The MongoDB Summer ‘18 Intern Series: From Hackathon to Haskell
Mihai Andrei is going into his senior year at Rutgers University, the alma mater of MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria. While Dev received his BS in Electrical Engineering, Mihai is studying Computer Science and minoring in Mathematics. Mihai is also extremely involved in HackeRU, a 24 hour student run hackathon at Rutgers.
Andrea Dooley: Hackathons are very popular amongst CS students. What roles have you played for Rutgers HackeRU?
Mihai Andrei: If you are an organizer you’re not able to participate in the event, but this coming year I will be one of two Executive Directors, essentially overseeing the entire thing. In the past I have played the part of Director of Finance for the event, so I know this will be a particularly challenging role, but nonetheless an exciting one.
AD: You’ve been involved with HackRU for quite a while. Is that where you first learned about MongoDB?
MA: I actually learned about MongoDB during a student demo at a tech talk on campus. The first time I ever used MongoDB was at a previous internship for a data warehouse application we were developing. I was looking online for internship opportunities in the software industry and came across an opening for the MongoDB internship program.
AD: What made you interested in interning at MongoDB?
MA: My previous experience interning has mostly been with financial institutions, so this time around I wanted to take a different route to a company with more emphasis on tech and tech culture. I was able to get a good sense of the culture during the recruiting process, so I was really excited when I got the offer.
AD: Did you know our CEO was a Rutgers alum?
MA: I learned that Dev attended Rutgers a bit later on, but I think it’s really cool that someone from my university became the CEO of such an awesome company.
AD: What MongoDB Eng team are you on, and what projects were you responsible for this summer?
MA: I’m on the query team working on the MQL model, which is a model implementation of the query language built from scratch, serving as a reference. The reason for creating it from scratch is to identify flaws and iron out changes for future implementations, and the model can be a point of reference for how we create future versions of the query language. There are some flaws in the current version of the language that need sorting out for future iterations.
AD: What were some of the flaws present in the query language?
MA: An example of a flaw in the query language is the difference between find and aggregation projection. They are ambiguous and one will allow you do things the other doesn’t. For example, in aggregation you are able to use nested documents to specify how to project your output. That is not possible in find, but in find you have special operators to customize an output for arrays such as $elemMatch that you can’t use in aggregation projection. The ultimate goal is to unify the semantics.
AD: Did you have any previous experience working to improve a programming language, or did you find there was a learning curve?
MA: I took a programming languages class last year so I was able to learn about what goes into creating a programming language. I spent my first few weeks at MongoDB learning Haskell. I had to sit down with other team members to go through the code base and get ramped up. It’s been very rewarding from an educational and experience standpoint.
AD: What would you say is one key takeaway from your experience at MongoDB this summer?
MA: Beyond learning a new programming language and what goes into writing the MongoDB query language, what I wanted to get out of my summer internship was to learn how to develop software more collaboratively. MongoDB has a code review process, so you’re given a ticket but just completing the ticket is not enough. You have to run it by other members of the team to ensure it meets expectations. There’s been really great quality control feedback from the team.
AD: How has the level of feedback helped to benefit you as an engineer early in your career?
MA: Every week I sit down with my mentor for a thirty minute one on one to discuss how things are going. The continuous feedback has been very helpful because it helped me to improve the quality of the comments I left in my code. It was easy for me to understand what I did and how I did it, but I learned that you need to be very thorough in order for other people to understand as well.
AD: What would you say to someone considering an internship opportunity at MongoDB?
MA: I would absolutely recommend it. It’s a great environment to intern in, and I have really been able to grow my skills. The work is very challenging, but very rewarding, and I understand exactly how my project is going to impact the work my mentor and other members of the query team will continue doing after I leave.
The MongoDB Summer ‘18 Intern Series: Driving Connections from Work to Life
Nathan Louie is a MongoDB summer intern on our Server Replication team. He’s a computer science major and sociology minor at the University of Michigan, finishing up his senior year this fall. During his time at school, he’s developed a passion for problem solving within distributed systems and working on lower level projects.
Andrea Dooley: Since your interest lies primarily on the lower levels of the stack, how did you first learn about MongoDB?
Nathan Louie: I first heard about MongoDB at a hackathon as a tool to build apps quickly. But the first time I actually used it was right before my interview. I made an application with MongoDB Stitch, and was impressed with how easy my backend was to set up and interact with.
AD: Since this is your fifth internship, how does it differ from your previous experiences, and what piqued your interest to apply?
NL: My previous internships have been higher up the tech stack. I’ve taken a lot of systems courses in school, and wanted industry experience on the kinds of projects I’ve encountered academically. I looked through the MongoDB code base, and realized it was the type of system I wanted experience in. Finally, when considering the company itself, MongoDB has a high-growth culture with a focused mission and is working on the problems that I’m looking to solve.
AD: How has the project you’re working on this summer provided you with the technical problem solving experience you were looking for?
