Sam Havens

Machine Learning Researcher, Engineer, & Manager | Portland, Oregon | | | 818.590.0484
Experience across the stack, specializing in NLP research, engineering, and management.

Work Experience


Director of NLP Engineering
Sep 2020 - Current

Writer is an AI writing assistant used by brands like Twitter, Intuit, and Accenture. The NLP team uses a microservice architecture based on Kubernetes, FastAPI, HuggingFace Transformers, NVIDIA Triton, and ONNX.

  • Responsible for NLP from research to operations, including >25 microservices
  • Trained an encoder/decoder Grammar Error Correction model using novel synthetic data techniques, which outperformed an open-source baseline by 130%
  • Used NVIDIA Triton and ONNX to serve a character-based transformer spelling correction model while keeping inference latencies below 300ms at 50 req/s


Director of Data Science
Feb 2019 - Sep 2020
  • Reduced mean service latency from >1.5s to <300ms.
  • Grew team from 2 to 6, while improving onboarding effectiveness (time to first commit: from weeks to < 1 day).
  • Implemented classification and seq2seq models in spaCy, Flair, and Marian with aggressive latency requirements.
  • Responsible for all ML Ops. Made models available using modern async/await Python, and Docker/Kubernetes/PubSub, with some help from Bash and Jenkins.


Chief Technology Officer
May 2016 - Jan 2019
  • Created a suite of tools for automotive OEMs and dealers to manage chatbots for their brand on web, chat, and voice platforms.
  • Used Docker/Kubernetes to operate services written in Node.js, Elixir, and Python, and models made in FastText and TensorFlow.
  • Engineering team grew from 4 to 16 during my tenure. Established a strong engineering culture of testing, code reviews, pair programming, and mentorship.


Software Engineer
Mar 2015 - May 2016
  • Created a car comparison shopping tool using React, ES6, Webpack, and MaterialUI.
  • Built a conversational agent with a Node.js/Docker backend and NLP services in Python using FastText, NLTK, and Gensim.

Topanga Mountain School

Board Member and Teacher
Aug 2007 - Current
  • Full-time math and science teacher from 2007-2014.
  • Current board member.


Software Engineer
Apr 2014 - Mar 2015
  • Implemented a probabilistic lead-scoring model and built an MVC lead generation web app with a LAMP backend and d3.js + jQuery frontend


California State University, Northridge

Master of Science Mathematics
2011 - 2013
  • Bianchi Outstanding Graduate Student research award, and IRIS Fellowship recipient.

UC Santa Barbara

Bachelors Physics
2002 - 2006
  • LEAPS Fellow