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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!

January 21, 2021

Meet Vanessa Le: How MongoDB Has Helped Me Embrace My Differences

As a global company, MongoDB has so many amazing employees with interesting backgrounds and stories. I recently sat down with Vanessa Le, Senior Commissions Analyst, to learn more about her journey from Vietnam to Ireland, what inclusion and belonging means to her, and how she feels supported at MongoDB. Ashley Perez: Thank you for sharing your story, Vanessa. I’d love to hear what it was like growing up in Vietnam and how your love for travel helped you move to Ireland. Vanessa Le: I was born in Vietnam to a middle-income family. When I started high school, my parents separated and my family experienced financial problems. Growing up, I always had a dream of going abroad to study and see the world, but at that point, we couldn’t afford it. I set that dream aside and went to college in Vietnam while working different part-time jobs to support my family and pay my tuition fee. During my second year, I found out a friend from college received a fully funded scholarship from an NGO to study abroad. This sparked my dream of studying abroad again. I knew it was hard to afford going to school overseas, but I also knew that it was no longer impossible, so I set my first big life goal: get a scholarship that would pay for me to study in another country. I spent months researching all available scholarships. After going through many rounds of applications over the course of two years, I got into the interview round for some. But I ended up being rejected by all of them, one by one. I was really disappointed with myself and almost gave up before I decided to give it one last attempt. With persistence and experience, two of the applications were successful! Between the two choices, I selected Irish Aid and became one of 20 Vietnamese people who got a fully funded scholarship from the Irish government to pursue a master’s degree in management consulting (my degree choice) in Ireland. Having no idea about the country beforehand, I quit my job in Vietnam and flew to Ireland with the flight, accommodation, and tuition fully paid. AP: That’s such an amazing story. How was it moving to Dublin, especially since you knew very little about Ireland? VL: Realizing my dream, I had the best year of my life studying, traveling, learning new things, discovering new cultures, and making new friends. I didn’t experience too much of a culture shock until I graduated and started searching for a job in Ireland. Being the only Asian in the first company I worked for was a tough experience and drastically destroyed my confidence. I was proud of where I was from, but at the same time, I felt isolated because I was different from others around me. Being Vietnamese became a barrier to me for blending in. Although I had worked hard, got promoted, made friends, and tried to expose myself to different social activities, I still never felt as if I belonged. I constantly doubted myself and questioned whether I made the right decision coming to Ireland and if it was the right place for me to settle. AP: That sounds really hard. Can you tell me what happened from there and how you ended up at MongoDB? VL: I joined MongoDB in 2018 as the only person on the Commissions team — which is primarily based in Palo Alto, California — who was located in Ireland. I work cross-functionally with Sales Ops, Accounting, HR, and Payroll to oversee commissions payout for the Sales team in EMEA and APAC. I am very fortunate to be part of the Commissions team, and at the same time, also a part of the International Finance team in Dublin. Commissions is still a small team of five, so whenever we get a chance to meet, I always get such a warm feeling — as if we are a family. Coincidentally, all the team members are Asian Americans, so from the very first moment when I met the team, I naturally felt connected, even though I’m remote from the rest of them. From day one when I joined the Dublin team, I was amazed at how diverse the team was. On the International Finance team of less than 20 people, we have as many as 10 different nationalities. This allows us to blend together, learn from each other, and embrace our differences. We’re excited to share and learn about each other’s cultures. When we’re in a group discussion, I no longer feel embarrassed about my accent because all the team members have their own accents. That is unique and should be appreciated. On the team, my differences no longer felt like a barrier. In fact, our differences were what made us all alike. That has helped me to regain my confidence, and for the first time since I started working in Ireland, I now feel as if I belong. AP: It’s great that you feel that connection. What is your favorite part about working at MongoDB? VL: Joining MongoDB has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career. I love the opportunity to interact with different teams, the career progression, the constant challenges, and the impact I can make. As the company grew, I witnessed the size of the international Sales team almost tripling in the last two years, which made my role challenging and interesting at the same time. The challenges I tackle at work have motivated me to upskill myself everyday. For example, I learned to code and applied my VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) skill to automate the Excel-based processes within the Commissions team — and within the Accounting team, too. The opportunities to work with the Business Systems team on system configuration and automation projects have also inspired me to extend my knowledge and skills into data analytics, which is something I’m very passionate about. Looking back at the last two years, I’ve grown so much with MongoDB. On a personal level, the opportunity to work in a multinational company and team has taught me to be more open-minded, and to welcome and respect people from different backgrounds, with their own unique life stories. As someone who originally was shy, I’ve overcome the fear of speaking in public and of being judged. Now, I’m more confident and assertive when expressing myself, amplifying my voice when needed and protecting my perspective on things I believe in. The excellent training and growth opportunities aside, the reason I stay is because of the culture and the people. MongoDB’s core values are not just there as a formalistic slogan. Ever since I joined the company, I can see that every single person I’ve worked with has really lived the company’s values. From the top executives to all of my peers, everyone has set great examples for me to learn from. I’m thankful for having such great leaders, including my managers, Derek Lowry and Prev Dole, and my VPs, Jillian Gillespie and Shalena O’Connell, who have always given me tons of support and inspiration. They have encouraged me to live these core values, which has empowered me to push my limits, challenge the status quo, and become a better version of myself. AP: From what you’ve said, a sense of belonging and inclusion is really important to you. Can you share more about that? VL: It is indeed. Feeling fully accepted within a company, being proud of who you are, and feeling safe to express yourself authentically is very important to me. If benefits attract talents, I think the sense of belonging is what retains them at MongoDB. It’s a crucial factor for employee engagement and for the company’s success. AP: That’s powerful. What does inclusion and belonging look like at MongoDB? VL: One day, I had a virtual coffee chat with MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria and a small group of people, where he casually talked about his childhood and the books he loved, and answered personal questions. To me, that is inclusion. When we worked in the office pre-COVID, the CFO, Michael Gordon, joined us for a team lunch. He talked about his weekend and what he and his wife were up to. To me, that is inclusion. Someone on the team felt safe enough to share with everyone that she just started a language course to improve her English without being afraid of being judged. To me, that is inclusion. My boss came across an article on the change of Irish immigration law and forwarded it to me to make sure I wasn’t missing the news. That is inclusion. My team ordered sushi and they included veggie sushi because one of the team members was vegetarian. That is inclusion. My colleague proudly and bravely shared his coming out story to the whole company and saw that MongoDBers embraced, celebrated, and supported it. Again, that is inclusion, and it is so amazing. I love the fact that MongoDB is so diverse. However, its diversity isn’t simply about hiring many people of different nationalities, but about clearing the barriers, amplifying everyone’s voices, and appreciating everyone’s unique backgrounds. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!

