Employee Spotlight: Melanie Zhao
Here at AtScale, we continuously strive to improve the way we help empower customers with their data. Who is a part of that team? In this employee spotlight interview, we introduce you to Melanie Zhao, a Software Engineer at AtScale, who shares a project she led that was a key feature of our most recent 2020.4 release.
What is your role at AtScale?
A: I am a Software Engineer. My primary focus is AtScale’s aggregate software system, which is the creation and maintenance of aggregate tables to optimize query performance.
How long have you been at the company?
A: I have been with AtScale for just under a year.
What does a typical “day in the life” look like for you?
A: That depends on what I’m working on and the stage of my projects. Some days are very collaborative, where I am working with others on different teams over Zoom. Other days may involve focusing on something solo, whether it’s researching an API for a technical design or validating the behaviors of existing code. I don’t usually operate on a typical 9-5 schedule, so I think working with teams across different time zones is a great fit for me. I typically have a hard time waking up early, but I am almost always down to collaborate on a design or answer questions late at night.
Which office are you based out of (before the pandemic)? How has the Software Engineering team adapted to the new work-from-home environment we are all experiencing?
A: I am based out of the San Mateo office. Working from home was a transition for me because I was used to primarily working in an office before, but now it feels normal and it’s not getting in the way of anything. I have come to enjoy it since I can work at any time of the day, which fits my habits. Everyone is really aligned and great at communicating. I think we have done a great job of adapting to work from home.
Prior to AtScale, you worked at Peloton Technology and American Express. Can you touch on what it was like working in both the Automated Trucking and Financial industry?
A: There is definitely a lot to learn from every industry. In many other industries, the software is essential to the product but plays more of a supporting role. We need software to support operations, collect and transform all types of data to report on key performance indicators, and to do a lot of other things. What’s different about AtScale is that it’s Software as a Service, so the software itself is our complete product. Working in SaaS is something that I want to continue doing because the emphasis is on software engineering and continuously making the software as great as we can.
AtScale is a very tight-knit place where communication is very easy. We all access the same code, so we all know how everything works together and so do the Product Managers. All of us can see the bigger picture of things and we integrate everything together ourselves. A lot of what I learned previously definitely applied to my work at AtScale. When you start at a new place, you’re always going to have to learn new things, but experience and knowledge are cumulative.
What makes AtScale and our solution unique?
A: I have previously worked in designing and building ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) pipelines, and creating customized data aggregates in my previous work experiences, so I know that it is very costly for businesses to build ETL with data aggregation in realtime from scratch. It is challenging to maintain the efficiency, scalability, and reusability of such a data pipeline. Business requirements can change, and data volumes can grow as the company scales up or acquires more customers, and the decision to migrate to a different data warehouse platform or BI tool may involve re-architecting many things from scratch.
I was very impressed with AtScale’s solution for these business challenges, and the product itself grabbed me from day one. It made me think “these are the kind of challenges I have seen and experienced throughout my career, and AtScale has the proven solution”. I immediately knew this was the place where I wanted to be. AtScale is able to bring insights to business users without having to physically move the data like with traditional ETL. AtScale supports multiple data warehouses through our Universal Semantic Layer and can be easily integrated with all different kinds of BI tools. AtScale is the one-stop versatile software that is the solution and answer to the needs of every industry.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A: Each release and new project involves applying new skills and techniques with different components of the product. It can be challenging to learn everything in a short period of time. But in the end, it’s very fun and rewarding to do everything because my coworkers and I all share the same goals. Not only do we want the company to succeed, but we support each other on an individual level. The people here are hard-working, experienced, and brilliant. There are times where I experience technical challenges on something that I am working on, but I always know I am supported by the best people and that we are all there for each other to meet our goals.
The most rewarding?
A: During the last release cycle, myself and Martin Antonov (Technical Lead for the Apps team) lead a feature for customizing virtual cube management. Now our customers can have granular management controls and in customizing the behaviors of their virtual cubes. It is very exciting to see something that I managed to be shown as a major release feature. A very rewarding part of AtScale is that people are recognized for the work they put in. They encourage hard work and personal development, and no effort goes by unnoticed.
Describe AtScale in three words.
A: Opportunistic, forward-thinking, encouraging.
When you’re not working, where are people most likely to find you?
A: Before the pandemic, my favorite things to do were weight lifting and going on food and milk tea adventures with my friends. Now, I probably spend most of my time at home planning out everything I want to do once COVID-19 is over. I play this game called Old School Runescape on my iPad and think about what to buy from Amazon Prime.