How Three College Friends Became MongoDB Coworkers
Siya Raj Purohit, Chaitanya Varanasi, and Sohail Shaikh first met while attending the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) as undergraduate students. Five years after graduating, they found themselves brought together again — this time by MongoDB. I recently sat down with Siya, Chai, and Sohail to talk about this friendship that has been sustained through divergent career paths and continues to grow alongside their roles at MongoDB. Jackie Denner: Tell us about your story leading up to MongoDB. How did the three of you meet and begin to grow your careers? Siya Raj Purohit: I studied electrical and computer engineering at UT Austin from 2010 to 2013. Although Chai, Sohail, and I weren’t in the same year, we became friends from hanging out and working through the rigorous engineering curriculum in the same study lounge. Outside of the engineering building, Austin’s tech scene was exploding; some of my favorite memories with Chai and Sohail are going to tech events together. We met Stephen Wolfram (from WolframAlpha), briefly hung out with Mark Cuban, and crashed many SXSW tech events. Since graduating from college, I’ve lived in four states and worked across startups and venture capital firms. At MongoDB, I help provide founders with the resources they need to push the tech industry forward. Chaitanya (Chai) Varanasi: I am an electrical and computer engineering major from UT Austin, class of 2015 (Hook ‘Em!). Electrical and computer engineering is a fairly small cohort of students who all share a building and sit in the same hall for introductory classes. It is always said that the hottest fires forge the strongest metal. In our situation, we all had to go through grueling labs and coding assignments that would keep us up all night and unite us toward a common goal of passing that class. What started as collaboration on class materials very quickly transitioned into late-night frozen yogurt hangouts, playing Catan, and discovering Austin together. Sohail and I used to travel across the country for various hackathons, which was how we started our careers in software engineering. One of my favorite memories is of Siya taking us to the meetup of a lifetime at the Capital Factory, a startup incubator in Austin; we even got a picture with Stephen Wolfram! After graduating, I joined a large financial institution in Dallas as a software engineer, and then I began my presales journey in the performance space. After realizing the potential of data and understanding the value companies gain from data insights, I joined MongoDB. Sohail Shaikh: My journey in tech began when I was 12 years old and built my first computer. Since then, I have always been fascinated with new technologies and learning more about them. I was a math major at UT Austin, class of 2015. I actually can’t remember the first time I met Siya or Chai, because it seems as if I have known them forever, and I felt an immediate bond with both of them from the start. I have vivid memories of our times at UT together: attending hackathons, collaborating on ideas, and spending a lot of time talking about the future and how we could bring change. In the five-and-a-half years since graduating, I have worked in Palo Alto and Dallas — at a startup, at AppDynamics, and now at MongoDB. I’m excited to be reunited with Chai and Siya; we are all very passionate about making a positive impact in this world, and we are all doing that today at MongoDB! JD: What is your role at MongoDB? SRP: I’m helping the next generation of developers to build great companies. There is so much great talent coming out of universities and startup accelerator programs, and MongoDB for Startups works with developers to ensure they have the right products and services to transform their ideas into innovative companies. More than 1,500 companies have #BuiltWithMongoDB so far — and we’re super excited to continue growing the ecosystem. CV: I am a Senior Solutions Architect. My day-to-day job consists of being a technical partner to our rock-star sales team and performing proof of concepts with our customers to continually grow our MongoDB presence. SS: I am a Solutions Architect at MongoDB for the South Central region. My day-to-day job is working with customers in the presales organization and showcasing why MongoDB is so amazing. JD: How did you maintain your friendship after college? SRP: After college, I lost touch with Chai and Sohail for a couple of years. I moved to Silicon Valley, and although we periodically caught up through mutual friends, we didn’t really reconnect until we all joined MongoDB. I joined a few weeks before Chai (mostly to be part of his welcoming crew) and was ecstatic when Sohail told us he was joining MongoDB too. Now, we have a private Slack channel (named after one of our favorite Bollywood films) where we talk about our jobs and lives and also share cute memes and gifs. CV: Sohail and I both lived in Dallas and worked on the same team at a previous company. We have done multiple trips together and spent way too many nights eating sushi and Whataburger! Siya and I lost touch for a little because of the distance, but we were able to make up for lost time after joining MongoDB. SS: I am horrible at maintaining relationships, but Chai and Siya keep me in check (it’s just the type of people they truly are). I would meet Chai once a year on a group trip, and one day I called him to learn more about his new role at AppDynamics; he didn’t hesitate to refer me in. Next thing I knew, I was working with him on his team. Two-and-a-half years later, Chai decided to move to MongoDB, and I couldn’t resist. After working with Chai, I am now convinced I talk to him more than his wife does. Siya and I reconnected during the pandemic through a socially distanced meetup at a park while I was visiting San Francisco. Now that we both work for MongoDB, our friendship has picked up right where we left off. JD: All three of you joined MongoDB during the COVID-19 pandemic. How was the remote onboarding experience? SRP: Honestly, I was sort of nervous about joining remotely. I had left a company where I had really strong relationships with my coworkers, and it was daunting to imagine building new connections while being entirely remote. During my interview process, I asked for advice on how to best onboard. I was recommended the book The First 90 Days , which provided a great framework and onboarding roadmap. The MongoDB onboarding week itself was awesome — I met many people across the company, joined a few employee affinity groups (MongoDB Women is my favorite!), and learned about the lives of my coworkers beyond work — I even virtually met some of their babies and pets! I’m really excited to spend time with coworkers in person once it’s safer to do so. CV: I had a phenomenal experience with onboarding. Everyone at MongoDB has been nothing short of helpful. This was the first time in my life that I got to meet an entire executive team in a small group setting within the first month of joining the company. Each MongoDB executive