Meet Nicholas Cottrell: How My Experience Using MongoDB Inspired My First Book
I sat down with Nicholas (Nic) Cottrell, Technical Services Program Manager, to talk about his career progression at MongoDB and the exciting news of his recent book release, MongoDB Topology Design : Scalability, Security, and Compliance on a Global Scale. Ashley Perez: Prior to joining MongoDB, you already were familiar with our products. How did you learn about us, and why did you decide to join the team? Nic Cottrell: I've always been interested in natural language technologies and was, at the time, building a multilingual version of WordNet to facilitate machine translation of websites. I had experimented with object databases and tried to scale with systems built on top of SQL. I couldn’t find anything that would scale until I stumbled upon MongoDB around 2011. I remember being at a MongoDB event in Paris where they presented replication and sharding. I was blown away by both the implementation and the potential for scaling. I ended up using MongoDB for consulting clients and personal projects. I transitioned from customer to employee when I had completed several large consulting projects in Sweden. In spring of 2017, I had moved to France for my wife's work, and it seemed like the perfect time to seek new challenges. I wanted to leverage my experience with MongoDB, so joining MongoDB as a Consulting Engineer that October seemed like an excellent way to complement those existing skills. AP: Wow. You’ve been working with our technologies for quite some time. So, you started as a Consulting Engineer but continued to progress your career in other ways? NC: Correct. While I loved the consulting role, the amount of travel made it hard to spend time with my kids (aged one and three at the time). MongoDB is very supportive of work/life balance, so we found that a move into a technical services role would be a good solution. This remote position is much more flexible and means I can pick up the kids from school and make them dinner. I catch up on cases and email in the calm of the evening to round out the day. AP: What does the Technical Services team do? NC: The Technical Services team assists our customers with applications and databases already in deployment. We help recover systems when an unexpected event has occurred (hardware failure, for example). We can diagnose changes in performance and track it back to things such as new network misconfigurations, app features, or changes in user patterns. Being a Technical Services Engineer (TSE) sometimes feels like playing Dr. House. We have to diagnose complex systems with partial information, and success means working with customers to perform the right tests and collect the right information to identify a root cause(s). In other cases, it’s like playing Inspector Poirot. We can see that part of the system misbehaved, but the obvious suspect is seldom the real perpetrator. Customers can provide a set of diagnostic information including internal metrics from the member nodes, information about the automation of cluster components from our Ops Manager tool , and details of the host and operating system configuration. We have tools that let us visualize and zoom in to one-second intervals to piece together the timeline of events and solve the mystery. By working in pairs with our engineering colleagues, we solve these issues more quickly and also transfer knowledge and skills to our growing team. AP: Interesting way to describe it. Sounds as if the Technical Services team is perfect for curious minds who like a good puzzle. You've recently made another career move, right? Can you tell me about your new role? NC: In August 2020, I moved into a program management role within the same team. I am working on several initiatives, including expanding our knowledge management systems and our premium services offering such as Named TSE . I am now working with a larger group within MongoDB globally and am involved in the entire life cycle of the technical services experience from the customers' perspective. AP: How has MongoDB supported your career growth? NC: MongoDB has very clear and well-defined corporate values. Unlike most places I've worked, people internalize these, and I experience them every day in what we do. In particular, our culture of taking responsibility as a group improves both the product and our service delivery. As an engineer, I was encouraged to share ideas for changes, propose solutions, and follow through with getting them implemented. I feel as if the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well despite our huge growth. AP: I hear the Technical Services team is encouraged to work on side projects. I’m sure that helps accelerate career growth too. Can you tell me a bit about that? NC: Absolutely. We are encouraged to spend about four hours a week on other projects. For some, this can mean self-education and preparing for accreditations such as AWS professional-level exams. For me, due to my development background, I focused on improving our tooling. This let me learn a new programming language ( Go ) and test out our new drivers in the process. The tool I built has become a core component in our case assignment workflow globally. It’'s been great to see it have so much