Samsara Dev Spotlight: Kavya Joshi

September 27, 2019

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.

I’m especially excited to introduce you to Kavya, because she’s been such a pillar of our engineering organization. Besides being one of the founding members of the backend infrastructure team, she is also incredibly cool. You may know her from her speaking at conferences like GopherCon, Strange Loop, and QCon.

Kavya has spent more than two years on our Backend Infrastructure team, and recently transitioned into Firmware for the Machine Vision team. Let’s meet her. 😄

Why did you decide to join Samsara?

I came to Samsara ~three years ago, and there were three questions that drove my decision.

Photo credit: O’Reilly/ Velocity London

Do the company’s business goals and vision speak to me?

I wanted to work at a place that solved “real world” problems. Samsara was poised to help companies across a diverse range of industries operate more safely, efficiently, and sustainably.

Do I like the people I would work with?

Everybody I met with at Samsara before I interviewed and during my interviews seemed incredibly smart, motivated, and nice…I was looking forward to becoming a part of the team and working with these people!

Am I inspired by what I’d be doing? Would it be technically interesting, and allow me to grow in the ways I want?

I loved that Samsara presented the opportunity for a whole spectrum of interesting engineering work. I wanted to work on distributed systems, and Samsara certainly had neat problems in that space given the product and our growth. And the fact that Samsara also did firmware spoke to a latent fascination.

Incredibly, Samsara still checks these boxes for me all these years later!

What is your team responsible for?

Samsara’s Safety Vision team getting lunch on a sunny San Francisco afternoon.

I’m on the camera firmware team, within the larger Safety Computer Vision team. We’re responsible for the firmware on Samsara’s various fleet camera products, and I specifically work on our new cutting-edge CM3x “AI dashcam” product which does inference on the edge. The CM3x team does everything from leveraging the specialized hardware on the camera for machine learning, to writing application code for video processing and building infrastructure to support testing & deploying new inference models on the camera.

What are you currently working on?

A number of fun things!

We’re building better telemetry for the internal state of the camera — things like tooling to read the various on-chip and off-chip sensors, and log the data as time series to our backend. This telemetry will be hugely useful for investigations and future performance analyses.

Another project is building a framework to run inference experiments on the camera; we want to, for example, quantify how inference time and accuracy, and camera performance changes as a model is run on the CPU versus the GPU etc.

Lastly, the project I’m most excited about right now is rearchitecting the vision pipeline that runs on the camera to support multiple inference models in parallel, efficiently.

What was your journey to transitioning from backend infrastructure to firmware at Samsara, and how do you hope to grow?

One of the things that originally appealed to me about Samsara was there was this whole other world of hardware and embedded programming available, in addition to the backend systems engineering I wanted to do at the time. I thought it was neat that, at Samsara, I could dabble in my firmware curiosities too! Working here certainly stoked that curiosity. So, once the backend infrastructure team was sufficiently large, I decided to indulge it full-time; I switched to the newly formed camera firmware team.

The process of switching itself was pretty straightforward — I had a few conversations to figure out what team I wanted to join and the logistics of when it made sense to switch, and that was really it. I was fully supported by Jelle and Justin, my former / future managers and Ryan, our current VP of Engineering.

My goal with switching was to gain wide exposure to and professional-grade experience in a sub-field that’s always interested me. It’s been super instructive and fun so far!

…there’s a whole spectrum of engineering at Samsara — from hardware and firmware to more typical software engineering like backend, frontend, mobile, infrastructure…we do it all!

What makes Samsara and the engineering culture unique?

I love that there’s a whole spectrum of engineering at Samsara — from hardware and firmware to more typical software engineering like backend, frontend, mobile, infrastructure…we do it all! This is unique to a small set of companies, and an even smaller subset of start-ups, and it’s been especially great for me.

With respect to engineering culture, the two things that stand out to me are: our enthusiasm to adapt new technologies to build better systems and more sophisticated products, and our highly collaborative work environment. Everybody here is excited to teach and learn.

Everybody here is excited to teach and learn.

What is the most surprising thing that’s happened during your 3 years at Samsara?

The company’s growth has, frankly, been nuts. In my three years here, we’ve grown ~30x in headcount and several times that in number of Samsara customers out in the world! I haven’t seen anything like it, and can’t say I was expecting it when I joined.

This was most of the Engineering team in 2016. Now, we’re ~200 strong!

How has Samsara changed in the last 3 years, and what do you hope is in the future?

Samsara’s evolved from a promising start-up to a proven company! On the surface, it’s changed in all the ways that accompany such a change, but the company still feels like the company I joined in the ways that matter, which is remarkable.

I hope we continue to grow as we have so far — deliberately and thoughtfully. It’s exciting to witness the insane growth and have all the opportunities it brings, while still working in a healthy and empowering environment.

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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