Engineering At Samsara

Samsara Dev Spotlight: Albert Hu

August 1, 2019

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Here at Samsara, we love our people. To share what it’s like working here, we created a Dev Spotlight series to highlight members of our team. Once a month, we’ll talk to a Samsarian to learn why they’re with us, what their work is like, and what they’re all about.

Did you know Samsara isn’t only in San Francisco? In case you missed our June dev spotlight on Kelsey Lam, our new offices in London and Atlanta are up and running!

Albert Hu is an engineer on our Compliance team, currently hailing from Samsara ATL, where he’s spent the last couple months helping to spin up our Atlanta office. Let’s meet him. 😄

The Atlanta engineering team has been growing fast!

The Atlanta engineering team has been growing fast!

Why did you decide to join Samsara?

The main reason I joined Samsara is for the amazing people I’d get to work with at this company.

The first time I heard about Samsara was two years ago, when I was climbing at a bouldering gym. I remember thinking: wow…this is an interesting business. I met Edwin Zhang, a Samsara engineer, and we chatted about work in between climbing sets. I was fascinated to learn about how Samsara was using sensor technology to increase visibility in commercial fleets. He described how city governments and hospitals were using Samsara to quickly search for and dispatch the nearest vehicles in an emergency situation. The product sounded interesting, but I was still learning a lot at my job at the time and was pretty happy with my situation. Although I didn’t jump on this opportunity to apply to Samsara, Edwin’s description of that use case sure stayed with me.

An example of what our customers see when using our platform: a real-time overview of vehicles in their fleet.

An example of what our customers see when using our platform: a real-time overview of vehicles in their fleet.

A year later, I started to interview with companies in search of the next opportunity to further my growth as a software engineer. I wanted to be in an environment where there were more engineers around, collaborating to build technologies that enable people to operate at scale. I ended up interviewing at and receiving offers from multiple companies, and Samsara was one of them! The roles included full stack and backend platform developer jobs at Samsara and other hot start-ups and big infrastructure companies.

Ultimately, I decided to join Samsara. It was the people I met during the interviewing process that won me over. The quick turnaround by the recruiting team and transparent communication (shoutout to my recruiter Heather!) not only made me feel valued as an individual but also gave me a window into a healthy internal organization. Edwin was actually there during my onsite to give me a quick but detailed demo of the entire platform, including hardware, software, existing customer base, and expansion plans. I talked to Jennifer ZhangGreg Hogan, and Prasad Shinde, who were all on different engineering teams, as well as Ryan Reading, my hiring manager. Everyone I talked to during the onsite was easy to work with and also took extra time after I’d received my offer to answer questions and share their stories with me. For example, Jennifer told me about how the company balances hiring industry veterans and new grads, and during her time at Samsara so far, she had not only received a lot of great mentorship, but has also started leading her own team. I could tell these people would be coworkers who were communicative, collaborative, and motivated. No matter what the challenge would be and whatever technology I’d decide to use, these were people I’d feel good about solving problems and growing my career with.

I joined Samsara a year ago and haven’t looked back 🙂

Piedmont Park in Atlanta. I’ve been living here on a 4 month rotation trip.

Piedmont Park in Atlanta. I’ve been living here on a 4 month rotation trip.

What was your journey to transitioning from San Francisco to Samsara’s Atlanta office, and how do you hope to grow?

I was hesitant at first — if I were to move to Atlanta, I’d have to balance more recruiting initiatives with my software projects. I’d be living outside of California for the first time in my life. My girlfriend, Catherine, and I would have to be in a long-distance relationship. Overall, it seemed like there would be a lot of changes that I wasn’t sure would be good for me. Chatting with my manager, however, helped me understand how this rotation would push Samsara to the next stage of growth and continue to help us become a connected operations platform. It would also help set me up for a future career in management.

(And, yes, I got permission from Catherine, too 🙂)

Catherine and me, visiting Piedmont Park

Catherine and me, visiting Piedmont Park

I signed up for a 4-month rotation with 5 other awesome engineers from different teams, and we all set out to shape our recruitment pipeline by attending and hosting local tech meet-ups such as: The Atlanta Go User GroupWomen Who Code Atlanta, and

We also did a ton of interviewing for new candidates, on-boarding planning, and hanging out outside of work. The BeltLine around Ponce City Market with all the food and breweries is definitely one of my favorite places to visit on a weekend.

ATL dev team at a team offsite (a video game arcade bar)

ATL dev team at a team offsite (a video game arcade bar)

Coming back to San Francisco in August, I want to continue growing in at least these three ways:

  1. Improve and scale our interview processes so that we can continue to get strong signals for interviewers while keeping the experience positive for candidates.

  2. Encourage engineering team culture to continue being fun, collaborative, and productive.

  3. Manage my time so that I can continue to be an effective developer and gain experience on technically challenging projects that are useful to our customers.

What’s your team responsible for?

I’m part of the Compliance Team. We develop and deliver robust tools to help drivers and carriers seamlessly manage compliance for their fleet.

Every commercial driver, depending on their specific job, needs to follow a set of rules/federal regulations, e.g. drive under a certain number of hours in a day. Our Samsara sensors automatically record data about the drivers’ vehicles and make that reporting process as painless as possible. A lot of our customers see my team’s features as table stakes for using the Samsara platform because being compliant is critical to fleet operations and customers cannot operate without compliance reporting and auditing tools. Once they enter our platform, they start to see all the other ways Samsara can improve their business, from safety dash cams to driver workflow management tools and more.