January 5, 2021

Meet Sara Campagna: A Look at My First Year as a Field Marketer During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I sat down with Sara Campagna , Field Marketing Manager based in Milan, Italy, to learn more about her first year at MongoDB, how she partners with her colleagues scattered throughout Europe and Mediterranean area, and how she successfully built the field marketing function in a brand-new region during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Ashley Perez: Congratulations on your one-year anniversary! Can you tell me more about your role at MongoDB? Sara Campagna: I’m the Field Marketing Manager leading the southern Europe region that covers Italy, Israel, and Spain. As a Field Marketing Manager, I’m involved in a varied role that includes implementation of marketing projects to support brand awareness, lead generation, and sales enablement. It’s a demanding role that requires me to juggle many tasks throughout the day, making me feel like an orchestra conductor unifying all musicians to play the same melody in harmony. I start my week catching up with my Regional Sales Directors to align on mid- and short-term priorities. Then, I align with our global Marketing team and involve all our supporting functions, including the Customer Success, Sales Development, and Presales teams. AP: Why did you choose to work at MongoDB, and how has it differed from your experiences at other companies? SC: After more than a decade in marketing, I searched for an opportunity to lead a multi-country region and was referred to my position at MongoDB by a teammate. During the interview process, I was amazed by MongoDB’s leaders and product vision. From these conversations, I knew I wanted to be part of this. After working at MongoDB for a year, I can confidently say it was a great decision to join this rock star team. We’ve accomplished so much already. One year ago, we didn’t even have a field marketing function for this region. Now, we have field marketing activities running successfully in three countries, for which I collaborate with more than 50 colleagues across different business teams. We built this with the speed of a startup, but with the backing, power, and support of an established global company—MongoDB. This shows how determination, advanced technology, and collaboration between passionate people are enough to launch a region even during a pandemic. AP: Speaking of the pandemic, how was it transitioning to a fully remote role so soon into your career at MongoDB? SC: I was originally based in our Milan office, but I traveled a lot for work during my first four months. Our amazing office — located in the historical Milan city center — housed our southern Europe region VP and regional Italian Sales team, as well as many new employees joining other teams. When we weren’t traveling, we all enjoyed going to Friday sushi lunches in a nice Japanese-Brazilian restaurant located in the same area. We had a lot of fun! Adjusting to remote working is different for everybody, and it’s important leaders work to ensure physical remoteness doesn’t lead to emotional distance. Employees need to know it’s okay to feel upset by a dramatically changed situation. Our leaders offered reassurance and guidance to all team members, recognizing that remote work suits some personalities better than others. We all appreciated that level of available support. When losing much of the social element that happens organically from working in the same physical space, teams need to continue to connect personally as well as professionally. For my team, we made some tweaks. Our usual team lunches and Friday gatherings have been easily transferred to the digital world to maintain morale and connection. It’s not the same thing, but it’s the best option we have, and we’re making the most of it. On the business side, we have top tools and technology, and great IT global support to run all our digital activity smoothly. This has not changed a lot; it was already a norm. For example, before COVID-19 shutdowns, I’d been working productively from airport lounges in the U.K., conference foyer rooms in Munich, and theaters in Rome after venue scouting. Thankfully, we already had the tools and culture in place to do remote work successfully, so this helped the transition. AP: How have you built relationships with your colleagues, especially with many of them living in different countries and you having never met them? SC: MongoDB has immersed me in a hugely diverse environment that boosts everyone’s personal growth. I don’t mean only gender, religious, or racial diversity, but the diversity from being in a multicultural workforce spread across many countries and time zones. During these recent hard times caused by the pandemic, I’ve tried to offer additional care and compassion in reaction to what’s happening around me. This has helped me develop relationships with my global team members, even though I haven’t physically met 90% of them. We approach our virtual meetings as we would in-person meetings and use them as an opportunity to get to know each other. Generally, I work to prioritize relationship building, because you don’t do business with a company: you do business with the people you like and trust. AP: How would you describe your team’s culture? SC: We have a clear vision and concrete goals that we work toward together. We’re retrospective about what’s happened so we can better plan for the future. It’s also a culture where it’s okay to make mistakes. We reserve a bit of our own time to experiment, focus on new things, and provide gentle feedback to others. We built this culture by getting together informally via Zoom, where we have coffee and chat or organize “food themed” nights when we do a food or wine tasting remotely. With many of us living in different regions, this is a fun way to experience different cultures while we’re unable to travel. AP: What has been your proudest moment working here so far? SC: The most exciting moment was during one of our remote meetings when our EMEA Sales VP mentioned the Italian team as an example. With Italy being one of the first countries in Europe to experience COVID-19 lockdowns in March, I had to pivot and rework my entire marketing plan. Despite this unexpected challenge, we saw a lot of success in the region. This recognition meant the world to me. I had tears in my eyes, but I tried not to show it. It was exciting, to say the least, and not something I’ll easily forget. It was a way of saying if our colleagues in Italy can react, be resilient, and find new ways to make things happen, we can do it anywhere. AP: What excites you most about working at MongoDB? SC: Our work environment and culture are amazing, and we are encouraged to have fun on top of ensuring excellence in all we do. I enjoy the people I work with and have made some amazing connections — both within Europe and globally — that will last a lifetime. Also, I concretely see the impact of the activities I conduct in Israel, Spain, and Italy. I feel I am an integral part of a team of great professionals who count on me. Together, each with our skills and professionalism, we are building something important for our company — from a speech during a live conference to a customer interview to hiring a new talented teammate. I’ve worked for a few companies over the last decade, but MongoDB is different. I’m encouraged to think differently, am continuously challenged and coached by our leaders, and am given a level of trust — which is critical, especially in this new normal. We’re literally crafting our own job day after day, and very few companies have the approach MongoDB has. Last but not least: from Tel Aviv, Milan, Rome, London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, Stockholm, San Francisco, and Dublin, my teammates and leaders have hugely contributed to my professional growth and are a positive source of motivation. My experience at MongoDB never would have been so amazing without them. It’s a complete privilege working with all of them. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!

