Life as a Systems Engineer at amazee.io

Life as Systems Engineer

Previously, we discussed the general work culture at amazee.io. We discussed our approach to flexible work and our fully remote and unique culture.

Now we are going to dive a bit deeper and introduce you to the people behind amazee.io. Today it’s the turn of two of our Systems Engineers – Thom and Bastian. We interviewed them on their days, their roles, and their thoughts for the future, and we hope to spread some light on life @amazee.io as a Systems Engineer!

Thom Toogood and Bastian Widmer

How would you describe the typical workday? 

Bastian: We have two types of work; focused work and interrupted work. We usually work 2 weeks on one, then switch to the other for 2 weeks. “Focused work” periods are when we have time to research, innovate, improve our product, and perform project work. Interrupted based work is when we are essentially performing reactive tasks, customer support, on-call work, etc.

Our on-call work is different from most though. Whilst we work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, which can seem like a lot, as we have so many time zones covered, my personal on-call time is only between 7.30 am and 5.30 pm each day, our colleagues in North America and New Zealand covers their own office hours, so it’s not 24/7.

Thom: I’m awake pretty early to get the kids up for school, pack their lunches and all that stuff, then I go out for a skate to the beach, grab a coffee and check my emails before our stand up. Then really no day is the same. We are a smaller team so we all get involved in a lot of topics, from deep project work to fixing outages etc. We also get a lot of time to innovate and research. As a small, agile firm it’s up to all of us to look at new ways of doing things. 

What’s the most exciting aspect of engineering and technology at amazee.io right now? 

Bastian: We evolve and change a lot of things (which sometimes can be hard - change can be uncomfortable) but I see it for the better. This year our processes were put to the test during the Global Pandemic and I'm more than happy to say that our processes work, and for a small global company, being remote is the right approach for us and works well.

Speaking of contributing - since the team grew, my contributions to Lagoon shifted a little bit into the background as I'm taking on other roles, taking care of onboardings, technical account management, and explorative research journeys on how we can improve parts of our platform.

I’m excited to learn how to make our systems even more robust and simplify parts of our technology stack.

Thom: Lagoon 2.0 - native Kubernetes is a game-changer for Lagoon as we can easily support the multitude of “Kubernetes as a service” options and let customers choose the infrastructure providers that work best for them.

Lando - I’m excited about the Lando integration with Lagoon as this will lower the barrier to entry for developers. Working closely with the Lando team we hope to make the onboarding process as streamlined as possible using workflows that are familiar to many other developers.

What kinds of technical problems do you most often tackle for customers?

Bastian: This vastly depends - sometimes it’s easy problems like solving a small issue which is causing a deployment to fail - sometimes it's something bigger like a Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS) against a customer.

Thom: Onboarding, teaching customers how to extend and leverage Lagoon.

What areas of technology / new skills have you learned or expanded on while at amazee.io?

Bastian: So many. The way we build systems now is not really comparable to how we previously built traditional infrastructures. You don’t just provision servers for certain application parts anymore. 

Nowadays there are many interesting tools like Terraform which help us to build and maintain vast infrastructure landscapes for our customers. Back in the day, a scaling operation for example was a multi-day plan and execution. With the advent of Kubernetes and cloud-native approaches, we can scale our clusters in a matter of minutes.

Thom: Since joining amazee.io I’ve extended my knowledge of Kubernetes, whilst the project has developed immensely during this time.

I have been learning about the Operator model and using Terraform to standardize our infrastructure. As an early employee of the APAC region, I’ve needed to keep some very generalized skills and support the team. As the team grows I hope I can focus my attention on improving developer workflows and automation.

What do you see as the challenges for the future? 

Bastian: We are in a phase where we professionalize a lot of the things we do. From our beginnings 4 years ago, my job profile has always been very broad, but as we grow we will be able to have more specialized roles. I myself may move into a technical account management role at some point. As we increase in numbers there will be a lot of opportunities for people to develop and grow with us. We just need to have one eye on scalability with everything we do given our growth plans.

Bastian working

How do you deal with being fully remote? 

Bastian: Several ways, we have frequent “Watercooler” Zoom meetings, where we just get together and have a chat, it’s usually not work-related, but random and casual topics. There is no agenda, sometimes it’s computer stuff, sometimes it's about which plants grow the best in Texas. To accommodate our vast time zones we have 2 of these on any given day.

We also have a lot of one-on-ones, basically coffee chats. We try and take the time to do this with each other, which means we probably spend more quality time with each other than people that work in the same office. We also get to meet up at least once a year too for some quality time together. This year we had Fiji booked as a meetup spot, sadly the travel ban meant we had to postpone.

Thom: We are very heavy Slack users, throwing ideas around the place with a diverse range of topics and channels, but we also have daily Zoom handovers between our global teams, one in the morning with the US, and another with our colleagues in Europe towards the end of our day, as well as our more casual Zoom hangouts.

Advice to someone starting at amazee.io? 

Bastian: When you start, observe and give us feedback. I really like that, when somebody new joins, they always have an “outside” view for a while. Ask us questions, give feedback to us, let us know what doesn’t make sense. 

There’s such a wide range of tech work for us to do, I’d say to a new person joining “Dive in, be curious, find your niche, and run with it because we will have work for you!”

Thom: Extreme curiosity is number one, this is the most common trait leading to a successful career with us. Things are changing constantly and we need people who like to learn new things and ask “why?”. It’s essential to who we are as a company.

There’s a steep and long learning curve to what we do. We cover a lot of it with documentation and onboarding. However, there’s just too much to put down on paper to transfer. Some of the things we do are so varied that it can feel overwhelming. My advice is to take it easy, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. We like to be leading edge and agile, so we don’t expect people to be able to run immediately with all of the tech and work we have.

amazee.io engineers at a confrence

What is the best thing about working for amazee.io? 

Bastian: Our flexibility: we give and receive a lot of trust. I am able to work from anywhere with my laptop and I’ve often traveled while working. This is a really cool thing about working for amazee.io. There's a trust the work will be done, and an understanding that we also have personal ambitions. Here we don’t have to choose between the two.

Thom: I always wanted two things in my career – to work on cool tech, and with cool people. I get to have both here and I can’t see what more I could want in a job. I can’t replace loving my work.

Sound like your kind of workplace? Interested in working with emerging technologies in the open source world? We’re always on the lookout for exceptional talent. Check out our open positions and apply today.


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