Why I Moved to Pittsburgh – Machine Learning Edition

Pittsburgh’s tech renaissance has been widely covered from steel to silicon and rust belt to robot belts. It’s a great story that we never get tired of hearing, it’s just that almost always, the story only talks about the companies that have started up or moved here. Pittsburgh has grown because of these companies, but it’s the people who make the real difference.

UPMC Enterprises has employees from across the country and around the world helping to create life changing medicine. Since their stories are rarely told, we’re taking a new approach and sitting down with a few, starting with our Machine Learning (ML) team. They’re responsible for working alongside clinical champions to develop solutions that can be used at UPMC and more broadly applied to health care in general. They’re currently working alongside UPMC pathology to build a computer vision application to more accurately and quantifiably identify specific types of cancer, among other projects.

Follow along below to find out why each packed up and headed East (or West, North, or South) to make the ‘burgh their new home.

If you’re interested in coming to the ‘Steel City’, visit our careers page to search open positions.

Where are you originally from and when did you move to Pittsburgh?

Keith Callenberg Machine Learning

Name: Keith Callenberg

Title: Manager, Machine Learning

I’m originally from San Francisco but moved to Pittsburgh for grad school in 2008. I had a choice between a joint Carnegie Mellon University-University of Pittsburgh PhD program, or taking a larger stipend through an NSF fellowship at Iowa State. Even though the stipend was better at Iowa State, I was more excited about the research going on here in Pittsburgh.

 

Ade Lawal - Machine LearningName: Ade Lawal

Title: Associate Machine Learning Engineer

I’m from Maryland and came to Pittsburgh in 2013 to study math at Carnegie Mellon University. I didn’t know much about the city except that my 8th grade crush told me she planned on going to CMU, so I jokingly said I was going to get in too. Turns out I did, and after graduating, decided to stay here.

 

 

Adit Machine LearningName: Adit Sanghvi

Title: Machine Learning Engineer

I’m originally from Pune, India, and moved to Pittsburgh in 2016. I also studied at Carnegie Mellon University, earning a master’s degree. Prior to Pittsburgh, I studied in Adelaide, Australia, so transitioning from the scorching heat to the Pittsburgh winter was a pretty big shock!

 

 

What has kept you in Pittsburgh?

Ade: I had a job offer to work for a finance company in New York after graduation. It was a great position, but felt limited based on my interests. When I was offered a machine learning position in Pittsburgh, it made the decision to stay much easier. Since then I’ve started to form relationships here and now, I really don’t see myself leaving.

Adit: I really like the charm of Pittsburgh and think it’s the perfect size. It’s big enough to have a lot of things to do, but small enough that housing and travel is reasonable. The other benefit is that it’s a growing city and a great place to start out. I have a couple friends who said that entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh is easier than other places.

Keith: Family was one of the biggest reasons – my wife and I have family here – but cost of living played a role, too. The lower cost of living does more than just let you buy a house. You can have more radical, interesting ideas because you aren’t necessarily limited by budget. For instance, I considered joining a couple of somewhat risky startups after getting my PhD. You can really build your own game plan here. VCs will say that you need to be in Boston, San Francisco, or New York, but more and more things are happening here and remotely.

What opportunities do you see for fellow engineers and how does the tech scene compare to other places like Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle, etc.?

Adit: Pittsburgh is a growing city, which offers opportunities and challenges. For instance, it’s easier to get started here because the competition is smaller than other places, but that also means that it’s harder to get funding. I still think there is a lot of room to grow, especially for engineers. You can make a name for yourself faster and build a solid network.

Keith: The biggest thing for me is the opportunity to build domain knowledge by working with clinicians. We’re gaining access to a rich variety of different use cases and to a certain extent, are at the hub because of our work with both internal and external stakeholders. The ML team is collaborating directly with these clinicians who are key influencers and decision makers to help their ideas materialize and grow.

Ade: The tech scene here is still blooming, so there are a lot of opportunities for ambitious engineers to make a name for themselves. The ML team at UPMC is still relatively new, so we have a lot of autonomy and the ability to really take ownership of our projects. The only downside to a still growing industry is that open positions are limited. I expect that to change as more companies come.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Pittsburgh?

Keith: It has to be the underdog feeling. The city of Pittsburgh is something worth rooting for. There is a potential energy here that comes from the relatively low cost of living, kind of like a spring that’s compressed. Just tons of potential that’s only starting to get tapped into.

Ade: Besides my favorite Chinese food restaurant, Red Dragon, I really enjoy the area. I live in Bakery Square, an area that attracts a lot of tech people in Pittsburgh. It’s an interesting community to meet people who are doing the same things and have similar interests. A bonus is that the cost of living is great. To live in the same place in California or New York would be impossible.

Adit: My mom is an architect and has had a painting of Fallingwater hanging in her office for the past 30 years. It was completely random that I started working here, so when she was finally able to visit, I took her to see one of her dream buildings!

Interested in joining the team? Visit our careers page to view all open positions.