People & Culture
Added Mar 5, 2021

Q & A with Romain Guion - Head of Signal Processing & Enrichment

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Romain is our Head of Signal Processing & Enrichment based in the London office, responsible for modelling enriched satellite data into meaningful vessel events.

Prior to joining Vortexa, Romain was in the ad-tech and customer retention space at Pluto TV in California, and an inventor and consultant in the medical devices industry at TTP in Cambridge. Other diverse experiences include M&A at TechnipFMC, and rocket science for the French Atomic Energy Agency. Romain holds a 1st class MPhil in Energy Technologies from the University of Cambridge, and a MSc in Mathematics and Physics from Ecole Centrale Paris. 

Outside work, Romain likes to climb mountains, skipper sail boats and make a lot of noise with his saxophone.

We wanted to find out what inspired Romain to join Vortexa, what some of his biggest milestones have been to date and what day-to-day life really looks like for our Head of Signal Processing & Enrichment...


What inspired you to join Vortexa?

The quality of my interviewers was my number one inspiration; they gave me confidence in the vision and intellectual stimulation of the journey. Pioneering new products, working on the leading edge of technology, combining machine learning with prior knowledge from market experts and physics is what sealed the deal. 

 

''...People act as business owners, working across team boundaries and helping each other to make a shared vision become reality. In this journey there are no egos and ideas win over status.''

 

What would you say is the most interesting aspect of your role?

I work at the intersection between business and technology. The business identifies needs, and technology identifies capabilities. Both pure market pull and technology push have their pitfalls; the former can focus on very difficult problems while there are low hanging fruits, and the latter can build something nobody wants - a better mousetrap. By understanding both business and technology, my role is to help bridge that gap and identify and prioritise opportunities with good ROI. And because the company goals are very clear, I get a lot of freedom to exercise my judgment, which I love.

Less specific to my position, what makes work at Vortexa immensely stimulating is the complexity of our universe; both the domain knowledge and the technologies used. The domain is vast; energy industry, shipping/freight, physical and financial trading. The technologies we use keep on expanding; new signals e.g. weather, satellite position, experts reports, prices, interpretation of data through more complex statistical and machine learning models; scaling all of this and making it maintainable through an elegant tech stack. Everyday is a new challenge.

 

What have been some significant milestone moments for you at Vortexa?

There have been so many! First time we managed to run key data pipelines without hand-holding, it meant we could move on and fully focus on other areas. I also felt really happy when I saw some guys in my team make very big steps in their professional development, and when what used to be a handful of personal contributors started to act as a team.

When we introduced OKRs and managed to align all the company, this was significant because that clarity and focus enabled team leads to give their teams more autonomy, which many find very motivating and essential for scaling up.

On the product side, seeing new models work in real life is always great... and the first time a new Vortexa screen came from my team’s initiatives, this was another degree of excitement!

What does day-to-day life look like for you as Head of Signal Processing & Enrichment?

This is changing a lot as the team is doubling in size. 

A few years ago I used to start the morning by checking if production broke overnight, and that’d define the rest of the day! Things are more stable now. With high growth I am focusing on creating the right environment for others to succeed, interviewing, setting objectives, prioritising, brainstorming design options and supporting projects that are struggling. Beyond the direct impact, I prioritise committing code regularly to stay in touch with the details of new problems we are facing (and because I like it!).

 

''...what makes work at Vortexa immensely stimulating is the complexity of our universe; both the domain knowledge and the technologies used.''

 

What key qualities make a Head of Signal Processing & Enrichment successful?

That’s a question I’m asking myself regularly! 

There are three key aspects to the role: technique, business and people. Technical leadership requires a good understanding of a range of software and machine learning problem solving paradigms and architectures, and good problem solving skills. Business leadership requires a deep understanding of the company strategy and how that materialises in the industry and in the data. People management requires self-awareness, empathy, authenticity, clarity, strategic thinking, and leadership.

If I had to choose one, I’d say navigating uncertainty is key to all three dimensions.

How would you describe the culture at Vortexa?

People act as business owners, working across team boundaries and helping each other to make a shared vision become reality. In this journey there are no egos and ideas win over status.

What advice would you give people hoping to join Vortexa?

Have a browse through our openings: we are doubling in size, so there should be plenty!

Describe your working life at Vortexa in three words?

Never ever bored!

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