positive impact. Our staff engineers get to spend even more time on other projects, including guiding junior engineers, and also delving deeper into special use cases, writing tools, and knowledge base articles. All these projects can have a multiplier effect on our capacity as a team to solve customer issues quickly and efficiently. AP: Very cool. How else do you feel MongoDB sets itself apart from other companies as a place to work? NC: I love the responsiveness and approachability of our management, from individual product managers to top-level executives. It's a very flat organization, and we make use of modern techniques such as 1:1 skip meetings so we keep two-way communication open across the company. Most things move very quickly, and now that our product catalog has grown, there's a lot of news to catch up on.There are always exciting announcements around the corner. As an employee, my contributions are appreciated and actioned, and I directly benefit from the financial success of the company. AP: Thanks for sharing your experience. Now, are you ready to share your exciting news? Congrats on your recent book release! I’d love to hear more about it. NC: Thank you. My book, MongoDB Topology Design : Scalability, Security, and Compliance on a Global Scale , released in September 2020. It was inspired by questions and concerns raised during my consulting engagements, as well as my participation in our Ask the Experts booths and trainings at various MongoDB.local and World events . The book is intended to assist large enterprises managing MongoDB themselves on-premises or in cloud instances. These customers tend to have very specific security and data protection requirements and a low tolerance for any negative production impact. I wanted to create something that both management and engineers could read to get up to speed on how MongoDB works and the issues to consider when scaling out a large deployment. There are several small things that can make it much easier to scale out globally later. AP: That sounds like an amazing resource for our customers. How did members of MongoDB support you during your writing process? NC: MongoDB itself was very supportive, and I was encouraged to reach out internally to our developers to ensure complete accuracy. My manager even helped proofread my draft copies. While MongoDB Atlas is definitely the future for MongoDB production deployments, I wanted to make sure organizations that are still required to manage their own infrastructure have a single reference while industries prepare themselves for a fully cloud, SaaS world. 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 Marissa Jasso: My Experience as a Mexican/Native American Woman in Tech
In honor of National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, I sat down with Marissa Jasso to learn more about her career at MongoDB, her family's history, her experience as a Latina woman, and how she empowers herself to reach for more. Marissa is a Product Marketing Manager for our MongoDB Atlas product. Take a look at her story. Ashley Perez: Thank you so much for sitting down with me and sharing your experience. Can you start by telling me a bit about your career and how you got into the tech industry? Marissa Jasso: My first internship during freshman year of college was as a content strategist at Autodesk. Seeing firsthand the positive impacts Autodesk software made in different industries inspired me to follow a path into the tech industry. Computer-aided design is just a chip off the tip of the tech iceberg. What intrigued me was the ability to use software to express creativity in meaningful outlets that create impact. My experience at Autodesk propelled me to study computer science in addition to English, but what I truly pursued was the intersection of technology and art. From there, I interned at Flickr. Then I worked at Twitter as a technical writer, where I created internal documentation guidelines for engineers for projects on their open source site. Upon graduating, I worked at YouTube building knowledge bases, and that’s when I came across MongoDB. The opportunity to work within the tech sector and focus on something as interesting and technical as databases clicked for me. It was something I couldn’t walk away from. AP: That’s quite an impressive resume, with a lot of top companies so early in your career. Can you tell me about your role at MongoDB? MJ: I’m currently a Product Marketing Manager (PMM) for Atlas — MongoDB’s fully managed global cloud database. I create the messaging, positioning and go-to-market (GTM) strategy for the newest Atlas features. My focus is working with the Cloud Automation and the Cloud Insights and Telemetry teams. By working closely with product managers from ideation through development to execution, I’m able to deliver the best GTM strategy for internal stakeholders and external users. A few of my favorite feature releases include MongoDB Ops Manager containerization , which allows for a simplified Ops Manager management experience, and Schema Suggestions in MongoDB Atlas, which provide custom recommendations on how to optimize your data model. When I initially joined MongoDB in 2019, I was doing content marketing and transitioned to product marketing midway through the year. When