Introducing: Francis De Brabandere, First Man on Board

Written By: Miruna Suru | Date:
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As we are opening up more vacancies over the coming months to fuel our growth, we feel it's important you know what you're getting into when you apply to join Waylay. One way you can do that is by starting to know your future colleagues even before you apply. It's one of the reasons we've been interviewing new people joining the team and why we will also be talking to the older team members, the first people that believed in Waylay's vision and were first to join the co-founders to tranform the vision into reality. Today we sat down with Francis De Brabandere, VP all things Scala at Waylay. :)

1. What do you do at Waylay?

After running my own startup for a while I was the first non-founder to join Waylay in June 2014. At that time we were located in the iMINDS startup garage. I was the first employee working full-time and started working on the initial software that Veselin had been brewing on for quite some time. There was no web interface, only a Java desktop application that could connect sensors and actuators in a Bayesian network.

Over the following years we have added a lot on top of that. The desktop UI was replaced with a web api backend + angular frontend, most of the core of the system was rewritten in Scala and we switched to a node.js "sandbox" for executing sensors/actuators. Next to that we added a message broker that also handles timeseries storage. For these series we started with InfluxDB but quickly migrated to a clustered setup using Cassandra and KairosDB.

Of course adding more components involves more operations work. To this day I still am involved in making sure everything gets built, tested, deployed and monitored properly. We run everything on Linux, mostly running in Docker containers managed by Kubernetes. To get a view of our current stack you can visit: https://stackshare.io/waylay/waylay

In short, I do a bit of everything: from back- to frontend, from code to operations. But most of all I prefer working with type-safe, static, (purely) functional programming languages. Scala is currently my main language and I am looking into Elm, Haskell, Purescript, Eta, ... I like to have a compiler buddy sitting next to me telling what I forgot to take care of, helping me do big refactors / redesigns. All these years of writing systems have taught me that "constraints liberate and liberties constrain".

2. What's an exciting thing you're working on right now?

I'm helping one of our interns write a data extraction and transformation tool using Akka streams and Alpakka. The plan is to later integrate this code into our other components and let customers continuously or batched receive data from our platform. I really like the composability of all the components built in this project, it's like a bunch of lego blocks that you can put together in different ways to get different results.

It can for example extract from Cassandra, parsing the KairosDB specific binary format, filtering out needed parts and streaming everything to a gzipped CSV on AWS S3. But at the same time you could build a continuous stream that plugs-in to our broker and writes the data to Google BigTable. All this using more or less constant memory and as many theads as your cpu has.

3. What are three qualities that you appreciate most in colleagues?

  1. Feeling responsible and caring about the company and the things that they create;
  2. Eagerness to learn and improve - never be happy with the status quo but understand that things are the way they are because of historical reasons;
  3. Understanding that simple is not the same as easy.

4. What is one thing that you believe would definitely make someone not a good fit for Waylay?

I think that since Waylay is growing at a fast rate, we can accommodate different kinds of people: generalists or specialists, open or closed personality, young or old. But as mentioned before, I believe that everybody should care about their work, that's the most important thing. If you don't like your job or the company you work for, find something better. Luckily we are in a sector where this is a valid option.

5. What are some of your passions outside of work?

You could say that I was able to make my hobby my job. I've always had a passion for everything electronics and computer related. I came in contact with programming when my mother bought our first computer, a Commodore 286 4MHz with 1024K of ram. At that time computers still came with a big stack of manuals and as I finsihed going through everything DOS related I discovered a book about Basic and was psyched that I could also now build these applications that I had been using. That was also the time where the demoscene was very popular, people trying out the limits of what you could do with computers on a graphical level. A bit like computer-generated video clips. I remember printing the ASPHYXIA VGA Trainer manual and reading is during study time at boarding school. Check this for a video of one of the best demos made at that time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFv7mHTf0nA (this was 1993, screens had 320*200 pixels with 256 colors)

Other than that I like playing with Legos with my kids (sometimes even without them). Lego is great to clear the mind after a busy day :-) I also play squash, enjoy beer tasting and (mostly) electronic music.

Get in touch with Francis on social media
https://www.linkedin.com/in/francisdb/
https://twitter.com/somatik
https://github.com/francisdb
or you can always find him at one of the #bescala meetups.

Interested in joining us? We are hiring, check out our open positions and get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

Miruna Suru

Inbound marketer @Waylay, background in B2B marketing, trade development, performing arts, passionate about space exploration and storytelling.


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