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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 :)


  1. Enjoyed your post(s)! Thanks for sharing. (And thanks to @jameschesters for re-tweeting.)

    1. No worries, thanks for your kind words John.

  2. As an idea for a further followup (go for the trilogy) you could do a "week in the life of" and describe some of the issues you face and stuff you deal with for customers. Maybe it could be a video with music depending on the urgency of the ticket you're working on...!

    1. Ha ha!

      How about a "reboot" or a "reload" instead of trilogy? How many trilogies disappoint on the third edition, surely it's better to just quit whilst ahead?

  3. Mark,

    A great post and generally good advice for interviewing. I do feel the need to post this counterpoint with regard to swearing:

    I do post it with the caveat that Sean does explicitly state you only want to curse one level below what the interviewer does, and presuming you don't curse the candidate shouldn't either.

    1. Thanks Justin.

      Yeah, I'd agree with that, I should've put the caveat in but then again it could be a test by the interviewer :)

      I also think you wait for the interviewer to curse first :)

  4. Many people are negative about support roles. I think this is ill deserved. A support representative is a PR agent, sales person, company representative, diplomat, troubleshooter & many other things. When a person has the right mix of these skills they can make your company look like a million bucks. Conversely when your support reps are disinterested (for whatever reason) they can make your company look really bad. Whether you're cleaning toilets or building a quantum computer fueled from cold fusion to finish off those protein folds so you can get your cure for cancer approved, there is absolutely nothing wrong with holding your head high & being the best you can be.

  5. i clicked like and it disappeared. great work.


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