the opportunity arose to try something new in a different domain, I seized it. I think my technical internships played a role in determining my fit for working as a PMM on an overtly technical product like Atlas. AP: It’s amazing to see all of your career growth at MongoDB in a short period of time. In light of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, why don’t we talk about your family? MJ: I’m both Mexican and Native American. My parents are first-generation college graduates and high school sweethearts. They met in El Paso, Texas, and moved together to California for college. My dad attended Stanford University, became an immigration attorney, and opened a private family-run practice. My mom attended Santa Clara University, studied psychology, and became a teacher. She came to realize she was pretty amazing at her job, so my brother and I were homeschooled while she simultaneously managed my father’s practice until just two years ago when he became a federal judge. She now makes good use of her psychology degree by providing me with free therapy and enduring the mental combat of raising my teenage sister. Owning a business where you fight for the rights of immigrants who typically can’t get a half-decent paying job because of their immigration status wasn’t incredibly lucrative. The older my siblings and I got, the more we began to understand that. I can only imagine how torn my parents must have felt by their desire to boundlessly provide for their children and pursue such a purpose-driven mission. As a daughter, the endeavour of my parents will always be something I’m most proud of. They brought families together, gave people opportunity, and constantly did the work for only the price that people could spare. That sort of bountiful generosity, positivity, and drive — even when it means giving more than you’re getting — despite the overwhelming amount of work there is to do, are just a few virtues my parents have lived and instilled in me by example. I also consider these attributes an embodiment of my culture, because both Mexican and Native American communities have historically and still are consistently advocating for belonging, for preservation of identity, and against oppression. AP: Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s clear there’s plenty to be proud of when it comes to your family, and I’m sure those they’ve helped are eternally grateful. Now, can you tell me a little bit more about you and your experiences? MJ: Being a young Latina has never been a cake walk. I’ve felt it as both a curse and blessing, sometimes all at once. My Latina heritage has been central to my upbringing, from the way I speak to the way I dress. I’ve never really had an eye for fashion, but I’ve always had a respect for tradition. Like many other Latinas, I had my ears pierced right after I was born. Since then, my abuelita made darn sure I never left the house without appropriate earrings. Eventually, I grew into my gold hoops — a rite of passage and a staple of Mexican culture. Recently, it’s been interesting watching hoops adapt to a signature Instagram look in mainstream media when the Latinas who gave them life value them so much differently. Traditions aside, as a Latina, I’ve faced plenty of adversity throughout my life. I’ve been looked at every which way for simply walking into a room, been repeatedly sexually harassed when taking my dog for walks on the streets of New York (the hypersexualization of Latinas in the media isn’t helping), and been consistently told (and felt) that my identity isn’t even worth the time it takes to pronounce my name correctly (Mah-dee-sah). Despite the nuances of safely navigating a brown body in the United States, I’m utterly grateful because I wear my experiences as a suit of armor against the accusations and stereotypes placed upon my culture. And with that, I take the time to educate myself on matters of race, politics, and history. On days when I find it particularly difficult to simply be, I’ll read a bit more and dive a little deeper. The past few months I’ve completed Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, The Periodic Table of Feminism by Marisa Bate, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and I’m currently tackling Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum. I’d highly recommend all of these! I’ve spent my life being passive and sitting silently in discomfort too many times, because there is nothing I hate more than being a feather ruffler. But the recent political climate has proved that I have to put my personal preferences aside, because being actively anti-racist may involve feather ruffling, and I’m obligated to speak up. AP: What’s something you wish to share about your story that job candidates and readers can learn from or relate to? MJ: Latinas hold only 2 percent of STEM jobs, and that’s a huge issue. That statistic has mirrored my experience within tech. I’ve rarely worked with people who share a similar background, and every mentor I’ve ever had within tech has been a white man. Although I’m incredibly grateful to have such empowered mentors and advocates, it can feel unsettling to never see people who look like you in positions of power within the tech sector. But when I begin to wonder why, I consider my