December 16, 2020

Intern Series: MongoDB’s Women in Computer Science Summit to MongoDB’s Swift

Nellie Spektor is a rising senior Computer Science major at New York University. She spent this summer at MongoDB interning with our Swift Driver team. Nellie will be returning to MongoDB full time in 2021 to join our New Grad cohort. Kate Wright: Thanks for chatting with me Nellie! Let’s start with how you first got exposed to Computer Science and what made you decide to pursue the CS major at NYU. Nellie Spektor: I was lucky enough to go to a high school where everyone had to take Intro to Computer Science their sophomore year and had the option to continue taking Computer Science classes all the way through to graduation. I loved that very first intro class. I had so much fun writing little functions and coding up little games, and I knew that I had found my calling. I kept taking CS classes and being amazed at how powerful coding could be, becoming a CS major was a no-brainer. KW: You’re a part of many groups that aim to create opportunities for women in the field Computer Science. Tell me about those and a little bit about your experience of pursuing Computer Science as a woman. NS: Being a woman in Computer Science has been something I have been thinking about ever since that first CS class I took in high school. I think if it weren't for the fact that the class was mandatory (and therefore had a fairly even gender split), I may have gotten discouraged and quit coding. I came fairly close to this when I got to AP Computer Science which only had 7 girls out of 34 students. The only things that kept me from quitting was that I had the memories of having so much fun in my previous CS classes, and my one female friend in the class. That friend and early exposure were key for me, and many other women never get that, which is why we see such terrible gender ratios in Software Engineering. To try and fix this immense problem and help my fellow women getting into CS, I have been a member and later a leader in two incredible women in tech organizations: Rewriting the Code and NYU Women in Computing. Being in these organizations has given me access to incredible opportunities. If I recall correctly, it was actually through a post in the Women of Rewriting the Code Facebook group that I learned about the MongoDB Women in Computer Science Summit and started on the journey that led me to my amazing internship this summer. KW: Speaking of MongoDB’s Women in Computer Science Summit, I’d love to hear about that experience and how you decided to spend your summer at MongoDB NS: I was selected to attend the very first iteration of the MongoDB Women in Computer Science Summit! The Summit gave me the opportunity to participate in technical development, mock interviews, and a panel discussion with women in engineering at MongoDB all while networking with my peers at colleges across the country. It was such an amazing event that I am so lucky to have been a part of. After going through the recruiting process, the summit was one of the reasons I decided to join MongoDB. Through that event, the interview process, and my connections with former interns, I got to interact with a lot of MongoDBers and could truly see myself working happily with all of them. Even through interning here, I have never had a negative interaction with or even a negative thought about someone at MongoDB, and that is pretty awesome. KW: Glad to hear that! Let’s hear about some of those MongoDBers you worked with. What is your team like? NS: I am interning on the Swift Driver team, which has been awesome! The Drivers team provides libraries and tools that developers all over the world use to interface with MongoDB. The Swift driver is a relatively new team and its very small (only 2 full-time engineers). My team is part of the larger team that encompasses all the Drivers. I have been taking some classes about Programming Languages at school, and while this isn't a major aspect of my work, it is really cool to bring those interests into conversations with my team. It is really interesting to see all of these different drivers achieving the same goals, each in a way that takes advantage of their specific language features. KW: What did you work on with the driver and what was your intern experience like working remotely? NS: My main project this summer was adding Extended JSON support to the pure-Swift BSON Library. All of the drivers need to use a BSON library to interact with MongoDB. Currently, the Swift Driver is using libbson, which is the C BSON Library, and as part of an effort to make the Swift driver be written only in Swift, the team is working on a pure-Swift BSON library. The last piece necessary to actually switch from libbson to the swift BSON library is Extended JSON Support, and that's what I worked on! I added the ability to convert between BSON and Extended JSON. It was a perfect intern project; well scoped, but left room for me to make my own design decisions. I have learned a lot about what it means to work on an open source project and be involved in the ecosystem of a language. That has been really cool and I am excited to dive deeper into this world. Even despite the fact that my internship was entirely remote, I was really able to get a sense of the culture at MongoDB and I love how open, fun, and feedback focused it is! Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe , and would love for you to build your career with us!

December 15, 2020

How Our Growing Curriculum Service Engineering Team Supports MongoDB University

