This is the first in a series of posts introducing team Iggy. Meet Anirudh Shah!
I was born and grew up in Berkeley, California, but moved to London at age seven and spent the rest of my childhood there. I got interested in software through my dad, who’s been in tech since he was 18 and was one of the very early Software Engineers at Microsoft. Every day he’d tell me about the interesting work he did and some exciting new startup he was working with, and I absorbed a lot from him. I studied science and sustainability which gave me a path in to tech as I ended up working at an energy tech company in machine learning, mostly because of my domain interest and some mild machine learning expertise. That was my start in the tech sector.
I loved the team and identified some great mentors here, so that’s kind of why I decided to join Iggy. Plus the domain is interesting, there are really so many possibilities and use cases for geospatial data, many more than I had even imagined before learning about Iggy. My role is to do machine learning research as a research engineer. Machine learning with geospatial data is a field with lots of opportunities for innovation as there are relatively few researchers working in this area, and this gives us at Iggy the chance to be thought leaders and technology leaders, which to me is really cool.
Without using complete sentences, can you describe what’s going on in your life at the moment?
Dogs. Sports. Nice weather and BBQs. Starting to travel again — visited a beach for the first time in 2 years! Lots of cooking. Relearning to play the piano.
If you could choose a career besides the one you have now, what would it be?
I’d test electric cars. The fact that all of them, every Tesla, can go from 0 to 60 in, like, two seconds — that’s pretty cool. And I love driving. I’m also just fascinated by the technology of it — how far it has advanced, how efficient it is. Electric cars fascinate me and that seems like a fun job within that realm.
Where’s your favorite place in New York?
The little sand bank at the end of Bushwick Inlet Park that looks out over the Midtown skyline.
What quality do you most admire in someone else?
If you could eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Paneer, which is like an Indian cottage cheese. Szechuan pork noodles. And then donuts.
What’s your favorite clothing item you own?
A retro Arsenal soccer jersey from the 1990s.
What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up, and the last one you close before you go to sleep?
The first one is usually WhatsApp. And I usually close with The Athletic.
What do you hope the epitaph on your tombstone says?
“He was a kind person.”
What’s your worst habit at home?
I pile clothes on chairs and beds and sofas — any flat surface, really.
What was a formative turning point in your life?
Moving to the States as a grad student when I was 22. I went from London to Philadelphia. That was quite a culture shock.
Singing or dancing?
Beach or mountains?
Tattoos or piercings?
I have both. Tattoos.
Xbox or PlayStation?
Weightlifting or cardio?
Hot tub or hot spring?
Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. I think sunrises are more impressive, but sunsets mean I can sleep in.
Fiction or nonfiction?
Horror or comedy?
Drake or Kanye?
I thought I wanted to be an engineer for a Formula One team (kind of ridiculous in retrospect), so at the time I majored in mechanical engineering. Long story short, I was programming every night instead of doing my mechanical engineering homework, so I eventually decided to leave to find a job building software.
My background is mixed. I was an English major originally, and pivoted to environmental science and biology later in college. In graduate school, I got interested in quantitative / computational ecology and testing ecological theory using historical observational data, experiments, and computer simulations. I worked as an applied ecologist at Northern Arizona University for a couple of years, before co-founding a company called Conservation Science Partners in 2012. We had a tremendous amount of success over the last 10 years, but I was feeling ready for a change in focus.
As I was finishing my PhD, I did Insight Data Science and got hired at Airbnb where I hoped to use geospatial data to work on host growth or something. I was working on the host team as a Data Scientist and I realized that we didn't have any concept of the “context” of our listings… we knew a lot about the listing and its specific characteristics but we didn't really have a way to understand what was nearby. That matters because if you know what’s nearby you can market listings differently (which is sort of what Airbnb is (finally) doing w Categories), you can price more accurately, and you can drastically improve search. That became really compelling to me. I tried to work on an internal project there, but it didn't get a lot of support. So eventually, I decided to leave Airbnb and start Iggy to solve this challenge.