In today’s Meet the Chronosphere Team profile, we pivot to the hardworking front-end team. Ting Chen is a UI engineer who joined Chronosphere’s New York crew (also our largest) less than five months ago. As a developer who has been on-call, Ting brings first-hand experience to his work on new distributed tracing capabilities Chronosphere just added to our observability platform. After reading (or listening to) the interview below, you’ll find out how a UI engineer like Ting is a product of many interesting parts – whether it’s enjoying a technical challenge in his work, being a foodie, admiring the beauty of art, or drawing from the inspiration his family has provided.
What do you do at Chronosphere?
I’m a UI engineer on the platform team. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a range of features for our web app such as building a standalone site for our documentation, a dashboard to manage the user permissions, and also visualization for our new tracing feature.
What were some of the reasons you decided to come to Chronosphere?
For quite some time, I’ve wanted to work at a startup company. However, I’ve also been pretty picky with the startups that I want to join since I’ve seen a lot of them struggle for years before finally simmering out. I got excited with Chronosphere because it popped into my radar from two separate instances; first at work while I was at DoorDash – our teams suddenly got shifted to prioritize integrating Chronosphere – then from a friend who decided after many years to leave Square to join Chronosphere. After speaking to my friend, he told me all about the team and the mission. I found out that Chronosphere was only a series B company and got the business of a client as big as DoorDash; I felt like they were doing something right. The more I learned about Chronosphere’s team, the more I wanted to join. It was a small company where I could make a large impact, but it was also a team that was composed of brilliant senior developers from top companies like Uber, Square, and Pivotal. When I joined, it became clear to me that these engineers laid the foundation for a great company, bringing all the best coding practices and processes together in order to make an awesome observability product.
What did you do before coming to Chronosphere?
I was building food delivery apps at Caviar and then after we got acquired, at DoorDash.
What is the most interesting technical challenge Chronosphere is solving?
I think the most interesting/fun technical challenge is in data visualization. Not only is it a pretty new space for me, but I think it’s interesting to take all the data we have and present it in a way that’s easily understandable to our end users. That’s part of the UI challenge – to take complex data and simplify it. In addition, there are some cool scaling and data ingestion challenges on the backend side that we also need to handle on the frontend. I’m not working on that personally, but there’s just so much complexity over there. Honestly, it’s hard to get my head wrapped around. While building our dashboards, we need to think about how we present all the data we have in a performant way, without oversimplifying our data to a point where it’s not really useful to people anymore.
What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?
I’m excited about the tracing project that we’re building. Having been on-call in the past, it’s important to be able to triage the issue as quickly as possible, and I think tracing is one of those features that will really help with that. And as I mentioned earlier, this has some cool visualization challenges; based on the data we’ve collected, how can we present the data in a way that would allow an engineer to quickly identify the issue from a glance? We’re looking at different solutions, such as D3, Visx, and Apache ECharts libraries, for providing the visualization – whether that’s a directed graph or a sankey diagram – that would, just by opening the page, allow the engineer to immediately identify the problem.
What’s a fun fact about you that nobody would guess?
Maybe it’s not too far-fetched since I am a UI engineer, but up till I was headed to college, my main passion was drawing and painting and I wanted to be an artist. I had even gotten into art school and planned on doing a dual degree in engineering and art, but quickly realized there was no way to do both without sacrificing all my sleep. I chose to do engineering instead.
What stickers are on your laptop?
I don’t like putting stickers on my laptop. I consider myself to be a minimalist and I think there’s beauty to the construction of the laptop that would be ruined by slapping on a sticker. Similar to bumper stickers on cars, it sends all kinds of confusing messages, especially when the purchased product was meant to be sleek and simple.
If you were an animal, what would you be?
I’d probably be a panda. They seem like super chill animals that love to eat. I can resonate with that.
Who is someone you have considered a role model and how have they helped guide you in your life or career?
Throughout my life, I’ve considered different people role models. I’m fortunate to have two older brothers I could observe to determine what to do and what behaviors to avoid (at school and around my parents). Later on in my career, taking that same mentality, I sought mentors who could also share with me their successes and failures so that I could learn from them.
As for celebrity role models, Hayao Miyazaki has always been an inspiration to me for his attention to detail to the subtleties of often overlooked beauty in art.
Finally, I’ve always considered my parents my longest running role models. They sacrificed a ton to immigrate to the US and they’re both blue collar workers that have had multiple jobs to give us a good life in the states. I’m motivated to work hard to give them an easier life as they have done for me.
What’s a quote you reflect on, you mention to people a lot, or that motivates you?
A quote that motivates me is, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.” This probably falls in the same vein of, “A large task can be very daunting until you break it down into smaller pieces.” Data visualization is something that I’m not an expert at, but I’m confident that as long as I get started and learn something new everyday, I’m going to become pretty proficient at a cool new skill.
Stay tuned for more profiles on Chronospherians and check out our open roles here.
Listen in to hear Ting’s and Chris Ward’s full conversation: