Think Big, Go Far with the MongoDB Customer Success Team
Customer Success Managers (CSMs) play an integral role at MongoDB by providing our customers with the tools and guidance they need to make an impact on the world with their applications. Our Customer Success team is made up of employees from all around the world and collectively speaks 10 languages. Stay tuned to learn more about how the team has grown over the years and get insights into what a day in the life of a CSM at MongoDB is really like. Customer Success at MongoDB For CSMs at MongoDB, every day is different. With a wealth of growth opportunities, a diverse set of customers, and the chance to play a role in the full lifecycle of a customer’s journey, CSMs have the opportunity to constantly innovate and develop creative solutions. Here, Demarcus Lloyd and Paige Jornlin from the U.S.-based team share what it’s like to be a CSM at MongoDB. Demarcus Lloyd, Senior Customer Success Manager, Austin Candidates often think you need to have a strong background in tech to be a CSM at MongoDB, but that’s not necessarily the case. I, for example, completed a college degree in chemistry and international studies, and in 2015, I was working full time in a molecular biology and pathology division of a lab. Initially, I was worried that without a computer science or engineering degree, the move to a technology company would be too difficult of an adjustment, but the opposite proved to be the case. I transitioned my career and joined a health IT company, where I was promoted to a Customer Success role within a year. That role opened doors for other opportunities and eventually led me to join the database space with MongoDB. My portfolio includes computer software and hardware companies, as well as retail, media, oil and gas, and even healthcare companies. This type of diversity in industries creates exposure to some really niche and interesting use cases for MongoDB. One of my favorite success stories is about one of my customers that had major concerns around migrating from on-prem deployment to our cloud offering, Atlas, and sharding several terabytes of data for a customer-facing application. This hesitancy was delaying the company’s overall goal to offload from its data centers by 2022, which could implicate millions of dollars in cost savings. Knowing the team needed to see another successful customer example to move forward, I leveraged a key stakeholder relationship I built with another customer that had a very similar migration and sharding experience. The Lead Engineer agreed to provide me with their tech specs, success metrics, and migration experience to be shared back with the customer. By sharing this proof point, I was able to restore my customer’s confidence, and the company was able to migrate its preproduction workloads a month ahead of schedule and begin migrating production workloads in Q3, ultimately accelerating and de-risking an expansion. When it comes to our team culture, the Customer Success organization is a collective of some of the most talented and selfless individuals I have had the opportunity to work with. For most of us that don’t come from a database background, we recognize that MongoDB can be challenging for beginners to learn. However, the individuals on the team all have strengths and weaknesses, and this is where the collaborative spirit pulls through. A lot of the playbooks, team enablement, and initiatives that are in place for the team are spearheaded by the CSMs themselves, with a focus on the betterment of the global team. We also have a lot of team events. I manage our global happy hour sessions for all new hires every quarter to welcome them to the team. Recently, we had a trivia night as a team-building exercise. The questions ranged from films to history, music, and even Greek mythology. With the various age groups that make up the CSM team, it was interesting to see firsthand the generational familiarity across the topics. At times, it was really competitive, but it was a lot of fun. Paige Jornlin, Customer Success Team Lead, New York City When I first joined MongoDB in May 2018, I was blown away by the onboarding process. Right from day one, they guide you through your ramp-up and make sure you have everything you need to feel comfortable talking to these really technical customers. I also was paired up with a “buddy” at MongoDB to help me with all of my questions during my first few weeks, and I attended our incredible sales boot camp. Since 2018, we’ve only made improvements to these programs. At the beginning of COVID-19, we built out a Customer Success boot camp to take these concepts they’re learning about throughout their ramp-up plan and let them hear directly from the experts. I was certainly impressed two-and-a-half years ago when I joined, but it’s changed drastically, and we have a huge focus on making sure that any new hire has all the tools and support available to really get comfortable with it. The Customer Success team takes a really powerful, impactful product and jumps in to expedite and ensure a customer’s success. We offer a really deep level of guidance and partner closely with our clients as they work toward all of their upcoming objectives. We like to think of ourselves as an extension of their team. We also focus on making sure customers can take advantage of the whole ecosystem of tools they have available to them and on ensuring that their experience is seamless. Every day in my role is different. One day, I might be meeting with our Sales leaders from the various regions I support to strategize on how to best support accounts and de-risk them, while on another day, I might be working with my team to drive toward their metrics and career goals. I’m also really passionate about bringing the team together for enablement and mindshare of what’s going well and what the team might be struggling with. Our team culture is one of the things that excites me the most. Having a team of people I want to be around who are extremely intelligent, challenge me, and make me feel super comfortable is of the utmost importance to me. Because of COVID-19 and our office closure, I ate lunch by myself for the first time after two years in my role here, and it felt so weird because this is such a tightly knit team. We’re always doing things together — constantly looking to collaborate on projects or even just hang out. The team culture has been one of my favorite parts of working at MongoDB. Our team is also really diverse, and people’s differences are embraced. Without having that diversity of background, thought, race, sex, and so forth that exists on our team, we wouldn’t be able to innovate, challenge the norm, or think about different ways of doing things as much as we do. 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!
Switching Teams and Beginning a New Career as a Solutions Architect: Meet Idriss Ouazzani
I sat down with Idriss Ouazzani, a Solutions Architect (SA) based in France, to gain a deeper understanding of his fast track to success, rising from Customer Success Manager (CSM) to his current SA role in less than two years. We also spoke about his upbringing in Morocco, his deep love of learning, and the ways in which MongoDB has kept him motivated and energized. Jess Katz: Thank you for sharing your story, Idriss. Can you tell me what you did before joining MongoDB? Idriss Ouazzani: I was born and raised in Meknès, Morocco, and lived there until I was 18 years old. Although I did extremely well in the entrance exam for the Moroccan Army, I decided instead to move to France and further my studies in engineering. I was always passionate about new technologies, and I decided to pursue electronics/signal-processing engineering. While at university, I had a ton of impactful experiences, ranging from working as a receptionist in Japan to serving as Treasurer, and ultimately a President, of the third-biggest event in France for technical students, the Forum Toulouse Technologies. These experiences helped me discover another passion: business development. I decided to apply for a double degree partnership between the engineering school and the business school, and I ended up getting a master’s degree in engineering and business. From there, I decided to join Atos, a French multinational information technology service and consulting company, as an Enterprise Account Executive covering the business unit in France’s southwest region and managing a large portfolio. After more than two years at Atos, I started to feel as if my passion for technology wasn’t quite getting fulfilled. I decided to take on a new challenge, and move to a new country (Ireland) and join MongoDB! JK: What inspired you to join MongoDB? IO: During my time in sales at Atos, all my consultants were MongoDB lovers. They were so impressed by the technology and the continuous innovation that I couldn’t resist joining this young but well-established company. While doing some of my own research, I was blown away by the growth rate, the innovation, the developers’ feedback, and much more. JK: Can you walk us through your career path at MongoDB? IO: I joined MongoDB on August 19, 2019, as a CSM covering the entire French region. Moving from Toulouse, France, to Dublin, Ireland, I noticed that although the weather was colder, the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming. Even though I had an engineering background, I didn’t know much about databases when I joined. Week one, I remember getting introduced to MongoDB University, and I was so impressed with the quality of the content that I got addicted to it. Within a month, I completed the presales bootcamp training and the new-hire technical training prep course. Everytime I learned something new, I understood that there was so much more to learn. When you’re someone like I am who loves to learn, this is an amazing feeling. I quickly took the lead on solving some of our customers’ technical challenges in France. I remember the evenings I spent with our world-class Support Engineers finding creative solutions for a customer. I also built technical demos for my CSM colleagues