How Hackathons Inspire Innovation and Creativity at MongoDB
When our engineers aren’t creating the best products to help our customers bring their big ideas to life, they’re working to bring their own ideas to fruition. Launched in 2013, hackathons are a big part of MongoDB’s engineering culture, giving our teams the freedom to create, innovate, and learn. About Hackathons at MongoDB Once a year, members from our Engineering department (including Product Managers, Support Engineers, Developer Advocates, and more) spend a week working on a project of their choice. Whether it be with a team or solo, the sky’s the limit. For some, it’s about creating new features or product updates to serve our customers better. For others, it’s about building internal tools and processes to make their day-to-day easier. Some engineers even use the time to work on passion projects or focus on self-improvement via online courses and reading a backlog of technical papers. No matter the goal, the hackathon is a much-needed and appreciated week for sparking new ideas, working with different people, and building useful knowledge and skills. How It's Judged Our engineers battle it out to be named the winner in one of several categories. To be considered, participants create a project demo and submit it on the Thursday afternoon of hackathon week. From there, the demos are divided among four groups of judges consisting of three or four judges each. By Friday morning, the judges select demos (which are open to all employees for viewing) to move into the final round of judging. The Prizes For our hackathons, engineers aim to get the most votes in 10 selected categories. Some categories include: Most Likely to Be Adored by the Support Team Most Likely to Make the Company 10 Million Dollars in 2021 Most Likely to Be Deployed by Production Best (Ab)Use of Cloud/Ops Manager Best Eng/Non-Eng #BuildTogether Award The Projects Past winning projects that made their way into production include MongoDB Charts , custom JS expressions in the aggregation framework, and GraphSQL support in MongoDB Realm Sync . Out of more than 120 submitted projects, here are few that won our 2020 hackathon: Leafy Catchy Eileen Huang , a Product Designer based in MongoDB’s New York City headquarters, pulled together a team of designers and engineers to build a game users can play while waiting for their cluster to build. “We wanted to show that even when doing something technical such as managing databases, people could always benefit from having a delightful moment,” she says. “Although the game isn’t live, it was a super fun week of exploring various game design techniques and trying to create a fully fleshed-out game with a playable character, sound, game UI, and more.” Evergreen Project Visualizations David Bradford , a New York City-based Lead Engineer for the Developer Productivity team, built a tool to visualize the runtime and reliability of the test suites in MongoDB’s continuous integration system. The tool plots the averages for all the test suites against each other and allows users to click into a given test suite to see a more detailed view of a suite’s history. “The project was mostly to address a personal pain point,” David explains. “We see the effects of long-running or unreliable tests fairly frequently, but given the number of tests we run, it takes some investigation to know which improvements would have the most impact. Building a tool that can visualize the data makes it easy to find which test suites provide the most benefits from improvements. It also enables other teams and engineers to start the investigations themselves.” MongoDB Charts Social Sharing Matt Fairbrass , a Senior Software Engineer based on our Sydney team, originally wrote a proposal for MongoDB Charts Social Sharing as a Request for Comments. However, the hackathon gave him and Senior Software Engineer Hao Hu an opportunity to collaborate on a proof of concept. With the core focus on data sharing, their goal was to make it quick and easy to share individual charts with others — whether via email or by posting to one of the social networks. To do this, they added controls to the chart Embedding Dialog to make this task as simple as the single click of a button. “As the discourse of the modern world unfortunately has shown us, being able to distinguish between what is factual and what is fake is becoming increasingly more important,” Matt states. “A result, data is now more than ever the most important tool we can use to surface the unbiased and unvarnished truth in social debate. But this is only true if the data is accessible to everyone.” Charts are visual by their very nature, he continues, “so it’s somewhat ironic that the current experience of sharing a link to a publicly accessible chart on a social network is anything but visual. So, the second goal of our project was to generate rich preview images of the chart being shared dynamically, and automatically attach them to the social media post by using the Open Graph Protocol , all while respecting the security permissions of the chart as set by the author.” Matt and Hao successfully tested this by extending the existing infrastructure to run an instance of Puppeteer . The system worked so well that they were able to extend the same functionality to support dynamically generating screenshots of publicly linked shared dashboards as a stretch goal. “This project has also opened up other avenues for the MongoDB Charts team to explore for further enhancing the product, so this proof of concept has now been turned into a user story that will later be worked on by the broader team,” Matt says. Raspberry Pi Astronomical Database Bruce Lucas , a Staff Engineer based in New York City, created a project inspired by his personal hobby, which is to design and 3D-print an altazimuth telescope mount. “My goal was to leverage a queryable database of stars to write software that automatically captures images, points the scope, and tracks the moving sky by using a Raspberry Pi,” he says. “To do this, I wanted to test a theory to see if a MongoDB database with geoqueries could be used and would run on the Raspberry Pi.” Pinwheel Emily Cardner , a Campus Recruiting Manager based in New York, partnered with engineers on a project to help manage cohorts of employees. With MongoDB’s robust New Grad Program that allows interns to rotate on various teams before being permanently placed, managing the entire process had become overly tedious and complicated, and she wanted to use an app to make it easier. “Even before the hackathon, I did some research to see if a platform like this existed, but I couldn't find anything,” she explains. “I thought I could throw it out as an option to see if someone looking to join a project wanted to build an app. I knew it could be a cool project working with MongoDB’s Realm product and that there could be an appetite for UI folks, but there was one problem: I’m not technical at all! So, I recruited a few folks via Slack and generated a bit of interest from various teams. They came up with an awesome minimal viable product (MVP) after we had a few brainstorming sessions.” This project is important for a few reasons, she adds. “First, I’m now working with the Engineering Corps team that creates internal tools to turn the MVP into a real product. As it turns out, other folks at the company needed cohort management tools too, so now L&D, Education, and Sales Enablement teams are all working with us on it,” she says. “Second, I learned a lot about the engineering process through this project. It was really cool to create my own mockups and collaborate with the engineers to see how products are created. I think it will help me more when working with engineers in the future.” Emily adds that she may have influenced a new hackathon award category. “I may or may not have made up my own award and then lobbied the judges to include it,” she says. “I thought creating a #BuildTogether award would encourage more people like me who are not traditionally in Engineering to work with engineers and create cool products. The judges agreed, and we ended up winning!” Why This Matters Our engineers covet this time every year to explore, create, and tackle new problems. Hackathon week also offers an opportunity to connect and collaborate with others. Many projects have openings for additional members, allowing employees from various technical areas to partner with people they might not normally work with, establishing a stronger culture, and fostering cross-departmental relationships. Hackathons allow our engineers to work on projects that are dropped or pushed down on the priority list in favor of competing priorities. Even if the projects aren’t implemented, seeing demos and having thoughtful conversations about them helps to spin up new ideas for things to add to our product roadmap. By encouraging people to step out of the day-to-day, take a moment (or a week) to think differently, and work with other people who offer new perspectives, the hackathons not only add value to our product offerings but also help our engineers expand their skills and creativity. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe , and would love for you to build your career with us!
