Meet Mark Starkman, Senior Software Engineer

Mark Starkman April 07, 2020

Thoughts

Hey there! I’m Mark Starkman and I joined FireHydrant last week as a Senior Software Engineer.  I’m writing this post to tell you about myself and why I chose to join FireHydrant. As I’m writing this, the world is in the middle of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and I’ll also share some thoughts regarding working remotely and how you can help yourself and your teammates.

In 1996, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.  I’ve never used my degree directly in my professional life. However, one of the key takeaways from college for me is that, “I don’t have to know everything, I just have to know how to find it.”

When I’m asked why I decided to join FireHydrant, I saw FireHydrant as providing all of the information I would need at 2 a.m. when I was fixing a production issue with a server, application or a database and automating the correct follow up steps.  I want to help SRE’s and software engineers have an easier time when they are paged in the middle of the night. And help them the next day by making sure that the post-mortems are communicated to the correct people at the right time.

In my career, I’ve held three different types of roles.  I’ve been a software engineer, a database administrator and a manager.  As a software engineer, I’ve been on-call at various times and was responsible for the application code errors and sometimes the servers as well.  All of the configurations were different at each of the positions that I’ve had. Each one of them required me to learn the company’s unique infrastructure and how to troubleshoot it.

At one point, I was a lead database administrator leading a team of four DBAs that were responsible for the production databases that powered bank stock trading sites.  These databases had to be operational 24x7 and this was before we had the technology that we do today. We used the Nextel Push-to-talk phones, circa 2000, to communicate with our other team members.  They were really loud in the middle of the night!

Let’s switch gears and talk about working remotely.

Many teams are now working remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some of them for the first time and some have been doing it for a long time.  Since I’ve been working remotely for almost a decade, there are some things I’ve learned that can be done to make your work lives a little easier.  First, since most of us are communicating over some sort of text-based medium, like Slack, make sure to over-communicate what you are working on and why you are making your decisions.  It can’t be said enough that sharing all of your thoughts about a given subject can be really helpful for your teammates.

document all things

Secondly, document all the things.  Since you’re no longer able to meet in person or have hallway conversations, there is a risk of losing valuable decisions that may have occurred in a 1-on-1 conversation over Slack or others not having access to it.  Find and centralize all of your design decisions for your applications and your network configurations. By doing this, you’ll create an archive that will serve you in the future.

Lastly, have compassion for your teammates.  We’re all in this together and we don’t know how long we’ll be in this situation.  During the pandemic, I am facing my own challenges at home. I believe that everyone is facing some sort of personal challenge at this time.  Please find it in your heart to be a little bit kinder to one another. You might just make someone’s day by showing a little more empathy or patience.

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