hosts a coffee chat once a quarter, which is a great way to get to know them more personally. That kind of exposure is unparalleled, and it truly showed me how a great culture was supported from both bottom up and top down. SS: Onboarding at MongoDB is the best I have ever seen! Training and role clarity have been phenomenal, even in a remote setting. The material is organized and easy to grasp, and I don’t feel as if I have been left to figure everything out on my own. The team is extremely helpful in answering all of my questions and helping me grow. In Sales, there is also boot camp, which is divided up into two parts for my role. Boot camp lasted for a month to avoid any Zoom fatigue (given that we are all virtual), which also gave us more time to work on our assignments and properly learn the lay of the land. JD: What are you most excited about? SRP: I am so excited about Chai moving to NYC so we can work out of the same office when it reopens. I’ve already mapped out the top 10 bubble tea shops in NYC for us to visit. CV: I am ready to explore New York with Siya and have future MongoDB lunches together. Sohail and I are ready to tackle our Sales Kickoff and have fun when we return to normal situations after the pandemic. We are all career-driven individuals, and I am excited to see how we can uplift each other as a family. SS: I am most excited to be learning about the database space and contributing to growing the business. I am also super excited to see where MongoDB goes in the future. As one of the world’s fastest-growing databases, it feels as if we are on a rocket ship. JD: What advice would you give to others who are looking for a new role? SRP: Recruiting is always hard. Find unique ways to showcase why you’re a fit for a certain role or company — passion is seen and rewarded. CV: Always keep your connections and networks alive. Keep interacting with the folks you care about. I am nothing without my work friends and my work family. MongoDB is on a rocket ship right now, and you will absolutely love working here. SS: Don’t be afraid to take a risk in your careers, and put in an application to MongoDB today! We love working with talented, hard-working folks, and the grass is truly green on this side! 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!
Think Big, Go Far with the MongoDB Customer Success Team
Customer Success Managers (CSMs) play an integral role at MongoDB by providing our customers with the tools and guidance they need to make an impact on the world with their applications. Our Customer Success team is made up of employees from all around the world and collectively speaks 10 languages. Stay tuned to learn more about how the team has grown over the years and get insights into what a day in the life of a CSM at MongoDB is really like. Customer Success at MongoDB For CSMs at MongoDB, every day is different. With a wealth of growth opportunities, a diverse set of customers, and the chance to play a role in the full lifecycle of a customer’s journey, CSMs have the opportunity to constantly innovate and develop creative solutions. Here, Demarcus Lloyd and Paige Jornlin from the U.S.-based team share what it’s like to be a CSM at MongoDB. Demarcus Lloyd, Senior Customer Success Manager, Austin Candidates often think you need to have a strong background in tech to be a CSM at MongoDB, but that’s not necessarily the case. I, for example, completed a college degree in chemistry and international studies, and in 2015, I was working full time in a molecular biology and pathology division of a lab. Initially, I was worried that without a computer science or engineering degree, the move to a technology company would be too difficult of an adjustment, but the opposite proved to be the case. I transitioned my career and joined a health IT company, where I was promoted to a Customer Success role within a year. That role opened doors for other opportunities and eventually led me to join the database space with MongoDB. My portfolio includes computer software and hardware companies, as well as retail, media, oil and gas, and even healthcare companies. This type of diversity in industries creates exposure to some really niche and interesting use cases for MongoDB. One of my favorite success stories is about one of my customers that had major concerns around migrating from on-prem deployment to our cloud offering, Atlas, and sharding several terabytes of data for a customer-facing application. This hesitancy was delaying the company’s overall goal to offload from its data centers by 2022, which could implicate millions of dollars in cost savings. Knowing the team needed to see another successful customer example to move forward, I leveraged a key stakeholder relationship I built with another customer that had a very similar migration and sharding experience. The Lead Engineer agreed to provide me with their tech specs, success metrics, and migration experience to be shared back with the customer. By sharing this proof point, I was able to restore my customer’s confidence, and the company was able to migrate its preproduction workloads a month ahead of schedule and begin migrating production workloads in Q3, ultimately accelerating and de-risking an expansion. When it comes to our team culture, the Customer Success organization is a collective of some of the most talented and selfless individuals I have had the opportunity to work with. For most of us that don’t come from a database background, we recognize that MongoDB can be challenging for beginners to learn. However, the individuals on the team all have strengths and weaknesses, and this is where the collaborative spirit pulls through. A lot of the playbooks, team enablement, and initiatives that are in place for the team are spearheaded by the CSMs themselves, with a focus on the betterment of the global team. We also have a lot of team events. I manage our global happy hour sessions for all new hires every quarter to welcome them to the team. Recently, we had a trivia night as a team-building exercise. The questions ranged from films to history, music, and even Greek mythology. With the various age groups that make up the CSM team, it was interesting to see firsthand the generational familiarity across the topics. At times, it was really competitive, but it was a lot of fun. Paige Jornlin, Customer Success Team Lead, New York City When I first joined MongoDB in May 2018, I was blown away by the onboarding process. Right from day one, they guide you through your ramp-up and make sure you have everything you need to feel comfortable talking to these really technical customers. I also was paired up with a “buddy” at MongoDB to help me with all of my questions during my first few weeks, and I attended our incredible sales boot camp. Since 2018, we’ve only made improvements to these programs. At the beginning of COVID-19, we built out a Customer Success boot camp to take these concepts they’re learning about throughout their ramp-up plan and let them hear directly from the experts. I was certainly impressed two-and-a-half years ago when I joined, but