PowerToFly Event Recap: MongoDB’s Regional Sales Director Offers 10 Valuable Career Lessons
In November 2020, MongoDB hosted a virtual panel discussion with our partner PowerToFly . During this session, women in roles across MongoDB’s Sales organization — from entry-level to leadership — shared more about their experience working at such a fast-growing company, how they’ve owned their career growth, and advice for anyone considering a career here. One mic-drop moment during the event was when Stephanie Samuels , Regional Director of Sales at MongoDB, shared 10 unique and insightful lessons based on her experiences that anyone — early careerist or seasoned professional — should consider to guide their career success. 10 Career Lessons by Stephanie Samuels Lesson #10: You are not a label. Lesson #9: Have a strong work ethic. Lesson #8: Advocate for yourself. Lesson #7: You are not an imposter. Lesson #6: The most valuable resource you have is your time. Lesson #5: Make work-life balance a priority. Lesson #4: Create a personal board of directors. Lesson #3: Run your own race. Lesson #2: Have perseverance. Lesson #1: There will be beauty for ashes. Watch the full video Download the lessons here: About PowerToFly: MongoDB is a proud partner of PowerToFly, a recruiting platform that connects companies to women in tech, sales, marketing, and more. With a mission to improve diversity recruiting and hiring, PowerToFly is a targeted job board that offers high-visibility employer branding services to help pools of underrepresented talent discover new roles at great companies. Learn more about PowerToFly here . Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and we’d love for you to build your career with us!
How MongoDB’s Technical Services Team Solves Customers’ Complex Problems
I sat down with Blake Deakin , Area Vice President for Technical Services, to get a deeper understanding of the complex and unique customer problems his team solves every day. Here, we explore how the Technical Services team has grown, the challenges they tackle, and what skills make someone successful in this role. Ashley Perez: As the Area Vice President of Technical Services, can you share insight about your team? Blake Deakin: Although our Technical Service team is a global operation, I specifically oversee the Technical Services team for the Americas. This covers the United States, Canada, and our new office in Argentina. Technical Services has been around for more than nine years now. Ultimately, the reason for Technical Services is simple: to give our customers access to “on demand” subject matter expertise to clear blockers and advise on best practices. This makes it easier for customers to fearlessly build important parts of their business on MongoDB, whether it’s a net-new application, feature expansion, or the replatforming of an existing system. We have the flexibility and situational awareness to help our customers rapidly adapt to their changing needs. AP: How quickly has the team grown since you’ve been here, and what’s the culture like? BD: I’ve been here for almost 3 years, during which time the team has basically doubled in size. The people on the team are varied, ranging from those in early stages of their careers to individuals who have worked 20 or 30 years in software in a variety of roles. Some are even former founders of companies — typically CTOs. Our employee retention is unusually high, so there are different tenured Engineers working together, passing along successive knowledge from different “epochs.” Our Engineers continue to grow each other’s skills, building on an extremely strong nucleus of engineering talent. The team is collaborative by necessity. The overall technology landscape is growing in complexity, as is our product portfolio. The result is that there is a vast body of knowledge we need to make available when working with our customers, so accessing the right knowledge within our organization at the right time is critical. Our other defining characteristic is our commitment to technical excellence. When you have customers who are often solving truly novel, world-scale problems, it’s crucial to provide them with the correct answer quickly so they can continue their work unimpeded. The default operating environment of our customers is often one of tight deadlines, high-velocity change, and competing priorities. We seek to help our customers feel confident that MongoDB products are a reliable and indispensable component of their tech stack that helps them adapt and exploit opportunity. COVID-19 obviously has created some unforeseen complexity in terms of how we operate as a team. Interestingly, our team didn’t slow down because of the shift to going fully remote during lockdowns. This situation revealed how well we can work this way even if we’re not face-to-face, at least in the short term. AP: Is it a challenge to keep this consistent team culture despite being scattered across multiple countries? BD: We’re quite lucky in that our core work requires global collaboration. It’s common for a customer issue to “travel around the world,” with engineers across geographies each owning a piece of resolving a customer’s issue. Everyone works together by default and has high expectations of one another, which creates a virtuous cycle that sustains and reinforces how the team operates. Everyone across the globe speaks the same language in terms of how we help make our customers successful. Our team members actually did a fair amount of jet-setting prior to the pandemic to help build a cohesive and collaborative team. We have a significant amount of spiritual adjacency to the Product Development organization and have participated in the engineering offsite over the years, which was an opportunity for the entire Americas team to get together and bond. These events are multiday offsites during which the product roadmap is discussed, there are workshops for acquiring new skills, and there is a lot of opportunity for social interaction. Aside from the offsite, we often hosted regional summits on a specific technology interest that Engineers from our separate teams would travel to. This was especially useful for us to get a handle on up-and-coming technologies, such as Kubernetes. I feel lucky that the team has the initiative and autonomy to do things like this. I think it’s emblematic of how Engineers at MongoDB have the freedom to create and pursue their