This week, we spoke with Anbu Cheeralan, an Engineering Lead at DoubleVerify, an Adtech product company that authenticates the quality of digital media for the world's largest brands, who became certified as a MongoDB Developer in 2013. Having used MongoDB in various projects throughout his career, Anbu was eager to share his experiences with the database, as well as to discuss the community he’s cultivated through leading his own MongoDB training sessions.
Thanks to his certification, Anbu now has the confidence to assure customers of his MongoDB proficiency, and he’s applying that confidence to all current and future projects he takes on.
Eloise Giegerich: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your certification story, Anbu! Let’s begin by discussing your tech background. How did you get your start in tech, and what motivated you to become an Engineering Lead?
Anbu Cheeralan: I completed my BS in Computer Science and Engineering at Madurai Kamaraj University in India, and started working for Cognizant Technology Solutions as a consultant for their Insurance Product division. I have worked with databases for more than 10 years. Back in 2013, I was working on an Insurance use case that gave me my first peek into the NoSQL world; MongoDB in particular attracted me because of its ease of use, especially in getting started. After Cognizant, I worked as a Big Data Consultant for MetLife for two years, where I used MongoDB and Hadoop, before moving to my current role at DoubleVerify in 2015. I like being an engineering lead because it allows me to tackle and solve interesting problems by thoughtfully leading team efforts that draw upon everyone’s strengths.
EG: You mentioned discovering MongoDB when you first began working with NoSQL. What was your database experience like prior to that, and how does MongoDB compare to some of the RDBMS you’ve worked with?
AC: Over the course of my career I’ve used DB2, Hive, HBase, and MongoDB. As a lead developer with a lot of RDBMS experience, I was searching for something new; in 2013, when the above use case presented itself, I recognized that I needed a data model that was dynamic, flexible, and semi-structured. Representing the use case in RDBMS was somewhat awkward and not easily manageable. When I began to branch out and look for something else, I found Polyglot Persistence and NoSQL.
I prefer to use MongoDB when the data model is evolving or changing frequently. The MongoDB client/driver system is more versatile than that of any other system I’ve seen, and the use cases and tooling for MongoDB have grown tremendously over the years, which is impressive.
EG: Can you share some of the specific projects you’ve worked on that used MongoDB?
AC: I have used MongoDB in a couple of interesting projects. In one, I worked with a Group Health Insurance Enrollment System, which adds new insurance applicants and applications into its system at a rapid pace. Another project focused on backend development where I used MongoDB for an auto insurance rule validation, and also as a simple pub/sub queue.
EG: What about MongoDB certification attracted you?
AC: As a consultant, gaining customer confidence is the most important thing. Working in cutting edge technologies adds additional stress to customers and consultants; clients want to know that you’re really proficient with a given technology if you’re going to be using it on their behalf. Being certified can ease that concern and build confidence. For example, when I started working in data modeling with MongoDB, my certification, the credible proof of knowledge, gave my customers the confidence to trust in my abilities to meet their needs. In other words, MongoDB Professional Certification was the obvious way for me to prove that I knew how to use MongoDB.
EG: Which courses did you take, and did you find them challenging? Rewarding?
AC: I enrolled in the M101J, M101JS, M101N, M101P, and M102 courses; I also studied the MongoDB Documentation, Presentations, and the book MongoDB: The Definitive Guide by Kristina Chodorow to help broaden my knowledge. One of the main challenges I encountered was having to unlearn techniques that were suitable for RDBMS but not for MongoDB. As an example, 1:M data modeling is a bit different between RDBMS and MongoDB, depending on how big the M is. It took me some time to fully process this switch; I had to readjust to what was already familiar, innate. But the rewarding part of the process was that the MongoDB University courses were very hands-on and offered just the right-sized chunks of information to digest these new concepts.
EG: How has being certified helped you in your work? Have you seen a tangible change?
AC: As a consultant, being certified in MongoDB has helped me make cases for best practices and convince stakeholders. In the Health Insurance Enrollment System use case, for instance, I was able to effectively model the complex data with MongoDB, which earned me fast approval from experienced Enterprise DBAs.
With my knowledge from the MongoDB University courses, I have also been able to train 40+ consultants in MongoDB development. Through this immense experience, I’ve realized that having the opportunity to teach is often an even better way to learn than being taught. Q&A sessions during these trainings helped all of us gain more insight into MongoDB’s architecture and client APIs.
And in my own projects, as I’ve mentioned, I was able to more seamlessly apply MongoDB to use cases where the data model was not a natural fit for RDBMS and contained semi-structured data.
EG: Looking back, what has been your greatest takeaway from the certification process?
AC: My MongoDB certification has helped me assure that I am following the best practices when I design and develop a solution using MongoDB. I now have the confidence to build the right solution thanks to my strengthened MongoDB knowledge, and the proven ability to demonstrate those skills!
Thanks for talking with us today, Anbu! 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 share your story, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.