NL: My primary project this summer is adding diagnostics support for multi-document transactions, which was a feature added in the 4.0 release. It’s a way for people to measure the performance of their transactions, such as total duration and the number of succeeded and failed transactions. Building out diagnostics has helped me understand how our replication and transactions system work. I attended some sessions at this past MongoDB World, and the audience asked about this feature. Sometimes when you’re working deep in the stack, you can feel disconnected from the end users, but the fact that people were waiting for it to become available helped me understand the outcome of my work.
AD: How have you found the overall dynamic of the server team?
NL: In my opinion, the defining thing about MongoDB is how engineering-centric the company is. For instance, I find it really interesting how involved management is with the actual code. My tech leads are very familiar with the architecture, and can hop right into the code base because they wrote a lot of it. It has been extremely valuable for me as an intern because I’m able to learn from people at all levels, and it has also exposed me to an alternative way of managing engineering teams. This experience has helped me visualize a career path where I can remain technical, and not have to sacrifice my passion for deep problem solving while leading a team.
AD: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far?
NL: The most interesting thing I’ve realized at my time here is the impact my work has on the world. MongoDB is not an immediately recognizable consumer brand, and the types of people who know it well are usually developers and engineers. However, consumers are using MongoDB all the time, likely without realizing it. Whether it’s applied towards compliance software, cryptocurrency, or popular games like Fortnite, the work that I do effects so many different industries, projects, and people across the world. I think it’s very powerful to be able to drive the connection from my work to my everyday life.
AD: What would you say has been the most impactful aspect of your internship experience at MongoDB?
NL: The open source aspect: being able to commit my code and have it be out there for everyone to see. I can log into any computer and show people the work I’m doing and having that level of transparency still blows my mind. Most times, company code is secret, and you can’t just take the code you write and go anywhere. Here, once the code you write gets approved, it immediately gets pushed out for anyone to see. I find it liberating to talk to friends about what I’m working on and have the ability to pull it up and walk through my decision making. It definitely gives me a sense of pride and builds trust in the product.
The MongoDB Summer ‘18 Intern Series: Communication is Key
Remi Lederman is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s a communications major with a minor in art history, the managing editor of UPenn’s culture magazine, and a 2018 Summer Intern for the MongoDB communications team.
As one of four marketing interns among a class of 62 comprised of mostly engineers, Remi has an interesting take on what it’s like to work on the less technical side of the business.
Andrea Dooley: The internship program at MongoDB is pretty popular among computer science undergrads. As a comms major, how did you first learn about MongoDB and the internship opportunity?
Remi Lederman: UPenn has a big engineering school and MongoDB is very well known; there’s a lot of t-shirts on campus. A lot of my friends are engineers, so I knew the company, but didn’t really know exactly what it did. I went to a career fair where I was able to meet the campus team, and found the opportunity to be really interesting.
AD: Why did you want to intern at MongoDB this summer?
RL: After the career fair I kept up with the company and knew it was growing fast and that it was a really exciting time. I had an idea of the workplace culture by talking to previous interns, and had interned at a tech company the summer before, so I was looking for a similar kind of environment. I knew I wanted to do something in communications, and I felt the opportunity at MongoDB would be the perfect fit. The application process was seamless and the campus team kept me really informed. There was a lot of communication, I never felt out of the loop, and the overall process was very professional and organized.
AD: As someone not very familiar with computer science, was it difficult to learn MongoDB technology?
RL: While someone who is not very tech savvy may have a general idea of the database functionality, it’s hard to have a deep understanding of the technology. As an intern, we went through training in our first week that provided insight into what MongoDB is, how it fits into the stack, how we compare others in the industry, and our overall value proposition. For the role I’m in, it’s important to understand the different product offerings and features, what it means to be on version 4.0 versus version 3.6 for example, and what’s important to our customers and community. It’s different than what you would need to know or how you would view the database from an engineering standpoint.
AD: What’s it like to work with mostly engineers?
RL: The company is so social and everyone's so nice, it’s not hard to hang out together, even though our jobs are so different. It’s also really nice to have a big intern class. There's 62 of us, so it’s fun to attend all the events the campus team puts on for the interns and get to know each other.
AD: If you’re not working with the technology, what sorts of project do you get to work on?
RL: I get new things to work on every day. For example, had a chance to take a first stab at the press release for MongoDB University reaching 1 million registrations, which was exciting. I’ve also helped create briefing books for customers and executives, which are prep guides for when they go into an interview or are giving a talk. It helps prepare them for what to expect in terms of talking points, background information, and questions that may be asked. I love that I get to help out on many visible things the team is working on. So when I see our CEO on CNBC, or our customers at MongoDB World using the stuff I helped to prepare, it’s really rewarding.
AD: I know the engineering interns get to identify their preferred teams and projects. Did you have input in determining what you would work on this summer?
RL: I’m valued for my writing skills, so I get to write a lot and do a lot of editing. My mentor really pushed me to come up with my own projects, and creativity is really fostered here. In the beginning of the summer I was encouraged to outline goals for the internship. At some point during the summer I had the opportunity to attend a Crisis PR webinar. Like most companies, I knew that we had some form of a crisis plan in place that plan outlines what we do, the chain of command, and who is the designated team, but I wanted to put more detail into it, like creating templates for responses. My hope is that I leave at the end of my internship having given something tangible and impactful back to the company.
