Lead Systems Engineer
Ricardo Ark (pseudonym), Lead Systems Engineer at Depop, lives in the shadows and is somewhat of an enigma here at Depop — as his request to be interviewed under a pseudonym might suggest. Outside of Depop, he enjoys long nature walks, music, and remodelling his house.
Delia: So, Ricardo, how did you first hear about Depop?
When the recruiter called me and said, ‘Hey, there’s this company called ‘Depop’. Wanna come work here?’ I think that’s a common thing amongst engineers, is that they haven’t really heard of Depop. There’s not a lot of awareness amongst engineers of what Depop is or that it even exists.
Delia: So why did you say, ‘Yeah, I’ll come and work here’?
Kerry kind of convinced me. Depop had interesting problems to solve. There’s a lot of problems to solve, I think. Depop is an interesting proof of concept that hasn’t kind of gotten beyond that proof of concept stage almost. It’s kind of struggling to get to that next stage. That’s what interests me!
Delia: When did you join Depop?
April of 2016. On the 1st of April, actually.
Delia: What do you do?
I’m Lead Systems Engineer.
Delia: What does that mean?
Everything from the infrastructure up. I kind of focus on the low level parts of the app and how it runs, how fast it runs, and things like that.
Delia: What do you like about Depop?
The users. There’s a really fun and loyal fanbase, even though there’s problems with performance, and the app going down. The users are really loyal and there’s quite a community there.
Delia: Do you ever interact with any of the users within the app?
Delia: Would you like to change that, going forward, and potentially sign yourself up for Depop Does Day 4?
Jack: She just wants to get you on tape!
Possibly. But, like, I’m a busy guy.
Delia: I mean, so is Jack…
We’re not all 10x devs…
Delia: Where do you see Depop going in 5 years?
Either exploding and becoming the app for youth culture or imploding and no longer existing.
Jack: Would you rather Depop fizzle out or implode?
I think implode. No one wants to be part of an app that’s mediocre. That’s not what people are here to do. Definitely all or nothing.
Jack: With a bang.
Delia: So let’s get to know you a little bit better, Ricardo…What’s your background? Where are you from?
I was born in Germany. I’ve moved around a lot.
Delia: Do you speak German?
Very little. I was only there until I was two. I’ve lived in Surrey since I was about 10. Then I moved to London about 9 or 10 years ago.
Jack: Were you an army brat?
Jack: Whenever someone is born in Germany, I’m like, ‘Yep. Military child.’
Yeah, I’m one of those.
Delia: And you live in Walthamstow, right? Tell us a little bit about that. Why Walthamstow?
I live in Walthamstow. It’s really close to the forest and the marshes. It’s like living in the countryside, but it’s still London. You get on the tube and it’s easy to get to work. It’s a nice place to be. A lot of my friends live around there now. Increasingly. As they get old and kind of give up on life. They move out to Walthamstow. There’s quite a crew of us that lives there now.
Delia: Do you do anything in the forests and the marshes?
I enjoy going for long walks.
Delia: Duck hunting?
Duck hunting?! Can you hunt ducks?
Delia: This is a question from a southern woman here…
I’ve never duck hunted.
Delia: Chop down any trees
Jack: You may find that British people walk through the woods without fucking with it
No, yeah, I like going for long bike rides. Biking up to Essex.
Jack: That’s long…
Delia: So what do you do outside of Depop? Who are you outside of work? Who is Ricardo Ark
I bought a house four years ago and I’ve been slowly doing it up. That takes up a lot of my time. Before I did that, I like going to shows. I kind of used to be loosely associated with music and stuff. I don’t have any hobbies anymore. I’ve kind of gotten old…
Jack: When you say you used to be loosely associated with music…
I had a lot of friends who were in bands and that whole scene.
Delia: So you were part of the scene…Why aren’t you part of the scene anymore?
I’m not musically talented. Enthusiastic but not talented.
Delia: You can still be a groupie at any age, Ricardo.
