Software Engineer, Once Again

It is Dec 31, 11pm in Tel Aviv. Where I’m seating in what is possibly the world’s worst airport lounge, about to board the 15 hour flight back home. When I show up in the office tomorrow, it will be in an old-new role: Software Engineer.

Old port in Jaffa

One of my colleagues asked: “It looks like you have the perfect job, and yet you move to engineering, what am I missing?”

It reminded me of the previous time I moved to engineering. The day I made my switch official, one of the engineers I admired most announced that he is moving to become an SE. I also wondered what am I missing.

Perhaps the answer is that there are people who are restless, and enjoy moving between roles more than they enjoy climbing the career ladder. I wrote an entire blog post detailing my career philosophy.

But in this case there is a more concrete answer.

In the last year, my role was a nice mix of developer evangelist, SE and technical marketing. In other words, I gave conference talks, lots of talks to specific customers and wrote some papers. I adored the role — I love the travel, the energy of conferences, getting to interact with so many different people and making amazing friends. This is great, and I strongly recommend going this route if the opportunity presents itself.

But the world of “talking about technology with people” required specific skills — crafting presentations, designing great slides, writing coherent narratives, learning about different audiences, shooting amazing videos, interviewing people, explaining things on a lightboard, optimizing travel and airlines. Over the year, I became better and better. Even did bits of video editing.

And at the end of the year, when I thought what skills I want to improve, the “explaining things” skills are not it. I want to improve my technical skills in rather specific ways. Tim Berglund, one of the best evangelists in the business, told a Strata audience “Don’t build distributed systems if you don’t have to. There are good distributed systems out there, pick one. Of course, if you enjoy building distributed systems, we are hiring.”

I enjoy building distributed systems. Confluent has a world class team that does exactly that, and I enjoy working with them. There are lots of fun challenges to tackle — Apache Kafka can be so much better, and Confluent Cloud can be some much more efficient. I’m exciting to work on improving my favorite product.

So, in 2019 you’ll see me in very few conferences. I think I am doing Data Day Texas, QCon London, Strata SF and QCon AI SF. I will miss Kafka Summit in London and NYC. On the other hand, you should see much more discussions in Apache Kafka mailing lists, PR reviews and maybe even Stack Overflow answers.