AD: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
RL: Preparing for all possible outcomes. In school we would analyze the scenario after it occurred, but here we want to get ahead of things. I’ve learned to do that by over communicating as opposed to under communicating.
AD: What would you say to other marketing/comms interns interested in MongoDB?
RL: A lot of companies have similar roles to what I am doing here, so when choosing where to intern for the summer I looked at other factors to differentiate each opportunity. For me, working at a company like MongoDB is ideal because it’s an exciting environment. I’m invested in MongoDB because what I’m doing has a real impact, which in turn that has made an impact on me. I truly feel like a part of the company. I’m very impressed with everyone and everything at MongoDB, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Employees Recognized for Work Outside of MongoDB
An organization's success can often be attributed to its people, because it’s people who dedicate their time to helping a company achieve goals and be recognized as an industry leader. We find it’s even more of an achievement when our people are recognized for the work they do outside of MongoDB.
Two passionate members of the MongoDB Engineering organization were acknowledged by separate notable organizations for their independent work.
Dr. Michael Cahill is the Vice President of Engineering (Storage). Based out of our Sydney office, Michael leads the global Storage team which is responsible for concurrency control and crash recovery. Optimizations in the storage layer can have a huge impact on making customer workloads more efficient.
Michael was recently recognized as a winner of the Test of Time Award at the annual SIGMOD conference for his work on a new algorithm for implementing serializable isolation. SIGMOD is the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Management of Data, which specializes in large-scale data management problems and databases. The conference is considered one of the most important database conferences in the world. Researchers and engineers working on database technology come together to present their work, and new innovations are often published first at SIGMOD.
“Serializable Isolation is the gold standard for databases: it means that applications using the database can reason as if transactions run one at a time. There is never any interference between concurrent transactions and each transaction takes the database from one consistent state to another. My contribution was to use database internals, including hooks in code for multi-version reads and an extension of intent locks, to detect potential anomalies at runtime and make executions safe regardless of the application logic.
“I’m both proud and humbled to receive the Test of Time Award this year. While I’m proud of the work we did and the impact it has had, I am humbled to see my name listed beside some of the greats of the field who blazed the trail before me.”
The main implication of Michael’s work is that there is now a way to build databases that provide serializable isolation with only a modest change to existing systems.
A. Jesse Jiryu Davis is a staff engineer at MongoDB on the Drivers Team. He leads development on the C and C++ drivers and is the author and maintainer of Motor, an async Python driver. He also pitches in on PyMongo development and oversees the design and specifications process for a lot of new MongoDB driver features. He spends time mentoring new coders and speaking at conferences.
Jesse is a member of the Python Software Foundation, which manages the Python language and the community of Python programmers, and sponsors dozens of Python conferences.
“When I joined about 7 years ago their main mission was to promote the use of Python, and they won: Python is perhaps the most popular language. Now I see the PSF devoting much more effort to expanding computer science access to poor countries and marginalized groups, using Python as a vehicle. For example, the most recent PSF grants were to girls' education events in Brazil and Cameroon.”
Jesse was recognized by the Python Software Foundation for his community service work, including his work on their blog, and his involvement with the NYC conference PyGotham.
“I was awarded for two responsibilities I've really enjoyed. My work on the PSF blog gives me an excuse to interview some of the smartest and most accomplished people I know. The second part of the award, for my work on the PyGotham conference, was mainly in recognition of my speaker-coaching program: I thought it would be helpful for first-time speakers to have professional coaching, so I raised enough money to hire my own speaking coach to spend an hour with each of them. This year we're repeating that program for PyGotham speakers and expanding it to the PyOhio conference, too. Speaking at conferences transformed my career, and I want to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity I did to learn public speaking, particularly members of groups underrepresented in tech.”
We could not be more proud of both Michael and Jesse for their recognitions. It is a true testament to the level of talent at MongoDB, and the passion of the people behind the product.
To learn more about MongoDB people and culture, click here.
The MongoDB Summer ‘18 Intern Series: Back to Back
Haley Connelly is a 5th year Computer Science Major at UT Austin, and a two time MongoDB Summer Intern.
Haley first joined MongoDB during the summer of 2017 as a rising senior. She has made her return to MongoDB for Summer 2018, as she works on her thesis in computational neuroscience. In her short time here, Haley has been able to make a giant impact, including being part of the team that helped build the storage engine used in the MongoDB Mobile product, which was released at MongoDB World 2018.
Andrea Dooley: How did you first learn about MongoDB?
Haley Connelly: I actually interviewed with MongoDB before I really knew what the company did. That year, instead of taking a summer internship I did a 6 month co-op, which is essentially a full time role, in the spring. My mentor had great things to say about the MongoDB Query Language (MQL), and even wrote a wrapper around an existing ORM to mimic MongoDB-like query capabilities. After I learned how useful MongoDB could be, and once I figured out I wanted to be a Systems Engineer, I re-interviewed with the company, which was really exciting.
AD: Can you provide insight to your first summer at MongoDB?
