SendBird Hiring Spotlight: Infrastructure Engineer
Welcome to the inaugural SendBird Hiring Spotlight. This series will periodically showcase a position available at SendBird and discuss why it is uniquely attractive to work at the SendBird nest.
This article’s focus will be the all important Infrastructure Engineer. To understand how crucial the Infrastructure Engineer is to SendBird, we interviewed our CTO Harry Kim, VP of Engineering, Jin Ku, and Infrastructure Engineers, Craig and Andrew. Get ready: it’s pretty important.
Fireside chat with, Andrew and Craig, SendBird Infra Engineers
These two guys are tireless. Well, maybe not tireless. They’re probably tired sometimes. But these guys work harder and smarter than nearly anyone else I know -- present SendBird company excepted.
They emit a kind of vague radiance--Andrew, more steady, and, Craig, a little more garrulous and goofy (in the best way). Without knowing why, this radiance assures me that they are masters of SendBird’s infrastructure, at home in "massive-scale, global, real-time traffic" like the hermit in the forest. Andrew, Craig, we see the smoke of your fires.
I have been distant admirer of these two for a long time, so I was excited to hear them talk more candidly about their own roles, to see what motivates them.
Local Wizard, Andrew Kim, exhibits his fireworks for the crowd. Ooh. Ahh.
Why is it so valuable to be an Infrastructure Engineer working at SendBird?
“At the most basic level, SendBird is growing quickly and working with big clients like Go-Jek, Carousell, and even one of the largest websites in the world.”
“The people at SendBird appeal to me most. When we raised money from VCs it was gratifying to hear investors ask, ‘You achieved X amount of revenue with only this amount of talent???’ Hearing that incredulity really justified all the work the team had done and it justified SendBird’s forward trajectory.”
“Stress at work could make or break a job, whether that stress is from the actual work, the environment or people. But in our office there is no stress from our colleagues or the workplace. Everyone works so hard. The work can be challenging, but, as a company or team, it’s really constructive.
“Our work is challenging because we need to create features based on all of our customer’s needs. But it’s never boring because we are constantly working with different clients on multiple projects. You also learn tons from other engineers because there’s a lot of mindshare and conversation in our team, especially when you have 10 customers and need to create new features for each client.”
“The engineering talent is pretty remarkable here. Working with talented engineers is great because it makes my life is easier and it also pushes me to up my game and holds me accountable. The number of mistakes or errors we make are low, but I rest easy knowing that if I make a mistake, then other talented engineers will have my back. And we've actually won awards for our API Infrastructure.”
What could an Infrastructure Engineer gain at SendBird besides everything?
“First, they would work on a truly global team with truly global clients. Our SDK is installed on apps in over 150 countries. It’s even unique to have that in large company.”
“I came to this company because there was great growth. For a fast-growing startup, infra may be the most important and challenging position and also be in the best position to learn because it is our job to accommodate that growth.”
“While we have grown and built a lot there is still a lot more to be done. When you look at our back office tools, you can see our DAU and MAU continue to grow and that is heartening to see as an engineer.”
What is it like working with SendBird’s engineering leadership?
“They set the priority and the pace. Jin very prudently does a priority check on customer requests and sends the requests to the right person. Since we have that process already in place, it makes our life much easier and allows us to move like clockwork”
“My voice is heard and if I give my opinion or I believe we should do X, the leaders listen and usually begin moving on my suggestions. We are empowered to speak our mind and that can be tough in other companies/startups because there may be a lot of politics or hierarchy.”
What is it like working on the SendBird Infra team?
“Any request or issue that comes up, we have each other’s back. This doesn't only apply to the infra team but also the engineering team and SendBird as a whole.”
“For example, if one of our Enterprise customers asks for a new feature, we have a great knack for working as a single unit no matter what the issue is. In my experience, that’s a difficult harmony to achieve.
There are no politics and no egos. It’s all about the customer and the goal at hand. Again, in my experience, this is rare to see from any engineering team.”
A more (infra)structured fireside with our CTO Harry Kim and VP Jin Ku
"Whoa, nice keyboard, Harry. Can I--" "No."
Sometimes I can’t believe these two take me seriously--that’s how good I perceive them to be at their job, how valuable I perceive their time. And, yet, they’re always kind and always listen, even when they’re coding. Harry usually says “No” before I’ve said anything, smiles, and then awaits my inquiry. Jin usually cringes, worrying whether I am going to ask him about a coding tutorial for the blog.
To give a structured sense of the engineering team where appropriate, I’ve digested some of their comments and organized them more clearly. I’ll start with the more conversational bit to emphasize what they think candidates have to gain from SendBird, but their other answers are compact and dense with delicious information. Enjoy the buffet.
"How do I talk to Craig about infrastructure and ignore Alek at the same time? Yes, cross my arms. I think it's working..."
What does an Infrastructure Engineer have to gain from working at SendBird?
“The art of working at SendBird,” Jin muses, “is creating a perfect and efficient solution to fit the specific business requirements, traffic and time constraints of our Enterprise customers.”
“This is the perfect job for confronting a large amount of traffic, which can be a rare opportunity. It’s also exciting to be working on B2B Enterprise software. It might make sense to express it as a ratio:
the amount of traffic our product handles / size of SendBird = a LARGE number
We also provide so many different types of solutions for the demands of large customers. So we need to deliver efficient solutions at one time and iterate quickly to improve them as the customer scales.”
“As an engineer, I want to do everything from start to end. At SendBird, you don’t have to specialize. As the infrastructure engineer, you’re doing nearly everything--sometimes the database, sometimes the API servers, sometimes the caching server, setting up servers to deploy code. You can get a holistic view of the entire system.”
...and you can work directly with SendBird’s brilliant CTO and VPs of Engineering...
How is the engineering team structured at SendBird?
There are 3 dedicated teams:
- Platform - builds and maintains the backend API of SendBird and manages its associated traffic
- Applications - develops the client-side SDK for Android, iOS, JS, Unity, and .NET, and also develops the sample projects so customers can embed the SDK easily
- Web applications - creates customer facing products for the web and internal tools, including the website, dashboard, blog, and customer insight tools.
What is the infrastructure engineer’s role?
This can also be generally divided into three tasks:
- Developing world class servers that must handle millions of connections for customers in over 150 countries
- Develope easy to use and powerful APIs for our customers
Why is the infrastructure team so important to SendBird’s product?
The SendBird API is one of our primary products and it is managed through our API and websocket servers by the infrastructure engineer. All of our applications are built on top of this infrastructure. ‘Nuf said.
What are the core problems tackled by the infrastructure engineer?
The core problems are actually interconnected: our servers must support the real-time traffic of millions connected devices from 150 countries on AWS cloud, so the infrastructure engineer needs to deliver cost-efficient solutions given the unique demands and time-frame of each customer.
The combination of scalability, real-time traffic, global presence, and need for time- and cost-efficient solutions is a great chance for an infrastructure engineer to challenge him or herself and really grow their experience.
What keeps you up at night as an infra engineer?
It’s all about optimization -- you can always build the server infrastructure to handle more requests and to do it more efficiently.
Alek is a Marketing Manager at SendBird. He received his Ph.D. in English Literature at UC Berkeley in 2017 and B.S in Mechanical Engineering before that. He loves to see problems clearly, find solutions, and tell great stories about them.