My Beat: Dave Zolotusky | Labs


My Beat is a blog series that turns the spotlight towards technical employees across various disciplines and roles to showcase what a typical day as a Spotifier consists of. 

Dave moved to Stockholm three years ago and works for Spotify as a Senior Staff Engineer. He and his wife are now happily settled into Swedish life – and his two young children already speak the language like locals… 

 

I never set an alarm clock these days—my children wake me up sometime before 7am and we get them breakfast, help them get dressed and all get ready for the day. One of the coolest things about where we live in Stockholm is that everything is within walking distance—I just cross the street to drop our younger kid at preschool, go two blocks down to drop the older one at their school, and then walk 15 minutes to get to our main office. My wife works at Spotify too, so we often walk together—it’s a great way to start the day, much better than sitting in traffic every day like we did back in the US!

 

As soon as I get into work, I grab breakfast from the office cafeteria, check my emails and figure out what I’ve got going on for the day. I’m part of the Platform (infrastructure and developer tooling) team, working on various projects related to backend infrastructure, which means anything from service runtime to inter-service communication. A big thing for me at the moment is that I’m the tech lead on a wider company initiative to improve user journeys—how listeners are navigating and moving through our app, and what happens to them between the Home screen and their eventual choice of music. We’re always trying to do a better job of showing people things they want to see and interact with. And the ultimate, wider goal is to customize to such an extent that no two listeners experience the same user journey.

I also spend a whole bunch of time thinking about how Spotify works with public cloud providers, like Google Cloud. I’m always working hard to get us more active in open-source communities around infrastructure—for instance, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, home of projects like Kubernetes and a few other massive open-source projects.

All of these different job roles mean my days can vary wildly—sometimes, my diary is full of meetings, but other days involve more time digging into data or documents back at my desk.

 

Everyone in the Stockholm office seems to eat at 12 noon precisely, so I do everything I can to avoid the rush! Sometimes, I’ll nip out to a nearby cafe or restaurant with some of my workmates. Or often I’ll grab something from the office cafeteria a bit later and eat it in our social space – where there’s always plenty of people hanging out and great views across the whole city.

 

At this time of day, the New York office is starting to wake up, so my afternoons tend to be pretty busy with calls and hangouts, especially between 3-5 pm. As well as the usual check-ins and interactions with my team, I also have a few people who I mentor—either through official Spotify mentoring programs or on a more informal, ad hoc basis. And I often help people apply for promotions and try to give them the best possible chance to move on up the ladder.

One of the things I like best about Spotify is that it’s such a supportive place to work. And you’re also given an incredible amount of freedom to do what you want. I think that’s true at all levels—teams throughout the company are able to work fairly autonomously. Of course, this freedom comes with an expectation that you’re accountable and are doing things that are having a positive impact. But as long as you are, there’s so much scope to experiment, change things and improve the metrics that matter to us. Spotify is no longer a start-up, but neither is it set in its ways—we haven’t already defined everything and that’s why you can still make a real difference here.

 

I tend to leave at around 5 pm and walk to pick up my kids. We often stop at a playground on the way home—in Stockholm, there seems to be one on every corner! And in winter, there’s even ice-skating in some of the local parks. After we’ve all eaten dinner together and the children are in bed, I sometimes go back on my laptop for a little while—it’s rare that I have to do work on weeknights, but often there’s a quick little thing I can do to help someone who’s still awake working in New York. And if I can, I will. I’ve always thought that the most valuable part of my job is making sure everyone else can do theirs.

 



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