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Spotify is a Swedish audio streaming and media services provider founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. It is one of the largest music streaming service providers, with over 433 million monthly active users, including 188 million paying subscribers, as of June 2022.

How to stand out when applying for ML engineering positions at high-profile companies?

Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community

Hey everyone,

I'm a senior ML engineer (~4.5 years exp) working at a medium-sized company. My educational background is a BSc and MSc in computer engineering from a not super fancy university in Europe. I wrote a few papers during my university years and as a result of hobby projects, but these were published in mediocre conferences (so not Neurips/ACL-level).

I tried applying to a few ML engineering jobs in the past couple of months (Spotify, Apple and Amazon) but did not hear back. I searched through Linkedin to see the backgrounds of ML engineers working at these companies in my area just to get an idea of the situation. My impression was that a vast majority of these people went to top-tier universities (significant number of people have a Phd), interned at FAANG during their university years, wrote (or contributed to) papers in top ML conferences etc.

I know that ML engineering positions are very competitive at these companies & also the market is very tough now in general, but it got me wondering:

What should someone like me work on to increase my chances of joining one of these companies as a ML engineer? The patterns I see from people working there is hard to achieve at this stage in my life as:

  • I already have a MSc degree and doing another one at a better university does not really make sense
  • Since I'm working as a senior engineer, I don't know if applying for internships positions (even if it's FAANG) is a sensible choice
  • Writing top-tier papers is incredibly time consuming and hardly possible with maintaining a full time job. To be honest, I tried to do this in the past (since I know publications at top-tier conferences matter a lot in these situations), but it really affected my personal life. This is almost like trying to do two full-time jobs, which messed up my WLB.

Some things I was thinking about focusing on that could help me stand out:

  • Writing technical blogposts to our company's engineering blog.

  • Apply to meetups or conferences as a speaker.

  • Certifications (I was thinking of something like or )

  • Focus on promotion to staff/principal MLE. It may be easier to step into a higher tier company by down-leveling.

  • Keep trying to do research/writing papers as a side project, but need to figure out how to do this without burning out.

I honestly don't know if the above sound sensible, so I'd love to hear your opinion on this or if you have any additional ideas.

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Switch jobs or stay to eventually join big tech?

Entry-Level Software Engineer at Startup Company profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Startup Company

I graduated with a master's in CS 1.5 years ago and since then I have been working at a no-name brand company as a full-stack engineer. I would love to join Spotify but I lack prestigious grades and side projects. The tech stack I work in is somewhat old (Angular 2, .NET, no cloud, in-house solution for CI/CD, etc). The company is nevertheless alright and my colleagues are all very friendly, including my boss and manager.

If I would want to join Spotify, should I double down at my current job and try to get those side projects started, or should I consider another position in-between my current position and Spotify in order to increase my chances to join Spotify? The reason why I’m not a big fan of this idea is that I don’t like to join a company with the intent to leave within 1-2 years. The reason why I'm considering changing company is because I worry that my current growth could potentially be a lot higher than what it currently is.

Will my lack of experience in newer frameworks/tools be a large disadvantage to me when I’m looking for a junior/midlevel role at a tech company where being efficient in languages/tools is a must? Is it better to stay since I can make more of an impact now since I’m familiar with my company’s tech stack compared to having to go through an onboarding process at a new company which may result in decreased impact for that period? I would prefer to join big tech in 1 year as a junior engineer, rather than in 10 years as a mid-level engineer.

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