and helped them expand their technical knowledge. From there, I became a CSM covering the Middle East in addition to France. As an Arabic speaker, it was a great opportunity for me to work with a new market and speak three different languages all the time while collaborating with an amazing team. Even though I was offered the opportunity to be a SA in France, my manager at that time wanted to promote me to Senior CSM for my contribution to the CS program and for helping the organization grow. This really demonstrated to me just how great a company MongoDB is. After several months in the Senior CSM role, I moved back to France and became an SA, and it’s been an incredible experience so far. JK: What excites you most about being an SA, and why? IO: Two months after I joined MongoDB, I went to Paris for the QBRs. There I met the SA team and started to learn about their role within the company. For those who don’t know, an SA is a salesperson with very strong technical skills whose role is to understand customers’ and prospects’ requirements and explain how MongoDB can help them solve their problems. I had one of these moments where you think to yourself, “That’s a job I could see myself doing.” I asked about the typical SA career path at MongoDB, and one impressive thing was that each SA I spoke with had a unique growth path, and they were all very passionate about their work and the technology. During the QBRs, I met Emmanuel Macé, an SA manager in France, and he saw the interest I had in the SA role. He made a decision that I will never forget: He asked me if I would like to attend a two-day team-building session at a French Normandy castle with the entire Southern Europe SA team to learn more about the role. After spending those two days learning more about the team and the role, I grew extremely interested in the opportunity. However, when speaking with my manager and other people, becoming an SA seemed like a longer-term goal (more than 3 years), because I needed sufficient technical knowledge before taking it on. A couple of months later, the COVID-19 pandemic started, and the lockdown followed shortly after. I was stuck in a tiny apartment in Dublin and decided to gain as much knowledge as possible in order to secure the SA role. I remember spending hours and hours teaching myself technical concepts. I ended up getting both a MongoDB Developer and Microsoft Azure certification. I reached out to my manager and the SA manager about the role and wound up going through an interview process. This included everything from logic and technical knowledge tests to interviews with managers and vice presidents and finally a challenge. Throughout the process, the CS leaders were there for me and provided their full support (a special thanks to Ruth Neligan, Sara Escribano-Slowey, and Julia Prause). JK: How have you been able to be creative in your roles at MongoDB? IO: I’ve never before been afforded this degree of freedom to create and innovate. In the CS org, each time I had an idea, I had full support from the managers to pursue it. During that time, I started a MongoDB championship concept: one-on-one speed “dating” with developers where they get 30 minutes to ask all the questions they want and much more. Additionally, when I had a technical question, other teams were always there to help. Last but not least, MongoDB’s managers know how to create a “safe space” for me and others to share all of our thoughts with complete transparency. JK: What are some interesting technical and creative aspects of being an SA? IO: When you are an SA, you’re focused on understanding your prospects’ and your customers’ needs. Oftentimes, they don’t know a lot about MongoDB, so the challenge is to become a MongoDB expert and to understand the technical aspects that surround it. When you are an SA in MongoDB, you need to fully understand other technologies (Kafka, Kubernetes, Spark, cloud providers’ offerings, Terraform, Ansible, and much more). You also need to understand the competitive landscape. I really like that we are at the cutting edge of technology. JK: What would you want potential candidates to know about working at MongoDB? IO: My advice is to be yourself. One key value we share is to “embrace the power of differences.” Be proud of what you’ve achieved, think big, and remember, I didn’t know much about databases when I joined, but I do now, and if you want to, you can too. And lastly, take risks. When interviewing me, the team saw potential when I raised my hand even though I was far from being a traditional candidate. JK: Did you have support from your managers each time you made an internal transfer? What were those conversations like? IO: This is one of the most impressive things I saw at MongoDB. I was scared about how my manager would react if I asked for an internal transfer, but each time, I had full support from my managers. As a matter of fact, they went a step further and asked me what they could do to teach me about the position I wanted to get. 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!
MongoDB’s Customer Success Team Is Growing: Meet Members from Our EMEA Team
MongoDB is the perfect home for anybody looking to join a dynamic, fast-paced, and rapidly growing technology company that’s blazing a trail in the database market. And because we’re onboarding new customers constantly — from massive household brands to the newest startup — we need amazing people to set them up for success from day one. Customer Success (CS) is one team that does just that. MongoDB currently is looking for talented people worldwide to be part of a team that delivers next-generation solutions for driving digital transformation with a diverse roster of clients. Want interview tips for our Customer Success roles? Read this blog. As MongoDB’s frontline resource, you’ll share the journey with each customer from initial onboarding all the way through each phase of the customer’s plan, developing strong and lasting partnerships along the way. Members from our EMEA-based CS team give their take on what to expect while working at MongoDB. Diverse Backgrounds Are More Than Welcome The Customer Success team is composed of creative teammates from a wide variety of backgrounds. As an inclusive community that values your ideas and embraces differences, the CS team believes all backgrounds and experiences can provide value to the role and the customers we serve. Despite this diversity, team members all share two core characteristics: a shared passion for innovation and technology, and a zest for connecting with people. Giuliana Alderisi , a Customer Success Specialist at MongoDB who oversees the Italian, Spanish, and Nordics region, speaks to the diversity of experiences across the CS team. “Our background as Customer Success Specialists are really heterogeneous,” she says. “I’m a computer engineer, but I know teammates who come from very different backgrounds, such as economics, sales development, and marketing, just to name a few. Of course, to increase the level of support we provide to customers, we also come from different countries and speak different languages. I always enjoy the ability to look at things from a different perspective. So, needless to say, I love our coffee breaks where we share our experiences.” One of those teammates she enjoys meeting with is Lucia Fabrizio , a Customer Success Manager covering the Enterprise Italian market. “After spending some years in sales and enablement roles, I found myself eager to start a new challenge, and I really wanted to better understand what happens after the sale is closed,” Lucia says. “I knew I enjoyed inspiring and educating others, as well as guiding them as they solved problems and tackled new opportunities, but I was unsure what my next career move could be. Then I came across MongoDB’s Customer Success Manager role, and it ticked all the boxes. I would describe myself as an introvert, which doesn’t mean I am shy. I simply enjoy listening and using my genuine curiosity to dive deeply into any situation and then act strategically. I’ve learned that this is a great quality for Customer Success Managers.” What You Do Matters The opportunities for discovery and growth are seemingly boundless for MongoDB’s CSMs. “The team is incredibly skilled and inclusive,” says Giuliana. “It is rare that I spend a day without learning something new from my team members.” So far for Giuliana, this has included everything from pipeline generation and work on expansions to improving soft skills and stakeholder management. And according to Giuliana, building together within the MongoDB community is an immensely enjoyable process. “We all know each of us has different talents and different skills, so collaboration is not just essential — it is promoted. We brainstorm together and openly share the ideas we have to make our customers successful,” she says. “MongoDB is big, so sometimes it might be difficult to identify the right person or department you should reach out to get the task done. However, everyone at MongoDB is super friendly, and in a matter of minutes, you’ll find the answer you’re looking for.” Part of the golden learning opportunities for those on the CS team is the chance to familiarize yourself with the full range of exciting products at the company’s disposal. You’ll have the freedom to explore the many facets of MongoDB, gain an understanding of how the products work, and collaborate with a variety of talented individuals. “We work with a lot of different customers and industries,” Guiliana says. “We’re specialized in driving them to success while they use MongoDB products, no matter who is the final user. This also means we are product-certified and get to know the major MongoDB products so we can properly help our customers.” MongoDB does everything it can to provide team members with the tools, resources, and training needed to hit the ground running. We have a dedicated Customer Success boot camp that runs in parallel to our Sales boot camp, helping the team prepare to work with customers, including onboarding. In addition, the CS team has put together product certifications that focus on role-playing so members can practice working with customers. For those intimidated by high-level tech, the CS team is always surrounded by world-class experts who are giving of their time and eager to bring members up to speed on all of MongoDB’s latest offerings. This includes partnering with the Product team to receive additional training, particularly for new products and tools. Being Our Customers' Voice and Advocate In the CS role, you don’t just get to know the emerging and cutting-edge products; you also cultivate lasting relationships with your customers. This includes everything from brainstorming creative ways for customers to adopt new features to ensuring their business is set up for scale, continuity, and sustainability. And because the CS team partners with a range of people in various job roles and companies, the top skills needed to successfully drive these relationships are: Technical acumen and interest in our technology Curiosity and eagerness to learn continuously Empathy for our customers “The base of MongoDB’s Customer Success program — at least how I think of it — is moving from a ‘vendor-customer’ relationship to an actual partnership with our customers,” says Lucia. “This is because we understand the importance of being our customers’ advocate, not only supporting them through pain points but by listening first and bringing their voice to our internal teams. When I meet with customers, I tell them to think of me as an ‘orchestra director’ who’s bringing all the relevant MongoDB personas together to support them through each phase of their plan and create new goals together.” A Strong Culture Built on Core Values Both Lucia and Giuliana speak glowingly about the culture at MongoDB. As Guiliana explains, the team is encouraged to work together on brainstorming sessions and lightning talks to compare notes and share their knowledge with their peers. “We’re also asked to take the time to explore new initiatives to help the CS program grow and find new ways to help our customers,” Giuliana adds. “This was already great before COVID-19 and became even more important when the pandemic affected our lives.” Giuliana also appreciates MongoDB’s benefit offerings such as the Emergency Care Leave, which helped to ensure parents would not feel guilty taking care of their children during the height of the pandemic. As a matter of fact, she adds, “None of the customer-focused or new-hire programs, trainings, or onboardings stopped; MongoDB simply adapted and pivoted with a great effort of creativity and relentlessness.” Lucia has some parting wisdom for those hoping to join the team : “Be comfortable challenging the norm and bringing your own perspective” she says. “You are the CEO of your portfolio, but it is essential to 'build together’ across the multitude of cross-functional teams here.” Interested in pursuing a Customer Engineering career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our team and would love for you to build your career with us!
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!
Meet Nicholas Cottrell: How My Experience Using MongoDB Inspired My First Book
I sat down with Nicholas (Nic) Cottrell, Technical Services Program Manager, to talk about his career progression at MongoDB and the exciting news of his recent book release, MongoDB Topology Design : Scalability, Security, and Compliance on a Global Scale. Ashley Perez: Prior to joining MongoDB, you already were familiar with our products. How did you learn about us, and why did you decide to join the team? Nic Cottrell: I've always been interested in natural language technologies and was, at the time, building a multilingual version of WordNet to facilitate machine translation of websites. I had experimented with object databases and tried to scale with systems built on top of SQL. I couldn’t find anything that would scale until I stumbled upon MongoDB around 2011. I remember being at a MongoDB event in Paris where they presented replication and sharding. I was blown away by both the implementation and the potential for scaling. I ended up using MongoDB for consulting clients and personal projects. I transitioned from customer to employee when I had completed several large consulting projects in Sweden. In spring of 2017, I had moved to France for my wife's work, and it seemed like the perfect time to seek new challenges. I wanted to leverage my experience with MongoDB, so joining MongoDB as a Consulting Engineer that October seemed like an excellent way to complement those existing skills. AP: Wow. You’ve been working with our technologies for quite some time. So, you started as a Consulting Engineer but continued to progress your career in other ways? NC: Correct. While I loved the consulting role, the amount of travel made it hard to spend time with my kids (aged one and three at the time). MongoDB is very supportive of work/life balance, so we found that a move into a technical services role would be a good solution. This remote position is much more flexible and means I can pick up the kids from school and make them dinner. I catch up on cases and email in the calm of the evening to round out the day. AP: What does the Technical Services team do? NC: The Technical Services team assists our customers with applications and databases already in deployment. We help recover systems when an unexpected event has occurred (hardware failure, for example). We can diagnose changes in performance and track it back to things such as new network misconfigurations, app features, or changes in user patterns. Being a Technical Services Engineer (TSE) sometimes feels like playing Dr. House. We have to diagnose complex systems with partial information, and success means working with customers to perform the right tests and collect the right information to identify a root cause(s). In other cases, it’s like playing Inspector Poirot. We can see that part of the system misbehaved, but the obvious suspect is seldom the real perpetrator. Customers can provide a set of diagnostic information including internal metrics from the member nodes, information about the automation of cluster components from our Ops Manager tool , and details of the host and operating system configuration. We have tools that let us visualize and zoom in to one-second intervals to piece together the timeline of events and solve the mystery. By working in pairs with our engineering colleagues, we solve these issues more quickly and also transfer knowledge and skills to our growing team. AP: Interesting way to describe it. Sounds as if the Technical Services team is perfect for curious minds who like a good puzzle. You've recently made another career move, right? Can you tell me about your new role? NC: In August 2020, I moved into a program management role within the same team. I am working on several initiatives, including expanding our knowledge management systems and our premium services offering such as Named TSE . I am now working with a larger group within MongoDB globally and am involved in the entire life cycle of the technical services experience from the customers' perspective. AP: How has MongoDB supported your career growth? NC: MongoDB has very clear and well-defined corporate values. Unlike most places I've worked, people internalize these, and I experience them every day in what we do. In particular, our culture of taking responsibility as a group improves both the product and our service delivery. As an engineer, I was encouraged to share ideas for changes, propose solutions, and follow through with getting them implemented. I feel as if the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well despite our huge growth. AP: I hear the Technical Services team is encouraged to work on side projects. I’m sure that helps accelerate career growth too. Can you tell me a bit about that? NC: Absolutely. We are encouraged to spend about four hours a week on other projects. For some, this can mean self-education and preparing for accreditations such as AWS professional-level exams. For me, due to my development background, I focused on improving our tooling. This let me learn a new programming language ( Go ) and test out our new drivers in the process. The tool I built has become a core component in our case assignment workflow globally. It’'s been great to see it have so much positive impact. Our staff engineers get to spend even more time on other projects, including guiding junior engineers, and also delving deeper into special use cases, writing tools, and knowledge base articles. All these projects can have a multiplier effect on our capacity as a team to solve customer issues quickly and efficiently. AP: Very cool. How else do you feel MongoDB sets itself apart from other companies as a place to work? NC: I love the responsiveness and approachability of our management, from individual product managers to top-level executives. It's a very flat organization, and we make use of modern techniques such as 1:1 skip meetings so we keep two-way communication open across the company. Most things move very quickly, and now that our product catalog has grown, there's a lot of news to catch up on.There are always exciting announcements around the corner. As an employee, my contributions are appreciated and actioned, and I directly benefit from the financial success of the company. AP: Thanks for sharing your experience. Now, are you ready to share your exciting news? Congrats on your recent book release! I’d love to hear more about it. NC: Thank you. My book, MongoDB Topology Design : Scalability, Security, and Compliance on a Global Scale , released in September 2020. It was inspired by questions and concerns raised during my consulting engagements, as well as my participation in our Ask the Experts booths and trainings at various MongoDB.local and World events . The book is intended to assist large enterprises managing MongoDB themselves on-premises or in cloud instances. These customers tend to have very specific security and data protection requirements and a low tolerance for any negative production impact. I wanted to create something that both management and engineers could read to get up to speed on how MongoDB works and the issues to consider when scaling out a large deployment. There are several small things that can make it much easier to scale out globally later. AP: That sounds like an amazing resource for our customers. How did members of MongoDB support you during your writing process? NC: MongoDB itself was very supportive, and I was encouraged to reach out internally to our developers to ensure complete accuracy. My manager even helped proofread my draft copies. While MongoDB Atlas is definitely the future for MongoDB production deployments, I wanted to make sure organizations that are still required to manage their own infrastructure have a single reference while industries prepare themselves for a fully cloud, SaaS world. 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!