it’s changed drastically, and we have a huge focus on making sure that any new hire has all the tools and support available to really get comfortable with it. The Customer Success team takes a really powerful, impactful product and jumps in to expedite and ensure a customer’s success. We offer a really deep level of guidance and partner closely with our clients as they work toward all of their upcoming objectives. We like to think of ourselves as an extension of their team. We also focus on making sure customers can take advantage of the whole ecosystem of tools they have available to them and on ensuring that their experience is seamless. Every day in my role is different. One day, I might be meeting with our Sales leaders from the various regions I support to strategize on how to best support accounts and de-risk them, while on another day, I might be working with my team to drive toward their metrics and career goals. I’m also really passionate about bringing the team together for enablement and mindshare of what’s going well and what the team might be struggling with. Our team culture is one of the things that excites me the most. Having a team of people I want to be around who are extremely intelligent, challenge me, and make me feel super comfortable is of the utmost importance to me. Because of COVID-19 and our office closure, I ate lunch by myself for the first time after two years in my role here, and it felt so weird because this is such a tightly knit team. We’re always doing things together — constantly looking to collaborate on projects or even just hang out. The team culture has been one of my favorite parts of working at MongoDB. Our team is also really diverse, and people’s differences are embraced. Without having that diversity of background, thought, race, sex, and so forth that exists on our team, we wouldn’t be able to innovate, challenge the norm, or think about different ways of doing things as much as we do. 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 Some of MongoDB’s Influential Women Leaders in 2021
Each year, MongoDB highlights some of our most influential leaders in celebration of International Women’s Day. These women are making a huge impact on their teams and the company, have grown their careers at MongoDB as managers, and inspire us every day. Kathrin Schmitt , Manager, Corporate Sales - DACH, Dublin, Ireland Change is the only constant in our life. Embracing it and continually searching for opportunities to grow is my secret to finding success. When I got my master’s degree in finance, it did not occur to me that I would switch gears and change fields entirely in my early 30s. My family and many friends thought I was crazy for abandoning an industry that I worked hard to be a part of and successfully started to build a career in. However, I saw how technology is changing the world, and I wanted to be part of something that is growing and disruptive. When I got the opportunity to join MongoDB in early 2016, I left all my friends and family behind and embraced the challenge of moving to a new country and industry at the same time. Five years later, I don’t regret a single day. I am leading our DACH and French Corporate Sales Teams at MongoDB, and personal and professional development are still key to my success as well as the success of my team. My team is building the market from the ground up, and this requires courage, innovation, knowledge, and trust. Our technology is disrupting the database market, but few people know that our Sales Team is outstanding and disruptive too. I rely on the entrepreneurial spirit of my team to understand how we can not only find new customers but also build scalable processes that will exponentially grow the customer base in these regions. Learning, developing, and innovating is deeply ingrained in our team culture. This is crucial, because it allows us to try new things and fail until we eventually succeed. I truly trust that my team knows what is best for the market and their customers, and I wholeheartedly support them in their own development. MongoDB has a very open, inclusive, and collaborative culture—one that I have felt completely confident in and supported by. I feel as if I can be myself at work, and that’s something I try to pass on as well. Our jobs take up most of our lives, so it’s important that we feel fulfilled, safe, productive, and in a position where we are not afraid to fail and can share our opinions without feeling judged. I want to inspire and encourage my team to build together and to be the best version of themselves. I love helping my team grow and succeed, and I hope I can share my passion for MongoDB and our product with them. The database market is the largest in software sales, and we serve customers who are truly changing the world. I’m surrounded by compassionate and supportive women at MongoDB every day, and as I expand my team, I’m focusing on bringing more women into our sales organization and providing them with the resources they need to advance their careers. As a leader, it’s really important to make sure you’re there for your team. When you take care of your people, they will take care of others. Lungowe (Lulu) Andala , Global Payroll Manager, New York, NY I was born and raised in Zambia and at the age of 16 migrated to Australia to study. Once I graduated from university, I kind of stumbled into a payroll coordinator role while looking for a job in my field of study. I had never done payroll before, but I’ve always loved working with numbers so I interviewed for the role. The company saw my enthusiasm and willingness to learn, and I got the job! After a few years, my partner and I moved to the United States, where I worked for a professional employment organization (PEO) before joining MongoDB. When I think back, all my prior roles pushed me toward a management position, even if I didn’t necessarily know that at the time. One thing I always enjoyed was training and sharing the knowledge I had with peers. This naturally led to me being the person who trained new team members. As I honed this skill, I noticed that people got more value from “guidance,” which facilitated a better understanding of concepts, as compared to a more traditional step-by-step training method. I never thought I’d be a manager, but when I was presented with the opportunity to build a team here at MongoDB, one of the things I was most excited about was how I’d contribute to the growth and development of the team. My manager has been a strong role model who continues to help me grow by pushing me beyond my comfort levels, while still offering the same guidance and coaching I strive to provide in my own management style. When I became a manager for the first time, I was worried that I wouldn’t get it right and that this would impact my team’s motivation and performance. If I could go back and talk to myself back then, I’d say “Stop being in your own head too much.” You may stumble a few times, but you’ll realize that if you give your team opportunities to grow and develop, they will stay motivated. If you provide clear and