interests. AP: You mentioned the team deals with a lot of different problems. Can you share some examples? BD: With all the interesting problems we’re constantly faced with, it’s hard to pick. However, during COVID-19, there have been some extremely urgent customer needs we’ve helped address. For example, a video chat app we support basically went to #1 on the European mobile app store charts overnight and ran into a bunch of immediate challenges with lockups and crashing. With the app having gone from 70K concurrent users on average to 1.7 million over the course of a month, that kind of rapid scale put a tremendous amount of pressure on the system, and many technologies simply couldn’t keep up. Even for us, it was a challenge to figure out a non-disruptive approach for scaling up. But this is actually the kind of thing at which we excel: calmly working in high-pressure environments and helping rescue customers from problems they couldn’t predict. Trends such as these are fickle. If this customer had failed the scale-out, its users would have moved on to another platform. Another great example was Sanoma Learning . We actually made a video about it. I won’t spoil the story, but this one was particularly great to share with friends and family. I feel as if a lot of us in tech struggle to explain what exactly we do when talking to the important people in our lives, so stories like this make it real for them. AP: With such a range of customers and problems, what skills are important for team members to have? BD: First and foremost, we need impressive intellectual and experiential horsepower on the team. We’re dealing with applications that have huge numbers of concurrent users, large transactional volumes, and strict latency requirements so users have a responsive experience. To make systems run like that at a global scale, you need people who understand complex problems and who can work comfortably across the tech stack. Not everyone knows everything, but it’s typical for people on the team to bring deep experience in areas such as networking, storage, development patterns, drivers, operating systems, distributed systems, security, and so on. The breadth of knowledge is large, but the operating environment is arguably more difficult; our Engineers often are solving problems in high-stakes situations with time sensitivity and typically reputational or revenue consequences for failure. We need to adopt many different tactics and approaches to drive customer success. We work with everyone, from household name brands to the next big startup, which drives a significant amount of variation in how we engage. Customers often have different goals, expectations, and tolerance for risk. One thing that keeps our job interesting is that although many customers encounter similar issues, those issues rarely present in the same way. A big part of the diagnostic art is figuring out how to come up with a strategy that rules in or rules out causes in the most effective and efficient manner while maintaining trust with the customer that you’re driving their issue to closure quickly and methodically. AP: With the retention of your team being so high, how can someone grow their career at MongoDB? BD: Technical Services provides a ton of career transformation and growth opportunities, whether someone remains with our team for a long tenure (and many do; our average tenure hovers around five years, and a large number of founding members are still with the company) or takes the skills they gain working with us to go on to other things. The type of work we do gives people a crash course in the marketplace’s most important technologies, so our people are extremely well positioned for whatever they decide to do in the future. AP: What skills or tools are team members given to help them transform their careers? BD: We provide everyone in the organization with access to a technical learning platform that includes recorded videos and O’Reilly books. The library is extremely extensive, and it’s one of the preferred ways for people to augment their skills. Our Leadership & Development team also is regularly adding to its overall portfolio of training, which is available on a self-paced learning platform that the learners can manage. The team has an aggressive delivery lifecycle, pushing out lots of valuable foundational learning. Additionally, we build Engineer knowledge by encouraging ongoing cross-training within the team, providing opportunities for people to do “lightning talks” or “deep dives” on topics of interest. We also budget for paid training provided by third parties across several subject areas, from basic professional development to technical skill areas to leadership, as well as stipends to attend technical conferences that offer professional development tracks. AP: MongoDB products help our customers innovate faster, but how does the team innovate internally? BD: We have extremely rapid product delivery lifecycles as a company, so there’s always something new to learn. A crucial part of how we get the job done every day is by developing tools and automations that make diagnosing customer issues easier — everything from visualization tools that help us understand and reason about the vast amount of telemetry we have about our customer environments (which help drive issue identification and resolution) to automated pipelines that produce candidate diagnoses before an Engineer ever looks at the customer’s issue. While it isn’t necessary for everyone on the team to have experience building tools like these, it’s definitely helpful and one of the opportunities we provide our Engineers to keep their development skills sharp. AP: In closing, can you share why someone would be excited to join the Technical Services team? BD: There are two main reasons. One is the opportunity to solve really big, really interesting problems for our customers. All companies are becoming software companies, and there’s a good chance you’ll work on something, see it in the news, and then say, “Hey! I helped make that happen .” For me, that’s one of the most gratifying things about working here. The other is that we’re an organization that celebrates continual skills growth. Everyone is constantly learning, and we have some of the brightest engineering minds working within Technical Services, which means plenty of opportunity for you to learn too. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!
