Seldon Team Spotlight: Alex Rakowski

Introducing the “Seldon Team Spotlight”, a captivating blog series that brings you closer to the exceptional individuals behind the scenes at Seldon. Join us as we delve into the stories, experiences, and motivations of our talented team. Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing Software Engineer, Alex Rakowski. Gain insight on his role, projects, and what makes him an invaluable part of the Seldon team. Read on to uncover what makes our team tick.

Check out the interview below!

Introduction

Can you briefly Introduce yourself & describe your role and responsibilities?

Hi all, I’m Alex and I’m a software engineer here at Seldon, currently leading one of the working groups for the next iteration of our enterprise product.  I work largely on the backend and, to some extent, on the infrastructural side of what we do.

As the team is tending towards becoming more full-stack, I’ve started to dabble my toes a tiny bit recently into the front end which is always fun!

In terms of what I actually do, it’s a mixture of developing new features and fixing bugs, creating design docs and user-facing documentation, and reviewing code and design docs for the wider team.

What was your journey into software engineering?

All the way back at A-levels, I knew that I wanted to do something quite mathematically-minded but also applied and practical.  That gave me a choice between physics and computer science, and I didn’t really fancy the physics practicals.

At university, and even before, I had a bit of a focus on statistics and data science, so I actually started my career as a data scientist.  During that first job, I realised that a lot of working with data involves more software engineering and data engineering before you can get to analytics and insights.  

I then moved into a more engineering-focused role, and I found that I enjoyed building and creating systems more than working directly with data, at least on a day-to-day basis.

The day to day of being an Engineer at Seldon 

What does the team structure look like?

We have quite a flat hierarchy within Tech, with the main division being between data science and engineering-focused teams.

In terms of how we organise ourselves for projects, we tend to split into working groups to tackle specific areas, with someone assigned to lead each. 

Each working group operates largely autonomously, but naturally, there are points where things overlap and intersect, so there are plenty of wider discussions too.

What tools, tech & languages do you use daily?

Because Seldon Core and Deploy are Kubernetes native, and Kubernetes is written on Golang, our main backend language is in turn Golang.

The frontend of our enterprise stack was originally written in Javascript, but that’s migrating to Typescript and is based on Node and React.

Then there’s Python for the data science side and MLServer, and Kotlin for the dataflow engine in Core v2.

Making an impact 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face and how do you overcome them?

We tend to be quite ambitious with our projects–there are lots of really cool, innovative ideas, but we have limited time to go about implementing them.  Sometimes you also have an idea as you work through something and need to be able to adapt quickly.

The other big challenge for me personally is juggling priorities.  Between customer support, unblocking other team members, progressing my own tasks, or simply getting alignment on an approach, it can be an effort to keep up with everything at times and be strict about prioritisation.  Things can also come up unexpectedly, so it’s important to still be flexible.

Can you tell us what you’re most proud of from your work at Seldon?

Only in May this year, Andrei and I were presenting on Core v2 at Kafka Summit.  Being accepted for such a big, prestigious event shows that we really are on the cutting edge, and developing open-source products allows us to share these things and be a part of driving the industry forward.

As well as that, I’m actually really proud of my impact on architectural designs, team processes, and culture, and generally being the change I want to see in the world.

Culture at Seldon 

Can you share your most memorable Seldon experience or project that reflects the company’s culture?

One of my favourite parts so far was actually shortly after I joined: despite being new to Go and new to Seldon, I was getting to work directly with the CTO on an exciting, greenfield project in the form of Core v2.  We were able to discuss things and make decisions quickly, to iterate rapidly, and to really see this thing come to life in front of us.

Despite being new to the company and some of the tools, I was treated as an equal and even had Clive asking me for advice on how to go about doing various things.  That feeling of trust, meaningful collaboration, and genuine engagement with how to solve problems sums up what I enjoy most about the Tech team.

Get to know 

If your role in the tech department had a theme song, what would it be and why?

I think my team would have that famous Rocky soundtrack.  We always use that as the first song when we do interactive QA sessions before every Deploy release.  I think it also sums up what we’re trying to achieve: compared to big players like Amazon and Google, we’re the underdog, but we’ve got big ambitions and we’re proving we can deliver.

Are there any unique or unusual office traditions or celebrations in the tech department?

We’ve got a bit of a cake culture in Seldon that I’ve been not-so-subtly investing in.  I hope that’s particularly unusual in itself, but we have this little phrase–there may or may not be cake–and that always makes me smile.

For anyone interested in joining Alex & the tech team, you can check out some of our open opportunities here. You can also find a link to the full interview on Youtube for those wanting to hear a bit more about working as a software engineer at Seldon.

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