Umbeler in Action: Alan Bernstein

Name and Title:

Alan Bernstein, Platform Engineer

How did you hear about Umbel and why did you decide to apply?

I was reading a StackOverflow post for a personal project when I noticed an Umbel job ad on the page. I figured the site was matching job posts to question posts, and a job matching the tags “python” and “machine-learning” was worth examining further.

Can you describe your typical day?

A healthy mixture of debugging, reading documentation/StackOverflow (see above) and reading a technical article or two. Maybe a calm, concise discussion about all the implications of a new feature implementation, or about coding best practices. If anyone has a project that involves blinky lights, I’ll spend an hour or two on that.

What countries have you traveled to so far? And where do you want to go next?

I’ve been to Peru, Sri Lanka, Caiman Islands, Israel, Ireland, Spain, Iceland – mostly short trips packed with travel and sightseeing. Next up is Thailand, where I will hopefully make use of the diving certification I got five years ago. After that, I kinda want to try one of those “relaxing” beach vacations that supposedly happen – probably in Costa Rica.

What’s your go-to motivation songs – when you’re feeling sluggish and need a pick me up?

I have motivation albums: Rodrigo y Gabriela, Richard D James, Gloss Drop – and maybe Feed the Animals.

What would your advice be to someone just starting out in your field?

When you’re stuck, just use the Feynman problem-solving method:

  1. Write down the problem.

  2. Think very hard.

  3. Write down the answer

What’s your favorite place in Austin?

Back when I played pick-up ultimate frisbee at any opportunity, I would have said Zilker Park. Now, I’ll still say Zilker, because I have a puppy with unlimited energy. There’s no better place to unleash him so he can chase dogs twice his size, while I read a book and eat some grapes.

How do you use data in your job? What about in your life?

Work: Umbel depends on data, and it’s my job to keep it moving smoothly, from ingesting it, to aggregating it, to displaying it. One way to look at this process is as a data pipeline. I work on the pipes, so I’m a data plumber.

Life: I hoard data. Anytime I see an opportunity to collect data about my life, I do it, and figure out why later. I used timing data from Strava to find the fastest possible route and cut a minute off my commute. I track my credit card transactions with custom tags so I can do a super-personalized budget analysis. I use services like Goodreads and Letterboxd for book and movie recommendations. I like to think of data as a seed, with the potential to grow into something useful. This makes me a data farmer, also.

Describe your co-workers in three words.

“Where’s the beer?”

What is the best part about working at Umbel?

I enjoy being in the office. The combination of people, location, events, and something else – let’s call it “soul”, makes me happy to be here, and that makes a big difference.

First thing you do when you get to the office?

Get a lemon LaCroix because those are the coldest.