Meet Jordan — Search & Discovery
Coupang Search & Discovery (S&D) recommends billions of products as intended for customers and is building the next-generation infrastructure. S&D organization at Coupang is well known for its culture of collaborating and learning from each other to wow the customers. Top talents work together for the same goal and amplify synergy.
Today, we sat down with Jordan who optimizes customer experience as a Ranking Engineering leader.
Thank you for your time, Jordan. Please introduce yourself.
Hi. I am Jordan, Director of Ranking Engineering in S&D. Since I was a child, I was quite interested in video game development. I wrote and modified existing games on my Commodore 64. During college, I saw researchers embody AI-driven characters using video games, which drove my interest in what I would do next. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Brain and Cognitive Science and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. After graduating, I started my career in the video game industry where I cofounded a startup selling middleware to game developers. I then joined one of the big tech companies where I worked on core search ranking, CLIR (Cross-Language Information Retrieval, known as translated search), search ranking for videos, and voice-driven search and recommendations. My major achievement there was expanding translated search to 52 new languages. At the other big tech company, which focused on e-commerce and cloud services, I worked on personalization, founding the team which moved the shopping app from a static menu to a highly personalized system.
Currently, you are overseeing Ranking Engineering at Coupang. Could you introduce your role and team at Coupang in more detail?
I lead the team called Search Quality consisting of two sub-teams — Candidate Generation and Search Ranking. Two teams work very closely and are collectively responsible for several phases of search. First stage ranking uses lightweight models to select the best candidates from the list of retrieved products, second stage ranking which utilizes more heavyweight models to further refine the result set, and the third and final stage of ranking performs final optimization of the result set.
My teams largely focus on conversion prediction, which uses models to estimate the probability that a given product will be purchased for the customer query. This contrasts with relevance whose job is to determine whether a given product matches the query but is less concerned with how popular the product is or how likely it is to actually be purchased for that query.
As the lead of Search Quality, I wear a few hats. But in broad terms, it’s my responsibility to ensure that the search team is working on projects which bring maximum value to our customers, wowing them with our ability to help them find something they would like to purchase, quickly and effortlessly. At any given time, there are an endless number of projects we can potentially work on, so applying the Coupang leadership principle of “Ruthless Prioritization” is crucial. I work with the team to identify the most promising projects that can bring big improvements to the search experience. At the same time, I manage the existing search system to ensure that it is running smoothly and customers experience no disruption as we rapidly improve it on their behalf.
What sets Coupang, especially your team, apart from other tech companies in terms of engineering excellence?
Hiring top talent and growing that talent is also a critical part of my work as the search system is only as good as the engineers who build it. At Coupang, we pride ourselves on hiring only the best engineers and the Search Quality team is certainly no exception. At senior levels, we search for industry veterans who bring extensive search background to the table while also having the ability and interest in “Moving with Urgency” per our leadership principle. At more junior levels, we look for engineers who are quick learners and who are excited to work in our fast-paced environment because that motivates them and excites them as they see their own growth propel them forward in their career here.
So the first thing that sets us apart in terms of engineering excellence is having excellent people on our team — team members who show a passion for building the best search system in the world and who are thus good stewards of the search system because they know that any shortcuts or tech debt they take on will only come back to bite them in the future. Another trait shared by all team members is a curiosity to learn and share with one another. The team environment is collaborative and not competitive. To paraphrase the words of a former SIGIR (Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval) keynote speaker, ”When we compete, we are each trying to get a larger piece of the pie for ourselves. But when we cooperate, we are collectively increasing the total size of the pie.” The team understands this, and I have never seen anything other than a strongly collaborative environment here. As a result, the team has a shared sense of responsibility for the system it’s creating and doesn’t make engineering decisions in a greedy manner which benefits the self at the expense of the whole.
What about the team was attracted to you that helped your decision to join? Why did you choose to join Coupang?
I was initially excited by the really collaborative environment here, so that’s what piqued my interest. And during the interview process, I was impressed with every single person who interviewed me. This left a really good impression regarding the team and Coupang. After learning more about Coupang, I realized what a huge opportunity it was to work at a company still in its growth phase with a bright future ahead. Finally, I felt that commerce is something that is here to stay and will only benefit more and more people in the future, so I was philosophically on board with the company’s mission and felt that it brought a meaningful benefit to society.
Then, what is special about working at Coupang as Ranking engineers?
There are several things. If I had to highlight just one, what stands out to me as not just special but truly unique, it is the amount of scope and ownership each engineer can have here. We are entrusted with one of the most critical systems for the customers and our company, and every team member gets to play a huge role. This allows us to learn and grow quickly, and to take pride in what we do, knowing that we are very significant contributors to the search system that improves the lives of our customers.
Do you have any advice for those who are considering to apply or prospective new joiners?
Get excited and ready for the adventure of your life. Coupang is a unique company that offers a rare opportunity to learn from the best in the industry and execute at a fast pace. It has the potential to propel you forward in your understanding of your domain, in your leadership skill, and in your career. Come in with a collaborative attitude and try to forge relationships within your own team and with others quickly as those relationships will pay dividends for you down the line. Come ready to both learn from others and also share what you know from your past experience. When solving problems here, leverage your past experience but also be wary of over-applying it because every problem is different and every company is different. So it’s still important to approach problems from first principles to avoid over-generalizing your existing knowledge and experience. And, most importantly, have fun doing what you do here.
Coupang's S&D organization is looking for those who can understand business requirements and lead various solutions as an engineering lead in the U.S., Korea, and China. If you are looking for an opportunity to create positive impact on customers’ everyday lives, this is the time for you to join.