achievable objectives for your team, they’ll understand what value they are bringing, not only to the team but to the company. They’ll feel as if they are working toward something tangible and that their work is making a difference (which it is). Sometimes your team will come to you for guidance and you won’t always know the solution right away, and that’s okay. Someone once told me a good manager is the one who asks the right questions, not someone who knows everything. Don’t place value on knowing the answers to everything all the time. My approach to leadership is to be democratic and be a coach. In almost everything I do, I try to keep my team in mind. I ask myself questions like “How will this impact the team? Are there growth opportunities for my team? How can I get the team involved throughout this process or project?” I try to give my team members the independence and autonomy to make their own decisions, while always being there to guide them through any decision-making or problem-solving process. Tammy Bailey , Lead Engineer, Sydney, Australia Years ago, when I began graduate school, I was a bit dismayed to learn there was a hefty teaching requirement — as if I wouldn’t have enough work already! But I quickly grew to love teaching. My favorite students were inevitably the most difficult ones. I loved the challenge of finding alternative methods to ensure all students could learn, and finding the right motivation to inspire the uninspired. As an engineer, I missed the fulfillment that teaching provided — and quite honestly, as an extrovert, I really missed the social interaction. Thus, I set out to find a place in the engineering world that would check all the boxes. Back when I was an individual contributor, I spent most of my time working independently. Writing, testing, and debugging code were my main responsibilities, and I viewed my technical proficiency as a measure of my success. Now, as a Lead Engineer, my days are spent collaborating with others. My focus is no longer on the task at hand, but on the team assigned to complete the task. I use my technical experience to scope and design projects, and I trust in the technical proficiency of my team to see those projects to completion. I champion a culture that is friendly, accepting, accountable, inclusive, and diverse. I love so many things about my role! I love building a team culture that ensures everyone has a productive, positive, and safe environment to work in. I love to plan team events and brainstorm new ways to engage all the personalities on the team. I love working with my fellow leads, having a voice in planning and resource allocation, and setting milestones and goals. I love mentoring engineers — mapping out their goals, finding their path, motivating them to move forward, and celebrating their successes along the way. I believe the true skill of effective leaders is the ability to guide their teams along a successful path, while knowing this path may not look the same for everyone. Leaders inspire, motivate, and empower their teams. They respect the insight and experience of the team and allow everyone to have a voice, building their teams based not only on talent but also on culture and personality. They want their teams to be excited to come to work every day, and find ways to make that possible. They lead by example. If you are an engineer who would like to manage your own team, my first piece of advice is to ask yourself if you genuinely feel people leadership would be a successful path for you. Test the waters by seeking out mentoring opportunities and noncoding tasks, signing up for design review crews, and contributing to improving team processes and culture. You should find these things enjoyable and rewarding, and the people you engage with should find it enjoyable and rewarding to work with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and demonstrate that you can use it to grow and improve. My second piece of advice is to find a company whose values you admire, a manager who inspires and motivates you, and a team that embodies what you hope to achieve when building one of your own. When I interviewed at MongoDB, I learned some of my teammates have worked together for decades. Decades! That is nothing short of amazing, and it was definitely a team I wanted to be a part of. My manager indeed inspires and motivates me and helps me grow as a leader simply by being a fantastic leader himself. MongoDB provides me with a successful environment built on strong core values and the opportunity to advance as a leader in the company. Jenny Liang , Lead Product Marketing Manager, New York, NY I’m very grateful for the recent opportunity to grow my career into a managerial role at MongoDB. I’ve always wanted to lead a team, and luckily, my professional goals aligned with the company’s trajectory. Currently, I lead Product Marketing for MongoDB Atlas , our core cloud product. In this role, I define strategies for how my team can create more value for the business and scale efficiently. The fast pace of product innovation combined with our ambitious growth goals have also helped justify the need for more product marketers. That said, being a new manager has been both challenging and humbling. I never expected to have to recruit and onboard team members in a fully remote environment! There’s so much learning that happens indirectly in an office that can be hard to re-create virtually. Everything is more deliberate, and it puts pressure on everyone to stay on top of things. Part of my responsibility as a manager is making sure my team feels as if they’re being included in conversations and are aware of what’s going on around them, even if it isn’t something they’re directly working on. An important lesson I learned as a manager is that there are many ways to “be helpful.” By nature, I like helping others, but I was used to expressing that by doing work or teaching people what I knew. Now that I have a team, I realize I have to help them in different ways. For example, sometimes I need to say no to requests so they can focus on the highest priorities. Other times, I simply need to be a good listener. By giving people space to think aloud, they can often find a solution on their own. One of my current focus areas is championing ways to iterate constantly and test new ideas. I see it as one way to set a good example for my team and encourage them to think about how they can be leaders in the future. I pitch my ideas as pilots, experiments, or research projects to get buy-in. Then I execute as best as I can, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t. This part is super important! If you don’t share what you learn, then you can’t inspire others to change what they do and build off your experiences. Think of it as your contribution to the team’s knowledge bank. In my experience, becoming an influencer in decision-making is an important way to show executives and people in leadership that you’re making an impact and that they should invest in you and the growth of your team. 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!
