Brainiac Corner with Silvia Botros

Posted by VividCortex on Dec 29, 2014 7:27:00 AM

The Brainiac Corner is a format where we talk with some of the smartest minds in the system, database, devops, and IT world. If you have opinions on pirates, or anything else related, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Today, we interview Silvia Botros, the current Database Administrator at Sendgrid.

How did you get from stork to brainiac (i.e. what do you do today and how did you get there)?

I was a late bloomer to using computers at all. Having grown up in Egypt in a middle class family, I didn’t own a computer until I was in my second year of college. That was when I realized my love of Mathematical Logic could easily translate into telling a computer a set of commands and actually get some result.   After my move to the US and finishing college in California, I took a job in New York as a Junior Software Engineer at Panther Express. I was splitting my time between maintaining backend batch scripts in Python and web development in Django. My first encounter with MySQL was maybe 6 months in when a daily batch job started taking more than 24 hours. A dig in MySQL documentation for a day or two unearthed a bunch of configuration optimizations, and from then, I started digging my nose into more and more database optimizations.   However, nothing taught me how to truly scale MySQL like my time at Sendgrid. I have recently written about a couple of large scale issues we had to deal with but that was the tip of the iceberg. Scaling to hundreds of instances at Sendgrid was also the reason I jumped into learning automation after years of managing MySQL by hand - all with the help and support of an amazing DevOps team.6.

What is in your group’s technology stack?

  Chef, Perl, Python, Ruby, Go. Datastores include MySQL (of course!), Elastic Search, Redis, RabbitMQ, Graphite.tch.

Who would win in a fight between ninjas and pirates? Why?

 Ninjas. Discipline is how you win.

Which is a more accurate state of the world, #monitoringsucks or #monitoringlove?

I think we should all strive for #monitoringlove, but that won’t happen without metrics and intelligence to make the monitoring actionable.

In six words or less, what are the biggest challenges your organization faces?

The Jenkins master is down.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

It wasn’t one specific piece of advice but I learned from my parents to always do my best in every task I have. I took that with me into school work, and after I moved to the US, it became how I took on tasks and progressed in positions/teams.

What principles guide your expertise in your given domain?

Always try to look at the whole picture. Always avoid prejudices, even well intentioned ones. So many times, I have seen issues arise in production, and we may think “Capacity!” or “Rollback that deploy”. While previous incidents with similar symptoms can be very useful as a first step, they are not to be taken as a ‘root cause’.

What is your vision for system administration in 5 years?

Web operations performance and uptime demands are more than they were 5-7 years ago, so I expect lots and lots more automation, more robust distributed datastores that account for things like network partitions and server failures out of the box. I also expect a lot more implementation of Service Oriented Architectures where organizations are forced to have Operations and Engineering work together, breaking down silos (See this.)

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