Meet Kaitlin Mahar: How MongoDB’s Drivers Team Makes It Easier for Developers to Innovate
MongoDB is committed to helping both our customers and the tech community innovate quickly. I recently sat down with Kaitlin Mahar, Lead Engineer, to learn more about the Drivers team, how she grew her career at MongoDB, and what her team does to positively impact the open source community. Ashley Perez: What is the Drivers team, and how does it help MongoDB customers? Kaitlin Mahar: Our team builds the programming language-specific client libraries — which we refer to as “drivers” — for MongoDB. Drivers are just as essential to using MongoDB as the database itself. Without a driver, you can't actually connect to the database from your application. Our team prioritizes building drivers that we call “idiomatic” for the programming language and ecosystem in which they’re used. A MongoDB driver should follow language best practices, “feel” like other libraries you’ve used in the same language, and integrate easily with popular frameworks in that language. This makes it easy for our customers and community to get started and ramped up on our drivers. Given that anyone using MongoDB has to use a driver too, our team works with just about every type of customer and use case. Our drivers are fully open source and completely free to use, so many of our users are language community members and not customers at all. In fact, my first introduction to MongoDB was using the community version along with the Node.js driver to build a web application for a college class. What’s interesting about this team is that we’re constantly innovating. We develop drivers for new and upcoming program languages. For example, we just released new drivers for Swift and Rust last year. And we have to keep up to date on the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in our respective programming languages to incorporate into our work. We’re always learning. AP: What’s your role on the team? KM: I’m one of four Lead Engineers on the team. Each of us oversees two or three drivers; I manage the Node.js, Swift, and Rust drivers. My day-to-day is a mix of technical work and managerial work. On the technical side, I work on my own technical projects, which includes coding, writing designs, and so on. I also review the technical work of people I manage. On the management side, I work with our Product Manager and Director to decide which work our team should prioritize and decide which team member(s) should take on what work. Depending on the scope of work, I also coordinate with other departments if needed. However, I think my most important job as a manager is supporting my direct reports by enabling them to do their best work and providing them with opportunities to accomplish both short- and long-term goals so they can grow as engineers. AP: You joined MongoDB as an intern and participated in the rotation program. When selecting a full-time role, why did you choose the Drivers team? KM: I started at MongoDB as a summer intern, and then came back as a new grad and went through the new grad rotation program, which is sort of like three more mini-internships for six weeks each. This program allowed me to learn about the range of technical problems people work on at MongoDB while trying out a variety of team cultures and work styles to see what I liked best. One of my rotations was on the Drivers team. When I rotated, I worked on a major revamp of the Node.js driver’s BSON library. This was a high-impact, user-facing project that I was surprised to be entrusted with as a new grad, and I found I really enjoyed the experience. The chance to have a high level of ownership over what I worked on was motivating. Due to the structure of the department, where small teams of two to four engineers work on each language project, there is a lot of opportunity for ownership on the team, even as a new grad. At the time of the rotation program, I had discussed returning to the team with my mentor, Matt — who later became my manager — and learned there was an opportunity for me to work with him on a brand-new driver written in Swift. I was excited about the prospect of seeing how a new driver is built and learning a new language, so Drivers seemed like a natural choice. The Drivers team gets to think about a wide range of technical problems, ranging from API design to networking to distributed systems. The variety of areas I’d get to work in and learn about on the team was a huge factor in why I decided to pursue this. I also knew there was a lot of opportunity on the team to get involved with open source communities by attending and speaking at conferences, engaging with users, and contributing to open source libraries, all of which I was interested in doing. AP: It turns out you took the chance to work with the community and are doing interesting work. Can you share more about that? KM: I’m a member of the Swift Server Work Group (SSWG), a steering team that promotes the use of Swift for developing and deploying server applications. This is a committee composed of representatives from a few different companies, such as Amazon, Apple, and MongoDB, as well as representatives from a popular open source Swift web framework, Vapor. Our focus is guiding the development of a healthy and robust server-side Swift ecosystem. Since Swift is a fairly new language and the use of Swift on the server is even newer, it’s really exciting to be a part of. There are a lot of important foundational open source libraries being developed and conversations happening about what we want the ecosystem to look like. One set of those foundational server-side Swift libraries being developed is database drivers, such as our Swift driver for MongoDB. I originally got involved with the SSWG by pitching our driver to go through the SSWG’s incubation process. It’s an honor to be a part of the group, and so far it has been a great way to connect with people outside the company, contribute to open source, and keep up to date on the latest developments in the ecosystem. AP: That sounds like a great group that not only helps impact the community, but also allows you to grow as an engineer. How else have you grown professionally and personally at MongoDB? KM: Once I joined the Drivers team full time, I started working on the Swift driver. Over the next few years, I got promoted and eventually became a Senior Engineer. My manager, Matt, gradually handed me more responsibility for the project, such as making big technical decisions, providing input on what we should work on next, presenting what work we plan to do to the CTO and VPs at quarterly planning meetings, and representing the company at Swift conferences. I also had a lot of opportunities to mentor new grads and interns, overseeing their work and developing management skills that are now very important to me as a Lead Engineer. Once I had gotten experience in both technical leadership and leading people, I was promoted to be a Lead Engineer, responsible for both the Swift and Rust drivers and the engineers who work on them. I recently took on managing the Node.js driver as well, which is one of our most popular drivers and is much older than the Rust and Swift Drivers, so it has been an interesting new challenge for me. In terms of personal growth, one of the biggest ways I’ve changed is in my willingness to admit what I don’t know and proactively ask questions, even if they seem simple. I’ve realized that being a good engineer is less about what you know exactly, and more about how you approach solving problems and finding the answers. AP: Well said. How does your team collaborate? KM: Our team was quite distributed even before the pandemic began. Whereas about half of us usually work out of the New York office, my manager is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and two of the other Lead Engineers are located in Boston and Munich. Our Product Manager is in North Carolina, and we have team members scattered around the United States and other countries as well. Effective digital collaboration is essential for getting things done, since we don’t physically sit in the same location or work the same hours. In our day-to-day, we use a number of tools to accomplish this, including Slack, GitHub, Zoom, and Google Docs. Because we’re all solving the same problems, just in different programming languages, it’s beneficial for us to share knowledge with each other, both within our individual language teams and also across the department as a whole. For language-specific projects, we use a collaborative design process, where one individual writes up a proposed design and the rest of the team reviews it and provides feedback to improve the design. In regards to cross-driver