Meet the Global LINERS

Engineering

Harry Yao / AI Development / China

Harry Yao was one of the first LINERs to join LINE China's AI development team in 2016, helping to grow it into a successful and key part of LINE’s operations in China. Now the lead of the AI development team, Harry talked to us about his experiences at LINE, both in terms of technology and operations.

A quick three-line summary

  • Harry is the lead of the AI development team.
  • Harry's LINE STYLE is "Users Rule" and "Always Data-driven."
  • Engineers need more than technical competence; they also need to understand services and operations.

About work

Q Please give us an introduction to your duties and responsibilities.

The LINE China AI development team was created in 2016, and since then we have aimed to rapidly adopt the latest technology and improve the user experience by incorporating AI technology into various services on the LINE platform. Most of my team joined LINE after working at leading IT companies in China for a long time. My team members and I have developed three major successful projects so far. First of all was with LINE’s image-related functions, providing an intelligent image inspection program based on deep learning, object recognition, image performance improvements, and multilingual optical character recognition (OCR) services. These services are already available within the LINE platform, processing hundreds of millions of requests a day. Second was our text-related work, developing such technologies as text classification, clustering, and sentiment analysis using industry-leading natural language processing technology. This is also widely used within the LINE platform. Finally, there was our mobile AI technology development. Motion recognition, vertical segmentation, and the ability to separate faces from hair in images provided to LINE Messenger were all developed by our team. You can also experience this technology when you use LINE LIVE, a live video streaming service, and LINE's mobile games.

Q What’s something at LINE you’ve been most proud of?

The fact that I can work with highly competent colleagues with great professional skills is the best thing. My colleagues in the AI development group are very good people with excellent capabilities and personalities. It makes for a positive and passionate work environment. As we work on projects, we can discuss new ideas and try to solve disagreements without creating bad feelings, and because the process is so positive, everyone appreciates completing each project even more. Next, we pride ourselves on developing services that are used by hundreds of millions of people. As LINE has a wide variety of users, transcending regions, language, or culture, the way we develop our services affect more people than we realize. We lay the foundation for users to experience LINE's mission of "Closing the Distance," and help improve people’s lives through the LINE platform. I'm really proud of that. Lastly, when I was thinking about joining the company, the lead at the time talked with me honestly about the future of LINE. Looking back four years later, we had actually achieved what we planned and I am very proud of that.

Q The LINE platform is not widely used in China. But given that limitation, do you ever feel any cultural or linguistic barriers when collaborating with LINERs in other countries?

First of all, LINE's goal is to serve users around the world. Therefore, even though different R&D centers develop different functions, they do not target only specific countries or regions. What’s more, all of LINE's development centers share the same development source. With the help of the service operation department, you can also check on user needs and get feedback from various fields, so you can develop a quality service that all LINE users can use. Finally, LINE China is one of LINE’s R&D centers, with a great environment for development. We also use excellent communication techniques to develop services with colleagues from other centers. We can experience a variety of cultures through our annual exchange activities and business trips to other R&D centers. English is used when communicating with other centers online, but you can also get help from a professional translation team for meetings or direct conversations.

What do you need for success?

Q What does someone need to succeed on the AI development team?

First of all, it is good to have a warm personality, with a solid attitude, technical competence and the ability to learn and collaborate well with others. We really value personality and attitude. I think it's important to be able to get along well with your colleagues because these are the people you work with eight hours each day. In addition, even if your technical skills are not perfect, it is good to have the potential to grow and improve your development skills. The two LINE STYLE categories that I consider as most important are “Users Rule” and “Always data-driven.” The habit of data-driven thinking is important when trying to understand how users behave. This allows us to continuously improve the quality of our services, and we can think about making LINE better for everyone.

Special experiences at LINE

Q Do you have any particularly unforgettable memories at LINE?

LINE's work environment is serious, lively, and diverse. From that point of view, the thing that surprised me the most was going to a hot spring in Japan, and the most unforgettable was eating pork belly in Korea. I have many opportunities to go on business trips to Japan and Korea, but once in Fukuoka, my Japanese colleagues took me and my team members to a hot spring outside the city. I will never forget the experience of lying down with a cool drink in a hot spring, shaded by trees and talking freely about unimportant things with colleagues. When I go on a business trip to Korea, I often eat barbecued pork belly and drink soju—my favorite combination—with my Korean colleagues after finishing work. In the future, I hope to visit more development groups from around the world to experience more diverse cultures, foods and beer.

Q Tell us about your experience at the technology seminar at LINE.

On the main stage at LINE Dev Week in 2018, we had an opportunity to present on behalf of the Chinese AI development team. LINE Dev Week was an event where all LINERs from around the world gathered together to exchange technological knowhow and share ideas. During my presentation, I introduced the AI algorithms, AI models, and AI platforms developed by the AI development department to my LINE colleagues around the world. After the presentation and Q&A session, I received good feedback from many colleagues, and the development group in China was recognized for its technical capabilities and state-of-the-art layout. It was a really meaningful moment being able to show off the amazing skills at LINE China.

Wrap-up

Q Do you have any goals you personally want to achieve?

I think I am very lucky to be able to grow with LINE at this stage of my career. While continuing to be part of the AI development team, I would like to develop services that can provide better experiences for LINE and LINE users using AI technology. It would be even better if we can create a great team that is able to provide a complete set of AI solutions in the next few years. In addition, I would like to grow my knowledge in service design and operations, in addition to my technical capabilities. I want to cultivate the ability to understand services from various perspectives by learning more from different areas. Services are the result of developing technology, but the way they are operated is the process of encouraging users to use them. Therefore, if I understand the whole process in-depth, I will be able to get a deeper understanding of our users as well.