The life of a Pythian Road Warrior

Posted in: Pythian Life

Shenzhen China at night

I’m sitting here on March 16ththe day before Saint Patties day and I am thinking about what I will need for my trip to Salt Lake City next week.

I work for Pythian in the Principal Consulting Group. We are a diverse group with backgrounds in many kinds of databases, Big Data, DevOps and software development technologies. What do we have in common? We have a great boss and we travel. In the last year I’ve been in 6 US cities, two Canadian cities, London, England and Helsinki, Finland. Stretch that out a bit and we can add Hong Kong and ShenZhen, China.

When not on the road I live and work in my home in a small suburb of Detroit. I have a messy office with four desktop computers two laptops and a cluster of five Raspberry PIs. That plus a printer/scanner/fax and company telephone which I almost never use.

Most of my assignments run from two days to ten days, although I’ve done a few assignments that took more than a month. The longest I have been onsite at one customer while with Pythian has been just a bit less than three weeks.

When I was hired on I was told to expect up to 50 percent travel. In the last three and a half years,  it’s been more like 33 percent. The company is pretty good about making sure we don’t burn ourselves out. Not saying they don’t keep us busy, but they also keep a close eye on how much we have on our plates and are pretty good about pushing back on our behalf when sales wants us to take on that extra little chore or two.

What do I do? Well my title is Principal Consultant which tells you pretty much nothing about what I do. So… I am a data guy I see all systems in terms of the flow of data. So, you’ve probably guessed it. My focus tends to be on the storage and retrieval of data mostly in databases. To narrow the scope down a little bit more, I prefer to focus on the world of open source data storage technologies such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, MongoDB, CouchBase, Linux filesystems, Ceph, Hadoop, Cassandra, HBase etc.

What I do for my customers very much depends on their needs. In the last year or so, I have helped a customer recover data from a broken MySQL database. They neglected to do regular backups. I helped a customer figure out how to shard a MySQL database before they actually outgrew it. I spend a lot of time helping customers re-work their Cassandra Data Models when they turn out to be sub-optimal. I had one customer last year who I helped re-factor their application from a monolithic monster to a service-oriented DevOps and cloud centered service running in AWS. I think I learned as much from them as they learned from me. They are still working on the implementation, but I think they are doing well.

When not working on customer engagements and directly paying the bills we are expected to be doing one of the following:

  • Keeping our skills sharp – We get a nice budget for this
  • Speaking at conferences – We get a separate budget for this one
  • Writing Blogs – My personally least favorite part of the job. Hopefully I’m getting credit for that right now even though this one is not technical
  • Mentoring others in the company – One of my favorite things to do
  • Providing the technical input on sales calls – Also one of my favorite things to do

All of which, in the end, help to pay the bills.

If you think I am in my dream job, then you would be thinking right. I am lucky. I love my work.

Just so you know,  life is not quite all roses here at Pythian. The company, as is true of most company’s in the world these days seems to be changing something every day and internal communications about those changes are not always what I would like.

A couple more pictures from far off places to make this blog post complete.

Downtown Atlanta Centennial park at dusk

Temple square, Salt Lake City

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About the Author

Pricipal Consultant
John has 40 of years experience working with data. Data in files and in Databases from flat files through ISAM to relational databases and, most recently, NoSQL. For the last 15 year he's worked on a variety of Open source technologies including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Cassandra, Riak, Hadoop, and Hbase. As a Chief Database Architect at AOL he brought MySQL in to replace Sybase and has worked hands on with MySQL databases holding hundreds of billions of rows and running millions of transactions per second. For the last three years he has been working for Pythian to help their customers improve their existing databases and select new ones for new applications.

1 Comment. Leave new

Nice write up John.

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