Eric wrangles backend infrastructure to keep Comfy services running smoothly. He comes to the west coast, after five years with the federal government implementing software projects. When not herding servers, you're likely to find him outside running, cycling, or reading a map.
Tell me about the path that led you to join the Comfy team.
I’ve been doing engineering since, well, forever. I was a total computer nerd in high school and went on to study Computer Engineering in college. After graduating, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do next, so naturally, I decided go to grad school to do more of the same thing! I was working on computer chip design, which is great and challenging and yes, very important. But, I realized it wasn’t a great fit for me long term and decided I didn’t want to keep doing it...like ever again, ha!
So after grad school I decided I would do something a bit different and thought I would become an FBI agent. But it turns out that in order to become an FBI agent, you needed some real world experience, which I did not have. So I still joined the FBI, just as an engineer instead. And yes, it’s just like you see on TV.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to do a lot of really interesting work with an equally important mission. That being said, governmental pace is a lot different than a startup...it’s wayyyy slower. And as you can imagine, it wasn’t exactly a change-focused culture, but more a culture of maintaining the status quo.
I had wanted to move out to the west coast for some time, and when I got the job with Comfy, I decided to finally make the move. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! Coming from government work, I didn’t even know what a startup would be like, but it’s been an absolute blast, mostly because the people are so great. Everyone’s just really friendly and motivated and smart.
Describe a day in the life of DevOps Engineer.
When it comes to my job specifically, it’s part long term projects and part urgent fixes. The long-term projects are focused on developing our infrastructure with enhanced security, reliability, and better performance. That’s really been key to enabling us to grow and scale so quickly, both with new customers and services, and in an industry where scalability, reliability, and security are top priorities.
Then there are urgent fixes. For instance, if something stops working for one of our customers, there’s some sort of bug in a new release, or any number of issues that arise for any first-class software company, we have to figure out what’s going on and find a solution as quickly as possible. It’s critically important to make sure we minimize any service interruption for our customers, so that they can continue to use and enjoy Comfy. So all together, my day-to-day is focused on accommodating our growth as a company by keeping everything safe and speedy.
"There's no one telling you it has to be done this way only. We get to implement new and enhanced functionality and processes, which is really gratifying."
Is there anything you do regularly to get better at your job?
Certainly. I think physical exercise is probably the number one thing that allows me to perform better in all respects. If I'm not exercising I just don't feel good...at all. Professionally, I’m going to more industry meetups and lectures because they can be really helpful and informative. For a while I was going to these Python (a common programming language) meetups and one of the presenters had a topic that was really relevant to something I was working on here at Comfy. I brought it back and talked it over with the team and it ended up directly informing the course of one of our projects.
That’s one of the great things about working at a startup. Working in government, everything was so established and had been done a certain way for a long time. There were also a lot of experts on staff, so trying to offer a way to do anything differently was exceptionally challenging. But at Comfy, if someone on our team goes to a meetup and comes back with an idea about a new and improved way to do something, it's like, “yeah, let’s try that!” There's no one telling you it has to be done this way only. We get to implement new and enhanced functionality and processes, which is really gratifying.
What can you geek out on for hours?
Oh man, I could work on run or expedition plans for a long time—figuring out the perfect running loop or how to get from point-to-point using public transportation, so satisfying! I think part of that comes from the fact that I’ve always really loved maps, even as a kid.
When I was young, I was far from athletic, but I did do something called orienteering, which is like a running race but in the woods using nothing but a map and a compass to navigate your way through a marked trail. A good map is just like the ultimate infographic, if you will. You can get so much information from a good map—it’s both quantitative and scientific to make a map that’s very accurate, artistic, and clear. The same goes for a strong security infographic, it expresses all of the data and protocol-based information in a logical and intuitive form.
I don't know if I fell in love with running because I love maps, or if I fell in love with maps because I really enjoyed running. Either way, I still love both...clearly!
What’s your ideal day off?
Oh my ideal day off, yes! I love this question! Well, it starts with waking up early, preferably before the sun, in the mountains on a crisp Fall day, which luckily is basically every day in Northern California. Anyone who knows me knows I love trail running, especially in the Bay Area. Mount Tam is my absolute favorite place. I don’t know why it speaks to me so much, but it has all this diverse vegetation, wide-open headlands, and beautiful forests along with more rocky and exposed areas. I mean, I would hike Mount Tam every weekend if I could. So my ideal day off would basically be running or hiking all day, maybe a bike ride or skiing, or all of the above! Then finish it off with good food, good beer, and good friends.
Want to work with Eric? Well, we're hiring! Check out all open positions and apply here.