Star of the Month Abdallah Deeb tells us about how his love for computers started, working smarter, and who’s the boss in his house.
Abdallah, tell us about yourself.
I am from Lebanon, born and bred in Beirut city.
During my teens, I discovered my interest in technology. PCs were just starting to be affordable, so my brothers and I pooled our allowances together every month to buy a 386 computer in installments. As soon as we bought our computer, we started learning the ins and outs of it (and admittedly, indulged in some gaming). All three of us brothers eventually went on to study for IT-related degrees.
I’m married and we have a cat named Naruto. He was born in our living room back in 2012, and it’s safe to say he now owns the apartment we live in. Anyone who’s been in a video meeting with me has more than likely seen his ginger chubby self on camera.
Oh, and there’s Keira, the happy black Labrador we adopted 3 years ago. She makes me smile. Actually, she makes everyone around her smile. She’s lying next to me as I write this, as always. I try to take her hiking and camping as much as possible, especially on weekends when the weather is nice.
Could you describe your job at OnTheGoSystems?
I am on the Systems team. Long story short, we’re in charge of keeping everything running as smoothly as possible. OTGS clients, employees, and colleagues are our main concern. We want everyone to be able to reach our sites without any problems and have a fast and smooth experience there. Our goal is to make everyone’s lives easier and to remove any obstacles in their way.
As the OTGS motto goes, focus on working smarter. As the Systems team, we do this by adopting a better way of managing infrastructure as code. We switched to a DevOps mindset a few years back, thinking of our infrastructure as a software development project instead of a monolithic hardware setup. This allowed us to grow from running a few dedicated servers to literally hundreds of servers that are spun up and terminated as needed.
What are some things you’ve learned since you started working at OnTheGoSystems?
This taught me new skills and a whole lot about monitoring, planning for high availability, preparing for, and responding to incidents. The courses stressed the importance of establishing a culture of reliability, and how to develop processes and frameworks that drive workplaces toward putting reliability first. This includes how to perform reliability reviews on our systems, how to manage capacity, and how to reduce toil. I am eager to apply what I learned to the day-to-day tasks we face in the Systems team.
Our projects currently are shifting towards a more Infrastructure as Code (IaC) process. All of our planning and deployments are done in Git and pass through the same reviews as any other software project. Thanks to this, I’m becoming more efficient in the use of tools like Terraform, Ansible, and GitLab-CI. I’m eager to share what I’ve learned with anyone looking to join the Systems team or interested in these technologies.
What’s the most challenging part of your job, and how do you overcome them?
The most challenging part of this job is keeping up with all the new technologies and methodologies that are available. At the same time, you need to stay focused on finishing the job at hand.
For example, some of the tools I started working with a couple of years ago have now gone through major changes or have been entirely replaced with new ones. You need to stay up-to-date. Otherwise, you risk doing things less efficiently – or badly even. Sticking with an older tool or package could potentially cause a security risk.
As a remote worker, what does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me starts with walking or running with my dog, Keira. We go around the neighborhood or roam around the small gardens and parks in the area.
Once I come back, I start up my PC – and the coffee machine! I usually end up having a few cups before the morning meeting with the rest of my team. My mornings involve a lot of coding and testing. I have all these different ideas swimming in my head from the night before, so I try to apply it all before any external requests start coming in.
The daily meeting then brings on team priorities for the day, which sometimes trump whatever I already started working on. I assist with resolving issues and monitoring our systems closely to fix any problems before they start affecting OTGS teams or clients.
Every other week, I am on call in case of emergencies.
In your experience, what are the best things and the most challenging things about working remotely?
I am always asked about the challenges of working remotely. Of course, it’s important to be organized, but if you want to be efficient, that’s a given for any type of job, on-site or remote. And then there’s the challenge of being able to concentrate while the rest of the family goes on with their lives. That’s not an issue for me though, as both my wife and I work from home.
What I like about working remotely is how I’m able to stay more focused on my work. I don’t have to deal with the daily hassles of traffic and road rage and whatnot. And I get to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my wife. That’s probably the best part of it all for me.
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