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Paul Singman
Paul Singman Author

April 6, 2021

Thoughts on a personal journey into the world of developer advocacy at an open-source data project.

In March of 2021, I chose to leave the data team at Equinox Media and join a nascent open-source project lakeFS as the first developer advocate. In this post, I share a few reasons why I’m excited about starting this new chapter and the goals I hope to accomplish.

lakeFS the Project

Your first instinct when altering a piece of code is to simply open it in an editor and make the desired changes. But somewhere along the way, somebody convinced you it is worthwhile to wait for a second and do one thing first… 

> git checkout -b my-amazing-branch

It’s a small step to take, but one that transforms your whole workflow.

I believe we’ll soon feel the same way about data that we do about code. No longer will changing a dataset be done casually, without first creating a reference-able snapshot of its current state via a commit. 

At its core, this is what lakeFS delivers — a set of reins to tame chaotic data. 

Why haven’t we felt this way before? 

Well, the simple answer is — before it wasn’t technically possible. The ability to maintain state of billions of objects in a performant way over common object storage isn’t trivial. It requires an innovation like the graveler data model pioneered by Oz Katz and the rest of the lakeFS developer team.

“Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.”  —Steve Jobs

lakeFS isn’t splashy in its features and it might not be immediately obvious where its place is in the modern data stack. Subtly and elegantly though, it provides a powerful abstraction for managing datasets that promises to improve the way we work with data much like git did for code.

I look forward to seeing lakeFS become integral to the workflows of more and more data practitioners to the point of becoming both indispensable and second nature.

Finding What You’re Good At

Since “going pro” in analytics in 2016, I fancy myself pretty darn good at what I do. With that said, I can’t ignore signs that my true passion lay more on the educational side of analytics— explaining the why and how behind things.

My first opportunity to present at a conference — the 2019 Postgres Conference in NYC along with Will Liu — saw me spend an inordinate amount of time meticulously crafting the speech and accompanying deck, 60 slides long, for the presentation. Will, then my manager, must have wondered what would happen if I applied myself in the same way for all my day-to-day tasks.

It makes sense then, to marry these trades and try my hand in the sprouting world of Developer Advocacy. At the moment written blog posts are my forte, but I plan to use this opportunity at lakeFS to further refine my public speaking and add video and audio content to the repertoire as well. 

By focusing on genuinely helping others and creating the best content to explain difficult concepts, I know there is unlimited potential to increase the knowledge of an important slice of the data community.

Working With Talented, Compassionate People

It’s only been a few weeks, but the kindness and patience shown by the lakeFS team has been remarkable. For example, getting a suspicious-looking text from a random number that “Your wine will be delivered today” because they unexpectedly arranged for is a simple act of thoughtfulness that reveals deeper values.

I’m beyond grateful to join a team — led by the inimitable Einat Orr — that exudes these virtues and look forward to paying them back!

“Your success is directly proportional to the number of lives you have touched for the better.” ― Vishwas Chavan

Expanding outward, I’d say I’m only beginning to be truly connected with the larger data community on Twitter, in Slack Groups, at meetups. It’s a wonderfully talented and helpful mix of people. I hope to continue to foster those relationships — for now in virtual fashion but eventually in person, too.

What I Hope to Accomplish

Ultimately my goal is to improve the way people work with data. The impact of making sense of large volumes of data is still only first being realized, and the pains involved in the process of doing so are plentiful. 

In working alongside the various adopters of lakeFS, I’m excited by the vantage point afforded in seeing what works well and what doesn’t. And using that knowledge and experience throughout the rest of my career.

Thanks for reading this indulgent article. Stay tuned!

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