Software Engineer Juan Macías fights knowledge gaps
Armed with a toolbox full of ideas and learnings, Juan Macías fights knowledge gaps within DPG Media. Not to worry, he doesn’t use any violence on his quest. Juan mixes peace and calm with a heap of enthusiasm. His enthusiasm rubs off, so let’s get educated by Juan.
Happy feet at work
Juan Macías works as a software engineer in the Group IT Services Area. These men and women support other tech teams with infrastructure services (networking, server, storage, and middleware) and provide connectivity and IT building services to all DPG Media colleagues. Juan’s main responsibility is the engineering experience, which means he tries to reduce knowledge gaps between different teams and areas.
Juan: “I put an emphasis on Infrastructure as a Code, Observability, Continuous Delivery and Chaos Engineering.” Some days he writes code, some days he runs and attends meetings, and other days he manages tooling licenses. You might think that such a diverse workload for a big crowd results in chaos, but it doesn’t for Juan. As his home-office desk shows, he is quite organized and structured. And playful! Juan bought the penguin for his kids, but he confiscated it for himself. With both happy feet on the ground, Juan embraces the dynamic workplace DPG Media offers.
Do things the right way
When Juan states DPG Media is a fairly dynamic company to work for, that’s an understatement. “There is always a lot to do, and in different domains, so you are very likely to find a good fit somewhere. Finding a new challenge within the organization isn’t difficult if you’re a team player,” says Juan.
In almost three years, he has taken on a new challenge three times already. “As my interests and preferences have pivoted, so have the teams that could fulfill my ambitions,” Juan explains. “But, all the teams have an underlying common base, they strive to do things the right way,” he smiles. That mindset is exemplary for the engineering culture at DPG Media.
Pinpointing engineering culture
“For me, engineering culture means truly owning your applications: everything from connecting with stakeholders, delivering the application bit by bit in an agile way, and understanding how it behaves in production. And also managing its infrastructure, deployments, monitoring if changes introduce regressions, and reacting promptly when it happens.”
The engineering culture and the way of working give tech teams a lot of autonomy. They are free to pick their tools, frameworks, and platforms to run their software on AWS – with admin access. That doesn’t mean they can randomly do whatever they want without any alignment. No, with autonomy comes responsibility. The teams monitor costs and security, and they align with other teams. Sometimes that means sharing best practices, providing advice, or constraining initiatives that deviate too much from the global optimum.
“It’s crucial that knowledge isn’t compartmentalized within teams and that developers approach their job with the right mentality: sharing is caring.”
Pick Juan’s brain on knowledge sharing
Juan thinks the main advantage of working at DPG Media as a developer is that there are many talented people to learn from. But how do you ensure that actually happens? Juan: “Within a team, the best way to share knowledge is to do it organically while working together on regular tasks. I believe that pair programming, for suitable tasks, is a great way to bring people closer while at the same time increasing their shared understanding of both the problem at hand and the best solution to tackle it.”
Juan is a strong advocate of learning together. “It’s crucial that knowledge isn’t compartmentalized within teams and that developers approach their job with the right mentality: sharing is caring. It’s paramount that every single one of us is not afraid to say “I don’t know” and that we look for answers together.”
Knowledge sharing outside of the teams is a bit more complicated, Juan admits. There is a series of ceremonies in place through communities of practice, such as SecDevOps. And there is always the IT Handbook. It may sound dusty, but it truly is an excellent up-to-date resource of common and vetted knowledge to which everyone in tech contributes.
“Every screw-up is an opportunity to learn”
If you haven’t noticed already, Juan is quite an ambitious guy. He’s hungry to learn and improve. “I follow multiple blogs and Twitter accounts where I find inspiration or insightful content. From time to time, I learn new technologies and get certified, and I tend to constantly automate little things at work and in my personal life,” Juan grins. “Last, I always have a little pet project to work on, for which I use a different programming language and platform to run on each time.”
Where does this hunger come from? Craftsmanship. Juan gets inspired by people who get things done. Their examples challenge him to take action, maybe even do it better. Even when something is done sub-optimally, it can spark an interest. “Every screw-up is an opportunity to learn. Learning from your mistakes is the first step to becoming a craftsman. You need to have the will and determination to put yourself out there and get stuff done. Not being afraid to challenge the status quo and constantly trying things out. To me, this is the ultimate trademark of the craftsman, and these are the ones from whom I draw inspiration.”
Learning from your mistakes, huh? Time to confess. Juan chuckles and remembers the time he repeatedly brought down a heavily used, worldwide video platform. “It was in the cloud early days, and I updated an S3 bucket policy in a way that I didn’t fully understand. But hey, my application worked – for a few minutes at least. Somehow, my changes were reverted, so I applied them again, and again, and again. When I saw someone come running with an open laptop in his hand, I knew I had found the culprit of the S3 bucket policy changes. And he found the person bringing down the entire platform. Wait, what, me? I had no idea; I even thought I was working in a non-production environment.”
“It turned out it wasn’t only a lesson for me, but also for the team owning the video platform. They were aware of the issue but hadn’t addressed it so far. Together we researched the root of the problem and found the best possible way of correcting it. They did the work, so I’ll skip the technical details here, but it all boils down to the Peter Parker principle: with great power comes great responsibility.”