Tech Life at RELEX: Data Engineering

Sep 5, 2019 4 min

In this blog series, RELEXians from various tech teams share their daily life. We wanted to know, for example, what their work consists of, what technologies they use, and how they would describe their teams. Next up is Matias from our very new Data Engineering team!

How did you end up working at RELEX?

I first heard about RELEX while riding an escalator in Las Vegas. What I heard about RELEX was good: They were building interesting software with modern but proven technologies, had an in-house developed database for handling big data, and many other exciting things. All that made me feel RELEX would be an interesting company to work for, and so I applied and soon joined the team in late 2010 as a Technical Project Manager.

You can read my entire story in here.

How does your typical day at work look like?

I start my day typically by waking up around 8 AM – I’m a late sleeper, so I detest waking up early (even 8 is a bit stretch to me). After that, I’ll have an enormous cup of coffee and enjoy it in my study at home. At some point in the morning, I take our dog, welsh corgi, a lively rascal called Jedi, out before heading to the office usually around 10 AM.

My days vary a lot and will do increasingly so shortly. Why? Well, I’m building an entirely new team to RELEX. The team is still young and forming its practices, so I don’t really have a typical day, as each day will bring something completely new.

But for me, I share my time between doing the architectural design for our incoming data platform, collaborating with all other development teams to build better integrations between our systems, and facilitating company-wide architectural efforts in architecture board. I call myself a hands-on architect: I try to juggle between being an architect who designs systems and an engineer who implements the designs. My passion is in engineering and creating something tangible, so I can’t see myself never coding anything.

What kind of technologies do you work with?

The Data Engineering team is still in the very early stages of development. The design work is already in progress, but as it’s still on-going, there are plenty of opportunities to make an impact on technological decisions. Depending on how our tech stack evolves, and what are the interests and the exact role, one might be working with Kafka based messaging platform, Azure data lake, Airflow, or some other tool. In general, we trust the JVM ecosystem: our primary backend language is Java, but we run services written in Kotlin, JRuby, Scala, and Clojure. The data engineering work will likely include all of these languages, as well as Python.

How would you describe your team and colleagues?

As said before, the Data Engineering team is just being built. So, right now, I would only describe it “small.” That being said, we are in the progress of building a team consisting of various talents and backgrounds. So, the question is more like what kind of team we are aiming for rather than what it is currently. Data engineering is a field with many different requirements and experience areas. We need to have engineers, people proficient with distributed systems, distributed databases, messaging systems, public cloud experience, and messaging systems of various kinds. Also, ETL experience is essential.

What have you learned at RELEX?

My career at RELEX has been diverse. I’ve worked in various positions from projects to recruitment and engineering. Thus, I can say that I’ve learned tremendously at RELEX. Right now, I’m working as a data architect. How did I end up to this position? Well, by identifying a place for improvement in our systems, doing research on how it could be addressed and convincing my colleagues that the problem is real and solvable. This proves one of the main points at RELEX: if you are eager to learn, spend time with things you are curious about and ready to jump to new roles, you can achieve anything.

To whom would you recommend working at RELEX?

I’ve already touched this topic briefly above, but in general, I’d like to welcome to my team colleagues who are curious, willing to learn, and interested in data. The work in our team is in the beginning exploratory, meaning that the members need to be able to be self-sufficient (but still wish to work collaboratively in a team) and proactive. If data fascinates you, and complex distributed system problems make you curious rather than anxious, RELEX, and more specifically, the Data Engineering team might be just the right one for you. Data Engineering team’s guiding idea is to engineer the infrastructure for liberating the data – making it available, timely, and robust. I.e., it is an engineering team, it’s not about analysis, machine learning, or AI.

Written by

Matias Käkelä, Principal Software Architect

Matias has a Master’s Degree in Computer Science with minors in Statistics and Management from the University of Helsinki. His typical day includes a big jug of morning coffee and taking his Corgi out for a walk, designing great software and writing code. After working hours he likes to unwind with a great novel, go cycling or cross country skiing (weather permitting), and take his dog out again.