projects, the drivers team writes shared specifications for how MongoDB drivers in all languages should work. These cover everything from high-level driver APIs (e.g., CRUD) down to low-level behavior such as connection pooling. These are collaborations between individuals who work on different language teams so we can ensure the specifications will work for drivers written in any programming language. We also often need to work with the Server team. For example, if the server adds a new feature such as transactions, the drivers also need to add APIs to support using that feature. Therefore, we frequently review server scope and design documents, and vice versa. What’s cool is that many of the other MongoDB teams use our drivers. For instance, the Cloud team uses both the Go and Java drivers, Atlas Data Lake uses the Go driver, MongoDB Compass and the new MongoDB shell (mongosh) use the Node.js driver, and Realm uses the Node.js BSON library. We coordinate with those teams to add new features, make changes, and act as necessary support for their use cases. They often make contributions directly to our drivers too. AP: What skills are important for someone to be successful on this team? KM: We are highly collaborative and do a lot of technical writing for our design and specification process, so team members should be strong written and verbal communicators. Since our team’s first and foremost purpose is making it easy to use MongoDB from any programming language, it’s also important that our team members have the ability to empathize with our users. They should have the ability to make pragmatic technical decisions too. As library developers, we have to make a lot of difficult choices — such as what features to include in our APIs — and balance trade-offs such as usability and maintainability. I also mentioned ownership as being a key component of working on our team, and something that attracted me to it: engineers on our team need to be ready to own the driver and projects they work on and live out MongoDB’s core value “own what you do.” AP: After working at MongoDB for four years, why do you stay? And why would someone be excited to join the team? KM: The strong mentorship and the established new grad program was a great way to launch my career, and I’ve seen many others experience the same thing. About three-quarters of the people in my new grad class are still at the company! In general, there are so many growth opportunities here that there’s no shortage of places where you can take your career at MongoDB, and we have both individual-contributor and people-management tracks, depending on your interests. The company has a wide variety of technical topics to work on, ranging from UI design all the way down to low-level C code, so it’s hard to get bored here. Even for more seasoned technologists, the opportunity to engage with the open source community through your work allows you to become an expert or deepen your expertise in your primary language, while learning more about other programming languages. You get to understand how a distributed database and database driver operates by working on a range of problems involving API design, concurrency and parallelism, distributed systems, and performance. You’ll constantly be learning new things here. From a general perspective, I personally love the company size. It’s big enough to have a good amount of structure and rigorous technical processes, but it’s still small enough that you can make an impact and get recognized as an individual. The flexible working arrangements are great too. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had flexible hours, work-from-home options, and flexible time off. The people here are great — very smart, but down to earth and open to collaboration. It makes working at MongoDB really enjoyable. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!
Meet Vanessa Le: How MongoDB Has Helped Me Embrace My Differences
As a global company, MongoDB has so many amazing employees with interesting backgrounds and stories. I recently sat down with Vanessa Le, Senior Commissions Analyst, to learn more about her journey from Vietnam to Ireland, what inclusion and belonging means to her, and how she feels supported at MongoDB. Ashley Perez: Thank you for sharing your story, Vanessa. I’d love to hear what it was like growing up in Vietnam and how your love for travel helped you move to Ireland. Vanessa Le: I was born in Vietnam to a middle-income family. When I started high school, my parents separated and my family experienced financial problems. Growing up, I always had a dream of going abroad to study and see the world, but at that point, we couldn’t afford it. I set that dream aside and went to college in Vietnam while working different part-time jobs to support my family and pay my tuition fee. During my second year, I found out a friend from college received a fully funded scholarship from an NGO to study abroad. This sparked my dream of studying abroad again. I knew it was hard to afford going to school overseas, but I also knew that it was no longer impossible, so I set my first big life goal: get a scholarship that would pay for me to study in another country. I spent months researching all available scholarships. After going through many rounds of applications over the course of two years, I got into the interview round for some. But I ended up being rejected by all of them, one by one. I was really disappointed with myself and almost gave up before I decided to give it one last attempt. With persistence and experience, two of the applications were successful! Between the two choices, I selected Irish Aid and became one of 20 Vietnamese people who got a fully funded scholarship from the Irish government to pursue a master’s degree in management consulting (my degree choice) in Ireland. Having no idea about the country beforehand, I quit my job in Vietnam and flew to Ireland with the flight, accommodation, and tuition fully paid. AP: That’s such an amazing story. How was it moving to Dublin, especially since you knew very little about Ireland? VL: Realizing my dream, I had the best year of my life studying, traveling, learning new things, discovering new cultures, and making new friends. I didn’t experience too much of a culture shock until I graduated and started searching for a job in Ireland. Being the only Asian in the first company I worked for was a tough experience and drastically destroyed my confidence. I was proud of where I was from, but at the same time, I felt isolated because I was different from others around me. Being Vietnamese became a barrier to me for blending in. Although I had worked hard, got promoted, made friends, and tried to expose myself to different social activities, I still never felt as if I belonged. I constantly doubted myself and questioned whether I made the right decision coming to Ireland and if it was the right place for me to settle. AP: That sounds really hard. Can you tell me what happened from there and how you ended up at MongoDB? VL: I joined MongoDB in 2018 as the only person on the Commissions team — which is primarily based in Palo Alto, California — who was located in Ireland. I work cross-functionally with Sales Ops, Accounting, HR, and Payroll to oversee commissions payout for the Sales team in EMEA and APAC. I am very fortunate to be part of the Commissions team, and at the same time, also a part of the International Finance team in Dublin. Commissions is still a small team of five, so whenever we get a chance to meet, I always get such a warm feeling — as if we are a family. Coincidentally, all the team members are Asian Americans, so from the very first moment when I met the team, I naturally felt connected, even though I’m remote from the rest of them. From day one when I joined the Dublin team, I was amazed at how diverse the team was. On the International Finance team of less than 20 people, we have as many as 10 different nationalities. This allows us to blend together, learn from each other, and embrace our differences. We’re excited to share and learn about each other’s cultures. When we’re in a group discussion, I no longer feel embarrassed about my accent because all the team members have their own accents. That is unique and should be appreciated. On the team, my differences no longer felt like a barrier. In fact, our differences were what made us all alike. That has helped me to regain my confidence, and for the first time since I started working in Ireland, I now feel as if I belong. AP: It’s great that you feel that connection. What is your favorite part about working at MongoDB? VL: Joining MongoDB has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career. I love the opportunity to interact with