This post was written by Miguel Arregui, who describes how he developed a passion for computing early on, his experience in research at CERN and the ESA, and eventually working at QuestDB. Miguel works as a software engineer in the core database team, improving upon the internals of the fastest open source time series database.
My parents are the kind that pursues crafty hobbies after work and involves
their children, so my childhood was great. I came into existence at
1978-02-28T08:00:00.000000Z. We helped our mechanical engineer dad in the
garage and our tailoress mom in her studio. It became ingrained in us to never
waste time. When we finished school, I would either do crafty stuff at home or
do something else, most competitive sports like sailing and tae-kwon-do.
One day on
1989-05-11T09:00:00.000000Z, I received a gift of an
Amstrad CPC 464 with a matching
green phosphorous screen. This was my first encounter with computing. I played
many games, learned to copy them (tapes) for sharing, invited friends to code
some basic, or transcribe code examples from coding books. Back then, owning a
computer was the exception and a sure flag for nerdiness that I happily wore.
My second encounter with computing took place in the form of an Intel Pentium my dad bought "for work." The whole family shared an email account and would warn each other not to pick up the phone. The internet connection was set up over the same twisted copper wire that also served the phone. I learned DOS and Pascal, later some Linux booted from a floppy, and I was hooked. A little later, I started my university years, entirely devoted to learning the discipline, techniques, methodology, possibilities, the craft of software engineering had to offer.
University years were fantastic. My sole purpose was to get a degree as fast as possible because I also had to pay for student fees and my own upkeep. I took side jobs to earn some cash along the way to pay for these, doing what I love doing, which is to code.
Coding back then meant helping other students learn to code. We designed a lorry tracking system to organize the harvesting of oranges in my region, in rural Spain, and things of this nature. I was always busy, optimizing time management to fit in my hobbies and time with my girlfriend.
I was on a mission that took me to CERN, culminating in achieving my master's degree. However, when the university was over, I lost my direction; I did not know what to do next. Everything was so exciting up until then, and now all of a sudden, the mission was over.
Of course, there were a few potential paths to follow. My model was an engineer who worked for the same company his whole career, so this felt like a big decision to make, and stick with it. These are the years before Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, social media, even Gmail was not widely adopted. I lived in rural Spain, where there wasn't any faith in online business or remote working, just oranges.
I had the opportunity to see the world and code with great teachers in fantastic places, a bit like Marco Polo. I had many excellent experiences in research-oriented organizations, like the European Space Agency and the European Bioinformatics Institute. I worked for a couple major financial institutions, for an array of various smaller size companies in pharmaceutical research as well as finance, and a few times with startups, both promising and unsuccessful.
It took me a long time to figure out what I consider essential for performing at my best level and sustaining a happy existence. Here's my list of essentials in no particular order:
- Mundane chores should be minimized, and 'breakthrough stuff' should be maximized.
- The breakthrough stuff has to directly benefit people's lives, making them happier, more productive.
- Interaction with users and customers, championing their cause, seeing the impact of what I do.
- Achieving sustained flow; minimizing things that disrupt deep work.
- Excellent colleagues with a great sense of humor.
- Excellent culture, camaraderie, where everybody is aligned with the mission.
- Ability to effect changes in the culture, product, team fate, company, world.
- Energy, it needs to feel like we are about to set foot on Mars.
- Good work-family balance, so that I do not have to give up hobbies or family life.
- Work from home, anywhere in the world, because I have become a digital nomad.
This takes us to now; I have joined QuestDB, a team of like-minded people pursuing the same goal, ticking all the boxes, and having so much fun doing what I love to do.