June 27, 2018

Algorithmia Engineering Team Spotlight: Patrick

At Algorithmia we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by group of wildly intelligent, quirky, and fun engineers. We'd love for you to come by and meet them in person, but until then we’ll post a series of interviews introducing you to some of the talented people who are creating the future of AI.

Drum roll please…. (and not just because he’s lead bass in two local bands).... Meet Patrick McQuighan! Patrick is one of our back end engineers and is working on solving the most complicated AI scalability problems in the industry.

Patrick, when did you join Algorithmia and where were you coming from?

I joined Algorithmia in 2015, when it was still at Galvanize in Pioneer Square. I’ve actually moved four times in the past three years because we keep getting new and bigger office space.

I worked at Amazon on an ETL pipeline, job scheduling, and some machine learning before moving to Algorithmia. My role at Amazon was interesting but I wanted to dive deeper into distributed systems. I had applied to grad school but decided I preferred working on projects to being back in the classroom so I began to investigate the Seattle startup scene.

When I first looked at the startups in Seattle I only saw ad and gaming companies,which didn’t seem very meaningful for me. It took a few months of searching but luckily I found a job listing for Algorithmia before I had to take a job I wasn’t excited about.

Why did Algorithmia seem different from the other startups in Seattle?

It was pretty easy to see. I immediately saw the value of being able to integrate algorithms across different languages and frameworks through an API and wanted to work on that product. No one else was, or is, doing anything like this so it’s really cool to be in on the ground floor driving the product.

What kind of projects are you currently working on and do you have a favorite?

I get to work on a little bit of everything; infrastructure and automation tasks (especially for cluster creation), performance optimizations, system design and performance optimizations for how we run algorithms.

I don’t have a single favorite project but I've been able to work on a large variety of problems as the company has grown. That said, I personally have a ton of fun looking at graphs. There's something just super satisfying to me about making a graph, writing some code, and then seeing the graph dip or spike. I wrote a blog post about one project in particular investigating our overhead in algorithm call timing. We instrumented our code and created some dashboards in grafana, which allowed us pinpoint inefficiencies and reduce our call overhead by 70%.

Have you had any other opportunities to share your work outside of Algorithmia?

Yeah, one of the coolest things about being here is the amount of trust Diego (the CEO/Co-founder) has in people. He mentioned that I should apply to be a kubecon speaker about a week before the deadline saying, "Think if there's anything interesting or unique we've done and just submit an abstract, don't worry too much about it" and then two months later I find myself giving my first ever public talk in Austin at KubeCon 2017!

That’s awesome! Do you think that’s one of best parts of working at Algorithmia?

Yeah, everyone here really pushes you to be better and celebrates each other’s victories. I feel like I can learn from literally everybody in the company. Everyone is really good at what they do and I've found myself interested in learning about things I never thought I would be, like the processes around customer contracts and legal work, aspects of fundraising, the nitty gritty of VC, etc.

I also think people here work hard but encourage each other to have a life and take vacation. We get our work done and allow ourselves to have fun on the weekends and at night as well. It's easy in the tech industry to work round-the-clock since you can work anywhere/anytime but I think we've been able to keep work and life balanced.

We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about Patrick. If you want to learn more about life at Algorithmia, check out our careers page, and if this seems like a team you’d want to be part of, apply now!

Don’t forget to check back for our next installment!

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