own path. I never had access to a computer science class until college, which I paid for on my own. I took many classes at my local community college during high school so I could save money by graduating early. During my time at university, I always worked three jobs to not only keep afloat, but also to make consistent student loan payments (and I still graduated with a lot of debt). I think it’s a privilege to use college as an opportunity to “find yourself,” because for many others, it is one of the few pathways — if not the only direct one — for achievement, wealth, and success. Many people attend college with a blank slate, but when you’re a person of color, it can feel as if your background continues to define you. I think it’s important to remember that isn’t a bad thing. Sure, I didn’t have the luxury of making mistakes while studying abroad in Spain, but I found immense joy where I was. I was lucky enough to apply for and land jobs that fulfilled my passion, I found a love for nature, and I found an even deeper love for the guy who brought it into my life. It’s important to try to appreciate and dwell in the present, even if you consider it a stepping stone. AP: You’ve faced a lot of adversity in your life. Has MongoDB done its part to make you feel as if you belong? MJ: I joined MongoDB because I want to work at a company that truly operates by its values. I want to work at a company with big ambitions and limitless potential in its product and impact. MongoDB fits the bill, which was what originally intrigued me. A large part of why I feel so comfortable here is that I’m able to truly express myself. My greater team is distributed, making them incredibly diverse, and I am so grateful to work with people of all backgrounds. Our MongoDB affinity group, TUPOC (The Underrepresented People of Color), has always supported my ideas, and because of that community, I know I always have a safe place to go. Since working at MongoDB, I’ve felt as if I could leave my cultural and racial insecurities at home, and that’s one less thing I have to worry about. I get to focus on working, and that hasn’t always been the case at other companies. AP: I’m glad that’s been your experience, and I know MongoDB is working to continue to create opportunities for inclusion for all our employees. Any other closing thoughts? MJ: My little sister just started her freshman year of high school. When considering how my actions could potentially create a better world for my culture, for this generation, and for the generations to come, she is at the forefront of my motivation. I hope, like my parents did for me, to lead by example and show that we can be and do anything — even if the playing field isn’t and was never equal. As a Latina, she’ll undergo an unprecedented amount of adversity, and as an empowered Latina, she’ll probably face even more adversity because of it. But I hope she, like myself, owns it, because our culture in itself is bold, beautiful, and something to be proud of! 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 Alejandro Torrealba: How My Willingness to Learn and Embrace Different Cultures Has Grown My Career
In honor of National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, I sat down with Alejandro Torrealba to learn more about his career at MongoDB, how moving around the world has allowed him to embrace his passion for other cultures, and how he honors his Venezuelan roots. Alejandro is a Technical Program Manager at MongoDB. Take a look at his story. Ashley Perez: It sounds as if you’ve had an exciting start to your career, especially in terms of all the places you’ve lived. Can you tell me a bit more about that? Alejandro Torrealba: I always like to learn new things, relate to new and different people, and apply logical and mathematical thinking to solve problems. As I finished my computer engineering degree, I had a technical internship supporting Microsoft Venezuela’s marketing department. After working a few years, I decided I wanted to interact with different cultures and professional spaces, so I went to England to get my master’s in computer science and worked at a London startup, first as head of development and later as a product manager. After five years in London, I left the startup to work as a product owner at a much bigger European corporation in Edinburgh. Eventually, I was promoted to the role of an agile program manager there. In 2018, I moved to New York for personal reasons. When considering job opportunities, I wanted to work for a growing, innovative organization with modern products that had a diverse and inclusive team, high working standards, and strong branding. With those criteria, I applied to MongoDB and officially joined the team in May 2019 as a technical program manager. AP: As a travel lover myself, I’m a little envious of all the amazing places you’ve lived. Very cool! And it sounds as if MongoDB benefited from your move to New York. Can you tell me about your role? AT: On the Technical Program Management team, we focus on managing and supporting the processes to ensure lean and timely software delivery. That requires a technical understanding of what we want to build, knowledge of the “team’s personality,” cross-team communication, planning, and follow-ups. Each technical