As MongoDB’s India-based team grows, we’re looking to add new members to our Curriculum Service Engineering team in that location. Here, two former Curriculum Service Engineers (CSEs) who were recently promoted share insight into the day-to-day team operations, their experience working at MongoDB, their passion for supporting our users, and why someone would be excited to join the team. What is a Curriculum Service Engineer? CSEs manage the relationship between our MongoDB University courses and our learners. They answer all technical questions via the discussion forums and other channels. Their purpose is to interact, advocate, and act as the voice of our community. “We support our MongoDB University users (whom we call ‘learners’) as they complete the courses in the MongoDB University Learning path and take the certification exams,” says Associate Curriculum Engineer Sonali Mamgain . “We focus on the operational aspect, analyzing course health and metrics, updating the courses so users can see their feedback reflected, and creating mini-content for our users to improve their understanding of a particular concept. “CSEs are advocates for MongoDB University learners. We constantly evaluate the content from the learner’s perspective, working closely with the Curriculum Engineers that build our courses so we can best connect the dots between the course instructors and learners.” What Does a CSE’s Day-to-Day Job Look Like? CSEs support users in several ways, which requires different skills for tackling unique scenarios. The goal is to ensure learners’ success. Shubham Ranjan , Associate Product Manager, breaks down his typical day as an example. “I manage the course logistics and technical content to ensure learner-facing services are running smoothly,” he says. “This means I may need to identify, debug, and provide solutions for learners’ technical issues. I also test and call out any issues or improvements the course may require. “We work to create a better experience for our learners. This means I analyze, strategize, and implement their feedback; customize the tools they use, such as the discussion forums; develop or oversee the production of the course handouts and instructional materials; and work closely with our internal teams to develop and design course content.” What's the CSE Team Culture Like? Although our India-based team is far from our New York headquarters, MongoDB’s company culture extends to many locations around the globe. Distance doesn’t change the strong sense of community, passion, and opportunity. “The office culture at MongoDB is one of the many things I love about my job,” says Sonali. “I’m close to completing two years here, and throughout this journey, I have never felt a struggle between balancing my work and my personal life. My teammates have been very supportive, and I’m lucky to be part of a close-knit team. People here are very approachable and are always willing to help. This makes the day-to-day work easy. “There are opportunities to grow, too. The work I do at MongoDB has helped build my knowledge and skills exponentially. For example, I have learned Python and C# as part of my job. Our team has also created ‘Tech Tuesdays’ for team-level technical discussions to build our MongoDB product knowledge. This has now become a routine for our wider Curriculum team and has boosted my communication skills. “My manager has played a very important role in shaping my personal and professional skills. She’s been very open to any communications I might have and always gives us direction to stay focused and achieve success. “We also have a lot of fun! I’m part of the ‘Funky Monkey Team,’ which is a ‘fun team’ in our office that organizes festivities, parties, health workshops, nature-related activities, and more. The team consists of members from various other teams, which I enjoy because it allows me to work with diverse people and has opened me up to new perspectives and ideas.” What Are the Most Exciting Things About Being on the CSE Team? There’s no shortage of exciting opportunities for team members to make a great impact. If you’re passionate about having the freedom to jump right in and improve your work, this can be a good opportunity. “From understanding the basic courses to enabling users to take certifications, we’re constantly supporting our learners in each step of the process. In turn, we learn a lot, too,” Sonali says. “We collaborate with many individuals so we can keep improving our educational offerings. I’ve met with different subject matter experts throughout MongoDB, and every conversation has provided a valuable lesson. It gives me immense pleasure to work with my coworkers. Even working to solve technical issues for our users and customers enables me to learn through the process.” Shubham agrees. “We’re a globally distributed team, so it gives me opportunities to learn from the most talented people in the industry,” he says. “It also lets me learn a lot of new things about different cultures. Other things I like about MongoDB are the open work culture, the incredible amount of support from our managers and leadership, and a great work-life balance.” Interested in Joining the Team? Here's How to Succeed For interested candidates, Sonali and Shubham both stress that being an independent problem solver, a team player, empathetic, and a good communicator are all things that can make someone successful on this team. “You should be a self-starter; someone who is independent and takes initiative,” says Shubham. “You can work without supervision and begin projects independently. However, you should also be a team player. This is important for anyone joining our team, because we deeply value collaboration and look for people willing to share responsibilities with other team members if need be. “Being technically sound and curious are great qualities to have. You should have a good understanding of basic computer science concepts (experience in any programming language and MongoDB/SQL is preferred) and be willing to learn new things and experiment.” Lastly, Shubham says, “having empathy toward our users is incredibly important. Not everyone learns in the same way or at the same pace, and it’s important to listen carefully, have patience, and show a level of understanding.” Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe , and would love for you to build your career with us!

