Thanh Tran

VP of Engineering (Head of Data Science & Infrastructure and Search Engineering) at Upwork

San Jose, CA

How does this work?

- Executive: built and lead a team of 50+ scientists and data/ml/search engineers to innovate the core engine behind the world's largest marketplace for online staffing and flexible work (NASDAQ: UPWK, - Entrepreneur: successfully helped Bay Area startups raised capital ($40+ million), and built his own company around technology innovations including SearchWebDB, the first semantic search solution capable of answering natural language queries over billions of records at the 2008 Billion Triple Challenge. - Professor: led world-wide top research group in semantic search, most cited article 5-years period award, among top-5 Semantic Search and top-50 in Web Search per 2016 Google Scholar global index.

Work experience

Jun 2019 - Present


VP of Engineering (Head of Data Science & Infrastructure and Search Engineering)

Join my team of scientists and ML/data/search engineers to work on unique challenges in these areas (see Search and Recommendation - Multi-sided matching: search and recommendation models to match clients and contractors & optimizing for marketplace constraints to ensure long-term health; requires learning-to-rank, learning-to-match, collaborative filtering, and unique methods for label generation and attribution over deep user funnels. Marketplace Optimization and Growth - Supply and demand modeling in two-/multi-sided marketplaces. - Optimal pricing: short-term marketplace optimality vs. long-term growth. - User modeling, user acquisition/retention/growth. Knowledge Graph - Build the de-facto standard conceptual model for online labor marketplaces; requires word/object embeddings, entity linking, assisted knowledge graph construction. - Knowledge graph applications: semantic query suggestion, semantic search and knowledge-based marketplace optimization. Data Science Infrastructure - End-to-end pipeline for standardized ML model training, scoring and validation; requires unifying stream and batch processing and scaling stream-based data processing for context-rich real-time model scoring. - Scalable platform for AB testing and product optimization: process and platform for more, better and faster experiments, bandit algorithms for online optimization.


Jan 2014 - Present


Advisor of StartX & Bay Area startups

- 2019: Helping Variant Labs (technology provider for large APEC online / mobile gaming operators) build core AI team and develop solutions for player & game analytics and AI/bot detection to ensure security and fairness in online games. - 2016: Helped Striiv built a scalable ETL+ML pipeline for handling large volumes of sensor data from wristband devices, and developed a ML solution to prove feasibility of detection of sleep apnea using PPG data. - 2016: Led a stealth startup to build a chat-bot based social network for place and product recommendations using advanced tech for natural language conversations and searching over large-scale data. - 2016-2019: Entrepreneur in Residence (Summer 2016 batch) and adviser for many StartX companies in topics such as building distributed teams, search technologies, Knowledge Graph, Big Data and AI.


Jun 2018 - Jun 2019


Snr Director, Head of Data Science & Infrastructure


Aug 2017 - Jun 2018


Director, Head of Data Science Infrastructure


Sep 2016 - Dec 2016


Founder at Stanford's Accelerator StartX (Fall 2016 Batch)

Jan 2014 - Dec 2016

Lyfeline Corporation

CTO and Co-founder

- Built and managed product & engineering teams across 3 locations. - Patented and shipped Lyfeline Parenting Advice for new parents to receive on-demand chat-based consultation from pediatric experts. - Shipped Lyfeline Milestones, which in 2016, has the highest number of App Store 5-stars reviews and downloads in the area of Child Development. - Pioneered a ML-based solution that helps early detect autism (age of 14 months vs. average of 4 years) and together with Stanford researchers, developed a mobile therapy solution that can be administered by parents.

Aug 2012 - Jan 2014


CEO and Co-founder

Together with researchers from KIT, built knowledge graph management and commercialized semantic search innovations.

Jan 2010 - Mar 2013

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Assistant Professor

- Built and led one of the worldwide top research group in semantic search (measured in terms of publications and awards for tech innovations). - Helped establish semantic search as a new research discipline and build research community around it via organization of the series of International Semantic Search Workshop.


Mar 2011 - Sep 2011

Stanford University

Visiting Assistant Professor

Worked on managing and searching data (ontologies and textual documents) in the NCBO BioPortal,

Jun 2006 - Jan 2010

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Research Associate / PhD Stundent

Carried out research, developed software prototypes and managed research projects funded by the German Federal Government and the European Union.


Oct 2005 - Jun 2006


Sr Software Engineer

Developed J2EE-based customized integration and management softwares for DHL logistics (US branches).


Oct 2004 - Oct 2005


Software Engineer

Developed prototype and piloted one the first speech recognition/synthesis based automated job hotline in Germany.

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