The long-term goal of this team is to distinguish Samsara as the go-to compliance product due to ease of use, reliability, and feature set.

An example of a paper driver log.

An example of a paper driver log. With Samsara sensors and a mobile app for drivers, we’ve automated the logging workflow — saving our customers hours per day and thousands of paper records a week.

What are you currently working on?

Since coming to Atlanta in April, I’ve interviewed over 50 software engineer and manager candidates, and I’ve helped with on-boarding new engineers (shoutout to Mary Macheski-Preston, an engineer I helped on-board; she’s now the team lead for the Fuel Services team here). I’ve also been thinking a lot about recruiting and engineering team culture, specifically, how to increase team diversity, and maintain productivity in a distributed team structure.

Some of the ATL team celebrating our first open house recruiting event

Some of the ATL team celebrating our first open house recruiting event

One of the most interesting technical projects I’ve worked on was to automate our customers’ manual workflows by writing an algorithm that leverages large amounts of GPS and time range data. Among other things, I had to work with different engineers to solve three key problems:

  1. Ensuring our algorithm would be efficient enough to run on large organizations with lots of users by analyzing predicted request rates to our different micro services.

  2. Parallelizing work necessary to persist new data to our databases that we were previously re-calculating on the read path on every query.

  3. Balancing the tradeoffs between finishing fast for our customer deadline vs. building a robust and extensible architecture.

Visualization of Albert's project

I worked with some awesome people to get this project done, and I appreciate how much I learned in such a short period of time.

I’ve also started a new project recently! This one will have me working more closely with two other (new) Compliance teammates, as well as other engineers, PMs, and designers. We’ll be concurrently working on different aspects of a service that will ultimately let us use a complex state machine to build out support for more compliance rules.

What makes Samsara and the engineering culture unique?

First, I feel very supported when it comes to making technical design decisions using data, and everyone is constantly revamping internal processes to make work processes feel smoother. We’re not perfect, especially since we’re growing so quickly, but I feel like we’re always trying to improve things for everyone. At the end of the day, Samsara feels like a place where I can consistently grow and get better.

Kavya Joshi shared her own engineering growth story at Atlanta’s first Engineering Open House.

Kavya Joshi shared her own engineering growth story at Atlanta’s first Engineering Open House.

Second, I’m always aware of the direction and focus of the company, and always feel able to provide feedback to management to help inform how we grow. We have quarterly all-hands meetings where everyone in the company meets and syncs up on long-term plans. The level of transparency here is really motivating for me because it allows me to take more ownership and responsibility in the company.

Finally, the clubs!

Jennifer Zhang and Gautam Ramaswamy at a Puzzled Pint event in SF

Jennifer Zhang and Gautam Ramaswamy at a Puzzled Pint event in SF

Clubs are a great way that Samsara encourages employees to bond and relax outside of work. If you can gather people who are interested in doing regular events together, the company gives you an annual budget for things like tickets, props, food, etc. to make the events happen. I have played basketball, enjoyed Puzzled Pints nights, and played lots of boardgames with coworkers thanks to these clubs.

What was your biggest fear before joining Samsara?

Being this mushroom:

Imposter Syndrome. (by Kniivila)

Imposter Syndrome. (by Kniivila)

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from another Samsarian?

Casey Takahashi, one of my former teammates, has pair programmed with me and given me great feedback for leading technical design kickoff meetings:

  • Speak openly while coding with teammates and clearly present tradeoffs when discussing system architectures in order to maximize the bandwidth of communication.

Casey and I returning to the office working out at a nearby SF Fitness.

Casey and I returning to the office working out at a nearby SF Fitness

Per my team lead, Zach Kohl:

  • Break projects down into parts to help prioritization and parallelization so that we can easily plan deadlines and communicate progress, while also minimizing stress and burnout.

Zach vs. Zack

Zach vs. Zack

From Jonté Craighead, a PM I’ve worked with:

  • Focus on customers, watch what they do and think about what processes we can automate for them that we haven’t already. Participating in customer visits/calls has given me a more intimate understanding of customers’ priorities, and it gives me more data to use when talking to PMs and designers.

Hayley Young, Jenn Leung, Corbin Muraro, and Sujay Khandekar came with me on a customer visit last December.

Hayley YoungJenn LeungCorbin Muraro, and Sujay Khandekar came with me on a customer visit last December.

Lastly, Derrek Harrison, my engineering manager:

  • Match up my career goals and experiences with our career framework, and create a checklist of action items to track my progress over time. I’ve been able to identify the growth areas that simultaneously are most critical to my team’s roadmap and which are most engaging to me, so that I can focus my time on those projects.

Venn Diagram - Thanks Derrek

Thanks, Derrek.

These are some of the people I’ve worked with the most, but I’ve also received a lot of other great feedback from Samsarians during my first year here. It feels great to hit my first owliversary (our term for a Samsara anniversary), and I’m looking forward to another very full year!

(If you’re still curious about my journey with Samsara so far, check out my 1-month reflection and 8-month reflection posts.)

Big thanks to Elisha, Joy, Derrek, Ashcon, Eileen, Sarah, and Molly for proofreading and edit suggestions!

Interested in working at Samsara? Check out our open positions. We’re always looking for great people to join us as we learn and grow together, and if you love learning and building things in a highly collaborative environment, we’d love to hear from you! 👋

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