That’s true, but that’s not really something I’d call myself. I have no interest in being a groupie. I mean, what does that even mean?
Delia: I don’t know, someone who follows bands around…aggressively?
Jack: Someone who is a promoter who uses the fact that they’re a promoter to hang around and fawn after musicians.
Delia: Yes, that sounds like you, Ricardo.
There’s very little fawning that I do…
Delia: So when is this house going to be finished? How close are you?
This year. This year it’s going to be finished.
Delia: What are you doing to it?
We knocked half of it down and built a new extension. Currently redoing all of the electrics.
Delia: I’ve been wanting to ask you about the electrics in your house! Does it have the best wifi in all of Walthamstow?
It has the best wifi in all of Walthamstow.
Jack: I can imagine…
Delia: Here’s an important question: When will the Depop wifi be finished?
Delia: Wow. That’s incredible. We’re making history in this interview.
Jack: Question: In what way is basically rebuilding and refurbishing a house like DevOps?
There’s a lot of similarities. A lot of people who do DevOps or backend work seem to be quite practical. Everyone I’ve known in this industry has done the same thing. You kind of fix things yourself, you don’t get someone else in to do it for you. I think it’s like a personality type that is drawn to doing that. They’re the same, essentially, one is physical and one is electrical.
Jack: Do you think — I’m thinking about the practical personality types — that that is the reason that there’s never a crossover, in my experience, between design and product stuff and like systems engineers, when there’s so much crossover in iOS and front end engineers?
Yeah, I guess. It’s a grey area. There’s, like, shades. Some people are purely practical and there’s no artistic. They’re just not drawn to that at all. Some are sort of in the middle. But yeah, I think there is a personality trait that draws one away from that.
Jack: You once said to me, something to the effect of, ‘If you’re doing your job perfectly, no one knows your job exists.’ Expand on that a bit.
Yeah, I mean, as a backend engineer, if everything runs perfectly, and never goes down, no down time, and everything is perfectly performing, then that’s your job done well. No one to complain at. It’s a thankless task.
Jack: Do you mind that?
No, I kind of enjoy it. I don’t really like the limelight so much.
Delia: Is that why you choose to keep a low profile on the internet?
I’m on the internet. I’m just in the shady corners of it.
Delia: Why is that?
I think there’s a lot of issues with privacy on the internet. People will unknowingly give companies all of their data and I think in the future that data is going to be very valuable. It’s going to become a commodity. Essentially people will become commodities. I’m just kind of worried about the future of the internet.
Delia: Ok, so if you think back on a moment in your life, what was the happiest moment?
The day I got married.
Jack: How long ago was that?
It was last summer, in August.
Jack: I remember it was very under the radar, as far as like people in the team were concerned at least. Where did you go? What did you do?
We went to the Walthamstow Registry Office and then we went to a Working Man’s Club in Walthamstow and had all of our friends there and yeah.
Delia: I remember you saying that you gave this big speech, and thanked everyone, but forgot to thank your wife…
Yeah, so I should have written a speech in advance, but I think I’d had a few beers and any notion of what I was going to say just completely evacuated out of my head and so I just kind of stood up on the stage and thanked a few people…apart from my wife. And then I just exited the stage. It was quite late on in the day, so I think everyone was pretty drunk. Although some of my friends do still remind me.
Delia: And your colleagues now…
Jack: Alright, we’ve got a bank of whacky questions to ask you now. What’s the weirdest prank you’ve ever pulled?
I’m trying to think…what counts as a prank?
Jack: For you, I’m envisioning something hacker-y. I’m sure you’ve done something of this nature at some point in your life?
Yeah, I mean, I hacked into my school’s directory system and got access to everyone’s files, but does that count as a prank?
Jack: It depends what you did with it…
Yeah, I just sent my friends messages and edited their files and stuff.
Delia: Did you edit their grades?
No. No. I didn’t get access to that.
