Friday, August 12th, 2011

Servers, Scaling and Happy Hour – Just Another Day on the Operations Team

By

For our latest Boxer spotlight, I spoke with Josh Bancroft, a member of our technical operations team. Though we’ve spent more than a few happy hours chatting together, I was excited to finally figure out exactly what he does at Box (it’s pretty cool) – read on!

What’s your title, and what do you do?

My current title is “web operations engineer,” and I help maintain the entire infrastructure that keeps Box going. Basically, engineers develop the code, and people on my team work to make sure the code runs properly, both internally (for Boxers) and externally (for users). We ensure all the components of Box are running properly – everything from the disks and physical infrastructure to the application itself. It’s a ton of responsibility, but also a whole lot of fun.

So what’s your day to day like?

I spend most of my time thinking about how to strategically scale all our systems. Basically, how do we go from one server to thousands – or even 10′s of thousands– in an organized, secure way? I also work with our engineering team to make sure all our new features function properly and efficiently.

How did you end up at Box?

I’m an East Coast-er originally from Philadelphia. After graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2009, I really wanted to join a company where I could make a big impact. I applied for a job at Box and spoke on the phone with the VP of Technical Operations, who then offered to fly me out to Palo Alto for an interview. Jeff (the VP of Tech Ops) even asked if he could look over my master’s thesis, and I thought that was pretty awesome. Obviously, he liked what he read, and I ended up getting the job!

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on at Box?

I worked on our file previewing feature to make it as scalable and reliable as possible. The way we built it is one of the best features we’ve designed, since we’re now able to add hundreds – even thousands – of servers without it affecting the way the service works. It was a daunting technical challenge, and I’m really proud of how our team managed find an elegant, scalable solution to give our users a great experience. The key is to always think 10x whenever we build a feature!

Technical operations seems like a very specialized field – how did you get into it?

My dad owns a company that installs computer wiring, and when I was younger, I helped him out by figuring out cable pricing when we did building walk-throughs. I ended up doing it for quite a while, and only stopped when I moved away to Rochester for college. I was fascinated with the idea of working on networks, but didn’t want to deal with physical labor – I much prefer the environment of an air-conditioned data center :). In college, I decided to get my degree in networking and security, which is how I ended up doing what I do now.

What do you do when you’re not building Box’s infrastructure?

In spite of what I said earlier, I’m a huge fan of the outdoors, and love to spend my free time hanging out by the pool. If I had more time, I’d like to get into cooking, too. Since I live on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto, I often find myself going out on the town for happy hours with the Box team.

Any advice for people who want a career in your field?

Learn as much as you can right now, and get exposed to as many different environments and situations as possible – be like a sponge. A really smart sponge.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a job, remember to check out our careers page. My team is looking for great people to help us build out our kickass product.