HC: I worked on the Storage Team, and helped engineer the mobile storage engine. I was part of the team took the design and architecture from the ground up. It was really exciting because MongoDB Mobile was announced at MongoDB World 2018, and the storage engine is now in beta. We tried to build as much functionality as possible during that summer, and it was great to see a lot of it made it into the final code.
AD: That’s a huge accomplishment! Did you know that was going to happen?
HC: At the end of the summer, all interns are required to give a presentation on their work from the summer. My partner and I received a lot of positive feedback from our presentation. We got the storage engine functionally working as a prototype, and it worked so well that another intern was actually able to use it. When i came back this summer my old mentor let me know that MongoDB Mobile was about to be released to beta testers.
AD: What are you working on this summer?
HC: This summer I’m working on the Query team, and am using Haskell, which is a functional programming language to help model the semantics of the MongoDB Query Language. The model is intended to help further optimize behavior for future versions of MQL.
AD: What made you want to come back to MongoDB for another internship?
HC: I’ll admit I was always against doing two internships at the same company. I thought it was best to try things out in order to know what you like and what you don’t like. But I figured out what I wanted in a company, and I found that in MongoDB.
AD: What in particular were you looking for in a company?
HC: MongoDB has the name recognition and is well respected in the developer community, alongside a great company culture. It’s also the perfect size company in that it’s not so large that your work seems like it doesn’t make a contribution. We are constantly promoting people to take risks and be intellectually honest, and that really shines when working with people day to day.
AD: What about the internship program itself?
HC: The fact that we get to choose what we want to work on is so awesome to me. I knew there were other teams I wanted to try out, and I knew wherever I wound up I would be able to make a genuine contribution.
AD: It sounds like you’ve gotten a lot out of your internship here. What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in interning at MongoDB?
HC: You get to work on things that matter. I’m very interested in lower level, technical work, which is hard to find as an intern. But MongoDB has provided me with the opportunity to do some real problem solving and figure things out strategically. Here you get to figure out the problems and work towards a solution, and in my opinion that’s really valuable.
MongoDB Celebrates Reaching 1,000 Employees
We’re excited to announce that MongoDB has officially reached 1,000 employees across the globe.
For some of us, it’s a time to reflect on how far we’ve come.
For others, this milestone helps to generates excitement for what is to come in the future.
A fantastic milestone for #mongodb today passing #mdb1k or 1000 employees and here's a photo of our wee celebration in Dublin to mark it. Amazing company and so much yet to come https://t.co/kqTBOw0PNa @MongoDBcareers @MongoDB @MongoDBDublin pic.twitter.com/zyuGhcFrkl— Eoin Brazil (@eoinbrazil) May 11, 2018
And for the rest of us, it was another moment to be proud of, and a new reason to celebrate.
Were proud of how far we’ve come, and we’re looking forward to the next 1,000.
MongoDB Hosts the First Annual Women in Computer Science Summit in NYC
On April 20th MongoDB NYC hosted fifteen incredible college students from schools across the country for our first ever Women in Computer Science Summit.
The full day event, which was organized and hosted by the MongoDB Campus Recruiting Team, included a packed agenda with technical learning sessions, application building, mock interviews, and a panel discussion with MongoDB engineers. The summit offered an opportunity for young women from different colleges and universities a chance to connect, learn from one another, and support each other down the line.
Smitha Nagar, a UT Austin sophomore and Computer Science major, found value in being able to meet her peers. "Everything is a lot more fun when you’re surrounded by badass women. Everyone was intelligent, friendly, and wanted to learn and wanted to support each other, which is what made it so amazing. It was a great way to make new friends with similar interests. It was very refreshing.”
The panel discussion with three MongoDB engineers helped to demonstrate how the attendees can grow their careers at companies like MongoDB, as well as help to better the future of the tech industry for women overall.
For Washington State University sophomore Jessica Zhou, “It’s inspiring to not only be able to look up to women engineers thriving and doing a lot of cutting edge work, but also to meet and share these experiences with other women in computer science from schools all over the country. It was easy to relate with other people there, and it was cool to be in a room of female CS students during the technical talk and workshop on databases. For me, it’s something very rare in the classroom. I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to go to grad school for research or right into industry, and what I learned from the panel is that you can still read and discuss papers, have that spirit of inquiry and innovation you find in academia while in an industry setting. I see Computer Science as an interesting academic subject but also a means of building cool things and delivering tangible change.”
Brown University sophomore Cece Xiao “really enjoyed the event. The overall structure was very well organized, and there was not a moment where I felt disengaged. The pace at this summit allowed for me to get to know MongoDB more intimately, and being onsite allowed for a more hands on real life experience. It gave me a personal view of MongoDB as a company, and to better understand the culture and what it’s really about. I never really understood the magnitude of one line of code, but with so many customers using MongoDB, I find it fascinating the lengths it can go. ”
The day also included mock interviews for attendees to highlight their skills in an environment that was conducive to learning and growth. Each attendee was paired up with an engineer with previous interview experience and was given honest, transparent advice on how to strengthen their skills when it comes to communicating and conveying information. For Smitha, this was a highlight: “it really blew me away. The mock interview was so helpful and a really good learning experience. It wasn’t stressful and I was able to receive really good feedback. I was given specific advice that I had not heard before that I can apply to not only future interviews, but also to future presentations or interactions with a team.”
