I changed teams at the beginning of the year from search services to an R&D team working on some exciting projects. The team has created a distributed system to repeatedly process and analyze many billions of family history records using a complex and time consuming algorithm that has been challenging to scale up and out. The culture at Ancestry.com allows us to test our talents in different departments or teams other than our original role, and when it makes sense, we move into those new roles permanently. This is not only important for career growth by offering new challenges, but also encourages innovation within teams.
An advantage of being new to a team is that you are quite literally “outside of the box” of the experience and work that has propelled the team to where they are at the moment. This allows you to ask crazy questions and approach a problem without the pesky limitations of facts. Sometimes such questions have the potential to be like throwing dynamite into a log jam. The team’s creative juices get flowing and even better ideas arise.
For example, one of the challenges we faced was the limiting bottleneck of a database server resource upon which our distributed processing relied. To eliminate that bottleneck, I suggested a tool I had worked on previously that would help us create a hierarchical cache that would limit our need to visit the database server as often. This work is in progress and shows great promise already.
I’m not sure any of my other ideas will bear fruit. Some, perhaps. One thing is sure. Switching up teams from time to time can lead to unexpected and delightful innovations.
About Tyler Jensen
Tyler Jensen is a senior software engineer in R&D at Ancestry.com. He has worked in the software industry since 1992. He loves to solve difficult technical challenges. When he's not working or writing or reading, he enjoys spending time with his wife and four children.