December 14, 2020

Intern Series: From Ecuador, to the University of Toronto, to MongoDB - Meet Jose Cabrera-Ormaza

Jose Cabrera-Ormaza is in the process of completing his final year in computer engineering at the University of Toronto. He spent this summer interning on the MongoDB Realm team. I recently sat down with Jose to discuss his goals as a software engineer and his experience at MongoDB. Kate Wright: Thanks for spending some time with me Jose! I know you discovered programming as an undergrad. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to pursue a career in software engineering? Jose Cabrera-Ormaza: I decided to study software engineering because I want to challenge and change the world’s perception of countries such as my home country of Ecuador and South America generally in the context of tech. When people speak about South America, they say great things about our food, landscapes, culture, and more, which makes me extremely proud. However, I would love to help the tech industry grow in South America. I admire the Ecuadorian mining industry, and I originally came to the University of Toronto on a scholarship to study mineral engineering. However, in my second term of university, I took my first-ever programming course, which completely changed my perspective and goals. Before taking that course, I had no idea computers could be used to write programs. I didn’t grow up with a personal computer of my own and had no exposure to software engineering. After writing my first few programs (which were terrible, by the way), I saw the potential impact software engineering could have both in my life and in changing economies of nations such as Ecuador. I would personally love to increase the amount of tech exposure students receive in certain regions of South America where students like myself have limited access to technology. I want students in Ecuador to know they can be the engineers behind some of the newest technological breakthroughs and inventions. KW: Wow, that’s a powerful story. Thank you for sharing it. I know you see internships as an opportunity to further develop your software engineering skills, but what made you decide to spend a summer at MongoDB? JCO: To start with, MongoDB University! I’m extremely passionate about education and free access to knowledge. I was excited to join MongoDB because I felt that my values and beliefs align with MongoDB’s commitment to providing a free learning platform. Additionally, I really wanted to join a company that builds and develops cutting-edge technology used by other software engineers. MongoDB is a modern database platform offering a document data model that developers love compared to legacy database technologies that haven’t changed much in 50 years. I wanted to be a part of the database revolution with MongoDB. KW: This summer, you worked on one of those cutting-edge technologies used by other software engineers. Can you share a bit about your team and what you worked on? JCO: I interned on the Realm Cloud Team. Realm is MongoDB’s back end as a service offering. It allows users to focus less on building a back-end architecture on their own, and to focus more on building other aspects of their project. Realm Cloud offered me the chance to work on very interesting projects and to learn a lot. I had the chance to work alongside a fellow intern and my mentor to build a transpiler microservice. The microservice processes and transpiles user-uploaded JavaScript dependencies. On top of the aforementioned, we optimized the performance of this microservice by introducing concurrent processing. We implemented this project both in Node.js and in Go. The project was challenging and felt complete in that it required more than just writing code. Because we built the microservice in two languages, we established unit testing and performance testing, had to analyze and compare our performance results, and had to use critical thinking to draw conclusions on which implementation might fit our needs best. It was incredibly rewarding to have the chance to freely experiment and do much more than just write code. KW: What did you enjoy most about your summer at MongoDB? JCO: Just having had the opportunity to be at MongoDB makes me feel really proud and accomplished. I’ve loved the opportunity to learn from very talented and brilliant people, and I’m talking not only about technical skills, but also in terms of diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and ideas. One of MongoDB’s core values is “Build Together,” and it seems that everyone I met at the company lives and applies that value to everything they do. Everyone here really wants you to grow both personally and professionally. My teammates and mentors were always available to help and share knowledge. Finally, throughout the intern events and the speaker series, I found out that many people in the company in leadership and managerial positions started out as interns a few years ago. That’s a perfect example of how MongoDB fosters and values everyone at any level in the company! KW: Is there anything you’d like to share with future MongoDBers reading this blog? JCO: As someone who is considered part of an underrepresented group in STEM, I came to MongoDB with the mindset that I had to change who I am to fit into the tech industry, but I have found the exact opposite to be true. For those who have felt they don’t belong in STEM or have experienced imposter syndrome, I’d like to tell you to battle those feelings and keep pursuing your goals. 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!

