learning Platform Architect” mean? What do you actually do on any given day?
I think the keyword in that title is “Platform”. While I enjoy working with machine learning, I’m not a data scientist and I won’t be building your model. I’m really an operations guy at my core, and my focus is providing the paved road to production for these models. The MLOps ecosystem, like DevOps before it, is replete with tooling and “right ways” to solve problems. I spend a lot of time absorbing the problems we see our clients facing and understanding the best ways we can help them solve those problems in a scalable way. Being an architect is basically all about building up a vast, cross-discipline toolbox, and recognizing when to use each tool. For me, managing machine learning-based applications is special mainly for the strong factor that data plays in the whole equation.
Tell us about the MLOps practice. You have had a huge role in the research and development of the new practice! What has that experience been like for you?
This is really what brought me to phData. The fact that it has turned out to be such a great place to work was just icing on the cake! It’s always rewarding when you apply a force to something and it actually moves. Technical aspects aside, this has also given me more exposure to the business/sales side of things than I would normally have. I’m grateful to have a spot on the team that is making this happen.
How have you seen the company change since you started a year ago? How has your job evolved?
Well, we are certainly bigger than a year ago. Really though, I think what I’ve seen is a change in the scope of technologies we use and support for our customers and the shifts in the organization needed to deliver those new services with high quality.
I don’t really think that the true nature of my job has evolved all that much. My scope has broadened as phData’s scope has broadened, but I came here to pick up new things, figure them out, and solve problems.
You’ve been working remotely since you joined phData. What’s that experience been like?
This is my second time working for a company fully remote. In my first remote job, I basically got to see how bad it can be so it gives me a pretty good yardstick to measure what a good experience would be. I’ve found it very easy to be remote at phData. Everyone, remote or not, is very accessible. I have tons of interaction with co-workers and customers, which makes it feel less like a remote job and more like a “normal” job with a really private office. And dogs.
What is the one thing you want customers to know about phData?
There are a lot of really smart, hard-working people work here. I’m also here, but all those other people are really impressive.
What are the most exciting things you’re working on and how do you see them positively impacting our customers?
Right now, the cloud-native stuff is the most exciting to me. Building and implementing reusable patterns for machine learning and DataOps take advantage of cloud-native services and allow us to be more efficient. For customers, this provides a faster path to value.
You’re very well known internally for demonstrating our core values of grit and community. What drives you to work so hard, and why is teaching others important to you?
There’s probably a few things. I get a rush out of finishing something and then standing back and looking at it. It’s IT, so it’s not the same as building a tool shed in your back yard, but I have a pretty good imagination so it works for me. On another level, understanding for me only comes from doing things and I have a pretty irrational need to understand every mundane detail when I’m working with something, which requires a lot of doing.
I like to help people solve problems and some might call that teaching, but it’s a side-effect. If I actually started with a mindset of trying to teach someone something, it would probably be a failure. I get too stuck in details and it just doesn’t work.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
I spend a lot of free time dabbling in electronics. I like to build hardware and then write software for it, and figure out what I can learn from the experience. My wife would tell you that for fun, I work when I’m not working. That’s not really true, but I have to admit they look similar. I do use a different computer when I’m not working, and there are no deadlines, which is nice. That is my work/not-work boundary, which is important to have when you are remote.