Costas Kotsokalis – Data Engineer
How would you describe what you do in a nutshell?
I’m a software engineer working from Athens, Greece, and leading the Data Workflow team. Together with the team’s incredible engineers and our amazing product designer we build Insights Console, the graphical overview and management tool of Snowplow Insights. In addition to that I act as an engineering coach, helping fellow Snowplow engineers get clearer on their professional goals and plan towards achieving them.
What does an average day look like for you?
Data Workflow is following agile principles just like the rest of our Engineering department. The average day is a mix of picking up and implementing tasks from our board, talking with team members and colleagues from Product about current and upcoming work, and coordinating with other teams/delivery leads to deliver features. Further to all that I have frequent sessions with the engineers that I am coaching, where I’m trying to support their professional growth. Combining technical work with product discussions and coaching is refreshing and keeps days ever-interesting.
How did you get to do what you are doing?
I’ve studied Electrical & Computer Engineering but was always attracted to building software. This naturally led to chosing Computer Science as the area for my doctorate when I decided to pursue one.
My career so far has fluctuated a lot between engineering, leadership, and project planning roles. In all cases when I was doing just one of those things I felt I was missing the others, so there was always a quest to combine these activities if possible. In Snowplow I’ve managed to achieve a balance I’m happy with, where I can put to good use everything I’ve learned over the past 20+ years of professional work.
How does working for Snowplow compare to previous roles?
I cannot think of a previous position that ticked as many checkboxes:
- A product that I really believe in. I see the value our customers receive from Snowplow Insights daily; plus, Snowplow OSS is being used around the world in countless companies and every few days I hear of one more household name that has deployed it internally.
- A domain (data engineering) that is on the cutting edge of contemporary technology.
- Working remotely in a company that genuinely does not differentiate between remote colleagues and the ones based in HQ (London).
- Collaborating with some excellent engineers and being constantly challenged on a technical level. Related to this, working with a stack that I really like!
- Working in an agile manner, releasing features to our customers at a great pace, without losing sight of the need to produce correct code of high quality. This balance between quality and speed of delivery is really at the core of how we work.
- Being on the professional track that interests me, and fully supported in pursuing my goals.
- Truly having a culture of honesty and continuous feedback. I’m with Snowplow for almost 1.5 year now and can’t think of a single time that any feedback came as a surprise.
What has kept you motivated and sane throughout lockdown/ COVID times?
I’m renting an office near home, and I am isolated going to/from and while there, so I kept going during the lockdowns that Athens/Greece suffered. Getting out of home (even if it was to go into another closed space where I was alone) played a huge role in pushing through this ugly period without mental casualties. Other than that, we are lucky to have two 4-year-old kids that keep us busy enough to forget about what’s happening around us, and every now and then are funny enough to make it all look much smaller than it really is.
How do you make the most out of remote working?
This kind of flexibility is hugely important to any parent. Being able to customise my schedule freely and attend to kids when one is sick or pick them up from school etc is a kind of freedom that cannot be appreciated enough. The other thing that I really like about working remotely is that I get so much more focused time when compared to an office with multiple colleagues around. Productivity is just significantly higher.
Of course, there are some downsides too: I truly miss having lunch and joke/chit-chat with colleagues. The kitchen’s social experience is hard to reproduce despite the best effort of pretty much everyone who works remotely.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Snowplow is growing and our ambitions are ever-expanding. The team is getting bigger and the product is constantly improving and moving to new directions. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but we have quite a few important new features coming to the Console throughout 2021. Our backlog is big enough to keep us very busy until after the end of the year!
On a personal level, I’m really looking forward to… a COVID-19 vaccine 🙂 Going back to some kind of “normal” sooner rather than later starts to feel like a basic need after all these months. Other than that, I’d love to do some more reading this year. I have a long list of books I want to read and there wasn’t enough time and inclination last year. The top of that list is taken by Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens” which was recommended by a fellow Snowplower!