different teams, the career progression, the constant challenges, and the impact I can make. As the company grew, I witnessed the size of the international Sales team almost tripling in the last two years, which made my role challenging and interesting at the same time. The challenges I tackle at work have motivated me to upskill myself everyday. For example, I learned to code and applied my VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) skill to automate the Excel-based processes within the Commissions team — and within the Accounting team, too. The opportunities to work with the Business Systems team on system configuration and automation projects have also inspired me to extend my knowledge and skills into data analytics, which is something I’m very passionate about. Looking back at the last two years, I’ve grown so much with MongoDB. On a personal level, the opportunity to work in a multinational company and team has taught me to be more open-minded, and to welcome and respect people from different backgrounds, with their own unique life stories. As someone who originally was shy, I’ve overcome the fear of speaking in public and of being judged. Now, I’m more confident and assertive when expressing myself, amplifying my voice when needed and protecting my perspective on things I believe in. The excellent training and growth opportunities aside, the reason I stay is because of the culture and the people. MongoDB’s core values are not just there as a formalistic slogan. Ever since I joined the company, I can see that every single person I’ve worked with has really lived the company’s values. From the top executives to all of my peers, everyone has set great examples for me to learn from. I’m thankful for having such great leaders, including my managers, Derek Lowry and Prev Dole, and my VPs, Jillian Gillespie and Shalena O’Connell, who have always given me tons of support and inspiration. They have encouraged me to live these core values, which has empowered me to push my limits, challenge the status quo, and become a better version of myself. AP: From what you’ve said, a sense of belonging and inclusion is really important to you. Can you share more about that? VL: It is indeed. Feeling fully accepted within a company, being proud of who you are, and feeling safe to express yourself authentically is very important to me. If benefits attract talents, I think the sense of belonging is what retains them at MongoDB. It’s a crucial factor for employee engagement and for the company’s success. AP: That’s powerful. What does inclusion and belonging look like at MongoDB? VL: One day, I had a virtual coffee chat with MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria and a small group of people, where he casually talked about his childhood and the books he loved, and answered personal questions. To me, that is inclusion. When we worked in the office pre-COVID, the CFO, Michael Gordon, joined us for a team lunch. He talked about his weekend and what he and his wife were up to. To me, that is inclusion. Someone on the team felt safe enough to share with everyone that she just started a language course to improve her English without being afraid of being judged. To me, that is inclusion. My boss came across an article on the change of Irish immigration law and forwarded it to me to make sure I wasn’t missing the news. That is inclusion. My team ordered sushi and they included veggie sushi because one of the team members was vegetarian. That is inclusion. My colleague proudly and bravely shared his coming out story to the whole company and saw that MongoDBers embraced, celebrated, and supported it. Again, that is inclusion, and it is so amazing. I love the fact that MongoDB is so diverse. However, its diversity isn’t simply about hiring many people of different nationalities, but about clearing the barriers, amplifying everyone’s voices, and appreciating everyone’s unique backgrounds. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!
Meet Sara Campagna: A Look at My First Year as a Field Marketer During the COVID-19 Pandemic
I sat down with Sara Campagna , Field Marketing Manager based in Milan, Italy, to learn more about her first year at MongoDB, how she partners with her colleagues scattered throughout Europe and Mediterranean area, and how she successfully built the field marketing function in a brand-new region during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Ashley Perez: Congratulations on your one-year anniversary! Can you tell me more about your role at MongoDB? Sara Campagna: I’m the Field Marketing Manager leading the southern Europe region that covers Italy, Israel, and Spain. As a Field Marketing Manager, I’m involved in a varied role that includes implementation of marketing projects to support brand awareness, lead generation, and sales enablement. It’s a demanding role that requires me to juggle many tasks throughout the day, making me feel like an orchestra conductor unifying all musicians to play the same melody in harmony. I start my week catching up with my Regional Sales Directors to align on mid- and short-term priorities. Then, I align with our global Marketing team and involve all our supporting functions, including the Customer Success, Sales Development, and Presales teams. AP: Why did you choose to work at MongoDB, and how has it differed from your experiences at other companies? SC: After more than a decade in marketing, I searched for an opportunity to lead a multi-country region and was referred to my position at MongoDB by a teammate. During the interview process, I was amazed by MongoDB’s leaders and product vision. From these conversations, I knew I wanted to be part of this. After working at MongoDB for a year, I can confidently say it was a great decision to join this rock star team. We’ve accomplished so much already. One year ago, we didn’t even have a field marketing function for this region. Now, we have field marketing activities running successfully in three countries, for which I collaborate with more than 50 colleagues across different business teams. We built this with the speed of a startup, but with the backing, power, and support of an established global company—MongoDB. This shows how determination, advanced technology, and collaboration between passionate people are enough to launch a region even during a pandemic. AP: Speaking of the pandemic, how was it transitioning to a fully remote role so soon into your career at MongoDB? SC: I was originally based in our Milan office, but I traveled a lot for work during my first four months. Our amazing office — located in the historical Milan city center — housed our southern Europe region VP and regional Italian Sales team, as well as many new employees joining other teams. When we weren’t traveling, we all enjoyed going to Friday sushi lunches in a nice Japanese-Brazilian restaurant located in the same area. We had a lot of fun! Adjusting to remote working is different for everybody, and it’s important leaders work to ensure physical remoteness doesn’t lead to emotional distance. Employees need to know it’s okay to feel upset by a dramatically changed situation. Our leaders offered reassurance and guidance to all team members, recognizing that remote work suits some personalities better than others. We all appreciated that level of available support. When losing much of the social element that happens organically from working in the same physical space, teams need to continue to connect personally as well as professionally. For my team, we made some tweaks. Our usual team lunches and Friday gatherings have been easily transferred to the digital world to maintain morale and connection. It’s not the same thing, but it’s the best option we have, and we’re making the most of it. On the business side, we have top tools and technology, and great IT global support to run all our digital activity smoothly. This has not changed a lot; it was already a norm. For example, before COVID-19 shutdowns, I’d been working productively from airport lounges in the U.K., conference foyer rooms in Munich, and theaters in Rome after venue scouting. Thankfully, we already had the tools and culture in place to do remote work successfully, so this helped the transition. AP: How have you built relationships with your colleagues, especially with many of them living in different countries and you having never met them? SC: MongoDB has immersed me in a hugely diverse environment that boosts everyone’s personal growth. I don’t mean only gender, religious, or racial diversity, but the diversity from being in a multicultural workforce spread across many countries and time zones. During these recent hard times caused by the pandemic, I’ve tried to offer additional