As a research engineer, Yunsong helps augment search and personalized recommendation experiences for the Houzz community. Outside of work, Yunsong enjoys spending time with his family, and looks forward to sharing his love of the outdoors with his young son.
Why did you decide to become a research engineer? I’ve always been driven by the desire to find and solve difficult challenges, a common trait among research engineers. I studied computer science in school, which led to a PhD in artificial intelligence, and a series of papers and patents on intelligent systems. I’m thrilled to bring intelligent techniques to life.
What brought you to Houzz? A number of my friends were working at Houzz, two of whom I’ve known since we attended the University of Science and Technology of China together. The team was looking for someone with my unique search experience, and I was intrigued by the positive environment that I’d heard about from my friends.
How would you describe what you do at Houzz? My role is focused on search quality. I see myself as a translator helping Houzz to better understand what the customer really wants. Whether a user is looking for a home pro in a specific location or using a lesser known synonym to describe a product they want to purchase for their home, my work integrates the Houzz search platform deep into the home remodeling domain and helps to provide users with the best possible results.
What are some of the challenges to improving search? People generally search with something already in their mind. The inherent challenge for search is to understand the query semantic and the real user intention behind what they typed. The search algorithm must recognize a variety of words, their relations, and what they mean under a specific context. For example, a chair can be contextually described as a seat, stool or bench. The color “red” can describe cabinet color, backsplash color or floor color. Technology must be a bridge between customer understanding and company terminology and resolve ambiguities in each specific situation. That’s why it’s so important to develop a robust catalogue of concepts to give each query meaning.
Do you interact with other teams at Houzz? Yes, my research informs the development of the Houzz infrastructure, so I work closely with that team to build a comprehensive catalogue of query terminology that bridges user intent and remodeling domain concepts. We work together to make our machine learning systems more intelligent. I also work closely with the international and industry solutions teams.
What surprised you about working for Houzz? What surprised and delighted me about working for Houzz is that the leadership empowers you to improve products right away. Within my first two weeks, I had already led my first production deployment. They let me hit the ground running!