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Episode 7

Talking games & grains with Anton Zaides, Director of engg- Taranis

Explore Anton's journey from game developer to ag-tech leader and how he integrates AI into agriculture on this episode of the Engineering Success Podcast.


Anton Zaides
Director of engg- Taranis

Anton Zaides is the Director of Engineering at Taranis, leading a team of engineers in developing AI-driven ag-tech solutions, leveraging drone technology to enhance agricultural productivity. With over a decade of experience in software development, including roles in game development and team leadership, Anton combines deep technical skills with strategic insight to propel industry innovation.

Can you start by telling us a little about how you started into game development and then to a software development role?
Absolutely, My journey began in high school when my cousin introduced me to coding during the iOS boom in 2007. I started with Objective C, moved to Unity for game development, and eventually realized my passion for software development. I spent a couple of years developing assets for other developers, which was quite rewarding financially and experientially as a teenager.

What drove you to explore different roles in tech?
I was curious about the technical underpinnings of systems—things like operating systems and networking. Initially, I thought DevOps would suit me because it involved foundational knowledge on which applications are built. However, I found it slightly mundane over time because I craved direct interaction with customers and the business side of operations.

Can you tell us more about your current role at Taranis?
Sure, Taranis is quite a leap from where I started. We use drones to fly over vast agricultural fields and capture high-resolution images. These images are then analyzed by our AI to provide farmers with insights about pests, diseases, and weeds directly through our app. It’s about bridging advanced tech with practical, everyday agricultural needs.

How have you handled the integration of AI into your business operations, especially considering the conservative nature of your end-users?
It’s been a challenge, especially with the privacy concerns of farmers. Our initial ideas about integrating more AI features, like chatbots for customer interaction, had to be reconsidered. Farmers are particularly cautious about their data, so we have to navigate these concerns carefully while offering them valuable, tech-driven solutions.

Moving into leadership, what surprised you about transitioning from a DevOps role to a leadership role in software engineering?
The transition was tough, especially because I went from leading a DevOps team back to being a hands-on developer before stepping into leadership again. Each step taught me more about what I wanted and how I wanted to influence the business. It was also about finding a balance between technical work and managerial responsibilities, which continues to be a learning curve.

What strategies do you employ to balance development productivity, team health, and product quality?
The key is understanding the seasonal nature of our business. During peak seasons, the demand on the team is high, so we push hard, but I make sure to prepare the team mentally and ensure they get time to recuperate afterward. In quieter months, we focus on sustainable pace and quality improvements.

How do you manage your teams, especially in a remote or hybrid setup?
Remote management was initially challenging, but it's about trusting the team and giving them space to perform. We've established core hours to ensure overlap and effective collaboration but also respect individual work preferences. It’s about setting clear expectations and being flexible within those boundaries.

As a director of engineering, how do you ensure your team spends their time on the right projects?
It’s all about alignment with business objectives. I challenge the roadmap regularly, asking tough questions to ensure we’re not just busy, but productive and impactful. I advocate for agility—not just in terms of speed but flexibility in direction. If something isn’t working, we need to be ready to pivot quickly based on real-time feedback.

What’s your approach to technology decisions that don't pan out as expected?Mistakes are inevitable, especially in a field as dynamic as tech. When a technology choice doesn’t deliver as expected, it’s crucial to reassess quickly. We have a culture of openness where we can critique and shift our strategies without blame, which helps us adapt and innovate continuously.

What advice would you give to engineering leaders looking to secure a seat at the strategic table?
Visibility is key. You don’t need to be the best technician on the team, but you must be seen and heard. Speak up about product directions, be involved in business discussions, and show that you understand and care about where the business is going. It’s about bridging the gap between engineering and business outcomes.

Looking forward, how do you see the role of AI and technology evolving in agriculture?
The potential is enormous.  The challenge will be in integration and ensuring that the technology we develop is accessible and genuinely useful. The journey in tech is never a straight line. It’s full of twists and challenges, but each step is an opportunity to learn and grow. Stay curious, be open to change, and keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

- Anton Zaides

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