My Second ‘First Day’ at Outbrain: A Journey of Internal Mobility

Some of us like certainty, especially at work. We do something once, do it twice, get better and better at it, and plan on continuing in the same path until we retire. Some of us like to spice things up. Uncertainty, new areas, do something you never thought of doing, or never thought you’d have the courage to do.

I’m definitely the second type of person, and I’d like to take you on my journey of how I created my own roller coaster, overcame my fear, and have never looked back.

For my first three years at Outbrain, I was managing the video development team, part of the R&D group. The business domain was completely new for me, I had come from a background of legacy databases, on-prem tools for data replication written in C. What did I have to do with the world of online recommendations, publishers, advertisers, video, JavaScript? Not much! But I took the leap and learnt a lot! I learned about supply and demand, about real time bidding, about integrating with both publishers and advertisers. I remember the feeling after the first meeting where I eventually understood all the terms, I felt incredible. But then, after a few years, something changed. I became jaded, lost the excitement, everything started feeling like ‘been there, done that’.

I knew I had to start looking for something new, as spending too much time in the same position tends to make me complacent.

Lucky me, Outbrain is a firm believer in internal mobility! If someone is looking for the next challenge, it’s better that they look for it in-house, rather than elsewhere. Internal mobility broadens our knowledge and perspective, and is a great step on our career development path. 

And eventually, an amazing opportunity knocked on my door!  Outbrain was looking for a lead for the Delivery team in the Cloud Platform group. DevOps, that magical term. All things Artifactory, BitBucket, TeamCity, and throw in a kubernetes cluster or docker or two.

To apply, or not to apply? Should I go for it? Or perhaps better not…

Again, it’s a matter of character. Some people regret the things they did, some  the things they never tried to do. That’s me.

So I applied, and got the job! Game on.

Now comes the scary part. The roller coaster had slowly climbed to the summit, stopping just for a second for me to gather my thoughts. I heard that initial creaking sound that means only one thing – the plunge.

I met my new team on a video call, and that’s how it was for a while. We worked together for a good few months only by video conference. The first time we went to the office felt like a blind date! I even told the team I was going to wear a flower in my hair to ensure they recognized me!

My first few months were spent learning, learning, and some more learning.

Transitioning from R&D to the Cloud Platform is a very interesting experience. For a developer, to get to see things ‘from the other side’, how things actually work, is an eye opener. Suddenly things aren’t as simple as we thought.

Leading a Cloud Platform team responsible for the developer tools, with a history of actually being a developer, is excellent. I know how we/they actually work, I know what is important for us/them, what a reasonable workaround is, and what isn’t reasonable. (These are actually the same reasons I always like developers who have started out as QA; they understand the needs of the customers.)

The benefits for Outbrain are definitely there – understanding how our customers actually use our tools in their daily development and test cycles, understanding how business changes will affect what we have to support, enables my team to better support the R&D. For me, this experience has been, and still is, amazing. It’s like having the excitement of starting your first day at work all over again, but you have a lot of friends and it isn’t awkward to go to the kitchen by yourself.

For anyone considering internal mobility, I can only advise – go for it.

Interested in becoming a part of Outbrain? Click here to learn about career opportunities.

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