Faculty Recognition – Interview with Marcelo Guerra Hahn
Marcelo Guerra Hahn has more than 17 years of experience in software development, data analysis, testing, and project management. He is very passionate about data and using data to facilitate decision-making. Marcelo led the engineering team at SoundCommerce, a startup in data analysis for e-commerce business, and has worked for Tableau and Microsoft. He holds a master’s in computer science from the Universidad de la República in Uruguay, an MBA and a master’s in applied mathematics from the University of Washington, and a master’s in applied statistics from Texas A&M.
Morgan: Marcelo, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the STC Thursday Byte. Let’s start off by telling us about your career path that brought you to where you are today.
Marcelo: Since I was very young, I have been fascinated with computers and how to program them. I then selected Computer Science as my area of study back in Uruguay. After graduating from University, I started working in a company in Uruguay as a developer and then lead developer. While working there, I got an opportunity to work at Microsoft in the USA. I submitted my resume and was selected to work in the C# team. Over time I changed teams and worked in Windows Phone, Azure, Windows Server, and C++ and moved from individual contributor to manager. After nine years of working at Microsoft, I decided to join Tableau, worked in the data and infrastructure teams, and became a manager of managers. After four years of Tableau, I moved to work for SoundCommerce as head of engineering for the company and did that for two years.
Morgan: What’s one thing you wish you had known when you began your career?
Marcelo: I wish I had known about the importance of the non-technical side of work. In school, we spent most of the time-solving problems and none on things like working on teams, especially multi-disciplinary teams. I had to catch up on this as I started working quickly.
Morgan: How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things within your current role/area of expertise?
Marcelo: From a technology perspective, I constantly have to keep up with the changes. In the past years, I’ve had to learn data analysis, visualization, cloud computing, and many other things that were not popular or available not that long ago. To do this, I take classes, watch videos, and participate in talks and conferences. From a soft-skills perspective, I teach and work on projects outside of my main job, especially in the non-profit sector.
Morgan: What are some of the things you’re researching and/or learning right now?
Marcelo: I’m learning modern UI technologies and cloud scaling technologies. I’m also looking at teaching mechanics, especially theories on automatic feedback and ways to improve assessment-related activities.
Morgan: We hear about success, but I think it is more powerful for our readers to listen to you talk about your biggest failure (which I prefer to call biggest lesson); can you tell us about your ‘biggest lesson’ and what you learned from it?
Marcelo: The one I remember the most came from Windows Phone when we worked for a long time on a phone that flopped, and we all had to move to other teams. We spent a lot of time on this, and we were having a good time working on it. However, it wasn’t a good product. From then on, I’ve learned that I should keep an eye on the actual end goal, in this case, to create a successful outcome and not overfocus on the work happening in a particular moment.
Morgan: What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career like yours?
Marcelo: Make sure you have a good time working with computers. The Computer Science field has become very popular, especially given the high salaries. However, the work requires spending a lot of time programming. Try solving some programming problems and see if time goes by fast. If that happens, you’ll likely have a good time working in the field.
Morgan: Great advice! What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
Marcelo: Schools have been a great source of information and networking with experts, managers have usually helped me along the way, and mentors have also been a good source of information and support.
Morgan: What is the one common myth about your profession or field that you want to debunk?
Marcelo: Myth: You can learn to program quickly and get a high-paying job. As with any other skill, learning programming requires time, and high-paying companies are hard to get into. I’d rephrase it to, if you put the time and learn to program, you can get a high-paying job.
Morgan: What have you read or listened to recently that inspired you?
Marcelo: I was looking at how technologies such as cloud computing are enabling young people to get more involved in the Computer Science area and to start small companies across the world. I think this will eventually give people worldwide similar opportunities to the ones we get in the US.
Morgan: Where can our students connect with you online?
Morgan: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed.