Getting to Know: Iva Milo, Engineer
In this “Getting to Know” interview series, we’ll spotlight a different Alloy team member each month to help you get to know the talented and friendly folks behind our products.
Iva is a software engineer at Alloy. Previously, she was an engineer at Pinterest, working on the Android app. She holds a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Economics from Harvard University.
1. What do you do at Alloy?
I’m an engineer working primarily on our backend. I enjoy translating real-world systems into software, so most of my projects are related to computation and modeling.
The one I’m most proud of is our product model, which is how Alloy makes sense of all the different data sets we take in. Every partner that we work with uses a different system to track its products, so our model harmonizes all that disconnected data to ensure it’s mapped to the right products and provides a single source of truth for our customers. All the analytics our users see depend on the product model, so it was a big undertaking.
2. What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on at Alloy?
This year, I’ve been working on our new recommendations product, where Alloy suggests opportunities to better meet true demand. It’s a new direction for us and advances what we’ve already achieved on the analytics side. The guiding principles for our product development are: integrated, predictive, and actionable. Recommendations tie together all of that. The value we’ve seen so far from our pilots has been enormous. It’s exciting to see the potential our technology has to impact how businesses make decisions.
3. What’s been the most challenging part of your work so far?
There’s a lot we want to build and our ambitions often outpace what our system is currently set up to support. The challenge is finding ways to move forward on an idea in the short-term and also have a plan of how we’d evolve our tech long-term. This came up when I was building our recommendation metrics. Our existing compute engine couldn’t do complex calculations across directions (like a distribution center and its stores), so we simplified a few things in the model and wrote some custom logic to get it out to beta. But we also gained insight into how our compute system could be more powerful, and there’s ongoing work to get it to that place.
4. What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a similar career path?
Seek out internships if you’re just starting out. They’re a great way to get exposure to different areas of engineering and learn a lot in a short time. And they’re the best way to learn what engineering in industry is really like.
My most memorable internship was at Birchbox because I had a fantastic mentor who gave me a wide breadth of projects and lots of feedback. That helped me be more prepared in my first full-time job at Pinterest, which had a really high engineering bar.
Another piece of advice I’d give is to seek work experiences at diverse companies. Birchbox engineering was 40% women and the CTO was a woman, which is unfortunately rare in tech. Looking back, it was really important for me to have that experience on that team and see that things in our industry don’t have to remain at the status quo.
5. What first interested you in software engineering?
The intro computer science class at Harvard is one of the most popular classes and has a reputation for being fun and challenging. I took it just for the experience. I didn’t expect to take more CS classes afterwards. I ended up really loving the type of problem solving and system design questions I encountered in my problem sets. After a few more classes in the department, I declared CS as my major.
6. What do you like to do outside of the office?
I try to balance my love of TV and sweets by going on hikes and taking dance classes whenever I can. I also love to travel internationally with friends. Last year we went to New Zealand and Mexico City.