December 8, 2020

AfroTech Virtual Summit Recap: MongoDB Employees Share Advice with Rising Tech Talent

This past August, MongoDB sponsored the “ AfroTech : Tech is Still Hiring Virtual Summit.” During this session, our leaders provided personal stories and insights about what a successful career in technology looks like. MongoDB panelists included: Stephanie Samuels , Regional Director, Sales Tosin Ajayi , Sr. Manager, WW Solutions Architecture Wisdom Omuya , Engineering Director, Atlas Data Lake The panel was moderated by Danielle James , Diversity and Inclusion Manager at MongoDB. Panelists shared actionable advice you can apply today, including how to build a roadmap for personal success, ways to bounce back from challenges, the importance of communicating your value, where to find support during your leadership journey, and more. Hear their thoughts: What specific skills are required to become a leader in your field?   How do you handle tough feedback constructively? How do you differentiate yourself from others? How do you communicate the value of your work? How do you bounce back from a mistake or conflict? What should someone do if they believe they're ready for a promotion, but their manager feels otherwise? How can someone prepare for MongoDB's technical interview? What rituals have helped you accelerate your career? What can people do today to help them have a successful career? 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! Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to the MongoDB for Justice fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to $250,000. Learn more .

December 8, 2020

Employee Spotlight: MongoDB Product Manager Talks About His Role And The Company’s Push For Inclusivity