For us, the event was a great way to meet young engineers, inspire them to continue working towards their goals, encourage them to stick to their passions, and provide them with information necessary for success. The ability to give advice from personal experience, provide support, and connect the next generation of female technologists is what will allow technology to not only move forward, but also expand its potential.
If you’d like to learn more about the opportunities at MongoDB, click here.
MongoDB Has Revamped Its Parental Leave Policy
To kick off the new year, the MongoDB Human Resources team introduced an updated Parental Leave Policy to the company. Now that MongoDB has over 900 employees globally, the previous policy was no longer suitable or scalable, and it had the potential for improvement. With each new year we strive to be better and do more based on the needs, wants, and interests of our employees.
My name is Dan Heasman and I am the most recent addition to the MongoDB leadership team. As Chief People Officer and a father of two, I was particularly passionate and excited about updating our parental leave. A strong support for mothers and fathers at the start of the incredible parenting journey is absolutely essential to our goals of fostering a highly inclusive culture and ensuring MongoDB is a great place to come and build a career.
The new policy, effective as of January 1, 2018, allows for 20 weeks of paid leave for both mothers and fathers, as well as additional programs to provide assistance. Parental leave can be taken at any time, in separate durations if desired, within the first year. To facilitate a smooth transition when returning to work, employees are also able to participate in an additional 4-week flexible work arrangement with intermittent leave within the first year. This is all in addition to our unlimited vacation policy and flexible work from home standards.
I spoke with some of our employees regarding the policy, including those who experienced the previous version, and those who are already experiencing or will experience the new policy. They provided some really great insight on the real concerns expecting parents face while maintaining their career.
Andy Schwerin, Vice President of Engineering for the MongoDB Core Server team, is responsible for the design and development of sharding, replication and query execution, and the teams that build them. He is a father of three, having had one child in his first year at MongoDB and adding two more in the years since.
“Before our second child was born we had just moved to New York and our biggest concern was that my wife would go into labor while I was at the office. At the time, MongoDB was a much smaller company with limited leave policies. I think the new policy is a terrific idea. Talented, motivated people are hard to hire and important to retain. A generous parental leave policy sends the message that MongoDB values its employees, and that it’s willing to support employees as we grow our families.”
A gender neutral approach was particularly important for us moving forward because both parents should be able to share the responsibilities regardless of gender.
Duncan Armstrong is a Senior Developer, working as a backend developer on MongoDB cloud products, as well as mentoring, pairing, and reviewing code for other developers. He is also the father of 15-month-old twin boys. For his wife, pregnancy was incredibly difficult due to a medical condition, and Duncan needed a lot of support from his leaders and team at MongoDB.
“I had to work from home often, or work off hours so I could look after and help my wife. There was never any hint of disapproval from my manager. The only problem with our previous program was that four weeks of leave wasn’t really sufficient. It’s hard enough for inexperienced parents to look after one newborn, but with twins, it was a full on rollercoaster. I really had to figure out how to manage my time. Because MongoDB has unlimited general leave it was easy to take extra time off when I needed to, and I was able to work from home a lot the first few months.
“In regards to the new policy, I’m so happy MongoDB has taken this step. As a father I know it can be hard bonding with your newborn. In the beginning they don’t give you much in return for your many efforts and the only way around that is to spend a lot of time with them. I don’t know how you can get that kind of bonding time if you’ve got to be back at the office full-time after just a couple of weeks.”Keeping these types of experiences in mind, we opted to provide additional benefits within the program to address some of the common obstacles expecting parents will face during pregnancy.
The MongoDB Parental Buddy Program provides support by connecting both birth, foster, and adopting parents as they prepare for the arrival of their baby, during their parental leave, and during their return to work.
LUCY provides employees with fully personalized and customizable counselling. From pregnancy through the baby's first year, sessions are conducted by a team of licensed, vetted health and wellness experts on all aspects of taking parental leave – from coping with morning sickness to choosing the right childcare.
Our global Employee Assistance Program provides employees with free counseling sessions to and includes a program to help new parents deal with the natural stress and emotional adjustment that comes with being a first time parent. (EAP offers free counseling for all employees, not only new parents.)
Ozge Tuncel is our VP of Customer Success and Sales Development, working out of our NYC headquarters for the last three years. A little over a year ago, Ozge was the only expecting mother in our New York office.
“At the time, there was no one other than me going through the experience in New York. The policy was three months of leave, with the ability to work from home as needed, and a very nice private room in the office available as a mother's room. Our HR team had a great process to help with formal steps, the executive team was very supportive during my transition back to work, and flexible working hours were very helpful. What we lacked was an informal peer support system that any new parent needs. We now have more new parents, a new-moms Slack channel, and the Parental Buddy Program, which are all great for advice and support.”
We are very excited for our currently expecting parents and future parents-to-be to experience all that the new program has to offer. New parents can now expect flexibility baked in, removing the need to request or negotiate time off or time away – which can be perceived either by the employee or manager as an individual accomodation, one that generally comes at the cost of other members of the team.
