The first story in this series is that of Mina Daoud, now a Lead Site Reliability Engineer with a top Canadian fintech employer. Settle in and enjoy our one-on-one interview with him below!
“Mina was a standout candidate and it was my pleasure to work with him to find his next role.”
Which roles in the field of engineering interested you the most, and why?
My interest in the beginning of my career skewed more towards mechanical and robotics engineering because, well, robots are cool. As I became more involved with software development, I came to love designing systems in the shoes of a Software Architect. As I gained experience with systems design and started solving problems architecturally, I became obsessed with site reliability engineering. To me, nothing is cooler than thinking of ways to break something, breaking it, then making sure it doesn’t happen again.
What inspired you to pursue an Engineering degree from McMaster University?
A lot of people would tell you they’ve always wanted to be engineers, but that wasn’t the case for me. I grew up in the Middle East in a family that was exclusively doctors and pharmacists. It wasn’t until high school that I started enjoying maths, physics, logical structure, and problem solving. Taking things apart and putting them back together was a favorite pastime for me. I wanted to nurture that habit and capitalize on that organic interest, so I thought engineering was the way to go. I essentially had a “crush” on engineers, on how they built the world and everything in it. Being able to design and create something from the ground up was the coolest job I could think of, and I still feel this way. I picked McMaster University because it was a recognized and respected institution with an old and rich history, along with the fact that it offered me a scholarship.
How was your TalentLab experience in finding a new career opportunity?
My TalentLab experience was nothing short of perfect. My recruiter (shoutout to Gord Marriage) reached out to me on Linkedin and we connected at least half a dozen times from start to end. He explained the position, the company, and the expectations very well to me. Where he went above and beyond was to prepare me for the interview by meeting me on a weekend to go over sample questions, helping to simulate the environment of the interview. Through three interviews, two of them technical and one behavioral, Gord would make sure to prepare me, explaining how to not sell myself short. When it came time to finalize the offer terms, my recruiter went back and forth on my behalf to ensure I was nothing short of delighted to see the final offer.
Any tips for fellow engineering graduates interested in a similar position?
“Don’t wait for a company to tell you what to learn. Everything is online, free, and available. Be as technology agnostic as possible. Network with and reach out to people who have the roles you want.”
Lead Site Reliability Engineer
How are you liking your new role as a Lead Site Reliability Engineer?
I think this role has got to be the most rewarding and unique role when it comes to a variety of factors. These include how much freedom you have to pursue your own projects, the opportunities to learn from technical and business leaders, and being able to change the tempo from the center of an entire organization. I’ve never felt so challenged to lead better and think outside the box without having to be constrained by quality-sacrificing timelines. SREs are at the bleeding edge of the next thought revolution on Operations, Development. Site Admins, Security, Audit, Incident and Problem Management, NOC, and Project Management. Every day, you are wearing a new hat.
Which skills/certifications from previous roles as a Senior Application Performance Monitoring Engineer and Digital Operations Lead Analyst carried over and helped you the most in your new position?
I started my career in digital operations as a Software Analyst. In terms of learned knowledge, that was my most valuable experience by far. I don’t think there’s a steeper or more precious learning curve than the opportunity that shows you a million ways in how a product can break. Interacting with complex systems and integrations has given me practical and translatable skills to fix creatively by taking more abstract viewpoints. Moving into a Lead Analyst position then allowed me to apply more strategy into my team’s tactics, interact with senior leadership, and understand how long-term goals are realized programmatically.
Stepping into a lead’s shoes gave me the opportunity to learn (and improve) how products are designed, monitored, and supported in production at the highest enterprise grades. Later, I transitioned into APM Engineering to maximize my focus on product reliability, monitoring, and availability to improve on products before they hit the shelves. This was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get involved in a hands-on capacity and deliver an AIOps solution to a production-ready state.
Throughout my journey, I attended workshops and accumulated extensive knowledge (and some certifications, budget allowing) in different technologies including Akka, WebLogic, Kafka, Nginx, Akamai, NewRelic, AppDynamics, Dyantrace, Moogsoft, Site24x7, Nagios, Grafana, ELK, SumoLogic, Azure Monitor, AWS, and GCP. These have made me APM and Cloud agnostic, but GCP helped me the most in my new position since we are primarily a Google workshop.
What aspects of your new role challenge and/or motivate you the most?
