Daniel was born outside of Tel Aviv, Israel. He served in the Israeli Defense Forces from 2002-2005, and then received his BSc in Bioinformatics from Tel Aviv University in 2012. After moving to Boston in 2013, Daniel began his MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014, graduating from the Sloan School of Management in 2016.
After MIT, Daniel worked at Salesforce for nearly five years – beginning as a Product Manager, and eventually joining Salesforce’s newly-established Einstein AI Platform as Director of Product Management.
We were lucky enough to add Daniel to the RI team in March of 2021, when he joined as our Head of Product.
What made you interested in the machine learning and artificial intelligence space?
Especially in a startup, where each person carries the weight of ten, a positive culture about life and work can make or break company growth. In these fireside chats, we hope to share some of the fascinating life trajectories that have led members of Robust Intelligence to the team and contributed to RI’s momentum.
During his MBA at MIT, Daniel’s focus was on data analytics and machine learning/artificial intelligence. His professional path began after he moved to San Francisco in 2016, when he began working as a Product Manager on the business intelligence and operational reporting team at Salesforce.
“I was always drawn to data and data analytics, and after two and a half years working in the space, I thought – let me try some of that machine learning stuff,” Daniel told us.
“Trying some of that machine learning stuff” turned into managing data pipelines on the AI platform team at Salesforce.
Daniel talked about the large-scale shift to automation and artificial intelligence that is currently reshaping the business world – a shift which has accelerated in the last several years, and contributed to his interest in Robust Intelligence.
“It’s a super interesting time to be at RI, because there are a lot of problems that are cropping up the more that companies get into automation – businesses with ML teams need to ensure that they’re doing things in the right way at scale, and Robust Intelligence helps meet those needs.”
We were lucky enough to bring Daniel on board in January 2021. “The interesting thing about RI is that we were trying to find our product market fit for a long time,” Daniel explained. “A lot of the companies along the industry that are trying to get into ML and AI are building out their infrastructure, setting up, making sure their processes are automated. The more adoption of AI there is, the more hunger there will be for our product and for what we do as a company.”
In other words, AI/ML is the new frontier – and the kind of work that Daniel does as Product Manager is essential in helping to regulate that frontier.
What’s a day in the life as a Product Manager for Robust Intelligence look like?
Being a Product Manager requires an incredibly wide range of skills: domain expertise, business expertise, leadership skills, and an acute eye for detail. You have to understand both the product and the market at a deep level, so that you can communicate clients’ needs into something that is buildable and functional.
When we asked Daniel what an ideal day as Product Manager looks like, he described it as one spent mostly with customers and prospects, getting to know them and their needs better.
“You want to be able to empathize with your customer and understand how they can get value out of the product you build.”
Daniel explained his position and responsibilities as the intermediary in a feedback loop – one which involves connecting with customers, learning about their problems, and then trying to dissect and derive actionable items to bring back to the engineering team. To be effective in his position, he has to speak two languages: the language of business, and the language of machine learning/artificial intelligence.
Simply put, Daniel is the glue between RI’s product (RIME) and RI’s customer network.
What past life/hobby/school/work experiences do you think impacted your journey to the machine learning space?
In his role as Product Manager, Daniel carries more than just an MBA and a great attitude into the workplace: he also brings the wisdom of jiu jitsu practitioner and a former IDF reconnaissance unit squad commander.
Daniel lit up when talking about jiu jitsu, describing it as “physical chess” – a sport equal parts physical and mental. “There could be someone 40 pounds heavier than you who’s lying on top of you, and it might seem like there’s no way you can get out of the situation,” Daniel told us. Anyone who’s worked a 60+ hour workweek knows that work can feel that way, too – like there’s a gigantic weight on your chest, and you have no idea how to go about getting yourself free.
“Something jiu jitsu has taught me is to breathe, focus, and don’t panic – collect yourself and analyze the situation to understand what your next best move is. I think those thoughts transition really well into the work world.”
In other words, a good fighter is always present in the moment. When he’s sparring, Daniel says it’s all about “Not worrying about yourself or how you’re doing versus someone else, but just solving the situation in a collected manner.” The ability to problem-solve on your feet is exactly the skillset Daniel uses when he connects the needs of data science/ML VPs with the capacities of the RI engineering team.
Similarly, reflecting on his time in the military, Daniel talked about how mindset is everything. “With a lot of the things you have to do to accomplish by the end of military training, you think to yourself: ‘There’s no way I can do this.’ You start something about you feel like there’s no way you’re gonna do it – you’re pushed to your limits and past your limits, and then you realize that you can do so much more than you think you can.”
What do you find the most exciting about working at Robust Intelligence?
Daniel is a problem-solver and a people person. When we asked him to describe what makes working at RI exciting, he talked about the fulfillment that comes with building deep connections with customers.
“There’s this one very special moment where you put your product in the hands of your users and they say this is valuable to me, or this solves the problem that I have, and it kind of brings goosebumps to my skin. You know you’re solving someone’s problem, and you’re helping someone out when they need it.”
As the intermediary between RIME and the client, Daniel described the validation of knowing that what was built is usable, functional, and making a difference.
What brought you to Robust Intelligence?
Maybe from all his practiced years of answering customers’ and engineers’ questions, Daniel was always quick to give an extremely articulate and interesting response. When we asked Daniel the age-old “Why did you decide to work here?” question, though, he paused for a moment – after just a few seconds of quiet thinking, he gave us this perfect, pithy answer:
“Because Robust Intelligence is the intersection of a great market, a great value proposition, and great people.”
We didn’t ask any follow-up questions. He had us sold.
“It’s a very trusting environment. There’s a bunch of good people working together trying to do great things.”