Mohammed Ridwanul Islam: How Mentorship, the T Model and a Pen Are the Keys to His Success
Mohammed’s feature is part of our series called Behind The Code, where we share the stories of our employees and how they’re solving meaningful problems at Shopify and beyond.
Mohammed Ridwanul is a software engineer on the Eventscale team and joined Shopify a year and a half ago.
Mohammed grew up in Dubai but was born in Noakhali, a small village in Bangladesh before moving when he was five. The village was far-removed from technology — most of the areas had no electricity, and you could count the number of TVs with one hand. The people of Noakhali were extremely practical and had ingenious solutions to the problems that would arise. Adults who had an engineering education or background were highly-regarded for how they improved the quality of life in the village. This inspired and motivated Mohammed to pursue a career in engineering, and he hopes eventually, to impact communities the way those individuals did to his.
What has your career path looked like?
I’ve had the opportunity to work in different industries including sales, advertising, and design. Also, I’m an avid musician and love making my own music and doing shows with my band. With all these different skills, I thought perhaps I could make my own game. While trying to learn everything I could about game development, I wrote my first line of code which was in C#.
All my experiences have one thing in common; I love to face tough challenges and see a rapid manifestation of the things I do or build. So, I studied engineering and got an internship working at Shopify during my undergrad which turned into my current full-time role.
What type of Engineering did you study?
I went to the University of Waterloo and took a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Electrical Engineering.
What does your team do at Shopify?
The Eventscale team is part of the Data Platform Engineering organization. Shopify receives an immense amount of data. Acquiring such large amounts of data so that we can clean, process, reliably store, and provide easy access for analysis, requires highly performant specialized tools and infrastructure. The Data Platform Engineering team are responsible for building these tools.
The Eventscale team builds the tools, libraries, and infrastructure to collect event-oriented streaming data. This data is used for both internal and merchant analytics and other operational needs. We build for all platforms at Shopify including web, backend, and mobile.
What was something difficult for you to learn, and how did you go about acquiring it?
During my first time leading a team project, I had some challenges learning useful team management principles. Like understanding the needs of each team member, aligning everyone to a shared vision and goal to get the work done, required a different set of skills which took time and experience to learn. Luckily my senior co-workers consistently mentored me and taught me concepts such as project cost estimates, team management strategies, success metrics, and other fundamental project management principles. My team lead also guided me towards several books and whitepapers from other companies which have helped me develop strong opinions related to project management and strategy. Check out my Goodreads profile for a list of those books and read Ben Thomson's work on Stratechery.com.
How does your daily routine help you cultivate a good work ethic?
Habits, in my opinion, are useful in navigating life. I believe humans are creatures of habits; it’s challenging to have a constant cognitive load to tell yourself to do x, y and z tasks that are good for you. Instead, by building a habit, you reduce the load as your body and mind start to realize that this is a way of life. My daily routine helped me achieve this habit formation.
What’s your favorite dev tool?
VIM. It has a learning curve, but you can have so much fun with it once you learn it. VIM is an editor you can mold into your own little product; personalized for you with custom configurations using dotfiles. You can pretty much make it behave however you want. I love it! If you’re interested, feel free to check out my custom VIM settings.
What’s your favorite language and why?
Java, mostly because it’s a strongly typed language, and to this day I prefer explicitly defining types without having the language make assumptions on types.
Are you working on any side projects?
Yes, I’m working on an enterprise project management software that can be used by a consulting team to manage a large number of projects in parallel. Essentially, it’s a centralized repository for all the current projects that the consultants are handling, along with the cost breakdown and timeline details. Also, it allows the user to dig into each project further and keep records of how human resources are applied. The software tries to enforce a framework of thinking about resource management and project strategy which I have developed over the years.
What are some ways you think through challenging work?
Writing things down on paper has been my go-to method to work through challenging things. I don’t start writing code until I’ve designed the overall larger components on paper. Similarly, for any other situations in life, writing has always helped me tackle challenges.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann and The Essential Rumi by Rumi.
What is the best career advice you’ve gotten?
It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it meets two criteria: 1. It positively impacts society and is aligned with your values, and 2. It allows you to push and grow yourself by doing work to the best of your abilities.
What kind of advice would you give to someone trying to break into the technology industry?
I’m a big fan of the “T” model of learning, which essentially states that you should try and be competent in a few different things (small horizontal line), but you should strive to be the authoritative figure for at least one thing (longer vertical line). Programming might be the tool used to solve tough engineering problems, but the ability to solve problems is the more critical skill. So focus on chiseling that ability which comes with exposure and specialization in one specific area.
If you’d like to get in touch with Mohammed, check out his website www.mohammedri.com.
We’re hiring! If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our Engineering career page for available opportunities.
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