Why I joined Chronosphere as a manager on the platform team

on September 22nd 2022

I joined Chronosphere as an Engineering Manager in January after spending the past five and a half years at Palantir, where I led the observability team. My team was responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure which enabled our engineers to observe and monitor their systems, debug issues as they occurred, and resolve problems in a timely manner. Our production fleet consisted of hundreds of thousands of pods running at any given point in time. Anybody who’s worked with distributed systems at this scale understands the criticality of good observability tooling: without highly available and reliable monitoring systems, you and the business are flying blind.

Chronosphere first appeared on my radar through this previous role, where one of the largest ongoing pain points for my team was managing the metrics usage of other engineering teams in the organization. It was all too easy for a developer to add a line of code which inadvertently blew up their metrics cardinality, and along with it, our observability bill. 

When I first joined the observability team at Palantir, we relied on in-house tooling built on top of our own data platform to monitor metrics usage on a per-team basis. While partially automated, it still required human intervention to resolve the issues that inevitably surfaced. This solution required an ongoing and active energy investment and failed to effectively “put the pebble in the shoe” of the teams instrumenting their services in an inefficient manner, where the value derived from the metrics was not proportionate with the cost.

My team built tooling that programmatically dropped low-value metrics, but I was intrigued by the opportunity to build generalized versions of such solutions at Chronosphere. I had a deep understanding of the frustrations experienced as a member of the central observability team. Chronosphere offered capabilities to manage metrics usage out of the box that I’d wished I had on my own team. This stood out to me as a game-changer in a highly competitive observability landscape, and I was convinced that their product would all but sell itself.

Conviction in the product seeded my initial interest, and the opportunity to participate in solving organizational problems at a quickly-growing early stage startup sealed the deal. My previous company had over 3,000 employees when I left. Chronosphere had closer to 100 people when I joined this past January and we’ve since doubled in size.

While at Palantir, I had an amazing mentor who taught me the characteristics of an effective Engineering Manager over the course of several years. I was frequently outside of my comfort zone and it was a trial by fire at times, but my mentor gave me the tools and coaching I needed to solve hard engineering and leadership problems. The lessons that stuck with me the most were those which were learned through painful failures. However, the growth I experienced during these periods of discomfort was unparalleled. Toward the end of my tenure at the company, the periods of discomfort waned and my own growth tapered. I knew it was time for me to find a place where I could both continue to grow independently and also pass along the lessons and skills that I had learned.

Since starting at Chronosphere, I’ve ramped up on three engineering teams and had an opportunity to apply the same lessons about building well-oiled software development machines in different contexts on a far more condensed timeline. I’ve been exposed to new problems, such as how to foster collaborative relationships between engineering and the field, and how to construct an effective hiring pipeline. However, the most unique set of challenges have come from remote work.

This was the first time that I joined a company remotely and it presented a unique set of additional challenges. I didn’t fully appreciate how much harder it is to ramp up and feel connected to the broader company in a remote-first environment. You lose out on all of the organic interactions which occur in the office and there isn’t a well-established playbook for how to bridge this gap, particularly at scale. In response to these new challenges, we’re experimenting with creative ways to build a strong culture in our distributed workforce, with efforts ranging from the highly local, such as supporting grassroots team clusters that we see forming in local coworking spaces, to global, such as holding company-wide events in virtual reality. This is at the cutting edge of how we work, and we get to pave the path at Chronosphere. The camaraderie is real.

The past nine months have gone by in a blur. At the same time, it feels like far more has happened than what deserves to reasonably fit within this timeframe, in the best way possible. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

If any of this resonates with you, there might be a place for you at Chronosphere. Reach out and let’s chat.

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