Delia: You weren’t talented enough at that age…
Jack: Oh, actually, there’s something we never covered early on from a personal side. You don’t have a degree in…
Jack: In anything.
I went to uni but then I dropped out.
Jack: So what was the period in between dropping out and getting your first proper computer-y job?
I went travelling for a little bit and then just worked on a help desk. I started at the bottom. I think it was British Airways IT Help Desk and it sucked. It was night shifts. We had, like, two calls a night and used to do anything apart from work. So we used to go race my BMX around the office, and time each other, and just watch films and hang out. That was kind of fun. But the pay was terrible. I just kind of worked my way up from there really.
Delia: What did you go to uni for, before you dropped out?
It was something like Computer Science Foundations, or something like that. I thought I was above it, that was why I dropped out. We were doing stuff that I had done years before, and I should have stuck it out really in hindsight, but, yeah…
Delia: Ok, less serious, you discover that your wonderful one year old child is a result of a mix up at the hospital, and not yours. Would you exchange the child to correct the mistake?
Exchange the child with what?
Delia: The real child. Your child.
Yeah. Or could I keep both? Is that an option?
Yeah, I think I would.
Delia: You would?
Delia: This one year old child, that you’ve spent the past year loving and treating as your own. You’d exchange it for a one year old child you previously didn’t know existed?
But then what happens with my real child?
Delia: It’s with another family.
So you’d just leave it? You’d just abandon it?
Jack: No, it’s with another family.
Delia: It’s with another family, and they’ve mixed your babies up at the hospital. Confused the cribs. You don’t know that other family. You don’t know what they do. They could be horrible or they could be, like, Kate Middleton raising your true biological child.
Is that a good thing?
Jack: I don’t know…
She could be a horrible mother…
Delia: Should we keep this off the record so the Royal Family doesn’t find out?
Yeah, so I would exchange the other baby for my child. You seem surprised?
Delia: Well, you think that you’d get close to that child and that it would be a bit of a moral dilemma…but you seem so sure that you’d just kick it to the curb for your biological child.
I think you’ll be a terrible mother…
Jack: Ricardo is like, ‘You need to chase after your genetic material!’ Keep that shit locked down.
So you’d just abandon your child?
Delia: No, I would have a child, but it just wouldn’t biologically be my child and I would have to live with that. It’s like adoption.
But your child would be out there, with, like, Kate Middleton.
Delia: It would be, yeah! It might have a great life with Kate! But this isn’t my interview, this is your interview!
Jack: Look at him turn the tables…
Delia: Ok, onto the next one…
Jack: What’s the weirdest thing about you and are you proud of it?What’s the weirdest thing? Hm…I don’t know. There’s no one weird thing about me. There’s just an aura of weirdness and I’m fine with it.
Delia: What’s the been the most terrifying moment in your life thus far?
I don’t know. I don’t really get scared much. There’s nothing I can think of. I have nightmares sometimes. I wake up kind of thrashing around.
Delia: What was your most recent nightmare about?
I can’t remember. Normally it’s about drowning or being held down. I think it’s like lack of control.
Delia: Are you a controlling person?
I don’t think I’m a controlling person, but I like to have control over myself.
Delia: Who would you most like to be stuck in an elevator with?
How long are we stuck together for?
Jack: A few hours. Four hours?
Four hours. I don’t know, maybe John Cusack? He seems like an interesting guy. I think we could have a chat.
Delia: I just watched a John Cusack movie the other night.
Delia: Adult Movie is what I think it’s called. Have you seen it?
I have not seen that.
Delia: He plays this poet, Rat Billings. It’s this new indie movie. It’s pretty good. I feel like John Cusack is normally the quirky love interest, but in this he’s the dickhead, washed up poet that Emma Robert’s character wants to emulate. He’s such scum for the most part.
Jack: I feel like that happens a lot when old heartthrob actors age and want to still get a job, they have to be the creepy one.
