Lyla Sultan is a Marketing Associate at Nitro. She is a staunch supporter of women in tech, a political philosophy nerd, and a sucker for catchy Marketing slogans. She enjoys long walks on the beach with a goblet of wine.
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Nitronauts are a special breed with rare DNA—whether we’re searching for great talent, creating amazing products or marketing and selling those products—our values are aligned. We’re high-performance (we always work hard), we believe in ‘no bullsh*t’ (we tell it how it is) and we don’t take ourselves too seriously (we’re not necessarily comedians, but around us, a sense of humor is key). A certain group of us also have a tenacious will to code.
The Nitro engineering team plans, designs, and builds solutions to support our rapidly-growing business. They drive our product offerings—Nitro Pro and Nitro Cloud— and push the envelope on what’s possible in the world of smart documents.
So, who are the world-class engineers responsible for building a platform that can handle over tens of millions of monthly users all around the world?
We sat down to chat with two of our Platform Engineers—Greg Silin and Paul Kinsky—to give you an idea of what it’s like to live a Day in the Life of a Nitronaut—Engineering style.
Greg Silin—Senior Platform Engineer
Greg, tell us about your role at Nitro.
I’m a Senior Platform Engineer, which means that I deliver the services that are utilized by all of our business critical applications—Nitro Pro and Nitro Cloud. We utilize the TypeSafe language stack (Play! Framework, Scala, and Akka) and we adhere to the Reactive Manifesto principles. A former colleague had a really great analogy to describe a Platform team—a kitchen metaphor actually—Platform Engineers are the people serving the food out of the kitchen. So we have to be efficient and fast while we deliver your food. In real life—think of the food as actual data. We’re in charge of where the data comes from and where it goes.
What brought you to Nitro?
Our CTO, Tiho Bajic, reached out to me when Nitro was getting ready to re-platform into the TypeSafe stack. Tiho presented me with an opportunity to join the team that was ultimately responsible for building the platform for the next generation of smart documents. I get it—PDFs aren’t necessarily the sexiest thing, but it was clear that our mission was so much more than that—the innovation of productivity workflows was really attractive to me. I mean, who likes papers floating around your workspace?! I hate printing documents out and scanning them—I don’t find that productive at all.
What’s the most exciting Nitro product you’ve worked on to date?
Well, I work on the platform that serves as the back-end for both Nitro Pro and Nitro Cloud. So I would say—they’re all my favorite! Working on a large distributed systems infrastructure (the system that processes millions of documents per month) can be challenging because our users expect our documents to be fast and to scale quickly—but solving those problems and conquering that challenge is incredibly rewarding and it’s what gets me to work every day.
Where can we find you when you’re not at work?
When I’m not at work—you can find me at home with my wife and our 6 month old baby girl. We spend time hanging out with our friends in San Francisco but we also get outside of the city once and a while. Most recently, we took a trip to the Russian River.
What advice would you give an aspiring engineer?
First off, you need to truly understand the problem that you’re trying to solve—and once you do, focus on that and put pride in your craftsmanship. Secondly, work with people who respect you and your craft; don’t give into a sh*tty boss or a sh*tty culture. And most importantly: get a mentor! Search for someone who can help you achieve greatness and will foster your relationship, because this person will be incredibly helpful in leading you through your career.
Paul Kinsky—Platform Engineer
Can you tell us about your role at Nitro?
I’m a Platform Engineer—I work on a team with Greg. I joined the team about a month ago to help build the platform for our APIs (the tool which accesses the data stored on the back end of the application) that the rest of the engineering team utilizes. I usually tell people to imagine my role like this: you have a filing cabinet with a TON of important information that your entire company relies on. If everyone from your organization has access to the filing cabinet—things WILL get messy and lost. The Platform team solves that issue by keeping your filing cabinet organized and functional—we make sure the files go to the right people at the right time—which is quickly!
What brought you to Nitro?
I’m from Boston, Massachusetts. The last winter in Boston was so brutal that I actually decided to move out to the West coast. I was looking at Typesafe partner’s page and I came across various events organized by Nitro—meetups, hackathons—their Scala community involvement was what initially attracted me to the company. Then when I learned about their product offering—I was sold. It doesn’t hurt that the culture, people, and food around San Francisco is amazing, too.
Can you tell us about your most challenging project yet?
I attended a Shapeless workshop that went into the design and implementation of Shapeless, which is the most functional generic programming library for Scala. The workshop was held at Nitro HQ and was taught by the creator of the Shapeless library, Miles Sabin. I applied the techniques that I learned during the workshop when I wrote code to convert service call results into HTTP responses in an extendable manner.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The first thing I do when I get to the office is make some espresso, then I attend a Platform Engineering daily stand-up (a 15 minute meeting with my team to discuss status updates from the previous day). This is the main meeting of my day—and as an engineer—that is pretty ideal because it gives me time to be heads down and get things done.
What is the best career advice you’ve received so far?
Someone once told me that, “Job requirements are a wish list and you shouldn’t assume that you’re not qualified for a certain role if you don’t have all the ‘necessary’ qualifications. If you’re smart, willing to learn and have a will to get things done—then apply.” I’ve recycled that advice and told people to just go for it. I think it’s a great way to live your life and to pursue your career.
Where can we find you when you’re not at work?
You can find me either biking, reading, making stuff or cooking—I tinker with it all! Just the other weekend I went camping (with Juan from my team) in the Redwood Forest at the Bullfrog Pond Campground.
In the last year, our Engineering team has grown substantially— and on a global scale. We’re #nitroproud to have challenging engineering problems that Greg and Paul love to spend their day solving. Each individual contributor on our team has a chance to make a massive impact on the future of smart documents. We’re a talented and driven group of Nitronauts and we’re still growing. Do you have what it takes to be a Nitronaut? Come join us!
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