Editor's note: This was originally published on AfroTech's Website . Having a game plan for your career can help you reach monumental milestones and attain goals that not only benefit yourself, but the greater good of the company that you work for. Just ask product manager (PM) at MongoDB, Garaudy Etienne, who has succeeded at the company by using his expertise of processing data to help fuel product growth. Thanks to his engineering and business background, Etienne helps elevate MongoDB products to a higher level of success in the industry’s competitive landscape. The product manager knows the in-and-outs of tech and advocates for inclusivity in the workplace too. Etienne spoke with AfroTech to share an inside look into his unique experience working at MongoDB as a product manager and how he’s using his impact to dismantle offensive database terminology through the master/slave removal project. AfroTech: Tell us about your background and your role as a PM with MongoDB? Etienne: I’ve been a product manager for three years and was previously an aerospace engineer. I grew up in Haiti, Belgium and New Jersey. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Princeton University and my MBA from the University of Chicago. I’m a product manager for the sharding team at MongoDB. Sharding is the process of splitting up a customer’s data over several smaller computers instead of one giant computer. At a certain scale, it is a cost-effective way of storing and processing more data for most companies. Our team is responsible for making sure the data is split in a way that lets websites or apps stay fast as they continue to grow. This means if an app grows to millions of users, they can still read or write information to their database without any issues. AfroTech: What experience(s) prepared you the most for this role? Etienne: My engineering background combined with my MBA have most prepared me for this role. Knowing that I wanted to be a product manager before attending business school helped me focus my learnings and efforts with that singular goal. AfroTech: How were you recruited/promoted/hired into this role? Etienne: Believe it or not, I just went to MongoDB’s website and applied for a “Product Manager, Distributed Systems” posting the company had. I received an email shortly after, asking to set up a phone interview with the recruiter. I’d like to point out that this is not a recommended approach. It’s best to connect with an employee and get some more information about the company and a referral, if possible. AfroTech: What exactly does being a Product Manager mean? Etienne: First, let’s define what a product is: a product is anything you create for other people to use. Being a PM is all about helping the company build a better product. It’s about discovering what to build (and not build) for our customers and when to build it. This means setting a strategy and vision for the product so the engineers see a maximum impact for their efforts. I do this mainly by asking lots of questions, talking to customers, and talking to other teams close to customers, such as customer success managers, technical services engineers, and solutions architects. AfroTech: What inspired you to become a Product Manager? Etienne: I knew that I was interested in business in college. When I finally decided that aerospace was no longer for me, I knew I wanted to still be involved in technology but in a business capacity. I did some research to see what career paths were at the intersection of business and technology. I also spoke to a coworker who was applying to business school at the time to get his thoughts. The more I researched, the more I believed that product management was the right path for me. Photo Credit: Garaudy Etienne, Product Manager, Server at MongoDB kicks off MongoDB's 2019 Black History Month event hosted by TUPOC/Mongodb AfroTech: What’s important to know/do once in the role, and what are the career advancement opportunities for a Product Manager at MongoDB? Etienne: Once in the role, it is important to focus and learn to say no. Requests come from all over the place. It can be customers, sales, marketing, engineers. Not only can you not please everyone, but not every request will lead to a better product. As far as PM career advancement opportunities at MongoDB, there is always plenty when a company is growing, and growing fast. For me, this means soon becoming a Senior PM, then leading a team as a Lead PM. We’ve just hired two Directors of Product on my team, which is the next step after Lead PM. If you don’t want to manage people, there’s always the opportunity to manage much bigger or more important products. AfroTech: How does your role as a Product Manager at MongoDB differ from others? Etienne: One huge difference between being a PM at MongoDB and other places I’ve worked is that I don’t have to spend time managing project timelines. At my previous role, I spent 60 percent of my time managing project timelines. The majority of my time is now focused on discovering/solving customer issues and figuring out how our team’s product fits into the overall company vision and the competitive landscape. In addition, I have been empowered to set the entire strategy for sharding. I recently had a meeting with our Chief Product Officer, where I laid out our plan for the next three to five years. I have never had that kind of autonomy before. It is pretty standard for all other product managers at the company, no matter the level. AfroTech: How do you think your company is making the working environment more inclusive? Etienne: The company has taken several steps to make working there more inclusive. Some of them predate my arrival, such as the parity pledge. The parity pledge promises to interview at least one female candidate for every job opening of director and above. The company is currently undertaking an effort to remove offensive database terminology such as “master/slave” and “whitelist/blacklist” from our code base. Senior leadership has reached out to Black employees to continually get their input and feedback. MongoDB also recently made Juneteenth a company holiday. I personally felt like I mattered a little more when our CEO spoke about the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd before it became just another PR ploy for tech companies. AfroTech: Tell us about your role as an advisor on the master/slave removal project? Etienne: The master/slave removal project started back in January. I have been involved in the discussion from the beginning. I was a staunch advocate for making the changes to older versions of MongoDB when we were debating whether or not to just do it for our latest version onwards. These changes will take close to a year of engineering effort, and it was a good opportunity to challenge the company’s commitment to Black people because this affects our bottom line. I have been in every meeting, from defining the scope of the project, to the design and implementation, and I’ve had to be involved both as a product manager and as a Black employee. AfroTech: Is there anything else you would like to add? Etienne: I wish MongoDB was a more well known company by the layperson. I think a lot of great Black employees in tech are missing out on an awesome company because we’re in the database space and our main users are developers. I’m hoping to do my part to democratize access to information about both MongoDB and product management for Black people in tech. 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! Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to our fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to a maximum aggregate amount of $250,000. Learn more here .

