Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dublin GTUG

So last night I spoke at the Dublin Google Development Group, which is held in the Google Offices in Barrow Street. For all the times I've passed those offices, either by foot or train, I've never actually been in there and usually looked enviously upon their facilities (I believe they've now got a 25m pool, which for me would be, well, awesome). I was invited by Eoin Bailey (from Trinity), who up until last night (I believe), has been running the group and interestingly, the "head" of the group cannot be a Google employee. Apart from the slick, professional set-up there's also food and non-alcoholic drinks beforehand with a potential retirement to the Schoolhouse afterwards.

The facilities were obviously excellent, sweet theatre ("What's up Doc" was the name I believe) with excellent seating, screens etc as you'd expect. The group were seemed interested in my talk but I think I lost most folk when I began talking about sharding, possibly my fault :( Working the bank holiday as the only person in EMEA and having a crazy day on Tuesday, due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy on my NYC colleagues, meant that I turned up knackered and with essentially little prep done. Far from ideal and a big no-no for me usually but as the invite had been agreed a long time ago, plus it's always good to spread the word of "MongoDB" and challenge oneself (I think). I think one of the great challenges is to stand up and try to explain technical stuff that you think you know, the trick is not to do it tired but all the same, I definitely learnt a lot last night from standing up there. My slides can be found here (bear in mind, that many of these slides were actually cut from the deck that I presented, due to time constraints and the difficulty of deciding "what constitutes an introduction").

The presentation seemed to have gone done well, there were some questions (whilst the books, mugs and stickers SWAG went pretty fast) and people said nice things, though they could have been being just polite :)

The second talk of the night was by Chris Woods. I've previously chatted and worked a little with Chris on MongoDB so it was good to see a familiar face. Chris is a very clever guy, totally gets "MongoDB" and had a really interesting presentation with some funny war stories. His web app is called Voczie, can be visited here and in his words -

VocZie combines RSS feeds with Twitter to let you see and participate in the conversations which happen around the news stories we all read every day... 

Chris isactively looking for more traffic to his site so that he has to deal with "scaling out" and is very excited about "sharding" so I strongly encourage you to visit his site :) Chris has a short write-up here on the perils of standing up to talk in front of random strangers and his slide can be found here.

I really enjoyed my visit to the GTUG and I think it's easily one of the cooler and more technical user groups I've seen in Dublin. I went home knackered but it was good evening, meeting new folk and seeing Chris's cool use case.

I hope to come back as an attendee, if I'm allowed back in :)

Thanks to Eoin, Raphael and Jean (hopefully I haven't forgotten anyone) for their hospitality, Chris for talking eloquently about MongoDB and Gianfranco for his moral support!!!!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Being a Support Engineer @ 10gen - Part 2

So back in July, I wrote a blog post talking about my experiences being a so-called "phone jockey", i.e. a support engineer, for 10gen. For those cynics out there, it wasn't written by HR, modified by marketing or requested by management or anyone in our recruiting team - I wrote it off my own back because
  • I've a tendency to do things off my own back
  • I wanted to explain what being a "support engineer" actually meant and more specifically, what it entailed in a small, innovative, fun company like 10gen
  • I now have somewhere to point people too when they ask my what life as a "support engineer" in 10gen is like
  • to get kudos within 10gen and please management
When I wrote the blog post, I intended it to be a once-off (why would anyone agree to writing a multi-part blog series) but I was encouraged to at least write a second post by @francium and she's very cool so I let it slide and agreed!!!

One of the ideas that I had was talking about a typical day in my role but since no day is typical, I'll talk about some of the things that I've done since the last blog post - 
  1. Run two (of our three) MongoDB User Group sessions @EngineYard, in Dublin, (the fourth is coming up in December, do come :) ). The last session was pretty awesome, much better than the alternative, watching this -

  2. Begun working closely with the Engineering team on some new security-related features for the next version of MongoDB - here and here. I even got to go back to 10gen-NYC for some testing, design and product management work on the new features though I also came away with a few documentation tasks sadly.
  3. Led the work on a bunch of other internal security stuff, which I've had the chance to spearhead before.
  4. Started trying to learn python......hhhhhhmmmmm. One of my goals is going to be taking a Coursera course. It will be tied in with my professional goals so I'll have extra incentive there also and to be honest, so far it looks quite cool.
  5. On-boarded new commercial support customers in EMEA.
  6. Learned a tonne (aka a "ton") more about MongoDB and obviously taken a lot more support tickets but hey, c'est la vie!
  7. Kicked off some research and work on packaging management on Ubuntu/Debian.
  8. Filed a bunch of enhancement requests for our SNMP functionality (this became a sort of boomerang as I'm not only the requestor now but also the owner, aaaahhhh does that I mean I've to do some C++?).
  9. Gotten to grips (as much as I need to) with git :) I've even put a bunch of troubleshooting scripts up there for giggles (yep, I know they're crap).
  10. Dipped my toes into Hadoop and quickly undipped them, ouch!
  11. Fallen in and out of love with Stack Overflow and Security StackExchange.
  12. Done a tonne of interviews, some tips when interviewing with me:
    • It's not a good idea to say you want to leave your current job because you don't enjoy supporting silly customers.
    • It's "mongo", not "mango" :)
    • It's not a good idea to swear (I swear too much myself but I don't think it's the best idea in an interview)
    • I'm typically the 3rd, 4th or 5th interviewer and often a week or two after the initial screening. At this stage, I expect you to have installed MongoDB, know a little about the following -
      • documents
      • collections
      • ports
      • schemaless
      • replication or sharding (i.e. spell them)
    • If you don't know something, don't put it on your CV.....otherwise it's "fair game".
    • The answer to "Have you any questions?" is not "no". To me, this implies a lack of interest in the job.
  13. Basked in the glory of my last blog post!!! 
  14. Continued to order the awesome burritos for the team, from BurritosBlues. We do a weekly lunch, which whilst it sounds a little cheesy, it's actually nice to sit down with the team and slag the sales guys :)
  15. Lastly I'd have to say that imho, I've also been able to get to know some of the most intelligent and passionate people I've ever met and that's kinda cool as it encourages me to try to improve every day. I'm hoping I hit the 10,000th hour thing in the not too distant future so I can consider myself some sort of expert on databases!!!!!!
So yeah I've "Support" somewhere in my title, but that's not all I do. If you work in a technology company and you don't think you do "support", you're sorely mistaken.

MongoDB is a database, written in C++,  uses BSON documents for storing data, runs on a multitude of platforms and is deployed in a huge variety of implementations. There are drivers across a substantial number of languages for your web application to interact with MongoDB. So yeah, there are many areas to get stuck into, as well as being that "phone jockey" will not be bored and your job will be VERY technical!!

My biggest challenge at present is time management and learning to say "no" but for me, that's a nicer problem as opposed to the alternative.

Remember - we all "support" and we all "sell", trust me :)


P.S. IF YOU'RE READING THIS as one of the folks that have received the link to my blog in order to understand what we do, please send your cv/resume in and kick off the process!

P.P.S. Francesca,'s a two-part series, no trilogy here :)