Jen Tyrseck is our Director of Corporate Communications, managing company-wide communications internally and externally to help people learn more about and gain confidence in MongoDB. She recently had her first child at the end of January, and is the first employee to experience our updated parental leave policy.
“Thinking back to the beginning of my pregnancy, I did have a number of (unwarranted) concerns regarding how I would balance working full time and the challenges of pregnancy. Things like, ‘Would I become suddenly sick at my desk? Would my team question my commitment to the job and company? Could I manage the new expectations required of me to continue performing well in my job, while raising a family?’
“I’ve really been impressed with the support I’ve received. A flexible, work-from-home as needed schedule has permitted me the time to attend all doctor’s appointments. I also have access to licensed health and wellness experts for customized counselling on planning for parental leave, preparing for labor and delivery, and newborn basics as well as counselling sessions after the baby comes regarding lactation, sleep transitioning, and how to ease back to work. A strong network of women interested in mentoring and sharing experiences to learn how to balance the inevitable changes, including how to balance my life in two full-time roles, has also been invaluable.”
Graham Neray is the Chief of Staff to MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria. His wife, Meghan Gill, is our VP of Sales Operations, and reports directly to CRO Carlos Delatorre. They met at work, married in October of 2016, and welcomed their first child in early January of this year.
Both are extremely passionate about their careers, and are on very lean teams, so questions arose when they decided to start a family – particularly how to adapt to being on leave at a fast-paced company where things are constantly evolving, and how to balance their roles at MongoDB while adjusting their schedules to their new lives as parents.
“On other teams, everyone can take on a little bit of what you’re doing – maybe 10% or 20% each while you’re out. As Chief of Staff, I am essentially a team of one and I do a little bit of everything,” Graham noted, “so I had to find other people on other teams to pitch in while I’m on leave – in finance, marketing, partners, and HR. Dev’s EA helped out a lot too. In the end, everyone has been very supportive, especially Dev. Over and over he told me: ‘family comes first.’ ”
“The most important thing for us is flexibility,” said Meghan. “For instance, we were both able to easily step out for appointments while I was pregnant, and through LUCY, we took several classes to prepare for life as new parents. Now that we have a baby, there will of course be more visits to the doctor and other things that pop up.
“MongoDB has been a center of gravity for us for a while – now we have a new center of gravity. From our experience during the pregnancy, it’s comforting to know that we can successfully make use of a flexible work arrangement to get it all done.”
Current parental leave standards throughout the world, and in the U.S. especially, can de-prioritize starting a family if the choice has to be made between pursuing a career and beginning this new life, rather than doing both at the same time. We are proud of the steps we are taking to ensure no MongoDB employee ever feels obligated to make that choice, and has the support they deserve from the organization they have selected to give their dedication and time.
The Best Solutions Architects Work At MongoDB
Despite the bravado in the title, the purpose of this article is not to say that MongoDB Solutions Architects (SAs) are better than those working at other organizations. Rather, this article argues that the unique challenges encountered by SAs at MongoDB imply that successful MongoDB SAs are some of the best in the business. This assertion is derived from the unique challenges encountered by both supporting MongoDB customers and the MongoDB sales organization and breadth and depth of skills and knowledge required to be successful.
To see why this is the case, let’s explore the role of an SA at MongoDB and the wide range of skills a Solutions Architect must master. A MongoDB SA (sometimes called a Sales Engineer in other organizations) is an engineer that supports the sales organization. The role is multi-faceted. A solutions architect must have:
- In-depth technical knowledge to both understand a customer’s technical challenges and to articulate how MongoDB addresses them
- Communication skills to present technical concepts in a clear and concise manner while tactfully dealing with skeptics and those more familiar with other technologies
- Sales skills to engage a prospect to learn their business challenges and the technical capabilities required to address those challenges
- Design and troubleshooting skills to assist prospects with designing solutions to complex problems and getting them back on track when things go wrong.
The description above may make the MongoDB Solutions Architect role sound like other similar roles, but there are unique features of MongoDB (the product) and its competitive situation that make this role extremely challenging. We will explore this in the sections below.
While the strength of MongoDB and a major factor in its success has been the ease with which it can be adopted by developers, MongoDB is a complex product. Presenting MongoDB, answering questions, brainstorming designs, and helping resolve problems requires a wide range of knowledge including:
- The MongoDB query language
- Application development with MongoDB’s drivers in 10+ different programming languages
- Single and multi-data center architectures for high availability
- Tuning MongoDB to achieve the required level of performance, read consistency, and write durability
- Scaling MongoDB to manage TBs of data and thousands of queries per second
- Estimating the size of a cluster (or the cloud deployment costs) required to meet application requirements
- Best practices for MongoDB schema design and how to design the best MongoDB schema for a given application
- MongoDB Enterprise operations tools: Ops Manager, Compass, etc.
- Atlas: MongoDB’s Database as a Service Offering
- MongoDB’s various connectors: BI, Spark, and Hadoop
- Migration strategies from RDBMS (and other databases) to MongoDB
This is a lot to know and there is a lot of complexity. In addition to the core knowledge listed above, knowledge of the internal workings of MongoDB is essential when working on designs for applications with high performance and scalability requirements. Therefore, most Solutions Architects understand MongoDB’s internal architecture, such as how the WiredTiger storage engine works or how a MongoDB cluster manages connections.
