Laust, from builder and fixer to architect

Laust is UNSILO’s new lead developer. What’s your background, Laust?

I’ve worked within companies, as well as for a consultancy organisation, and as a consultant myself. One company I worked with is Bang & Olufsen, where I worked on home streaming, and as a consultant I worked with a major banking and insurance companies as well as startups. This was

a small consultancy working with big corporations, and we could help out with departments and fix problems and build solutions. We were able to provide solutions because we offered a fresh approach – we were able to get to the bottom of things in a different way. One major banking client had a system that had been down for 48 hours and they were already desperate before we even got involved. I was able to identify one of the data partners had made a slight change that made everything fall over. When everything is on fire, it’s always challenging to identify what has gone wrong. We each have a mental model of how a system works, but the reality may well be very different.

A startup I worked for was Change Healthcare, based in Nashville, Tennessee – I worked remotely with them for three years. They have an innovative system making US healthcare costs more transparent (a very complex topic), and identifying ways of saving money, for example by switching brand of medicines or healthcare provider. I was a developer helping to incrementally evolve the platform, or could be described as a “builder and fixer”.

What’s your role at UNSILO?

Here at UNSILO I’m going to be doing a bit more architectural work, including information integration. UNSILO is interesting since even though it is a small company there are a lot of pots to stir, as it were, a lot of different skills required to deliver the results. There is the machine learning, of course, but also a front-end team, services and devops teams, and they all need to communicate for the tools to work well. There are many ways of thinking about architecture: information flow is one way to look at it, and there is also where and how we store the data, and how accessible it is. At UNSILO we build primarily on Amazon cloud services, and we want to leverage what they can provide.

The first thing I do at UNSILO is to understand the systems and how everything fits together. My experience with continually improving large and complex systems will hopefully prove useful. My goal at UNSILO will be to improving systems for long term robustness and evolvability. I’m not a machine-learning expert, although for my master’s thesis I built a small search engine from scratch. Among other things it automatically detected plausible synonyms, so I do have some idea of this space. Since then I have spent much time building business software, and for each organisation where I work, I’ve concentrated on building the core services – the trigger parts. My method has been to build new things as “feature slices”, very small units of code that can be slotted in rapidly, with low risk.

What do you think of Aarhus?

I grew up in a small town south of Aarhus, and I studied at the University. I like Aarhus – it’s friendly, not so large that you feel lost. It has a bit of everything, and the public transport system just works. There are even some nice forests nearby.

Do you prefer working in small or large companies? It depends on the team – it’s the people you spend your time with that make a difference. UNSILO has an unusually wide mix of ages and backgrounds, which makes for some interesting discussions, and one thing I have learned is that there is a benefit to experience. I see my role as looking at a problem and before jumping to a conclusion, see if there are better ways of solving it that will not come back to bite us.

UNSILO is a company working close to the leading edge in AI – do you enjoy that?

I’m not a researcher myself, but I’d like to help the researcher journey. That’s what makes UNSILO different: it’s not just another widget company or business solution, but a fundamental rethink of the way academic research takes place.

You’ve joined UNSILO just in time for the annual summer party, which this year includes street basketball and water skiing. Are you OK with activities?

Oh yes, activity days are quite common here. I’ve been strapped down in a fast-moving speedboat, freed myself from an escape room – I’m used to these kind of things.

Many thanks, Laust.

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