A software engineer by trade, Claudia Vicol currently leads the platform infrastructure and data engineering teams of Marktplaats.nl, part of eBay Classifieds Group.

Her talk at Codemotion Amsterdam 2019 was about the multi-armed bandit problem. So how important are maths and data science for IT in general?

“I believe that maths and data science are very important. However, do not let that stop you from trying because you can get 90% of the way with the maths and data science you learn in university as a computer science graduate – this is what I did. I am not a data scientist but still I was able to make big advances. So don’t let the maths scare you.”

Claudia says her biggest challenge at Marktplaats is the creation of a self-service culture. “We provide the tools but the team needs to take ownership of the content that is inside those tools. And also we need to provide a tool that can work for all the teams so we cannot spend the time to make something specific for only one team, so we have to spend our time very wisely because we’re a small team that services, let’s say, 15 other teams, so we’re spread around.”

Scala is a current programming language favourite of Claudia’s – but can different languages help developers get results?

“I believe you have to know different programming languages because they serve different purposes. For example, with Scala you can do very fast experimentation, you have to write very little code to get something out there, so if you want to just trial things it will be faster. With Java being a larger community and you have many more libraries, you can do things that are more stable and that are there for the long term. The same with PHP or Go, they serve different purposes and the more you know, the better it can help you to do things faster.”

As a woman in the industry, Claudia says she entered the programming world with a very big dream.

“I wanted to become a game developer because I like games. Of course, I didn’t end up being a game developer! But I still like programming. Initially, when you see the movies and everything, you think it’s super easy, you just start typing and something will happen. But I think the most important skill you have to have is grit. You have to hang in there; it’s not going to come easily. You have to learn and you have to learn basically every day. You have to learn new things, you have to stay current, so you have to carve out this time in your life to continuously improve and you also have to be open to feedback.”