December 7, 2020

How Thoughtful Illustration Is Setting MongoDB Apart: Meet Champa Lo

I sat down with Champa Lo, Technical Illustrator based in our New York headquarters, to learn more about her role as the first full-time illustrator at MongoDB. We talked about her passion for illustration, what she does, and how she’s shaping the future of design within the company. Ashley Perez: Welcome to the team! Can you tell me about your role? Champa Lo: Sure. I joined MongoDB right before COVID-19 hit. I came into the headquarters twice for an interview but ended up being one of the first new hires who had to start at home, on top of being the first person in a brand-new role. Technical Illustration is a first for MongoDB. The company has never had an illustrator on hand. Although we have talented designers who can illustrate within a design, that’s not their main focus: the overall design is. The difference with my role is that I work specifically on illustration. I also work to define the illustration style and help create a style guide. The most important aspect of my job is building good relationships with people throughout the company. I need to understand their goals and what they’re looking for so I can tell a purely visual story. AP: How did you get into illustration? CL: I guess you can say I fell into it (at least the illustration part). I always knew I wanted to be a graphic designer early on. I was a mentee for a graphic designer in high school and absolutely fell in love with the profession. I even have a cute clipping from my senior year high school paper where I talk about my dreams of being a designer. Interview excerpt from Champa's senior-year high school newspaper After high school, I studied graphic design at the University of Colorado Denver. When I was in the design program, I always found ways to incorporate fun illustrations in my projects. A year after I graduated, I moved to New York City because there were more jobs in design there and landed a job that allowed me to put my illustrating skills to good use. My first job was working with an incredible Creative Director at a small startup who built an amazing brand using illustrations to convey the company’s goals and messages. This was a part-time job: for four hours a day, I would concentrate on illustrating bespoke email banners for marketing prompts the team created that morning. With her guidance, I saw my illustration skills grow. It showed me the possibility of being a full-time illustrator. Here’s an example of a design I did while I was there: Email banner Champa created for ThinkEco during her first job as illustrator I love to illustrate (especially this type of illustration) because I’m a designer by trade, and the core of designing is to problem-solve. Illustration is no different. As a Technical Illustrator, I simplify and visualize complicated theories and concepts. Also, it’s fun! If I’m not having fun while illustrating, I’m very unmotivated. My creativity relies on avoiding boredom. I’m always working to improve my artistic skills. I’m a lover of learning, so I subscribe to tutorial sites such as Skillshare; follow artists on YouTube who share tutorials; and subscribe to a monthly art box that sends paints, brushes, pens, and so forth so I can try new mediums. Champa's illustration for a Google Local Guides social media post AP: How do you make your illustrations purposeful, engaging, and memorable? CL: Having thoughtful conversations about the subject matter is how you get good designs and illustration. If you don’t understand the subject to the best of your ability, how can you be successful at visualizing it? In school, I was taught to always research your subject matter and not design blindly. Putting in the extra work makes a huge difference. That’s also why 1:1 meetings are so important. It’s a time for me to learn, and it’s also a creative process for the stakeholders, because they find creative ways to help me understand. GIF Champa created for a MongoDB University Page We want to understand the goal. For example, should the illustration be futuristic or nostalgic? Recently, we had a conversation about cars and how we wanted to present them for a project. We decided to design the cars as compact or electric to show MongoDB as forward thinking and environmentally conscious, because those are the kinds of people we want to hire and work with. Or take COVID-19, for instance. The pandemic has changed the way people illustrate office environments. No longer do you have teams sitting in conference rooms. Instead, you have people working at home. So, I had to think of things to illustrate such as a sofa, home desk, and desk lamp. Maybe even a dog or a child. We thought about how we could incorporate this into the Zoom interface. Before, we didn’t have to think about it. Now, Zoom can be a way to add some personality to everyone’s digital space as we work remotely. That’s what I’m here for. To have those conversations and get deeper behind the meaning of everything we create. AP: Let’s talk a little more about your role at MongoDB. What projects do you work on? CL: I’m part of the Visual Design Team, which supports the whole company. It’s fun to meet and talk to many different people at MongoDB. It gives us a lot of diversity in the projects we work on. Along with illustrations, I also work on diagrams and small animations. Projects include campaigns, web illustrations, and events. Because I’ve joined the team, we’re able to have fuller discussions about illustration. Our designers work in a fast-paced world, but my process is slower because I make more bespoke illustrations and have to talk to people to understand the technicalities so we can go beyond generic illustrations. I have to be more thoughtful of what we’re presenting to the audience. Even though by having these conversations I slow down how quickly the designers move, I'm striving to build stronger relationships on the team through this practice. Top left: Champa’s illustration for MongoDB's new multi-cloud feature. Bottom right: An illustration for MongoDB's vendors page. I have found that by showing and explaining my illustration process and inviting them into it, people seem to trust me more. For example, I always share my sketches with stakeholders before digitizing the work. My sketches aren’t perfect, but by showing them not-so-perfect work, we can build the relationship and align on ideas. My hope is that the sketches allow people to see I’m open for collaboration and conversation. Example of a project working with MongoDB's Web Design team from initial sketch through final illustration AP: How does having these conversations help your design? CL: Great question! Working with such a diversity of people and projects helps me gain an immense amount of knowledge and insight. Past conversations and concerns help inform my design decisions. I’m almost like a liaison for all these different departments, and it's nice to transfer the information so we’re all aligned. For example, I’ve been working closely with Product Marketing on diagrams, and soon I’ll be working on diagrams with a member from the Docs team, too. Each team has taken its own paths for diagrams, but I would love to eventually create a holistic style that works for all teams beyond just these two. I believe having a good process to follow leads to meaningful and engaging illustrations. However, it’s important to find balance. You can’t overengineer it, because that can easily turn unproductive and formulaic. I always want an open dialogue and strive to show there’s room to collaborate. The process we have created has been successful so far, but it’s not set in stone. Further along we can add another step, or we may find certain things aren’t needed. AP: What’s your creative vision for MongoDB? CL: My goal for illustration is that we are inclusive, diverse, and thoughtful. What I’ve seen here is a global company full of people who are very passionate and kind. As designers, we have the power to show who and what MongoDB is. For me, that’s showing off who we are. One of our company’s values is “Own What You Do.” I think it’s such an important one for designers, because we should always add our personal experiences and perspectives to our work and translate the rest of the company’s perspectives and experiences, too. For the team, my goal is to continue streamlining a process so we’re transparent and support a collaborative spirit when it comes to working with us. Champa’s illustration for the MongoDB Atlas onboarding experience My goal is to create a unified vision between our two audiences: developer and enterprise customers. My hope is the illustrations bring joy and delight, and that our audiences see MongoDB has a personality. A really effective illustration system is memorable, and our research is starting to show that our audiences are beginning to remember our visuals. This is a huge brand lift, creating a personal experience versus the cold one people may experience with other tech brands. 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!

December 2, 2020

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