November 21, 2013
As part of a series showcasing our wonderful employees, we're featuring interviews each week, structured as a light Q&A. Last time you met Brendan Coleman, our director of Business Development. This week we're introducing you to Barrie Segal, the Project Manager for the Development Experience team.
What is your role at MongoDB?
I started off as a Support Engineer. Now I’m the Project Manager for the Developer Experience team, which is comprised of our nine drivers, the documentation team and the internal tools team, which totals around 35 people. I’m also temporarily moonlighting as a PM for the MMS team right now.
Where were you before MongoDB? Why did you choose to come to MongoDB?
I was at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, studying Economics and Sustainable Development.
I learned about MongoDB through a friend who founded a company that used it as their datastore. He took me to the MongoDB 2.0 launch party, where I met Eliot and some other members of the team. I had a chance to talk to them and walked away fascinated by the team and the product. Eliot invited me to come interview and the rest is history.
How has your role evolved at MongoDB?
As a Support Engineer, I started off focusing on our community support channels, learned a lot from shadowing and training, and eventually started working with customers. A year later I became Project Manager of the Developer Experience team.
What’s your hometown?
I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and then my family immigrated to The Netherlands in the middle of my Junior year of high school. It was a crazy move (literally) but like most teenagers I didn’t need a lot of convincing to move to Amsterdam. Since moving back to NYC the things I miss the most are the canals, bitterballen, anything from FEBO, and cruising around on my bike. Citibike is great here but I still feel like every bike ride through NYC might be my last.
Did you have previous experience using MongoDB before you arrived? If so, how are things different now that you work at MongoDB? If not, how did you learn MongoDB and how was the education process?
Similar to many others who started around the same time, I had no experience with MongoDB.
I learned through a combination of trial and error, and exploiting the infinite patience of my coworkers, who answered all of my many questions (thanks, guys). The reality is, MongoDB is constantly changing, so we’re all constantly learning. This keeps everyone humble, curious and always willing to teach others.
Have you had any personal projects where you’ve used MongoDB?
I’m working on a weightlifting application that allows me to spend less time tracking workouts on my phone at the gym.
Bike or public transportation to work?
What’s a typical day (or week) for you?
Wake up at 7 am, take my imaginary standard poodle on an imaginary walk. At the risk of sounding cheesy or insane, I actually really love working by Times Square and walking through it every morning. Once I get to the office I check my calendar and task list for the day and map certain tasks to blocks of time between meetings. I’m a big fan of Lifehacker’s How I Work Series and will usually consult this for tips under the guise of ‘research’.
Right now the kernel team is working on a new version of the server, so my main focus is making sure all of our drivers and documentation are ready to go at the same time. On any given day we’ve got about a third of the team working with customers or giving a talk at a conference, so I also spend a great deal of time coordinating across the other teams.
After work it’s usually the gym, dance class or a show. Last week I got to see the Hagen Quartet perform some of Beethoven’s String Quartets on the Upper East Side and during intermission two senior citizens got into a fight over a cell phone and security had to break them up. That’s not a typical day though, at least for me. Maybe it was for them.
What do you love most about MongoDB?
I love working on a product that fulfills a real need, at a company that, despite its rapid growth, still feels small. Also, by virtue of being PM for so many different projects, I get to work across many different teams and see how different parts of the organization work.
What’s the most challenging project here at MongoDB that you’ve worked on, and how did you succeed?
I arrived on the support team at a critical moment-- there were only two dedicated Support Engineers and the rest of the work was handled by the kernel and driver engineers (this was BC, Before Cloud), and there was an immediate need to grow the dedicated support team and gracefully transition the responsibilities away from the other engineers. We built the process and the team from scratch. By the end of my year we went from 2 Support Engineers in the US to 15 dedicated Support Engineers across 3 continents.
What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had working here so far?
Seeing the Sydney and Dublin offices come online, meaning we had MongoDB support in every time zone. What it really meant was that our entire customer base had all the support they needed and the US engineers could sleep through the night.
What’s your favorite Seamless lunch order?
Whatever someone else orders for me. I have bad taste.
Name one secret skill you have, unrelated to work.
Positioning myself on the subway platform in front of where the doors will open.
Kindle or book? What’s your favorite book?
Kindle Paperwhite without a doubt. My favorite book is “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein.
Describe your perfect weekend.
One that is loosely planned (if at all).
If a song played when you walked into the office every day, what would it be?
Black Box - Ride on Time
Leave us with a YouTube video.
This is one of my favorites.