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A Conversation with Patrick Dos Santos, Tech Wizard to the Rescue
Having been at Scality for over eight years, Patrick Dos Santos, Global Support Engineer, stands out for the breadth and depth of his product expertise, which is only more surprising given his relatively young age. It’s no wonder he’s been nicknamed ‘the Wizard’ by some colleagues. He’s one of only four ‘level 3’ experts in the company who provide ‘last resort’ tech support to engineers who are grappling with seemingly unsolvable issues. “We’ve had situations where we’d nearly come to the point of the customer giving up on us, and then he would come to the rescue by changing the setup or finding some way to save it,” explains Serge Halberstadt, VP of Technical Services. “So his ability to rescue situations that everybody thinks are lost is fairly unique.” Despite his immense knowledge and hero-like role in many instances, Patrick stays low-key about his accomplishments. “He’s a star in terms of how much he knows, but he doesn’t act like a star. He’s still humble and always willing to help. This ends up being a unique combination—the knowledgeability, not acting like a ‘diva,’ and the ability to keep calm under stress,” Serge enthuses. I had the pleasure of chatting with Patrick about his love of working under pressure, building things from scratch, and more recently, golf.
JW: As Global Support engineer, you provide ‘last-resort’ support to engineers who are trying to resolve issues at customer sites. And there are just two of you in the Paris office. Does that feel like a lot of pressure?
PD: Well, I’m used to it. When I joined Scality I was the only person doing support, and I did it for five to six years before moving to the Technical Services team. And to be honest, working under pressure is something I like. It’s obviously part of the job, but it’s also something I look for.
JW: Has there ever been something you weren’t able to solve at all?
PD: It may take days or even weeks, but at the end we always manage to solve the issue. It’s only technical stuff, so there’s always a solution to the problem.
JW: What do you enjoy about your work?
PD: First of all, the technical challenge and secondly, working under pressure, which is key for me. It’s part of my character, I would say. Working with the customer is something I also like. I really enjoy working with colleagues. We learn something new every day so that’s another cool part of the job.
JW: You’re known for having a high level of expertise at what you do. How do you manage to keep your knowledge up to date?
PD: Every time you need to solve a problem, you face a new issue. It’s always different. So you need to learn something to solve that issue, basically. So even with the experience I have—I’ve been working in IT for 14 years now—I still need to research on the Internet, try some experiments, and so on. You can’t stay in your position and just rely on your existing skills. You need to learn something every day, otherwise you’ll be out of the loop and end up getting stuck in front of some tough issues. I spend a lot of time doing research on the Internet, reading books, stuff like that, just to make sure I keep up and am up to date on all the new IT. For example, lately I’ve been spending time on Docker, which is a new tool for building a number of small services, as opposed to having everything run on the same machine. That allows you to scale much more easily.
JW: Did you always know you wanted to do computer engineering?
PD: When I was young I spent a lot of time playing video games, but I didn’t start using a computer until I was 16 or so. That was when I started to think seriously about going into computer engineering because it was really fascinating for me. I started spending a lot of time on my computer studying LINUX. I was also playing sports when I was young, but when I was at home, I was always in front of the computer because it was the only thing I wanted to do, basically.
JW: Thinking back on your career, were there any moments that were a turning point for you?
PD: When I started my career, I worked for big companies such as Société Général, and it was really boring. So when I was at the office, I started reading books and doing my own development projects in order to spend time on something that would be useful for me. I realized that I needed to do something more interesting for myself and that I wanted to work for a small company where there would be a lot to do. I wanted to build something from scratch.
JW: Why did you want to build something from scratch?
PD: I like to build things. I don’t like to work on something that wasn’t made by myself. I really like to do everything from the ground up. And so working at Scality was a great opportunity. Also the team was great and I wanted to work with them.
JW: Is there a certain guiding principle that you try to follow in your work?
PD: Not really. I just try to do my best every time. That’s it. There’s nothing else. ‘Good enough’ is not enough for me.
JW: What emerging technology product do you find interesting?
PD: I’m interested in all the crypto spaces and cryptocurrencies. I would say that at some point in the future the crypto space will replace the banking system.
JW: If you were not a computer engineer, what would you be?
PD: When I was fifteen or sixteen, I wanted to be a financial trader. I spent days reading books just to understand how it all works, but in the end I thought, ‘Hmm, that’s a lot of work!’ So I didn’t go for it.
JW: Who has inspired you?
PD: I would say my dad, because he’s a hard worker, and maybe that’s why I work hard as well. He’s in house construction, which is maybe why I like building things.
JW: What’s your favorite thing to do to unwind from all the stress at work?
PD: I like to spend a lot of time playing electric guitar. But lately I’ve started playing golf with my 11-year-old son. It’s amazing. You’re outside, walking on the course…all the stress just goes out of you. It’s great.
JW: What have been your primary guitar inspirations?
PD: When I was young it was metal and hard rock, like Metallica and such. And lately it’s mostly blues, like Jimmy Hendrix, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and so on. Obviously Pink Floyd as well. And David Gilmore is one of my all-time favorite guitarists.
JW: I’ve also heard that you’re a big soccer fan. How did you come to be so passionate about it?
PD: I started playing soccer when I was nine years old. I grew up in eastern Paris, and it’s the major sport there. I played for ten years and then I broke my leg so I had to stop.
JW: If you could be an expert in something else, in addition to computer engineering, what would it be?
PD: Maybe I’d be a sports expert of some kind, like doing analysis of playing strategies.
JW: What’s a bucket list item of yours?
PD: Playing golf at the most famous golf courses, like Carnoustie or Saint Andrews for example. But well, I need a lot of practice before getting there!