To make the SA role even more challenging, organizations often choose MongoDB after failing with some other technology. (Maybe their RDBMS didn’t scale or it was too difficult to expand to handle new sources of data, or Hadoop processing did not meet real-time requirements, or some other NoSQL solution did not provide the required query expressibility and secondary indexes.) This means that MongoDB is often used for bleeding-edge applications that have never been built before. One of the roles of an SA is to understand the application requirements and help the application team come up with an initial design that will ensure their success1.
It is probably obvious to experienced SAs, but SAs need to understand the capabilities, strengths, and weakness of all competing and tangential solutions as well. MongoDB’s biggest competitors are Oracle, Amazon, and Microsoft – all of whom are constantly evolving their product offerings and marketing strategies. An SA must always keep their knowledge up to date as the market evolves.
Being a great technologist is not enough. An SA spends at least as much time communicating with customers as they do working with technology. Communication is sometimes in the form of a standard presentation or demo, but it most often entails detailed technical conversations about how MongoDB works or how MongoDB can be used to address a particular problem. Concise technical explanations that address customer questions using language tailored to their particular situation and frame of reference are the hallmark of an SA.
MongoDB SAs have to be comfortable communicating with a wide range of people, not just development teams. They must engage operations, line of business stakeholders, architects, and technology executives in sales discovery conversations and present the technical aspects of MongoDB of most concern at the appropriate level of detail. For example, an SA must be able to provide technology executives with an intuitive feel for why their development teams will be significantly more productive with MongoDB or will be able to deploy a solution that can meet scalability and performance requirements unattainable with previous technology approaches. Similarly, an SA must learn an operations team’s unique challenges related to managing MongoDB and describe how tools like Ops Manager and Atlas address these requirements.
Public speaking skills are also essential. Solutions Architects deliver webinars, speak at conferences, write blog posts, and lead discussions and MongoDB User Groups (MUGs).
An SA is a member of the Sales organization and “selling” is a big part of the role. Selling involves many aspects. First, SAs assist the MongoDB Account Executives with discovery and qualification. They engage the customer in conversations to understand what their current problems are, their desired solution, the business benefits of the solution, the technical capabilities required to implement this solution, and how they'll measure success. After every customer conversation, SAs work with their Account Executives to refine their understanding of the customer’s situation and identify information that they want to gather at future meetings.
Once the required technical capabilities are understood, it is the SA’s role to lead the sales activities that prove to the customer that (1) MongoDB meets all their required capabilities and (2) MongoDB meets these capabilities better than competing solutions. Most of the time this is accomplished via customer conversations, presentations, demonstrations, and design brainstorming meetings.
Finally, customers sometimes want to test or validate that MongoDB will meet their technical required capabilities. This is often in the form of a proof of concept (POC) that might test MongoDB performance or scalability, the ease of managing MongoDB clusters with its operations tools, or that MongoDB’s BI Connector provides seamless connectivity with industry standard BI Tools, such as Tableau, Qlik, etc. SAs lead these POC efforts. They work with prospects to define and document the scope and success criteria and work with the prospect during the course of a POC to ensure success.
Design and Troubleshooting
I alluded to this in the “Technology” section: helping prospects with creative problem solving distinguishes SAs at MongoDB. Organizations will choose MongoDB if they believe and understand how they will be successful with it. Imparting this understanding (a big part of the Solutions Architect’s role) is typically done by helping an organization through some of the more thorny design challenges and implementation decisions. Organizations will choose MongoDB when they understand the framework of a good MongoDB design for their use case and believe all their design requirements will be met.
Designing a solution is not a yes or no question that can be researched in the documentation, but is found through deep technical knowledge, careful analysis, and tradeoffs among many competing requirements. The best answer is often found through a collaborative process with the customer. SAs often lead these customer discussions, research solutions to the most challenging technical problems, and help craft the resulting design.
Solutions Architects are also a source of internal innovation at MongoDB. Since Solutions Architects spend a significant amount of time speaking with customers, they are the first to realize when marketing or technical material is not resonating with customers or is simply difficult to understand. The pressure of short timelines and desire to be successful often results in innovative messaging and slides that are often adopted by MongoDB’s Product Marketing organization.
Similar innovation often occurs with respect to MongoDB feature requests and enhancements. SAs are continually working with customers to help them solve problems and they quickly identify areas where MongoDB’s enhancements would provide significant value. The identification of these areas and specific recommendations from SAs on what product enhancements are required have played a big role in focusing the feature set of future MongoDB releases.
Lastly, SAs often support a number of Account Executives and work on several dozen sales opportunities per quarter. This means that SAs are working a large number of opportunities simultaneously and must be highly organized to ensure that they are prepared for each activity and complete every follow-up item in a timely manner. It is not possible for an SA manager to track or completely understand every sales opportunity so SAs must be self-motivated and manage all their own activities.
