Finding Inspiration and Motivation at MongoDB University

Katharine Lucic

#MongoDB University

For many people, across the globe, 2020 was a strange and challenging year. The new year has brought the hope of healthier and more prosperous times ahead, but inspiration to stay positive can still be tough to find. For MongoDB Certified Developer Kirk-Patrick Brown, the past months presented obstacles, but with perseverance he also experienced growth and even found ways to give back to his local community using what he learned at MongoDB University.

Kirk-Patrick sat down with us virtually, from his home in Jamaica, to talk about his passion for MongoDB, getting certified through MongoDB University in the middle of the pandemic, and staying motivated.

Can you tell us about yourself and your approach to software development?

I’m Kirk-Patrick Brown, a senior software developer at Smart Mobile Solutions Jamaica. I consider myself an artist. I have a history in martial arts and poetry. I medaled in the Jamaica Taekwondo Championships and received the certificate of merit in a creative writing competition hosted by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. It was only natural to bring those artistic traits when moving into software development. For me, software development is also an artistic pursuit. It gives me a canvas to create and bring ideas to life, which in turn brings business value.

When did you begin building with MongoDB?

I had my first hands on-experience with MongoDB in 2018. I realized it was one of those rare gems that you see, and you're immediately curious about how it actually works, because it’s not like what you’re used to. In Jamaica there are a lot of organizations that run on some form of relational database. But once I learned about MongoDB and NoSQL I became a self-motivated evangelist for MongoDB. I understand that organizations may have used relational databases in the past, and that is understandable because there is a longer history and at one time that was the main type of database for your typical workload, but things have changed drastically. In this era there is more demand for data and all different types of unstructured data. With the advent of big data, systems that were designed years ago may not be able to provide optimal storage and performance. MongoDB is a better alternative for such use cases and enables built-in features such as auto-sharding to horizontally scale and aid in the efficient storage and retrieval of big data.

MongoDB keeps being so innovative. The other day I was preparing for a multicloud accreditation with Aviatrix, and it was so funny--at the very same time, MongoDB came out with multicloud clusters. It was just beautiful. You don’t want to get locked into one cloud provider for your deployments. Even though these cloud providers offer availability zones for increased fault tolerance, things can still happen. Becoming multi-cloud allows you to become more resilient to disaster. Being in multiple clouds also lets you bring some of your replica sets closer geographically to your customers. By leveraging regional presences across multiple clouds, you can reduce in-network latency, and increase your ability to fulfill queries faster. That’s one of the main features of MongoDB replication--the ability to configure a member to be of higher priority than others, which could be driven by the location in which most of your queries originate. Multi-cloud clusters enable high availability and performance, and I think it was amazing of MongoDB to create such a feature.

You call yourself a “self motivated evangelist” for MongoDB. We’re flattered! What has your experience been?

I’m actively trying to get organizations to appreciate NoSQL. Recently I presented to a group of developers in the agile space. I spoke to them about replication, sharding, indexes, performance, and how MongoDB ties into advanced features of security in terms of authentication. I’m primarily pushing for developers and organizations to appreciate the Atlas offering from MongoDB. Right out of the box you can instantly have a deployed database out there in Atlas--with the click of a button, pretty much. You can get up and running immediately because MongoDB is a cloud-first database. Plus there's always customer support, even at the free tiers. You don’t feel alone with your database when you’re using MongoDB Atlas.

There has been some resistance, because NoSQL requires a bit of a mental shift to understand what it can provide. But we live in a world where things continually change. If you are not open to adapting I don’t even have to say what’s going to happen, you know?

You became MongoDB Certified through MongoDB University in the middle of the pandemic. Can you tell us about that experience?

Even before the pandemic started I was studying courses at MongoDB University, and traveling 100 kilometers to go to work every week, while also caring for my family and three year-old son back at home. There were some delays, but I was able to become MongoDB-certified in July 2020.

Becoming MongoDB-certified has impacted me in positive ways. I’ve met people I did not know before. It has also given me a level of confidence as it relates to building a database that is highly available, scalable, and provides good data reads via the different types of indexes and indexing techniques provided by MongoDB. I can create the database, perform and optimize CRUD operations, apply security and performance activities alongside a highly available and scalable cluster, all thanks to the knowledge provided by MongoDB University. The courses at MongoDB University covered those aspects very well. There is enough theory but also a great amount of practical application in the courses, so you leave with working knowledge that you can immediately use.

What is the project you worked on during the pandemic that you’re most proud of?

One of the things I’ve worked on intensely during the pandemic is helping to develop a video verification application for a local company and building out most of the backend functionality. For that project, there was a great deal of research needed into the technological tools and implementation to support recording verification videos of customers. I felt like it was my contribution to society at a time when it was dangerous for people to come into that local business. If I can develop something that allows even one person not to need to come into that physical location, that could be the difference between someone contracting the virus or not. A virus that has taken many lives and disrupted a lot of families this year.

What advice do you have for other developers who are struggling right now with motivation to advance themselves and their careers?

Don’t ever give up. In anything that you do. There is nothing that you’ll do that’s going to be both good and easy. Being a developer, you experience different problems that you have to solve but you have to keep moving forward.

I don’t believe in failure, because in anything you do, there is always a win. You have your experiences and those experiences can guide your decision making. It’s just like machine learning. Machines need a lot of data and you can’t give the machine all positive data. It needs some negative data for it to become a good training model. You need bad experiences as well as good ones. If we had all good experiences our brains would not have the training models to make those correct decisions when we need them.

Each day I make one definite step or positive decision. And that may be as simple as going onto the MongoDB University site and saying “I’m going to complete this one course.” You just have to keep going at it. You plan for a lot of things in life, but things most of the time don’t happen when you want them to. There's going to be some delay or something. But you can’t give up. Because if you give up then everything is lost. As long as there is time and there is life then there is opportunity to keep doing this thing. And it may take a little bit to get there but eventually you will. But if you give up, you definitely won’t!