This week we spoke with Ajeeth Ganapathinageswaran, a Solutions Architect at Cognizant Technology Solutions based out of Stamford, Connecticut. On our call, Ajeeth shared his unusual, if not accidental, MongoDB discovery story – and how that discovery has inspired him to fully immerse himself in the MongoDB and greater NoSQL community. Now Developer-certified and a MongoDB Master, Ajeeth is eager to share his knowledge of the database with anyone interested; his passion is tangible, and we’re grateful he’s spreading the MongoDB love!
Eloise Giegerich: Hey, Ajeeth! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. To kick things off, why don’t we discuss how you first got into tech, and what you’re working on in your current role at Cognizant.
Ajeeth Ganapathinageswaran: Thank you for speaking with me. I started my career in business intelligence; after figuring out different aspects of BI, I started focusing more on the development side. My interest stemmed from more than just BI, and more than just analytics; I wanted to know how things could come together and be built.
Since becoming a solutions architect, I’ve been part of projects that aim to consider and reevaluate industry standards and prototypes – projects along the lines of Netflix. At Cognizant I work on the data engineering team, and am currently in the process of building out a data analytics platform.
EG: How did you first discover MongoDB?
AG: It’s a funny story, actually. In 2015, a friend of mine who lived in New York and had previously worked with MongoDB, <a href=https://university.mongodb.com/certified_professional_finder/certified_professionals/90471" target="_blank">Anbu Cheeralan, told me about an upcoming MongoDB meetup at the UN. I decided to attend, only because I was curious to see what the inside of the UN looked like! But after attending the schema design session conducted by Buzz Moschetti at the meetup, I became very interested in learning more about the database; I began reading more about MongoDB, and enrolled in training sessions at the University. Following that, with the free download, I began to play around with the database, and become familiar with it.
EG: That’s great! When you first started exploring MongoDB, how did it compare to other databases you’d worked with?
AG: Before discovering MongoDB, I had worked with various relational databases including Oracle and Teradata. When I first began to play around with MongoDB, the database was still brewing in its analytics capabilities – that is, in the early stages of building these capabilities. I worked primarily in analytics, so the database wasn’t yet conducive to my projects, specifically; instead of applying it to my work, I downloaded MongoDB and tried it out on my own. What interested me most was how generic the database was; if you want to get direct insight into what you’re doing and really understand the system and the data, MongoDB allows you to work with so many combinations. Most traditional relational systems box you in with constraints.
EG: Why did you decide to pursue certification?
AG: After the initial UN meetup, where I began to really research MongoDB and explore all it offered – and complete the University training courses – it made sense that my next step would be certification. I wanted to become as much a part of the community as I could, and continue to immerse myself in the NoSQL data store ecosystem.
EG: How did you prepare for the certification exam?
AG: To prepare, I took three courses, M101P: MongoDB for Developers, which focused on topics like PyMongo and Aggregation Framework; M201: MongoDB Performance; and M202: MongoDB Advanced Deployment and Operations. The courses were difficult; you have to do a lot of learning (and unlearning) – more than I had done on my own. But the courses were also extremely relevant and to the point; each went into detail, carefully explaining how certain operations are done.
EG: Can you share any advice for those working on their exams?
AG: All the exercises offered through the courses are helpful, and hands-on practice is key. Because MongoDB is open source, you can easily download and play with the data, repeating exercises offered in the courses on your own. With any data you get, imagine how to implement it in MongoDB. The University also provides a very well-laid out book – the MongoDB Definitive Guide – which was very useful for me; I would recommend it to any person interested in being certified or in learning about MongoDB.
EG: What has life been like post-certification? Are there any personal or professional benefits you’ve enjoyed?
AG: Since becoming certified, I’ve been focused on further exploring how MongoDB can be applied to my day-to-day data engineering and analytics. I’m still experimenting with merging non-relational data and relational, as well as collecting, cleansing, and processing data in a MongoDB cluster. What I’ve really liked about becoming certified is that it has inspired me to not only learn more about MongoDB, but more about NoSQL data stores like Redis and Neo4j, as well as big data platforms and services like Hadoop and AWS. Now, I’m really working to educate myself in more Data Analytics areas. If I trace back my steps, all my interests lead back to my discovery of MongoDB.
EG: That’s really exciting! I’m guessing broadening your database knowledge has been a great reward for you; what do you think your greatest takeaway from your certification experience has been? Why would you encourage others to pursue certification?
AG: At Cognizant we use Yammer, a virtual community for those within and around the tech community to discuss current projects and happenings – sort of like a Facebook for tech people. It offers something akin to a MongoDB User Group meetup, only it’s virtual to accommodate the locations of those of us spread out over time zones. Within Yammer, I created a group for MongoDB enthusiasts, opening the discussion by talking about my own certification, as well as giving tips. To help peak my colleagues’ interest in MongoDB, I hosted a crash course on the database; since sharing my story and offering this course, at least a dozen people from our Yammer group went on to pursue certification.
It’s clear that MongoDB is very popular; when there is a bird’s-eye view of the database, people get intrigued, which leads to more questions and discussions. It’s this conversation and shared excitement that I’ve most cherished; my certification has not only opened the door to a community of like-minded people who are eager to get acknowledged and learn more, but it has allowed me to share my story with them, and help them. That’s what I really like about MongoDB, specifically its Advocacy Hub – that we’re encouraged to reach out to more people.
Thanks to Ajeeth for taking the time to share his story. If you’re interested in getting professionally certified, you can learn more about the MongoDB certification process. If you’re already certified and would like to be featured in a future blog post, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.