Fronteer Spotlight: A chat with Infrastructure Engineer Andrew Drake

Emily Hackeling

Emily Hackeling,

Content Marketing at Front

17 April 20200 min read

Meet Andrew Drake, one Front’s first infrastructure engineers, who doubles as an LED artist and EKG-builder in his free time.

Our Fronteer Spotlight series highlights some of our awesome team, the work we do, and what inspires us every day. Interested in joining us? Check out the openings on our jobs page.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Andrew: I graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in Computer Science when I was 18, and I went to go work on Dropbox’s server team. I was there as Dropbox grew from 150 people to well over 1000, where I learned that I really enjoyed working on infrastructure. Three years after I joined, I brought those skills with me to Karmic Labs, and just last year, to Front!

In my free time lately, I’ve been doing a lot of electronics work. A friend of mine noticed skipped heart beats a little while ago and got a little nervous. So I built a small wearable EKG that can record a day or two at a time (i.e. a Holter monitor) so they could see how often it was actually happening.

There have been a number of LED art projects I’ve been working on, too. One example is this hand-held piece that had a 6-inch circular board with over 200 color LEDs on it. I designed and assembled it — and with over 1200 solder joints, it took me quite a few hours to assemble by hand.

What brought you to Front?

A: I got a recruiting email from a former Dropbox colleague, and wound up meeting with Mathilde (Front’s CEO and cofounder). From our very first meeting, I could tell that she was an incredible person and a capable leader. I was really excited to see what it would be like to work at a company in Front’s position, led by a person who so valued making a great place to work. And then I met the team!

What inspires you to do your job?

A: Infrastructure is packed with hard problems, and good solutions empower teams to build great products. I really enjoy that my work not only can help users by keeping the app running fast and smooth, but also my coworkers by enabling them to build and ship things quicker and with less risk.

What’s your favorite Front feature?

A: The ability to share a conversation with somebody on my team without needing to forward it or manage a CC/BCC list. Getting @mentioned on a thread by the Support team is a great way to get context on an issue a customer is having. It’s also useful for me to loop in other folks on conversations with external Support and Sales teams.

What does your typical workday look like?

A: It varies a lot! Nominally, I have a larger project I’m working on, and I’ll work on that on my desktop at my desk with breaks for meals and meetings. But lots can happen on any given day — a user might have a weird issue that nobody else can figure out, a piece of infrastructure might be broken or overloaded, and so on. If my skills are useful, I jump in and help as needed. Variety keeps things interesting!

What kinds of projects are you working on right now?

A: My main project is migrating most of Front’s production infrastructure to Kubernetes. There’s a lot to gain — our infrastructure will be able to automatically scale and heal, and it will be much easier to roll out new services. I’ve also been working on database performance improvements and monitoring, as well as a wide variety of smaller issues.

Can you tell us about a challenge you’re looking to tackle in the next year?

A: I’m really excited to help scale our infrastructure team. I was the first member of the infrastructure team, and we’re already up to 4 people. We have a lot of work to do and we’ll need even more people to do it. I’ve never been on a team that was our size and growing this fast, so this will be a very new experience for me!

Written by Emily Hackeling

Originally Published: 17 April 2020

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