I have a friend who had a friend who had a teenaged crush on John Cusack and used to write him poems and send them to him. She’s still got them all. They’re amazing.
Jack: Other than that, what do you find interesting about John Cusack that you could spend four hours with him?
I feel like he’s a cool, indie guy who probably has lots of interesting things to say. I think my teenaged self wanted to be John Cusack. Maybe.
Delia: You wanted to be holding a boombox over your head, telling the dream girl that you love her?
Yeah, I wanted to be that guy.
Jack: Well they always say never meet your heroes. They bum you out.
Which heroes have you met? Were you bummed out?
Delia: You can’t turn this interview around, RIcardo!
Jack: I’m going to let it happen. I saw Ian McKellan on the tube. I didn’t meet him.
Delia: That shouldn’t have bummed you out. He’s incredible.
Jack: No, that didn’t bum me out. But we didn’t get to talk. Maybe he’s a dick. I don’t know.
He owns a pub in Wapping. The Grapes. You see him in there sometimes.
Jack: I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda. I tend to leave celebrities alone. I take pride in that.
Delia: I would want to have a natural interaction with them. I would never want to be the kind of person who goes up and asks for a picture. I would want to become friends with them somehow.
Jack: You’d want to get trapped in an elevator with them.
Delia: Yeah, I would want to be in a situation that would facilitate that happening.
Jack: What was that motion you just did with your hand? What do you want to do to celebrities, Delia?
Delia: I don’t know…taste them like a fine wine?
Jack: Like a celebrity sommelier. Ok. Where the hell were we?
Delia: Last two questions? Here’s one I like: Where were you three years ago? Do you think someone was stalking you? And do you think you’ve ever had a stalker?
I was still in Walthamstow. I was working at a company based in Fitzrovia. Just outside of Soho. I don’t think I was being stalked. At least not to my knowledge. But it could have happened.
Delia: Do you think you’ve ever been stalked?
I had this girl at school who had a crush on me, but she was really kind of geeky and I really wasn’t interested, but she used to follow me around. So I guess I have been stalked in that way.
Delia: Were you guys friends?
No, like, completely different friendship groups. She used to show up at parties wherever I was. Yeah…
Delia: Have you ever been stalked, Jack?
Jack: No. I feel like…
I feel like you should.
Delia: I’ve been stalked.
Jack: Everyone should be stalked in their life.
Was it a good stalking experience, Delia?
Delia: I had to leave school because of it. Like go to a completely different school. Another time…because this isn’t my interview, Ricardo. But you pick the last question, Jack!
Jack: I have two: If you could retire tomorrow what would you do?
I’d like to run an incubator. A startup incubator. Based out in the country on a farm. I don’t think I’d like to retire fully. I think I’d get bored, definitely. Yeah, so kind of doing something like what I do now, but for my own company and helping other companies grow.
Delia: So you want to start H-Farm, but in England.
Yeah, in Kent or Wales.
Jack: Do not call it K-Farm. Ok, so my last question is…what’s your tattoo?
It’s Franz Kafka.
Jack: Can I see?
You can’t take a photo of it.
Jack: But can I see?
Delia: Ok, so then I have a question, why Franz Kafka? Favourite book?
I got it as a joke. It was covering up another. Probably The Trial.
Jack: That’s top Kafka.
Delia: What were you covering up?
My ex-girlfriend’s name. Which I got on my arm when I was 17. With a little love heart next to it.
Jack: That is the best.
Delia: Do you have any other tattoos?
Just, like, stick and poke ones that are randomly on my body.
Delia: Did you do them yourself?
I think friends did them at like 5am at parties. Where it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s do tattoos on each other’. And you’re all like, ‘Yeah!’ And then you have those for the rest of your life.
Delia: Similarly to being passionately in love at the age of 17…
Jack: Kafka. That is a swerve.
Delia: It’s a MASSIVE cover up, too.
Jack: Yeah, that’s incredible. I’m glad that was my last question.
Delia: Yeah, let’s end there.