Switching Teams and Beginning a New Career as a Solutions Architect: Meet Idriss Ouazzani
I sat down with Idriss Ouazzani, a Solutions Architect (SA) based in France, to gain a deeper understanding of his fast track to success, rising from Customer Success Manager (CSM) to his current SA role in less than two years. We also spoke about his upbringing in Morocco, his deep love of learning, and the ways in which MongoDB has kept him motivated and energized. Jess Katz: Thank you for sharing your story, Idriss. Can you tell me what you did before joining MongoDB? Idriss Ouazzani: I was born and raised in Meknès, Morocco, and lived there until I was 18 years old. Although I did extremely well in the entrance exam for the Moroccan Army, I decided instead to move to France and further my studies in engineering. I was always passionate about new technologies, and I decided to pursue electronics/signal-processing engineering. While at university, I had a ton of impactful experiences, ranging from working as a receptionist in Japan to serving as Treasurer, and ultimately a President, of the third-biggest event in France for technical students, the Forum Toulouse Technologies. These experiences helped me discover another passion: business development. I decided to apply for a double degree partnership between the engineering school and the business school, and I ended up getting a master’s degree in engineering and business. From there, I decided to join Atos, a French multinational information technology service and consulting company, as an Enterprise Account Executive covering the business unit in France’s southwest region and managing a large portfolio. After more than two years at Atos, I started to feel as if my passion for technology wasn’t quite getting fulfilled. I decided to take on a new challenge, and move to a new country (Ireland) and join MongoDB! JK: What inspired you to join MongoDB? IO: During my time in sales at Atos, all my consultants were MongoDB lovers. They were so impressed by the technology and the continuous innovation that I couldn’t resist joining this young but well-established company. While doing some of my own research, I was blown away by the growth rate, the innovation, the developers’ feedback, and much more. JK: Can you walk us through your career path at MongoDB? IO: I joined MongoDB on August 19, 2019, as a CSM covering the entire French region. Moving from Toulouse, France, to Dublin, Ireland, I noticed that although the weather was colder, the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming. Even though I had an engineering background, I didn’t know much about databases when I joined. Week one, I remember getting introduced to MongoDB University, and I was so impressed with the quality of the content that I got addicted to it. Within a month, I completed the presales bootcamp training and the new-hire technical training prep course. Everytime I learned something new, I understood that there was so much more to learn. When you’re someone like I am who loves to learn, this is an amazing feeling. I quickly took the lead on solving some of our customers’ technical challenges in France. I remember the evenings I spent with our world-class Support Engineers finding creative solutions for a customer. I also built technical demos for my CSM colleagues and helped them expand their technical knowledge. From there, I became a CSM covering the Middle East in addition to France. As an Arabic speaker, it was a great opportunity for me to work with a new market and speak three different languages all the time while collaborating with an amazing team. Even though I was offered the opportunity to be a SA in France, my manager at that time wanted to promote me to Senior CSM for my contribution to the CS program and for helping the organization grow. This really demonstrated to me just how great a company MongoDB is. After several months in the Senior CSM role, I moved back to France and became an SA, and it’s been an incredible experience so far. JK: What excites you most about being an SA, and why? IO: Two months after I joined MongoDB, I went to Paris for the QBRs. There I met the SA team and started to learn about their role within the company. For those who don’t know, an SA is a salesperson with very strong technical skills whose role is to understand customers’ and prospects’ requirements and explain how MongoDB can help them solve their problems. I had one of these moments where you think to yourself, “That’s a job I could see myself doing.” I asked about the typical SA career path at MongoDB, and one impressive thing was that each SA I spoke with had a unique growth path, and they were all very passionate about their work and the technology. During the QBRs, I met Emmanuel Macé, an SA manager in France, and he saw the interest I had in the SA role. He made a decision that I will never forget: He asked me if I would like to attend a two-day team-building session at a French Normandy castle with the entire Southern Europe SA team to learn more about the role. After spending those two days learning more about the team and the role, I grew extremely interested in the opportunity. However, when speaking with my manager and other people, becoming an SA seemed like a longer-term goal (more than 3 years), because I needed sufficient technical knowledge before taking it on. A couple of months later, the COVID-19 pandemic started, and the lockdown followed shortly after. I was stuck in a tiny apartment in Dublin and decided to gain as much knowledge as possible in order to secure the SA role. I remember spending hours and hours teaching myself technical concepts. I ended up getting both a MongoDB Developer and Microsoft Azure certification. I reached out to my manager and the SA manager about the role and wound up going through an interview process. This included everything from logic and technical knowledge tests to interviews with managers and vice presidents and finally a challenge. Throughout the process, the CS leaders were there for me and provided their full support (a special thanks to Ruth Neligan, Sara Escribano-Slowey, and Julia Prause). JK: How have you been able to be creative in your roles at MongoDB? IO: I’ve never before been afforded this degree of freedom to create and innovate. In the CS org, each time I had an idea, I had full support from the managers to pursue it. During that time, I started a MongoDB championship concept: one-on-one speed “dating” with developers where they get 30 minutes to ask all the questions they want and much more. Additionally, when I had a technical question, other teams were always there to help. Last but not least, MongoDB’s managers know how to create a “safe space” for me and others to share all of our thoughts with complete transparency. JK: What are some interesting technical and creative aspects of being an SA? IO: When you are an SA, you’re focused on understanding your prospects’ and your customers’ needs. Oftentimes, they don’t know a lot about MongoDB, so the challenge is to become a MongoDB expert and to understand the technical aspects that surround it. When you are an SA in MongoDB, you need to fully understand other technologies (Kafka, Kubernetes, Spark, cloud providers’ offerings, Terraform, Ansible, and much more). You also need to understand the competitive landscape. I really like that we are at the cutting edge of technology. JK: What would you want potential candidates to know about working at MongoDB? IO: My advice is to be yourself. One key value we share is to “embrace the power of differences.” Be proud of what you’ve achieved, think big, and remember, I didn’t know much about databases when I joined, but I do now, and if you want to, you can too. And lastly, take risks. When interviewing me, the team saw potential when I raised my hand even though I was far from being a traditional candidate. JK: Did you have support from your managers each time you made an internal transfer? What were those conversations like? IO: This is one of the most impressive things I saw at MongoDB. I was scared about how my manager would react if I asked for an internal transfer, but each time, I had full support from my managers. As a matter of fact, they went a step further and asked me what they could do to teach me about the position I wanted to get. 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!
