Meet the Team is a recurring series on the PowerReviews blog, allowing you to get to know the people behind our success.
We recently sat down with David Hummel, our Chief Technology Officer (CTO), to chat about the excitement of building a team from the ground up, how PowerReviews helps infuse images with meaningful data, and when he likes to take a breather from technology.
What brought you to PowerReviews initially?
I came to PowerReviews to build an engineering team from the ground up, in Chicago. I have had great experiences in the past tapping the Midwest’s diverse talent pool and its wide range of industry backgrounds. It was a rare ‘best of both worlds’ opportunity — we are something between a start-up and an established company. Having the opportunity to find just the right team and build good process without historical baggage is the beauty of start-up. But PowerReviews had accomplished a lot before its acquisition and reboot. We know our value to our customers who are engaged and vocal. This provides a north star and the foundation to everything we do.
In your current role as CTO, you shape the direction of innovations while implementing the technology behind them. What is the most exciting part of your job?
Admittedly, I initially thought the technology involved would be less exciting here than in my previous life as a consultant, where I specialized in bringing high performance technology to some of the world’s largest corporations. But I quickly discovered the challenges here are more demanding.
We power shopping experiences for consumers across thousands of major ecommerce sites, at volumes that exceed any one of the largest individually. We must engage with and help consumers share their voice through media and text by building compelling and well thought out experiences. We also maintain strict and efficient authenticity scores for the millions of users and their reviews, including the hundreds of thousands of images and videos flowing through our system. We do this every day for over 400 million different products.
Having the opportunity to impact transparency and customer engagement on such a large scale provides both a challenge and a meaningful impact. And we are just now unlocking new ways to provide this value, in new industries, and to a broader base of consumers. There is always more to learn.
Speaking of innovations, is your team working on anything new that can help brands and retailers?
We continuously introduce novel ways to engage with and collect more user sentiment from consumers, especially authentic user image and video. We also work hard to understand and predict changes in search and display technologies, to give our customers the biggest SEO impact and most helpful user experience for consumers making that critical buying decision.
At the same time, we are developing radically new ways to classify authentic user sentiment and the relationships between subjects to collect sentiment on. I believe moderation and sharing of user content should not only be accurate, but also highly adaptable to different clients. Our clients have unique personalities, industries and branding that will direct the tone and shape of the most valuable sentiment.
With our technology, consumers seek the opportunity to help brands and manufacturers make better products and to help the broader community find them. We have a vast and honest view into user sentiment, interests and individualism. This is unlike many in our space who depend on complex statistical inference or unwanted “monetization” of consumer privacy to provide value. With an honest and willing consumer relationship, there are endless opportunities for innovation that help merchants and brands thrive in a competitive market.
You seem to really love what you do, but do you have any hobbies or interests in your free time, if there is such a thing?
I probably write code more often during my time off than while at work. I love exploring new ways to use the recent innovations in low power computing, sensing and battery technology. In the past couple years I have built a lidar system from the ground up, an automation OS for a saltwater reef tank and many other fun things.
My wife and I have a daughter (age 6) and a son (age 4). Raising my kids is a big part of my life, and I try to expose them as much as possible to technology, science and math.
Finally, I try to take a run every morning to clear my head and I love being out in nature. Before the kids, my wife and I were avid backpackers. This past year we have tried introducing the kids to hiking trips, and they love it.
Do you ever go “old school” and eschew technology in any part of your life?
At home, I prefer things to have the simplest design with as much physical feedback as possible. We don’t have iPads for the kids; instead we have books, art materials, tools and so on. We don’t avoid technology though, and have many “computing” devices throughout our home. But these are often things we build together and it’s something more personal. I have been an avid user of pennable computing devices for over 10 years, and am a big fan of the things Microsoft is doing in this space.