Spotlight: Karl Neyvaldt

At the heart of Meltwater Engineering are the employees who find ways to collaborate around the world. In our Spotlight series we will introduce you to new hires as well as veterans from across the organization, and give you insights into their day to day from North Carolina to Hong Kong.

Today, in the spotlight, is Karl Neyvaldt from our Gothenburg office.

Would you like to introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Karl and I’m a team lead for one of the back-end teams in Meltwater. We call ourselves Team Horace. Our responsibility is to manage Meltwater’s search cluster and surrounding infrastructure and services. We have 2.5 Petabytes of data and hundreds of billions of documents. We are a fairly large team, 19 people which includes three team leads, a product owner and an agile coach. I joined Meltwater in 2013 as a search developer and have continued working with search ever since.

What has your journey at Meltwater been like, and what motivates you to stay here?

Initially, I was excited by the technical challenge. I had been working with search before, but this was two or three orders of magnitude larger than anything I had done before. I also got to be part of building a new system from the ground up to replace a collection of legacy products that had grown above its limits.

Through the years Meltwater grew and the team grew and one thing that I truly enjoyed was the company culture. All the really great people that joined and that I collaborated with and learned from have made me want to stay. Even though I continued working with search, the needs and context changed frequently and kept interesting.

Then two years ago, I got the opportunity to also become a team lead, which was another step, taking on a new role which I still enjoy and learn in.

What does being a team lead in Meltwater mean?

In Meltwater the team lead role is roughly a 50/50 split between hands-on work (for example coding, architecting and working with our solutions) and being a people manager. I have five direct reports that I have regular one to one chats with. I really like these conversations, because we can talk about their career growth, what they are interested in, where they want to grow and how I can help them. Because I’ve been here so long, I usually can find some angle or some connection that can help them move in the direction they want to move.

I also enjoy that I’m not only a manager but I can also spend time to code and do infrastructure work. Although I have learned that it is better to not take on too much work on my own. Instead I involve others so that they can continue when I am busy with management responsibilities.

Being part of more strategic discussions is also great. Looking forward six to twelve months, planning the next big projects and aligning that with what the business side of the organisation wants to sell or expand into. So, I enjoy the mixture of management and technical work. The challenge is then to manage your time and find a good balance.

You mentioned the importance of Meltwater’s culture. Do you have some examples of what makes that special?

One thing that we are really good at is being friendly with each other, being helpful and sharing knowledge. We also have really smart people which leads to interesting and inspiring architecture discussions. You find new angles on how to tackle problems together and keep learning from each other. We are good at supporting each other within the team, which is very much needed as we run such a large Elasticsearch cluster that needs to operate 24/7. Even when we run into difficult challenges or production issues, all the team members keep a good spirit, are nice to each other, and continue to collaborate and communicate until the problems are solved.

Name one thing at Meltwater which you are really proud about?

I will not take credit for anything myself alone, because every important thing I’ve been part of has been a team effort. But as a team we’ve done some really cool and impressive things, in particular with our Elasticsearch cluster. We built the cluster initially back in 2013/2014. As the company grew, with more customers, more traffic and more data, we had to modify Elasticsearch to be able to continue running it at the scale and speed that we needed. We made changes to allow it to support our use-cases; we optimized the query execution; and we developed tools and instrumentation to predict, measure and balance the load. We’ve done some pretty cool additions both inside Elasticsearch and also on top of it.

I’m also proud of the fact that we don’t settle, we keep finding improvements that we can make, continuously learning and fixing, implementing solid technical solutions and mostly avoiding last minute hacks. I’m also very proud of being part of building such a strong team culture where everyone seems to enjoy working together.

What type of work do you do on a typical day?

The fun part of my job is that it shifts between high and low level details. As a team lead I am helping out with the planning and coordination of the entire team of 19 people. Then, at a more technical level, I am working with different lower level details. Our team owns the data that most of Meltwater’s applications are built on, so that means a big part of our work is enabling other teams. I enjoy helping them, answering questions on the APIs that we provide and the data that is available and designing and building features to meet their needs.

At the moment, I am looking into a new way to store and index Author information. Every document that we have also has an author which has previously been modeled in a way that’s not perfect for searching. Changing this means we need to talk to a lot of teams to see what that change will mean for them. I’m excited about that because that gives me an opportunity to talk to others and find the best technical solution that fits all the requirements. I can come with my knowledge from the search performance viewpoint and they come with their use-case viewpoint and together we discuss and find the best solution.

So, I go up and down the stack, shifting between high level planning and strategy while not being too distant from the actual implementation as well, which is a mix that I enjoy.

How do you like to relax and unwind?

Me and my family live in the countryside about 50 kilometers south of Gothenburg. I like to be outside in nature, take walks in the forest or by the shore. We also have a greenhouse where we enjoy growing vegetables. This year I also took on a larger project; to build a 30m2 guest house in our backyard. In my head that project has no deadlines (my wife does not fully agree with that though) but I work when I can without stress and I am enjoying the experience of just building and learning how to build as well. I have never done something similar before but it’s progressing well so far. I haven’t made any irreversible bad mistakes yet, as far as I know at least :-).

If you are interested in learning more about working at Meltwater - check out our open positions.