In today’s Meet the Chronosphere Team profile, we get to know Nate Broyles, one of Chronosphere’s software engineers on the control team and a member of our growing East Coast offices in New York (also our largest location!) In this interview with Chris Ward, Nate delights us with a discussion about his love for sloths and weekend roller-skating, the most interesting technical challenges that Chronosphere is solving today, and what led to him joining Chronosphere over a year ago.
What do you do at Chronosphere?
I am a software engineer, part of the technical staff on the control team. We are one of the teams responsible for the ownership of M3 – the core database that powers a lot of what we do here. We specifically focus on ensuring that we have the ability to control users’ access to data and resources. We are able to throw them in without causing any issues for the underlying data source itself. We also educate them on ways to better execute queries or writes so that they get on the golden path.
What were some of the reasons that you decided to join Chronosphere?
I had the opportunity to work with Matt Mihic [Chronosphere Head of Engineering] before. I really enjoyed working with him and got to trust his engineering acumen. Having been places before where metrics observability was a huge problem and we had to go through a few different vendors, I knew that what Chronosphere was attempting to solve was a big problem for people and it had a real opportunity. Then, I got to learn the backstory about how Chronoshere came to be. I had the opportunity to meet the co-founders Martin (CEO) and Rob (CTO) and I knew this is what I wanted to do. I didn’t plan on joining a Series B startup, but having all of those factors outlined in front of me made me feel much more comfortable knowing this is a place that is solving a real problem and has the right people in place (Read Martin Mao’s blog about Chronosphere’s recent $200 Series C funding round and how the has achieved unicorn status here.)
What did you do before coming to Chronosphere?
I was at Square before. I was there for about 6 ½ years. I learned a ton there – I think it was probably one of the most rewarding jobs I had because it really helped me mature and become a much better engineer. I met some super talented folks, some of whom I am really fortunate enough to work with today. I’m really grateful for that. Matt was my old boss – we were working on CashApp, which is a part of Square.
What is the most interesting technical challenge that you think Chronosphere is solving?
I think it’s just the sheer magnitude of data that is coming into the system. Our whole value proposition is, “You can send a ton of data to us, no problem.” We’ll store it and we’ll serve you back, use nice graphs – whatever you want, In whatever kind of timescale you want, in a response time that you’ll find acceptable. That’s very easy to state, but very difficult to actually do. There’s a lot of work that has to go on behind the scenes from the data store itself, being able to just simply handle that volume and that amount of data, all the way up to the front end – being able to properly present that much data. It affects every aspect of what we do here at Chronosphere. The biggest technical challenge is simply what we’ve set out to actually solve – which is handling the sheer amount of volume that our customers send to us.
What are you working on right now that you’re really excited about?
What I’m currently focusing on right now is getting an integration test framework in place that can spin up the components of M3 and have them be able to talk to each other. We have unit tests in place and what we call “scenario tests” for long running operations, like adding a namespace. But, we don’t really have good integration tests that allow us to do inter-component communications. Like having an aggregator, a DB node, a coordinator spun up – and having them all talk to each other.
We actually have two iterations of this, but they require Docker containers to be spun up. And then those Docker containers talk to each other – and that’s fine, that works for correctness. But, it really is difficult when you’re trying to iterate and make changes very quickly. You have to rebuild your image and spin up a new Docker container. And then it makes debuggability difficult because you have to attach a remote debugger to a Docker container and that has to be built in a specific way to allow that. But it would be convenient if you could just go to your IDE and you just click run the same way you run a unit test and say: “Hey, I want a new DB node. I want a new aggregator, a new coordinator.” And they all come up and know how to talk to each other – and you can start issuing commands via the public API. That’s what I’m working on tackling right now. And this is really born out of the frustration that several engineers on the M3 team had as we were building out these previous features. I know when people talk about tests, eyes kind of glaze over, but I’m actually really excited about this.
What’s a fun fact about you that nobody would guess?
I love roller skating. I grew up next to a skating rink – so I’m actually decent. Fairly often I’ll go to the park and roller skate. I really enjoy it, and it’s having a revival right now. It feels a bit like a vindication because for a long time people thought it was like a dinosaur. But we’re back, so it feels good to be on trend again.
If you were an animal, what would you be?
I’ve known this answer for a while. The three-toed sloth is one of my favorite animals. It’s just super lazy, and comes down once a week to do its business. Otherwise, it’s just hanging out in the trees and has this little goofy smile on its face all the time. And that’s just the kind of energy that I want to project: taking it easy, having a good time. I’m trying to mosey my way through life. That would be me.
Who is someone that you consider a role model that has helped guide you in your life and career generally?
My parents. I think the world of them and they really provided a good example of work ethic and moral compass. And just how to try and be the best person you can be. I think my parents really gave me a solid footing. The older I get, the more I realize that not everyone gets that – and I just become more and more appreciative. I’m really, really grateful for what they’ve done and just being there for me and actually giving me the love I think anyone needs as they grow up from a child to an adult.
Professionally, I’ve just been fortunate to have people in the right place at the right time. I never had a mentor in the traditional sense where it’s the person that I check in with every so often, but I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people…and bounce ideas off of each other and it ends up helping me in the right direction. I don’t think I’ve taken the most direct path to where I am today. So there’s definitely been some missteps. But I do think that generally along the way, I’ve been able to gather really, really good advice that ultimately helped me get into a position that I’m pretty happy with.
What’s a quote you reflect on, you mention to people a lot, or that motivates you??
I actually don’t know where it came from, but it’s something that I started saying maybe five or six years ago and now some of my friends know that I say it. It’s never too late to be the person that you want to be. I try to use that to try new things or be a better person the next day, if I feel like I wasn’t great today. I like the idea behind it, where, no matter how old you are, or where you are in life, you can always use the next day to try and do better than the last. I kind of appreciate that.
Listen in to hear Chris and Nate’s entire conversation: