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How I Work: Brian Kendzior of Solano Labs

Solano Labs Jixee Graphic

This post is a part of a new series on this blog, called How I Work. It will feature interviews from engineers at top tech companies and startups, describing what a typical day is like. For this post, we interviewed Brian Kendzior, Founding Engineer of Solano Labs.

We’ve got another installment of our “How I Work” blog series. This week, we had the pleasure to speak with Brian Kendzior, a founding engineer at Solano Labs (formerly tddium). Solano Labs is a continuous integration tool used by many well-known companies like Stripe, AirBnb, and Zendesk.

1. What’s your current position and how many years of experience do you have?

I’m a Founding Engineer at Solano Labs, with 4 years of work experience in front-end and mobile development. Like many engineers, I’ve been at this a long time, writing my first C program to control a Lego robot when I was 10 years old.

2. Tell me about your company and the work you’re doing?

Solano Labs builds a top-of-the-line Continuous Integration service called Solano CI. We take your test suite, intelligently parallelize tests, and run the tests using high-performance machine instances. As you use the service, our system learns test dependencies and rearranges tests in order to minimize testing duration and speed up the development cycle. We help many of our customers escape increasingly slow and unmaintainable Jenkins setups, speeding up their builds and drastically reducing the maintenance overhead of keeping a CI system running.

3. How big is your team and how is it structured? 

Solano Labs has 14 employees, and we are all focused on building, maintaining, supporting and selling our blazingly fast CI system. Solano Labs is about as organizationally flat as you can get, and we all tend to wear many hats in order to get the job done.

4. What’s your work setup like? What hardware/software do you use? 

Solano uses AWS for running the majority of our web services. We’re using Rails & Backbone for our main application, and a few of our more complex systems are written in Golang. Unsurprisingly for a company that builds a CI tool, we use Solano CI and a Continuous Integration workflow: all pull-requests are required to have sufficient test-coverage and 100% passing tests before merging. Most of my day is spent working within a Vagrant VM that mirrors our production environment. Currently, I’m typing from the office couch, but I will move over to a desk to hook into an external monitor or two whenever I need to delve deep into a complex problem.

5. Can you describe your typical day from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed? 

I generally wake up a little before 7am, feed the cat and make my morning cup of coffee. My commute is about 40 minutes long, which gives me just enough time to catch up on new albums or podcasts as I ride the train. I’m usually in the office by 9am, and I spend the first part of my day catching up on email/chat messages or Github pull requests. I then have an uninterrupted block of time until lunch to focus on my projects. I am usually working on one engineering task at a time, giving me plenty of time and headspace to focus. Right now I am working on a rewrite of an important piece of our main application, setting us up for the development of some exciting new features.

Solano is a small team, and we all work in the same room in close proximity. This means we have business and engineering conversations throughout the day, which largely eliminates the need for scheduled meetings. My calendar currently has less than 2 hours of weekly meetings, which is a huge relief after working in an agency setting for 3 years. This leaves plenty of time for me to maintain the office monitoring dashboard (which includes carefully curated memes and quotable-quotes from our coworkers).

The team usually steps out for lunch together to hit up one of our favorite spots. After lunch, one of our engineers usually brews up a pot of Pu’er tea for the team to share. The rest of the afternoon is engineering time, interspersed with drinking more tea and exchanging bad puns. On a typical day, I’ll leave at 6pm and not have to think about configuration files or Ruby syntax until the next work day.

6. What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who is looking to get a job at Solano Labs? 

The best advice I can give is to get in contact with us!  We’re a small team and we like to surround ourselves with smart and motivated individuals. Everyone at Solano is given room to innovate and contribute – so be ready to take advantage of that!

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