Snowplow Spotlight Josh Beemster

28 September 2018  •  Miriam de Medwe

Josh Beemster
Josh Beemster
Tech Ops Lead based in Dijon, France

What do you do at Snowplow?

I am the Tech Ops Lead at Snowplow and manage both our internal and client infrastructure, as well as growing and developing the Tech Ops team. My team focuses on managing the huge infrastructure estate that we have created for ourselves (which now spans across hundreds of AWS sub-accounts) and ensuring that our data pipelines keep running smoothly at whatever scale our clients need! This comes with a large focus on developing tools and applications to help us manage this estate programmatically - if we can automate something, we do.

Why did you decide to go into Tech Ops?

I actually fell into Tech Ops a bit by accident! I started working at Snowplow as a Data Engineer back in 2014 and wrote and maintained a number of our trackers (Android, iOS, Java, Golang, C++) and open-source projects such as SQL Runner and Dataflow Runner. There was a gap that needed to be filled in Tech Ops and I jumped in. I love to automate processes, try new tools and technologies, and ensure the smooth running of our platform so it made perfect sense for me to pursue this further - and with the unique way Snowplow deploys infrastructure it was (and still is!) a very interesting problem to be involved with.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

My job is constantly challenging and I’m learning something new every week! I get to play with new technology and tools on a weekly basis, be part of an innovative team and at the forefront of new developments. On top of this, being in a smaller team, we are also able to create lots of brand new projects - rather than just maintaining older tech stacks.

What do you find the most challenging?

Managing the sheer amount of stuff going on. The landscape shifts a lot and you have to be on top of so much tech all the time - be it changes to cloud environments, security issues or changes in best practices. This, coupled with the size of the estate we manage, can be a hard balancing act to ensure everything keeps running smoothly and securely.

What was the first job you ever wanted to have?

I wanted to be an architect actually. I always loved the the idea of designing and building things, and felt it was pretty awesome to actually have something you design come to life. Tech Ops is a bit like that - I am designing somewhat more abstract “structures” than buildings but it is still definitely architecture!

What steps do you think the tech industry can take to become more inclusive?

This is a really tough one but I think a big part of it is really around the marketing done for the industry. The industry is represented in large part as being filled with the “dungeon dwelling” geek type - this anti-social shut-in is a very inaccurate representation but is definitely what can be thought of when you mention you work or want to work in this field.

If you take me as an example I have a wife, a child, I travel, work remotely and have heaps of flexibility compared to a lot of other industries. When I tell friends and family what my work situation is like a lot of them would love it - but this lifestyle is not what is being advertised and feels like it is a big contributor to what is really a very leaky funnel for more diversity getting into tech.

How do you find working for a company with such geographically distributed teams?

It’s awesome! For me the ability to move around and work from different locations as well as never needing to commute to work are huge bonuses. The flexibility really is second to none. The diversity of ideas and cultures when you do have a company comprised of people from around the world is also a big positive - everyone brings their own localised perspectives and ideas to the table. I do miss the office culture at times (especially when it comes to Friday night drinks!) but we still make the effort to get together in person several times a year to rectify the physical distance between the team.

What do you like to spend time doing when you’re not at work?

I love spending time with my family, going traveling, skateboarding and working on side projects (currently developing an RSS reader for Android).

What are 3 things still left on your bucket list?

  1. Live in more countries! I’d like to live in Prague / other cities in Europe, as well as the States. I really enjoy absorbing other cultures and taking advantage of the fact that I can work from anywhere (as long as I have network!)
  2. Go traveling in South East Asia
  3. Get my driving license (extra difficult when you’re not taking it in your native language!)