Transitioning from Teacher to MongoDB’s New Enterprise Modernization Team: Meet Gabriela Preiss
As a global company, MongoDB has amazing employees with interesting backgrounds and stories. I recently sat down with Gabriela Preiss, an Enterprise Modernization Consultant, to learn more about her journey across the globe from the U.S. to Barcelona, Spain, and her experience transitioning from teaching to becoming the first hire for MongoDB’s brand-new Enterprise Modernization Team, shifting enterprises toward innovation and generating a ton of compelling content along the way. Andrew Bell: Thank you for sharing your story, Gabriela. I’d love to know how you got to where you are today in your role. What skills are important for someone on your team to be successful? Gabriela Priess: My career journey has been from one end of the spectrum to the other. Originally, I studied English and education, and I was a high school teacher for four years. I loved teaching, and I encourage anyone who wants to pursue it to do just that, but eventually, I hit a block and craved more mobility. So I moved from the U.S. to Portugal and studied web and mobile development. Finding myself back as a junior in a new industry, I worked my way up by freelancing as a web developer, building a curriculum for a coding school, and then quickly finding my way into a lead tech support role with a popular web application organization, where I also led the QA process. So, how does all of this add up to working in and with data? I truly believe every professional experience is the chance to extract something positive — a learning takeaway. This diverse background has challenged me and shaped me, as well as helped me to be confident in my choices, to trust I’m taking steps in the right direction, because ultimately each career move has been better than the last and has led me to where I am now, with MongoDB, as an Enterprise Modernization Consultant. Ultimately a career risk led me to a job that didn’t even exist a year ago on a new team. So, we can never truly say what the future holds for us; we may be headed toward a killer career that hasn’t even been invented yet. When it comes to being successful on my team, I think this role is open to so much diversity. I’m trying to narrow down any specific skills, but I think anyone who is ambitious, independent, takes ownership with what they produce, and is curious will succeed here. Curiosity is a huge asset — someone who is open to learning and diving deep into what they don’t yet understand, eager to keep growing, and tech-curious. A big part of what we do involves us keeping our finger on the pulse of tech and data innovation, so we can confidently discuss, debate, or write about it. This means feeding ourselves with the right tech news content. AB: I’d love to know more about the modernization team. What’s your role and your day-to-day like? GP: Our reach is quite broad, but if I had to define it, I’d say the Enterprise Modernization Team (EMT) assists, educates, and helps inspire large enterprises to move toward modernization and innovation. Often, large enterprises have the most complex, costly legacies in their systems and need macro and micro aid and insights to not only modernize but also to visualize and tally the endpoint. EMT Principles and Consultants have the industry expertise and capability to translate our value proposition to senior executives and engineering management. This includes generating training content for internal teams; meeting with other teams for potential and ongoing accounts; delivering webinars, published content, and interactive exposition presentations; and meeting with clients so they have a stronger understanding of how MongoDB helps them to modernize from the most basic format, such as adopting the document model, to truly leading in innovation, such as data science, machine learning, and real-time analytics. So, EMT is a bridge between sales, technical sales, and marketing for complex industry use cases and solutions. These are the teams we collaborate most often with, working closely with sales reps and solutions architects, collaborating with solution providers, and closely aligning with the marketing team producing diverse content and product alignments. So, if you ask me what exactly is my role, I’d say it’s all of the above. Our team is small, although it’s growing quickly, and we have big plans to expand exponentially in the near future. That said, we have a democratic way of dividing the work. We’re made up of our Global Head, Boris Bialek, our Principal, Steve Dalby, and the two Consultants, including myself and Vanda Friedrichs. And we’re all expected to bring equally to the table, despite who has more seniority. This lets us all have an idea of what everyone is working on, and we frequently dip into each other’s projects either to help out or request aid. Each project is free roaming for all: as long as we’re aware of the objective and deadline, we can get creative with how we reach the endpoint. My projects are constantly evolving and regenerating, and I could joke that the only thing they have in common with each other is they all have to do with MongoDB. However, when I was hired, Boris was very clear and direct that each day would be different, and his promise has held true. I don’t have a day-to-day like most others might in regard to consistent projects, but the objective is always the same for each: how can we showcase MongoDB’s value in modernization and innovation in regards to data and tech? Because my projects are so diverse, and often more creative-oriented than anything else, I make up for what some may call a “lack of structure” by being very structured in how I plan my day. Before each day, I predetermine how my next day is going to be divided hourly by projects, tasks, and follow-ups, and I reserve some time for “self-learning,” where I take time to continue my training curriculum, since that’s an ongoing track. AB: Since this is a new role, what tools and resources (e.g., Sales Bootcamp) were you given to help you ramp up? GP: True, this was a new role when I first stepped in, so I didn’t totally know what to expect. There was a running joke I was learning by a fire hose, just having everything blasted at me, and something was bound to stick. MongoDB sets all employees up with boundless learning resources, so I created a curriculum for myself. I prioritized from the top down, based on what I needed to understand ASAP, such as MongoDB’s services and functions, and from there I had freedom to roam based on what interested me the most and what my weak spots were, and was given time to dive in deep technically. For example, I ran POVs to see the data in action from a locally set up database. I know other teams within the company have established curriculums for onboarding, but because this was a new role, I used the resources available and that worked