How to Stay Valued in the Fast-Paced AI World: Insights from Data Scientist Dmitrii Rykunov

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on February 7, 2024

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to reshape industries, Nvidia is working to bring AI-powered robots to life. The company’s latest initiative, the Project GROOT Foundation AI model, aims to create humanoid robots that outperform existing models. However, more and more people are losing their jobs as AI innovations replace them. Robots have no feelings, never complain, and are not tired. Amidst ongoing global economic uncertainty, high professionals like Dmitrii Rykunov stay on the strim of the development process. 

We had the opportunity to speak with Rykunov, a successful data scientist whose work focuses on applying AI to improve business processes in the companies with which he collaborates. He pioneered an effective model at Raiffeisenbank Russia that utilized machine learning techniques to forecast assets and liabilities for individual accounts of corporate clients. In this article, we asked him how to stay valued in this fast-developing AI world. 

1. Be Ready to Learn Every Day If You Want to Succeed

AI has become an indispensable component of success in IT projects, offering developers a significant advantage. Today, a wealth of courses are available, providing modern developers with clear learning paths and access to expert knowledge. When Rykunov began his journey, such resources were scarce, and he had to gather information bit by bit. A video of a workshop on image-captioning models ignited his interest in AI before he graduated from the Higher School of Economics.

“This introduction to AI was transformative for me. It appeared groundbreaking yet intuitive, igniting a curiosity I hadn’t had before,” shares Rykunov.

Challenged to understand the complex mathematics behind the lecture, Rykunov embarked on a self-education journey, delving into online courses and seminal texts in the field, including Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning Specialization on Coursera and Ian Goodfellow’s Deep Learning book. Seeking out practitioners in the field and learning from them is essential, as they have firsthand experience and insights into the latest technologies. Watch, read, and choose your mentors wisely, as they have achieved success through their efforts and have experienced the evolution of these technologies firsthand.

2. Do What You Love, and Take Advantage of Every Opportunity to Master It

Rykunov’s advice is clear: “Pursuing internships and practical experience is essential. If you can’t land a position in a major corporation, consider joining a startup, even if it’s unpaid. Practical learning is paramount.”

However, starting your career in a prominent IT company like Rykunov did can be a game-changer. His professional journey began at Yandex Data Factory (YDF), where he secured an internship. This opportunity, rare for newcomers, allowed him to gain invaluable experience working on projects that integrated technical and business aspects of AI solutions.

“Understanding how you can contribute to a company and analyze its weaknesses is crucial,” adds Rykunov.

At the beginning of 2018, he began his role as a data scientist in the Yandex Media Services analytics group, which oversees Yandex Afisha, Music, and Kinopoisk, and shortly after joining, it became evident that the business unit was falling behind its profit targets, prompting management to prioritize strategies for profit growth.

Rykunov observed that while the company used machine learning for recommendations in Yandex Music, it was not leveraging these technologies to optimize business processes. Recognizing an opportunity to increase profits, he proposed a project to apply machine learning to improve the effectiveness of performance marketing, a significant revenue generator for Media Services.

3. Go Where the Challenges Are for the Best Growth Opportunities

Once you’ve settled in and feel ready to showcase your abilities, tackle the most challenging and unconventional tasks. This will strengthen your standing in the eyes of your superiors and boost your self-confidence.

“One of the project’s main difficulties was transferring new large target groups to the advertising system based on predicted user conversion. Initially, Yandex Direct, the service for buying and publishing online advertisements, hesitated to cooperate, citing potential server load issues,” says Rykunov. However, his calculations demonstrated the possible increase in advertising purchases from Direct, leading to their support and expanded access to their services.

“Another critical aspect was establishing cooperation with Yandex Crypta, a team specializing in user profile creation,” adds Rykunov. He identified opportunities for mutual benefit, leading to their support and allocating engineers’ time for consultations.

Within Yandex Media Services, Rykunov successfully developed a solution that showed a 25% uplift in channel revenue at fixed costs in an A/B experiment on live traffic. In every test group, the developed system consistently produced better targeting than previous manual targeting using a mixture of users’ demographic and social attributes. Furthermore, it allowed advertisement targeting to be done quicker and with more significant amounts/fidelity than before, enhancing the marketing team’s capacity. 

Thus, if you immerse yourself fully in work, you may not even notice that you’re no longer just working for a company but are changing an entire industry, much like Rykunov.

4. Don’t Be Shy: The Initiative Is Not Always Punishable but Could Be Your Victory

Rykunov believes that the most significant misstep for new developers is focusing only on execution without showing initiative or willingness to challenge authority. While maintaining respect and obedience is essential, if you see something going wrong, speak up and offer a solution as Rykunov did.

For instance, his initiative and innovative thinking have driven significant improvements and profitability for Raiffeisen Bank Russia (a subsidiary of Raiffeisen Bank International, one of the largest banking groups in Austria and an essential player in the banking services market). He worked on a project to extend the balance sheet projection engine with forecasting models for assets and liabilities.

“The model they used before I joined included only a high-level forecast of total assets and liabilities based on historical data and trends,” says Rykunov, who developed a new model that utilized machine learning techniques to predict the individual account behavior of corporate clients.

This new model enabled more accurate predictions of when account holders would deposit or withdraw money and take or repay loans. By forecasting these cash flows at the individual account level, the bank could better manage its liquidity and optimize the allocation of resources, ultimately improving its economic performance.

5. The Experience From Different Spheres Can Be Beneficial, so Just Go for It

Rykunov’s experience reminds us that knowledge in an unrelated field can be a significant advantage in the IT landscape. Thus, he designed a technically sophisticated model aligned with the Treasury Department’s specific needs and challenges. “My economics and data science background helped me in this project,” shares Rykunov.

As businesses worldwide seek to enhance their financial capabilities, Rykunov’s contributions have transformed banking and media and paved the way for a future where AI drives unprecedented growth and success. The new systems and technologies he developed within Yandex Media Services became the foundation for a significant increase in online advertising revenue. The predictive model he made for Raiffeisen Bank Russia led to a considerable improvement in crucial treasury efficiency metrics for the bank. 

At the same time, his work demonstrates that while robots are incredibly useful, they cannot fully replace humans at this point. Therefore, highly skilled professionals like Rykunov are indispensable to the world. Rykunov says, “No robot can ever replace talented individuals with a burning passion. People drive the progress.”

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Greg Grzesiak is an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and Columnist at Grit Daily. As CEO of Grzesiak Growth LLC, Greg dedicates his time to helping CEOs influencers and entrepreneurs make the appearances that will grow their following in their reach globally. Over the years he has built strong partnerships with high profile educators and influencers in Youtube and traditional finance space. Greg is a University of Florida graduate with years of experience in marketing and journalism.

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