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A Day in the Life of an Engineer at Dataminr: Meet Ramya Rao

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Software engineer Ramya Rao has made an impact at Dataminr from day one. In just a short amount of time,  she’s taken on her fair share of challenging projects, and she likes that the workday is always interesting. “No two days are the same," she says.

Ramya, who earned a bachelor's of engineering degree at Visvesvaraya Technological University in Belgaum, India,  and a master's degree in computer science from the University of Buffalo, speaks five languages (English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, and Tulu) and works at Dataminr's New York City office.

More than one year into the job, Ramya has come to appreciate the office culture, one in which all voices are heard and valued, even those new to the company. And while she already has plenty of skills under her belt, such as programming in C++ and distributed computing, Ramya has been able to advance her career by developing more technical skills and experimenting with new technology such as Kafka, Docker and Scala.

In a Q&A, Ramya discusses her career, and shares her firsthand view of the projects, people and culture at Dataminr.

Why did you decide to join Dataminr?

It's a fun place to work with a feel-good atmosphere. When I came in for my interview, the people were very nice and the energy was positive. Working with new technology was one of the primary things I was looking for at the time, and the Dataminr team was using tools I wanted to try. I knew I could learn a lot and feel supported.

What do you love most about working at Dataminr?

The people are friendly, and everyone is helpful. I can reach out to whomever I need to. I love that part because there's no need to be super-formal to get things done. I also like that we use Agile methods for product deployment, and I am given the opportunity to take on new challenges in every two-week sprint cycle.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like?

No two days are the same, but typically I arrive in the morning, grab coffee, and monitor the systems I implemented to see how they're doing. Then I'll have a stand-up with my team. That's when we talk about what we did the previous day and any challenges or blockers we're experiencing. Over the rest of the day, I work through the tasks on my plate, such as building new features, making enhancements to existing codebases, and managing deployment and code review. There is never a chance for my work to  become monotonous.

How much of your job involves you working on a team versus independently?

If I'm working on something, and I need some context, the product team is available to help me. During the design phase of a project, there's a fair amount of collaboration. Otherwise, it's mostly up to me how I actually work. I like working both alone and with others, actually. Both approaches are necessary and rewarding.

How have you been able to grow your career while you've been at Dataminr?

There are new challenges every day. I've grown my technical skills and received meaningful help from my team and manager along the way. I now use different sets of tools than I've worked with before. I can see that I’m only at the beginning of an interesting and challenging career at Dataminr.

Can you give an example of a rewarding challenge you faced?

Once, one of the servers we were depending on had a heavy rate of requests coming in. The whole process of getting to the root of this issue was an interesting challenge. It was also rewarding because we solved it in a way that allowed us to move our whole service into a dockerized, more efficiently run environment. We're constantly making our processes faster and optimized.

What about the field of engineering really appeals to you?

I've always been good at math and enjoyed solving puzzles. I like having the opportunity to dig into things and find answers. That whole process is exciting to me and I find the same excitement when debugging through a piece of code and getting it to work.

How does Dataminr create a diverse and inclusive engineering culture for women and people of all backgrounds?

The field of computer science has a limited number of women engineers, and those of us in the field want to bring more women engineers into the workplace. This is something Dataminr is helping address. In the summer of 2018, we hosted a meet-up for women in software engineering. I think it was a good initiative so we could network with other women. We also had a booth at the 2017 and 2018 Grace Hopper Celebrations, which is a great place to meet with more female engineers and help them learn more about us. Once at Dataminr, there are opportunities to find female mentors through our mentorship program, share best practices with colleagues through our Women@Dataminr ERG (employee resource group), and learn from inspirational women in leadership.

Is Dataminr a place where you feel comfortable speaking up and expressing your ideas?

Yes, we have a retrospective meeting every sprint where we review how things went. That's a good place for me and other engineers to bring up issues and present ideas for improvement.  I also have a regular one-on-one with my manager, and that's a place where I can voice concerns, ask questions and brainstorm.

Do you work closely with senior engineers and engineering leaders?

I work closely with senior engineers and report directly to a vice president of engineering. Some senior engineers also act as mentors to me. It's a great learning experience. Whenever I voice my ideas, it's always a good discussion. I get honest feedback on ways to better optimize my workflow and my manager always notices when I've done something beyond what was expected of me.

How does your team bond and celebrate success?

We have a lot of non-work events, happy hours and lunches. Once recently to celebrate a project's success, we had a cake-cutting. And once a month on Wednesday, we have a game night where we can relax and have some fun together.

How do you feel you've been able to make a positive impact?

I think the work that I do has a significant impact. The very first project I was assigned to was a huge cost-benefit project for the team. That really kicked things off for me. It showed me that I was being be trusted with a lot of responsibility. I also know that the work I do has a positive impact on our product and therefore on our clients around the world.