Meet The Engineer

Meet the Engineer: Tzu-Li (Gordon) Tai

In this this edition of our “Meet the Engineer” series, I’d like to introduce my colleague Gordon Tai. He works remotely from Taipei, Taiwan, and he is the only member of the data Artisans team in Asia; so as part of his job, he is able to visit other countries, such as South Korea and Japan, to give talks and training sessions. I hope you enjoy learning more about him!

What do you work on at data Artisans?
At data Artisans, I mainly work with the open source community surrounding Apache Flink. The majority of my work consists of maintaining and shepherding some of the most widely used Flink connectors, including Apache Kafka, AWS Kinesis, and Elasticsearch. Recently, I’ve also started to get my feet wet with features surrounding Flink’s state management.

What do you enjoy about your job?
The openness and transparency of my everyday open-source work is something I really enjoy. For me, there’s nothing more rewarding as a software engineer than constantly getting feedback from an international community of users and peer developers on code that you care about.

data Artisans engineer and Apache Flink committer Gordon Tai

Are you a contributor or committer to any Apache projects?
As of now, I have been contributing to Apache Flink for around 18 months. I’m very excited to have recently just become a PMC member of the project.

Before joining data Artisans and contributing to Flink full-time, I was actually already a Committer at Apache Flink. I got familiar with Flink while working on a real-time online ad targeting system that I wanted to revamp by introducing Flink into the solution. At the time, Flink still lacked an exactly-once AWS Kinesis connector and became a blocker for us since we used Kinesis as the main event source. This connector ended up being my very first Flink contribution. 

What do you like about Apache Flink?
I really like how the system addresses in very smart ways some of the biggest pain points that the data stream processing space had blindly ignored over the past few years. This statement comes from a previous user of data streaming engines (me ;)) who had tried very hard to build a system that is both robust with stateful streaming computations (which is basically 99% of serious applications) and efficient at the same time.

Now as a developer of the project, I really enjoy how the community is together constantly pushing forward the boundaries of the field.

What is your advice for someone who is interested in participating in any open source project for the first time?
For the majority of contributors who, like my previous self, cannot work full time on contributing to open source projects, I would advise that you find a project that resonates with you. I find that this resonation is what really drives sustainable contribution.

As for solid starter tips for Flink or other Apache projects in general, I would recommend to take a look at this presentation by me. 😀

How did you get into programming?
I never really was a “ninja” or “rockstar” at programming. Neither was I a childhood prodigy who started programming during early school years.

Like the average Joe, I started with Computer Science as my major at university. During my studies I was also taking a lot of courses on various engineering disciplines. That includes Material Science, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. You would find me context switching a lot between figuring out the amount of force required to apply a specific torque on a bar of some metal, and a few hours after proving the asymptotic performance of some sort of algorithm. In the end, I stuck with Computer Science as it spoke more sense to me.

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
Although Taiwanese, I actually can read and write English better than Mandarin, but I still speak Mandarin far more fluently than my English.

This is an odd result of spending most of my childhood language-learning prime years in England. After returning back to Taiwan, I had to learn to read and write Mandarin from scratch the hard way, which I never really caught up with.

Where is your favorite place to travel? Why?
I’ve been to quite a handful of places before on my vacations, but Japan is hands down my favorite location so far, especially suburban areas such as Nara. Places like Nara usually aren’t the place to go for most Japan visitors, but I really enjoy it for its tranquilness and how you are naturally immersed by the beauty of traditional Japanese cultures while biking around town.

Also, if you’re into Asian cuisine, Japan is definitely somewhere you should visit at least once in your lifetime. In the photo below you can see me lining up for a delicious fried beef don; that’s actually the second time I waited in that line in 2 consecutive days in Kyoto just because the don was so, so good (that should explain the excessive excitement on my face 😉 ).
data Artisans engineer and Apache Flink committer Gordon Tai waits in line for beef don
You can follow Gordon on Twitter @tzulitai, Github, and LinkedIn

Here are some of Gordon’s talks:

Joining the Scurry of Squirrels: Contributing to Apache Flink (Flink Forward SF 2017)
Managing State in Apache Flink (Flink Forward Berlin, September 2017)
The Stream Processor as a Database: Building Event-Driven Applications with Apache Flink (Strata Singapore, December 2017)

We’re hiring! Check out the data Artisans careers page to learn about open positions. We have open roles based in our Berlin office as well as in the U.S.