Solutions Architecture at MongoDB is a challenging and rewarding role. The wide range of technical knowledge plus sales and communication skills required to be successful is common to SA roles. When you combine this with the need for SAs to design innovative solutions to complex (often previously unsolvable problems), the SAs have the set of skills and the track record of success that makes them the “best” in the business.
If you want to join the best, check out the MongoDB Careers page.
About the Author - Jay Runkel
Jay Runkel is a principal solutions architect at MongoDB. For over 5 years, Jay has worked with Fortune 500 companies to architect enterprise solutions using non-relational document databases.
Before MongoDB, Jay was a key team member at MarkLogic and Venafi, where he worked with financial services, medical, and media organizations to develop operational systems for analytics and custom publishing. He also has experience guiding large financial institutions, retailers, health care and insurance organizations to secure, protect, and manage their encryption assets.
Jay has a BS in Applied Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.
1. My favorite part of the job is to get locked in a conference room and whiteboard for 4 hours with a development team to brainstorm the MongoDB solution/design for a particular use case. The most valuable end product of this session is not the design, but the development’s belief that they will be successful with MongoDB and that the development process will be easier than they expected. ↩
Internal Mobility: Changing Roles, not Companies
What’s the first thing you would do if you started to feel a lack of fulfillment or challenge in your current role? You might begin investigating opportunities at other companies. Perhaps you’d start researching your current organization’s competitors, or the company your colleague left for last quarter, or change your LinkedIn status so recruiters know you’re willing to having a discussion.
Why do employers let their best talent get to the point where they enter the rabbit hole of potential opportunity, instead of finding a way to retain them?
Internal mobility, or the opportunity to move teams and roles within one organization, is still not as feasible an option as some may like it to be. In fact, according to a recent Gartner study, 61% of employees think it would be beneficial for their careers to work in different parts of the organization, and future career opportunity is consistently one of the top reasons employees leave.
Tenured employees have already proven themselves, so you can assume they’re able to take on bigger projects and encourage greater collaboration between departments. Over the last few years, we as an organization acted on this conjecture, providing opportunities for our employees to develop new skills.
Jay Gordon is a MongoDB Developer Advocate and a major asset in providing information and assistance regarding all things MongoDB. He enables our developer community by creating technical content, answering questions, attending events, and providing as much assistance as possible to those using (or learning to use) MongoDB.
Jay was hired in 2016 as a Technical Account Manager on the Cloud Team to provide MongoDB customers with onboarding and integration assistance. While tackling his daily responsibilities, Jay became involved in helping the MongoDB user community understand new releases, products, and tools, acting as an advocate and evangelist. A little over a year into his role as a TAM, a Developer Advocate role opened up and Jay was the perfect fit.
“It was a difficult transition because I was taking on an entirely new role. There was some self-doubt that I was really capable of the position I had taken on, but in the end, much of that was just worry for the sake of worry. The MongoDB team was by my side to help with the shift, which had a lot to do with why I stayed instead of looking elsewhere for an opportunity, and the culture had a lot to do with my decision. Being part of MongoDB is a special experience and I was not ready to walk away from that quite yet. I love my job, I love the people I work with, and I love the opportunities to be part of something huge.”
Angshuman Bagchi joined the MongoDB team in 2013 as a Technical Service Engineer in Palo Alto. For over three years he worked on front line customer support helping customers become successful with MongoDB, but once he was struck with a desire to do something different, Angshuman went back to his development roots as a lead on our Technical Services Tools team, which is responsible for all tools used by our Technical Services Engineers. The role not only allowed him to do something different, it also provided the opportunity to learn managerial and administrative skills.
“My management was very supportive of my desire for a change. They gave me the freedom to explore opportunities both outside and within the broader Technical Services organization with the emphasis that I should be allowed to work on something I want. The move has afforded me a tremendous amount of personal and professional growth.”
Marie Vito is now the Program Lead and Coordinator for our award-winning Sales Enablement team – responsible for training, process implementation, tools, and coaching to make sales representatives and leaders the most productive they can be in their roles. Marie plans and leads the monthly MongoDB Sales Bootcamp training for all sales new hires, as well as anyone else in the company interested in learning about our sales strategy.
When she first joined MongoDB as a Recruiting Coordinator, Marie supported our sales organization by scheduling, coordinating, and facilitating interviews for all sales-related roles. During that time, she was able to form strong relationships with the sales team and quickly became interested in their goals and initiatives.
An initial conversation with the Senior Director of Sales Enablement helped to flesh out the role and determine that it was a position Marie wanted to pursue.
“Following that meeting I spoke with my then manager to express my aspirations. Once it was determined I was a good fit for the role, we developed a transition plan to ensure I would be leaving the recruiting team with a more than capable replacement, while still dedicating enough time to enablement training to make the ramp process as efficient as possible. It was incredible to have so much support from my new team, old team, and everyone else in the company.”
Providing employees the opportunity to try new things, explore new roles, and broaden their skills is a great way to foster both professional and personal growth. At MongoDB, we’ve found that supporting internal mobility is a key factor in retaining our best people and keeping them content.
Interested in learning more about what we’re doing at MongoDB? Click here.