for me. I was given a lot of liberty with my learning because it was mostly autonomous and self-driven, but that’s not to say my learning is over. The company really promotes a learning culture, and every week there are new resources with webinars, learning materials, training materials, and so on. Early into my onboarding, I participated in what’s called our Sales Bootcamp. It’s a two-week intensive training that dives deep into MongoDB’s services as a whole and lays a strong foundation to build on. It’s usually something that’s done in person at MongoDB’s headquarters in New York City, but since this is the COVID-19 era, it was done virtually, with a big cohort of new hires included from Europe and the Americas. This was a cool experience, because I got to meet a lot of new faces. Professionally, my background is originally in education, so I used to write my own curricula for my students, and I’ve been impressed with what I find the MongoDB enablement and Learning & Development teams generating. AB: What content have you and will you create? What is the purpose of this content? How is it leveraged? GP: Among many other roles, the EMT is a content-generating team, so we’re constantly working on creating something new, or collaborating with other teams to create new content. As of today, I’ve been with MongoDB for four months, and in that short time, I’ve been able to generate a lot of interesting, challenging pieces. Each project I’m given is a chance to dive deeper into that subject and expand my understanding of it — like data science or fintech, for example. One of the first projects I had was the chance to write a blog about MongoDB’s partnership with Iguazio , and how our data platform is the ideal persistence layer for Iguazio’s data science and MLOps platform, which is used to develop, deploy, and manage AI applications. Clearly, each project is a team effort, but this gave me the opportunity to dive into a topic I find personally interesting, while building connections with some of our most innovative partners. My first or second week I was introduced to an internal deck created by one of our Solutions Architects, Pascal Jensen. It was a sort of think piece on how data is being driven by the growing uncertainties of the world, in a political, social, and economic sense, and how the most innovative leading companies are responding. We decided to turn this into a more holistic, complete white paper to reach a wider audience. With that, after really digesting the deck that was available and multiple interviews with the Solutions Architects that contributed to it, I built an extensive paper around it, giving breath to the expression “digital by default.” This was something I was quite proud of, because it was so early on in my time with MongoDB, and it let me dive into truly interesting topics. I was able to build on the holistic elements of data and how it’s reshaping even the most mundane elements of the world, propelling us into the future with innovative technologies and solutions for some of the most crucial global concerns, such as hunger or healthcare. Last month, I presented my first corporate webinar with MongoDB, discussing transitioning from a relational database to MongoDB’s document model. It was a huge opportunity, because we were focusing on Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. For me, this was almost a beta project, because I didn’t know what to expect in regard to reception. In the end, it was a massive success: overall, we had more than 6,500 registrants. That was a really exciting experience, because I knew as a team and a company we were clearly doing something right, engaging with the right audience, and connecting with the right people. There is a really positive response still outpouring from that webinar, and I was happy to be a part of it, especially as a rookie. Again, it just speaks to how much autonomy and freedom to create I’ve been given. My manager never holds me back from any opportunity and really encourages our success. In the spring, we’ll repeat the same endeavor with another webinar, covering a different topic I’m currently preparing in Spanish. AB: What was it like starting in a new role on a new team, especially during the pandemic? How do you stay connected to the team despite living in different countries? GP: Despite the pandemic, there was a lot to dive into because the company was running full speed ahead. It can be slightly intimidating being the new person on a fast-paced team, but I felt very included and seen from day one, and there was more than enough work and training to keep me busy. I haven’t really considered what it would’ve been like to work with MongoDB prepandemic, because at this point, this is all I’ve known. Staying connected with my direct team, though, has been the easiest part for me. I’ve never once felt disconnected despite never having met them in person. As of now, we’re dispersed across Dublin, London, Zurich, and Barcelona, and we’re growing. Plus, our backgrounds are even more diverse considering where we’ve lived, where we’re from, and the languages we speak. It’s refreshing to be part of a team that doesn’t feel limited to one geographic region, because it opens our minds and team discussions to diverse views and ideas. AB: How would you describe the team’s culture? And how do you maintain this culture during COVID-19? GP: The team culture is really positive, inclusive, and ambitious. Every team meeting feels like a brainstorming session, because part of our job is innovation. We’re all given a voice and are expected to use it as we shuffle through ideas and ongoing projects. But overall, our team culture is casual, in the sense that we engage with each other informally, but we all recognize what we need to be working on and by when. We’re each expected to take ownership of our work, and we’re given a lot of creative and structured autonomy. This means independently owning whatever it is we’re working on, and this goes for professional learning too. MongoDB creates a lot of resources internally that I take advantage of, from guided training and courses to reading material, interactive training, webinars, and so forth. I was paired up with one of our Solutions Architects, Benjamin Schubert, and he patiently made himself available to help guide me through some of the more technical aspects of our databases as I was learning how to maneuver through it myself, and I am eternally grateful. Of course, we have support any time we need it, and I can easily seek out resources or set up a Zoom call with an internal expert if I have any questions, but at the end of the day, the ticker moves forward only if everyone is doing their part, so each of us takes our part seriously. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe , and would love you to build your career with us!
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!