care and compassion in reaction to what’s happening around me. This has helped me develop relationships with my global team members, even though I haven’t physically met 90% of them. We approach our virtual meetings as we would in-person meetings and use them as an opportunity to get to know each other. Generally, I work to prioritize relationship building, because you don’t do business with a company: you do business with the people you like and trust. AP: How would you describe your team’s culture? SC: We have a clear vision and concrete goals that we work toward together. We’re retrospective about what’s happened so we can better plan for the future. It’s also a culture where it’s okay to make mistakes. We reserve a bit of our own time to experiment, focus on new things, and provide gentle feedback to others. We built this culture by getting together informally via Zoom, where we have coffee and chat or organize “food themed” nights when we do a food or wine tasting remotely. With many of us living in different regions, this is a fun way to experience different cultures while we’re unable to travel. AP: What has been your proudest moment working here so far? SC: The most exciting moment was during one of our remote meetings when our EMEA Sales VP mentioned the Italian team as an example. With Italy being one of the first countries in Europe to experience COVID-19 lockdowns in March, I had to pivot and rework my entire marketing plan. Despite this unexpected challenge, we saw a lot of success in the region. This recognition meant the world to me. I had tears in my eyes, but I tried not to show it. It was exciting, to say the least, and not something I’ll easily forget. It was a way of saying if our colleagues in Italy can react, be resilient, and find new ways to make things happen, we can do it anywhere. AP: What excites you most about working at MongoDB? SC: Our work environment and culture are amazing, and we are encouraged to have fun on top of ensuring excellence in all we do. I enjoy the people I work with and have made some amazing connections — both within Europe and globally — that will last a lifetime. Also, I concretely see the impact of the activities I conduct in Israel, Spain, and Italy. I feel I am an integral part of a team of great professionals who count on me. Together, each with our skills and professionalism, we are building something important for our company — from a speech during a live conference to a customer interview to hiring a new talented teammate. I’ve worked for a few companies over the last decade, but MongoDB is different. I’m encouraged to think differently, am continuously challenged and coached by our leaders, and am given a level of trust — which is critical, especially in this new normal. We’re literally crafting our own job day after day, and very few companies have the approach MongoDB has. Last but not least: from Tel Aviv, Milan, Rome, London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, Stockholm, San Francisco, and Dublin, my teammates and leaders have hugely contributed to my professional growth and are a positive source of motivation. My experience at MongoDB never would have been so amazing without them. It’s a complete privilege working with all of them. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!
Intern Series: MongoDB’s Women in Computer Science Summit to MongoDB’s Swift
Nellie Spektor is a rising senior Computer Science major at New York University. She spent this summer at MongoDB interning with our Swift Driver team. Nellie will be returning to MongoDB full time in 2021 to join our New Grad cohort. Kate Wright: Thanks for chatting with me Nellie! Let’s start with how you first got exposed to Computer Science and what made you decide to pursue the CS major at NYU. Nellie Spektor: I was lucky enough to go to a high school where everyone had to take Intro to Computer Science their sophomore year and had the option to continue taking Computer Science classes all the way through to graduation. I loved that very first intro class. I had so much fun writing little functions and coding up little games, and I knew that I had found my calling. I kept taking CS classes and being amazed at how powerful coding could be, becoming a CS major was a no-brainer. KW: You’re a part of many groups that aim to create opportunities for women in the field Computer Science. Tell me about those and a little bit about your experience of pursuing Computer Science as a woman. NS: Being a woman in Computer Science has been something I have been thinking about ever since that first CS class I took in high school. I think if it weren't for the fact that the class was mandatory (and therefore had a fairly even gender split), I may have gotten discouraged and quit coding. I came fairly close to this when I got to AP Computer Science which only had 7 girls out of 34 students. The only things that kept me from quitting was that I had the memories of having so much fun in my previous CS classes, and my one female friend in the class. That friend and early exposure were key for me, and many other women never get that, which is why we see such terrible gender ratios in Software Engineering. To try and fix this immense problem and help my fellow women getting into CS, I have been a member and later a leader in two incredible women in tech organizations: Rewriting the Code and NYU Women in Computing. Being in these organizations has given me access to incredible opportunities. If I recall correctly, it was actually through a post in the Women of Rewriting the Code Facebook group that I learned about the MongoDB Women in Computer Science Summit and started on the journey that led me to my amazing internship this summer. KW: Speaking of MongoDB’s Women in Computer Science Summit, I’d love to hear about that experience and how you decided to spend your summer at MongoDB NS: I was selected to attend the very first iteration of the MongoDB Women in Computer Science Summit! The Summit gave me the opportunity to participate in technical development, mock interviews, and a panel discussion with women in engineering at MongoDB all while networking with my peers at colleges across the country. It was such an amazing event that I am so lucky to have been a part of. After going through the recruiting process, the summit was one of the reasons I decided to join MongoDB. Through that event, the interview process, and my connections with former interns, I got to interact with a lot of MongoDBers and could truly see myself working happily with all of them. Even through interning here, I have never had a negative interaction with or even a negative thought about someone at MongoDB, and that is pretty awesome. KW: Glad to hear that! Let’s hear about some of those MongoDBers you worked with. What is your team like? NS: I am interning on the Swift Driver team, which has been awesome! The Drivers team provides libraries and tools that developers all over the world use to interface with MongoDB. The Swift driver is a relatively new team and its very small (only 2 full-time engineers). My team is part of the larger team that encompasses all the Drivers. I have been taking some classes about Programming Languages at school, and while this isn't a major aspect of my work, it is really cool to bring those interests into conversations with my team. It is really interesting to see all of these different drivers achieving the same goals, each in a way that takes advantage of their specific language features. KW: What did you work on with the driver and what was your intern experience like working remotely? NS: My main project this summer was adding Extended JSON support to the pure-Swift BSON Library. All of the drivers need to use a BSON library to interact with MongoDB. Currently, the Swift Driver is using libbson, which is the C BSON Library, and as part of an effort to make the Swift driver be written only in Swift, the team is working on a pure-Swift BSON library. The last piece necessary to actually switch from libbson to the swift BSON library is Extended JSON Support, and that's what I worked on! I added the ability to convert between BSON and Extended JSON. It was a perfect intern project; well scoped, but left room for me to make my own design decisions. I have learned a lot about what it means to work on an open source project and be involved in the ecosystem of a language. That has been really cool and I am excited to dive deeper into this world. Even despite the fact that my internship was entirely remote, I was really able to get a sense of the culture at MongoDB and I love how open, fun, and feedback focused it is! Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe , and would love for you to build your career with us!