program manager works with a defined number of teams, managing cross-team initiatives and performing process improvement and automation projects. Outside of the projects we manage, we usually have regular program manager team meetings to coordinate, share ideas, support each other, and generally catch up. AP: Before COVID-19, you worked in our New York headquarters. What was that like? AT: New York City is one of the greatest cities and cultural centers in the world. The diversity there brings people together from all continents, religions, gender preferences, and professions, providing infinite choices for different relationships, work opportunities, technologies, entertainment, arts, dance, food, and social events. MongoDB’s NYC office reflects this variety too . There is significant diversity of personal and professional backgrounds, and every person is well-acknowledged and respected. As there is space for everyone in NYC, there is space for excellent employees at MongoDB. You just have to make sure you do a great job! AP: Speaking of diversity, let’s talk about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month. What does it mean to you? AT: It is a time to commemorate and celebrate the Latino American people's continuous contributions in building the United States’ modern society. For me, that celebration is a welcoming message to all the Latino American people willing to work and continue contributing. There is so much of the Latino American culture found in NYC, including food, music, dance, sports, people, arts, and more. Even during the pandemic, there are plenty of options for experiencing the culture. I am sure there are great taco and arepa places that can deliver you a taste of that, and good online events for you to see salsa dancing! MongoDB is a place where you can be and express who you are. One of our core values literally embraces the “power of differences,” and this has shaped our company culture. That is something many of us may take for granted, but in reality, the MongoDB culture has been designed to be inclusive, and we invest to make it better in that way. This is why we’re able to celebrate things like Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month. And we will continue to celebrate other aspects of the diversity we have here as well. AP: Is there anything you’d like to share about your culture that’s a huge part of who you are? AT: Kindness, sharing, and being family-oriented were always big parts of the Venezuelan culture, as I know it has been part of Latino American culture in general. As Venezuelans, my family always emphasized these values, as well as learning, working, and having some fun and celebration to connect with family and friends. I like to keep these values no matter where I live. My culture has also taught me to be kind to others, conserve the books I read so that others can read them later, and not to ever waste food. AP: How do you keep your culture alive as you move around? AT: I have great friends from Venezuela who live in New York, and we see each other frequently. Apart from that, I enjoy specific Latin food places and never get tired of inviting friends and coworkers to share that food with me. I also try to enjoy other cultures, especially by spending time with friends I’ve made in the United Nations systems and other international organizations. After living and working in a few places, I truly believe that most people are naturally willing to relate to others in a safe way, so it’s been interesting to share our cultures with one another. AP: That’s a great way to look at it. Backtracking a bit, I’d love to learn more about why you chose MongoDB and what makes you stay. AT: Once I arrived in New York, I was looking for a growing technology company that was a leader in its industry and financially stable, with an excellent reputation as an employer. I found all of that in MongoDB. I have worked with teams from Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, India, and different places from the United States during my career. From that experience, I can affirm our standard for professionalism and excellence here is very high, generating the best products quickly. I believe it represents an attractive challenge for anyone in the technology industry. I can say all the great reviews I read on Glassdoor while applying to MongoDB are totally true. AP: Any parting thoughts for why someone would want to join your team? AT: At MongoDB, you’ll have the freedom to do your job in the best way possible while responding to high, transparent, and fair expectations. We discuss, agree, do our work, check results, look for improvement, and support each other as needed. It’s a great environment to grow your career and genuinely an amazing place to work. 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!
Technical Services Engineering at MongoDB: Meet Alex Bevilacqua
From Natural Disasters to a Global Pandemic: A sales leader’s relocation to MongoDB Sydney
Jeremy Powers received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was asked to relocate to MongoDB’s office in Sydney, Australia to further build out our sales presence in the region. Jeremy speaks about the challenges he faced during his move to Sydney as well as his vision for his new team in ANZ.