I think one of the challenging aspects is developing new organizational habits when it comes to making our product offerings more reliable for our customers and business partners. Being able to see the different perspectives of product owners, operators, developers, and senior executives is crucial. The motivation is to find the sweet spot where the interests of all the key players intersect so I can secure buy-in and, ultimately, recruit more hands to my SRE mission statement. Not to mention vetting existing technologies and doing market research to pick the right tech-stack which fits our current and long-term needs.
What did you like most about working with TalentLab?
“For me, it was all about the recruiter – how he prepared me and made sure that I wanted this position before I started interacting with the company. I’m really impressed with how TalentLab mediated and collaborated on my behalf, wanted me to get a role I was going to be happy in, and ensured that I would be a right fit.”
Lead Site Reliability Engineer
Which system monitoring and reporting solutions do you prefer/use on a regular basis?
My preference depends on a lot of factors, but I can try to break it down. If we are talking about infrastructure monitoring and simple heartbeats, there are cheap solutions like Nagios and Site24x7. When it comes to APM full-suite monitoring for golden signals, tracing, and synthetics, there are strong solutions like NewRelic and AppDynamics. For log and metric aggregation solutions, SumoLogic is a very capable offering. Depending on your organization’s appeal to open-source solutions, you can find everything you need in ELK or Grafana/Prometheus.
My recommendation is, if you are already in the cloud, is to start by using the cloud-native monitoring platforms (Azure, AWS, and GCP each have their own) and supplementing your unmet needs after that. I currently use GCP Monitoring, SumoLogic, and Nagios on a regular basis in my current organization.
Did your volunteer experience as a Software Consultant, Event Coordinator, or otherwise provide any valuable lessons that were applied to your career journey?
I’ve been volunteering with an organization in downtown Toronto for about two years to help interact with, feed, and supply essentials to the homeless. I’d absolutely recommend everyone to get involved with whomever they believe to be different, to realize how much we all have in common. This has given me invaluable experience in overcoming adversity, learning to listen, and many other soft skills that are well recognized and appreciated in the corporate world. Perhaps selfishly, it was also effectively a mental haven for me to revisit my work-related challenges with a fresh, renewed perspective.
Could you provide some context on what your Sumo Logic certification courses covered from a technical standpoint, and how they’ve helped you in your new role?
The SumoLogic certifications offered me an in-depth understanding of how Sumo monitors a product. It covered installing monitoring agents (collectors) on-premises or in the cloud. It gave me hands-on experience through its workshops to collect different performance metrics from real servers, formatting them to be ingestible, creating dashboards and setting up alerts. Through two 3-hour workshops, I was able to dive head-first into my new role and was able to quickly produce monitoring solutions for two products in less than a week. In fact, it directly led to the discovery of a design problem in one of our products before its full market launch, so seeing the return on investment in real-time was validating.
With your tutoring, collaboration, and coordination experience in mind, what do you enjoy most about being in a leadership role?
It’s very rewarding to solve your team’s problems. My take on leadership is that it’s not meant to be a top-down position like a manager. A leader is your number-one supporter. I enjoy listening to my team’s problems, proposing solutions, and enabling them to make their own decisions. Having a roundtable discussion that’s objective and data-driven, seeing everyone engaged together as one unit, makes me proud and helps me enjoy the role I play in that process.
What are your long-term goals for your career path?
While it’s still a long ways off, I’m plotting out my path to become a leader for an entire operation. I’ve seen how creative leadership that’s open to criticism and correction can make a massive difference in the output of the workforce. Technologically speaking, one thing is for sure: the AI and Machine Learning realms are the future. Therefore, getting certified and gaining on-the-ground experience with them, while they’re still embryotic, is crucial in my opinion. Once I have that covered, I’ll be aiming for technical management roles, then all the way to the top.
Do you have any tips for fellow engineering graduates interested in a similar position?
Here is what I wish I were told earlier on: don’t wait for a company to tell you what to learn. Everything is online, free, and available. Be as technology agnostic as possible. Network with and reach out to people who have the roles you want. When you see a mistake, uncover all its layers, and don’t let it go until you fully understand it. Finally, read Google’s SRE book.
What did you like most about working with TalentLab?
For me, it was all about the recruiter – how he prepared me and made sure that I wanted this position before I started interacting with the company in hopes of securing the role. Once I wanted it, it was smooth sailing. I’m really impressed with how TalentLab mediated and collaborated on my behalf, wanted me to get a role I was going to be happy in, and ensured that I would be a right fit. Want to Create Your Own TalentLab Story? Let’s Help You Find Your Next Career Opportunity.