Our guest this week is Pavitthra Pandurangan, a Distributed Systems Engineer here at Hiro. As this is our first session we’d like to keep this pretty casual and there wont be a lot of structure, rhyme or reason to this interview so let’s hop right in!
— Thanks for volunteering to be our first guest. Could you quickly introduce yourself to our readers? What is it you’d say you do here at Hiro?
I’m a Distributed systems engineer, level 2. I work on a wide variety of things that the blockchain team needs. I’m still at the point where I’m gaining a lot of context so I don’t say no to a lot of tasks. My work ranges from working on the Clarity language to working on meta stuff for the Clarity language like static analysis, to mempool logic, things like metrics logging for Prometheus, to even just adding API endpoints. I’ve been able to work on the full spectrum of tasks and yet there’s more to try.
— How long have you been in this role?
I just joined on February 1st, so I’m getting to three and a half months now.
— Sounds like a lots been happening this year. I also heard you just came back from surfing in California. Was it hard to come back to the northeast?
It was hard! I went to California for five weeks, and then I went to Colorado for a few weeks. I’ve realized my people are West Coast people. I never knew that before, but I loved the culture and the fact that everyone does every kind of sport there. Now that I’m back in the city, I’m trying to find even a patch of grass, versus before I had mountains outside my window.
— Were you working remotely or did you take time off?
I was working remotely the entire time and had taken just two days off. I worked during the day and at night would go on the trail or on weekends would do fun full day stuff.
— So taking a new job is always a bit of a leap of faith and I know when you joined you had other opportunities you were considering. What was it about Hiro that made you decide that this was the right leap to take?
Well it definitely hit all my check boxes; small company, highly technical role, distributed systems. I think what made it special and pushed it over the edge was the energy of the people here. Everyone was very welcoming and it was generally clear that people genuinely liked working here and that’s not easy to fake. As an example, one of my interviewers who is now my onboarding buddy, was on vacation when I got my offer. He emailed me after I received my offer and said he’d love to talk to me if I had any questions - even though he was out of office! The fact that a team member was willing to reach out to me on vacation showed their enthusiasm.
— What are some of your favorite things about the team/culture?
I’ve noticed people really want to take initiative even outside their role or domain. People are also very grateful for the work others do. We have a general culture of recognition, an example of which is our kudos during our weekly all hands meeting.
— What has been the biggest surprise since you joined?
I think the biggest surprise was the time I had for onboarding. I had a whole month to just read and learn and absorb knowledge about crypto in general and how we do things. I took the latter two weeks to learn Rust and read half of a textbook on the language - all before starting to work on any tasks. That was very valuable and not every workplace does that. Allotting that much time for onboarding takes a type of long term thinking that not every place has.
— Moving into Crypto, what advice would you want to share for others contemplating making the move?
Do it! But no really, I think what my general advice would be is to vet the company the way you’d vet investing in a cryptocurrency because you’re investing in it even more, since you’re investing your time. Is the project going anywhere? Do they have a vision that’s actually long term as opposed to just trying to make bank on their ICO? Finding a team thats genuinely interested in something higher than just the price of a token is a good indicator that it’s something that will last for awhile.
— For engineers, specifically trying to decide if Crypto is the right thing for them what advise would you tell them to consider?
I think something that would be true across the board regardless of what crypto project they’re working on, is that it’s going to be cutting edge. If you’re the type of engineer that is looking for that type of challenge and wants to discuss things that are unprecedented where you can’t really just google the solution then this is probably the right fit for you. You can’t get as much of that anywhere else you look. I feel like crypto is the best matchup of theory and practical engineering that you can find, in my opinion.
— What is the most exciting thing you’ve been involved with in your time at Hiro?
I feel like I’m literally learning new things every week but I think I would choose the static analysis project. The static analysis project is about determining the cost of a transaction (without actually executing the transaction). The only reason that’s possible is because Clarity is not a Turing complete language - normally this would be an impossible problem to solve. In preparation for this task, Reed & I read three papers on programming language theory that were dense and technical. Trying to extrapolate the useful parts of that for what we needed to do was… quite interesting.
The other fun part of working here is learning about the general design and architecture of the blockchain, and getting to ask questions to the people who built it. That was just so cool. As part of my onboarding, I read the SIPs. For anything I didn’t understand, I would be able to go to Aaron or Jude for an in-depth explanation.
— Any advice for new engineers looking at SIPs on how to approach them?
I think I’d suggest approaching it like a research paper, I generally take notes and pretty much underline what confuses me. Mostly its just a straight forward component of the blockchain so you can easily just read it and tackle it. I was recommended a reading order when I joined, and maybe that ordering is something we could make public.
— What is something unique about the way we do things here at Hiro, that you wish other companies would do?
It often feels like we’re trying to do the right thing, not necessarily the fastest thing. For example, the design of Clarity took years to think about and develop but it was the best path. We wanted to give people something that was better and more secure that would last a long time.
— Well that was all terrific! Thanks! Any parting thoughts?
I’m not sure I said this but everyone is super nice! Working with nice, low ego people leads to having a great working environment.