Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Meet the Bitnami Team: Rick Spencer

The Bitnami team is a diverse group of talented people distributed all over the world. Get to know them better through this series of blog posts.

Rick is our VP of Engineering, and works remotely from Washington DC.

A Brief Bio

I graduated college with degree in Philosophy in 1990, though I studied a good deal of psychology as well. I wanted a career that was focused on service, so my first jobs were in Community Mental Health providing support to people with serious persistent mental illnesses, helping them stay in their homes in the community, and out of homelessness or the hospital. I burned out after a 5 years of that, though, and went back to graduate school and got a Master's Degree in Human Factors Engineering.

I got married to my wife in 1991, and we have 2 "kids", 22 and 18 years old now.

I started programming when I was about 12 years old, using my school's TSR-80 computers. Eventually my parents bought us kids a Commodore 64, so I continued programming that as well. I kept programming on the side, learning Pascal and C along the way, until I got recruited to Microsoft in 1997 to work as a Usability Engineer in Visual Studio. I spent almost 10 years at Microsoft in various roles, but during that time I discovered that I am always at my best when my end users are developers.

I left Microsoft to pursue my interest in Open Source. After a year, I landed a job as the Engineering Manager for the Ubuntu Desktop. I graduated from that to Director of Engineering and finally VP of Ubuntu when I left in early 2016.

I managed many disciplines during my years before joining Bitnami, including Engineering, Sales, Design, Usability, Documentation, Localization and others. I managed small teams and teams of over 300 people.

I joined Bitnami in the spring of 2016 as VP of Engineering.

I have lived in Alexandria, VA, Seattle, WA, Toulouse, France, and now am living in Washington, DC.

Why you joined Bitnami and what excites you about working here?

As I said, I always feel I am at my best when my end users are developers. I was strongly attracted to Bitnami's portfolio of offerings for developers. I liked Daniel and Erica's approach to running the company in a responsible, but non-risk averse way. I was also attracted to the remote working aspects of the role, and the opportunity to build a strong remote culture. I also knew Erica through personal connections, and I greatly admired her business acumen and her leadership style. I believed in Daniel's strong vision for the future of the company.

Enjoying some time with co-workers during the all-hands
What excites me about working here is that the engineering team is now structured for success across 3 major product lines that we are developing, and that there seems to be a huge appetite in the community for what we are building. Our images fill pretty much every cloud market place, and our new products are getting a ton of interest and traction. Across the board, we have a very smart team, and the team is executing. For a person in my role, this is the really fun.

I also very much enjoy working on Open Source projects, and so I love working with Seb and the rest of the Kubernetes Squad when I can.

What are you working on?

I divide my time into a few buckets. As VP of Engineering, I need to do a lot of work to help teams get their jobs done, help them work together effectively, and also help get the message out to partners, customers, and the community.

We have a fairly unsung team called the Web Dev team. These people are really the glue that holds Bitnami together, but because of their diligence, they make their job seem easy. This team is responsible, of course, for maintaining all of Bitnami's web sites and tools. But they are also critical in that they do work to integrate our image build systems with all the cloud marketplaces. This takes a lot of work to just figure out how to do the integration, and they often do it with crazy time pressures to help customers hit their deadlines. I don't spend too much time with this team because they are just so good at their jobs.

We have an Assets Team who has many responsibilities. One of the main ones is to design and build cloud images, VMs, containers, Multi-tier templates and other assets that end users can just use as is, or extend for their development environments. That team is responsible for making sure our users and our customers are very happy with what we are building. They are currently doing a great job at that, but they are also working every iteration to get more efficient and better at producing what they produce. I don't personally spend too much time with this team anymore, as they are really running well.

We are working on a lot of Kubernetes offerings, for example, Kubeless, Monocular, kubecfg, containers, etc... I spend a certain amount of time working with different communities on those projects, as well as explaining what we are doing to partners and potential future customers. So, I spend a lot of time advocating for this team.

I am spending a large amount of my time on our Enterprise product. We have a productized version of our own toolchain that we are developing for two different markets. I spend a lot of time working with this team to ensure that they have everything they need to achieve the vision, as well responding to feedback, input, scheduling difficulties, unexpected opportunities, etc... I spend a copious amount of time working with external partners and potential customers to understand how this toolchain will benefit them, though. The more traction we get in these discussions, the more time this takes.

Of course, the bulk of my job is listening to my team to help them strategize how to solve problems and achieve goals, to help ensure that the whole team is working together effectively, ensure everyone understands the strategy and help them align to it, etc... I spend a LOT of time in video conferences ;)

Finally, we are continuing to grow, so recruiting is, of course, a big focus for me.

What do you like to do for fun?

Honestly, I work a lot and I work hard. So, when I do have time for fun, I like to really relax. This might involve playing video games, or playing my Mandolin. My father made me a beautiful mountain dulcimer, so I am looking forward to spending some time to learn to play that. I am incredibly happy that Season 3 of Rick and Morty has started.

When I go on vacation, I like to go swim and get some sun. This summer I am going to Barbados to surf.

Interested in working with Rick at Bitnami? Apply for one of our open positions!