MongoDB’s Customer Success Team Is Growing: Meet Members from Our EMEA Team
MongoDB is the perfect home for anybody looking to join a dynamic, fast-paced, and rapidly growing technology company that’s blazing a trail in the database market. And because we’re onboarding new customers constantly — from massive household brands to the newest startup — we need amazing people to set them up for success from day one. Customer Success (CS) is one team that does just that. MongoDB currently is looking for talented people worldwide to be part of a team that delivers next-generation solutions for driving digital transformation with a diverse roster of clients. Want interview tips for our Customer Success roles? Read this blog. As MongoDB’s frontline resource, you’ll share the journey with each customer from initial onboarding all the way through each phase of the customer’s plan, developing strong and lasting partnerships along the way. Members from our EMEA-based CS team give their take on what to expect while working at MongoDB. Diverse Backgrounds Are More Than Welcome The Customer Success team is composed of creative teammates from a wide variety of backgrounds. As an inclusive community that values your ideas and embraces differences, the CS team believes all backgrounds and experiences can provide value to the role and the customers we serve. Despite this diversity, team members all share two core characteristics: a shared passion for innovation and technology, and a zest for connecting with people. Giuliana Alderisi , a Customer Success Specialist at MongoDB who oversees the Italian, Spanish, and Nordics region, speaks to the diversity of experiences across the CS team. “Our background as Customer Success Specialists are really heterogeneous,” she says. “I’m a computer engineer, but I know teammates who come from very different backgrounds, such as economics, sales development, and marketing, just to name a few. Of course, to increase the level of support we provide to customers, we also come from different countries and speak different languages. I always enjoy the ability to look at things from a different perspective. So, needless to say, I love our coffee breaks where we share our experiences.” One of those teammates she enjoys meeting with is Lucia Fabrizio , a Customer Success Manager covering the Enterprise Italian market. “After spending some years in sales and enablement roles, I found myself eager to start a new challenge, and I really wanted to better understand what happens after the sale is closed,” Lucia says. “I knew I enjoyed inspiring and educating others, as well as guiding them as they solved problems and tackled new opportunities, but I was unsure what my next career move could be. Then I came across MongoDB’s Customer Success Manager role, and it ticked all the boxes. I would describe myself as an introvert, which doesn’t mean I am shy. I simply enjoy listening and using my genuine curiosity to dive deeply into any situation and then act strategically. I’ve learned that this is a great quality for Customer Success Managers.” What You Do Matters The opportunities for discovery and growth are seemingly boundless for MongoDB’s CSMs. “The team is incredibly skilled and inclusive,” says Giuliana. “It is rare that I spend a day without learning something new from my team members.” So far for Giuliana, this has included everything from pipeline generation and work on expansions to improving soft skills and stakeholder management. And according to Giuliana, building together within the MongoDB community is an immensely enjoyable process. “We all know each of us has different talents and different skills, so collaboration is not just essential — it is promoted. We brainstorm together and openly share the ideas we have to make our customers successful,” she says. “MongoDB is big, so sometimes it might be difficult to identify the right person or department you should reach out to get the task done. However, everyone at MongoDB is super friendly, and in a matter of minutes, you’ll find the answer you’re looking for.” Part of the golden learning opportunities for those on the CS team is the chance to familiarize yourself with the full range of exciting products at the company’s disposal. You’ll have the freedom to explore the many facets of MongoDB, gain an understanding of how the products work, and collaborate with a variety of talented individuals. “We work with a lot of different customers and industries,” Guiliana says. “We’re specialized in driving them to success while they use MongoDB products, no matter who is the final user. This also means we are product-certified and get to know the major MongoDB products so we can properly help our customers.” MongoDB does everything it can to provide team members with the tools, resources, and training needed to hit the ground running. We have a dedicated Customer Success boot camp that runs in parallel to our Sales boot camp, helping the team prepare to work with customers, including onboarding. In addition, the CS team has put together product certifications that focus on role-playing so members can practice working with customers. For those intimidated by high-level tech, the CS team is always surrounded by world-class experts who are giving of their time and eager to bring members up to speed on all of MongoDB’s latest offerings. This includes partnering with the Product team to receive additional training, particularly for new products and tools. Being Our Customers' Voice and Advocate In the CS role, you don’t just get to know the emerging and cutting-edge products; you also cultivate lasting relationships with your customers. This includes everything from brainstorming creative ways for customers to adopt new features to ensuring their business is set up for scale, continuity, and sustainability. And because the CS team partners with a range of people in various job roles and companies, the top skills needed to successfully drive these relationships are: Technical acumen and interest in our technology Curiosity and eagerness to learn continuously Empathy for our customers “The base of MongoDB’s Customer Success program — at least how I think of it — is moving from a ‘vendor-customer’ relationship to an actual partnership with our customers,” says Lucia. “This is because we understand the importance of being our customers’ advocate, not only supporting them through pain points but by listening first and bringing their voice to our internal teams. When I meet with customers, I tell them to think of me as an ‘orchestra director’ who’s bringing all the relevant MongoDB personas together to support them through each phase of their plan and create new goals together.” A Strong Culture Built on Core Values Both Lucia and Giuliana speak glowingly about the culture at MongoDB. As Guiliana explains, the team is encouraged to work together on brainstorming sessions and lightning talks to compare notes and share their knowledge with their peers. “We’re also asked to take the time to explore new initiatives to help the CS program grow and find new ways to help our customers,” Giuliana adds. “This was already great before COVID-19 and became even more important when the pandemic affected our lives.” Giuliana also appreciates MongoDB’s benefit offerings such as the Emergency Care Leave, which helped to ensure parents would not feel guilty taking care of their children during the height of the pandemic. As a matter of fact, she adds, “None of the customer-focused or new-hire programs, trainings, or onboardings stopped; MongoDB simply adapted and pivoted with a great effort of creativity and relentlessness.” Lucia has some parting wisdom for those hoping to join the team : “Be comfortable challenging the norm and bringing your own perspective” she says. “You are the CEO of your portfolio, but it is essential to 'build together’ across the multitude of cross-functional teams here.” Interested in pursuing a Customer Engineering career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our team 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!