How Our Growing Curriculum Service Engineering Team Supports MongoDB University
As MongoDB’s India-based team grows, we’re looking to add new members to our Curriculum Service Engineering team in that location. Here, two former Curriculum Service Engineers (CSEs) who were recently promoted share insight into the day-to-day team operations, their experience working at MongoDB, their passion for supporting our users, and why someone would be excited to join the team. What is a Curriculum Service Engineer? CSEs manage the relationship between our MongoDB University courses and our learners. They answer all technical questions via the discussion forums and other channels. Their purpose is to interact, advocate, and act as the voice of our community. “We support our MongoDB University users (whom we call ‘learners’) as they complete the courses in the MongoDB University Learning path and take the certification exams,” says Associate Curriculum Engineer Sonali Mamgain . “We focus on the operational aspect, analyzing course health and metrics, updating the courses so users can see their feedback reflected, and creating mini-content for our users to improve their understanding of a particular concept. “CSEs are advocates for MongoDB University learners. We constantly evaluate the content from the learner’s perspective, working closely with the Curriculum Engineers that build our courses so we can best connect the dots between the course instructors and learners.” What Does a CSE’s Day-to-Day Job Look Like? CSEs support users in several ways, which requires different skills for tackling unique scenarios. The goal is to ensure learners’ success. Shubham Ranjan , Associate Product Manager, breaks down his typical day as an example. “I manage the course logistics and technical content to ensure learner-facing services are running smoothly,” he says. “This means I may need to identify, debug, and provide solutions for learners’ technical issues. I also test and call out any issues or improvements the course may require. “We work to create a better experience for our learners. This means I analyze, strategize, and implement their feedback; customize the tools they use, such as the discussion forums; develop or oversee the production of the course handouts and instructional materials; and work closely with our internal teams to develop and design course content.” What's the CSE Team Culture Like? Although our India-based team is far from our New York headquarters, MongoDB’s company culture extends to many locations around the globe. Distance doesn’t change the strong sense of community, passion, and opportunity. “The office culture at MongoDB is one of the many things I love about my job,” says Sonali. “I’m close to completing two years here, and throughout this journey, I have never felt a struggle between balancing my work and my personal life. My teammates have been very supportive, and I’m lucky to be part of a close-knit team. People here are very approachable and are always willing to help. This makes the day-to-day work easy. “There are opportunities to grow, too. The work I do at MongoDB has helped build my knowledge and skills exponentially. For example, I have learned Python and C# as part of my job. Our team has also created ‘Tech Tuesdays’ for team-level technical discussions to build our MongoDB product knowledge. This has now become a routine for our wider Curriculum team and has boosted my communication skills. “My manager has played a very important role in shaping my personal and professional skills. She’s been very open to any communications I might have and always gives us direction to stay focused and achieve success. “We also have a lot of fun! I’m part of the ‘Funky Monkey Team,’ which is a ‘fun team’ in our office that organizes festivities, parties, health workshops, nature-related activities, and more. The team consists of members from various other teams, which I enjoy because it allows me to work with diverse people and has opened me up to new perspectives and ideas.” What Are the Most Exciting Things About Being on the CSE Team? There’s no shortage of exciting opportunities for team members to make a great impact. If you’re passionate about having the freedom to jump right in and improve your work, this can be a good opportunity. “From understanding the basic courses to enabling users to take certifications, we’re constantly supporting our learners in each step of the process. In turn, we learn a lot, too,” Sonali says. “We collaborate with many individuals so we can keep improving our educational offerings. I’ve met with different subject matter experts throughout MongoDB, and every conversation has provided a valuable lesson. It gives me immense pleasure to work with my coworkers. Even working to solve technical issues for our users and customers enables me to learn through the process.” Shubham agrees. “We’re a globally distributed team, so it gives me opportunities to learn from the most talented people in the industry,” he says. “It also lets me learn a lot of new things about different cultures. Other things I like about MongoDB are the open work culture, the incredible amount of support from our managers and leadership, and a great work-life balance.” Interested in Joining the Team? Here's How to Succeed For interested candidates, Sonali and Shubham both stress that being an independent problem solver, a team player, empathetic, and a good communicator are all things that can make someone successful on this team. “You should be a self-starter; someone who is independent and takes initiative,” says Shubham. “You can work without supervision and begin projects independently. However, you should also be a team player. This is important for anyone joining our team, because we deeply value collaboration and look for people willing to share responsibilities with other team members if need be. “Being technically sound and curious are great qualities to have. You should have a good understanding of basic computer science concepts (experience in any programming language and MongoDB/SQL is preferred) and be willing to learn new things and experiment.” Lastly, Shubham says, “having empathy toward our users is incredibly important. Not everyone learns in the same way or at the same pace, and it’s important to listen carefully, have patience, and show a level of understanding.” Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe , and would love for you to build your career with us!
Intern Series: From Ecuador, to the University of Toronto, to MongoDB - Meet Jose Cabrera-Ormaza