A day in the life: Adil Aijaz, Principal Software Engineer

June 27, 2011

Two weeks ago, we gave you a glimpse into a day in the life of Kevin Crane, Engineering Intern. Today, we continue the series but turn our attention to Adil Aijaz, a Principal Software Engineer working on our Recommendation Engine.

Our engineers at LinkedIn are creating a valuable user experience for over 100 million professionals everyday. With LinkedIn growing at an unprecedented rate, we are always looking for talented individuals to join our team. To give you an insider’s view into what makes our engineers tick, we’ve asked Adil Aijaz, multi-talented engineer, expert data wrangler, and trail runner, a few questions about working at LinkedIn.

Adil Running

What gets you excited about coming to work everyday?

I get excited by the ability to see millions of LinkedIn members interact with the results of my code as they provide real-time feedback with their behavior. As a result, I have the flexibility to try out many new ideas and let our members decide what they prefer to guide my next steps. I also enjoy the opportunity at LinkedIn to work on the entire application stack: data crunching on Hadoop; machine learning; writing code in the data, application, and presentation layer; all the way to managing our application’s deployment. This well rounded experience keeps things exciting, making everyday different from the last.


What’s unique about being an engineer at LinkedIn?

At LinkedIn, we’re constantly challenged by some pretty big engineering questions that very few companies have to deal with: How do we delight millions of members at scale with speed? How do we leverage the uniquely professional and valuable data we have in ways that will add value to a member’s LinkedIn experience? As engineers, the uniqueness of our experience lies in this combination of constant innovation at scale and speed. For example, our cloud team provides a feature unique among all social networks, which is the shortest path between any two users on the network, up to the third degree network. Providing these paths for any two of the more than 100 million members of LinkedIn in real-time is challenging to say the least. And that is precisely what makes the LinkedIn engineering experience so unique.


How does working at LinkedIn help you develop as a professional?

Before I came to LinkedIn, I worked as a specialized data analyst. I read papers, prototyped ideas, and then let more seasoned systems experts productize my ideas. At LinkedIn, not only have I continued growing in my data analytics role, I have also had to work as a pure software engineer, a site reliability engineer, and a Quality Assurance engineer for my product. This exposure has helped me grow into a well-rounded professional. Of course, data scientists who prefer to stick to pure scientist roles have the freedom to do so at LinkedIn. In addition, LinkedIn gives employees the opportunity to explore new areas through Tech Talks and InDays. I use these opportunities to learn about things that may have nothing to do with my day to day work, but are useful to my professional growth.


What is something you now know about LinkedIn that you didn’t know before you joined?

Before joining LinkedIn, I was not familiar with LinkedIn’s talent pool. Since then, I have been constantly amazed by the talent of my colleagues and the sheer fun of working with them. For instance, one of my colleagues, Anmol Bhasin along with a former colleague, developed the algorithms and platform for recommendations on LinkedIn. Similarly, Jay Kreps read a paper on distributed key value stores, which led to his research that culminated in Voldemort – a critical infrastructure piece that many LinkedIn products use to compute fast data lookups. Our search team wrote an open source, real time, faceted search engine on top of Lucene. Cedric Beust wrote the TestNG framework. On the fun side of life, some of my colleagues are big on organizing surf trips or happy hours. Within my team, we have a tradition called “InPain” which involves doing tough trail runs once a month as a team. All of this contributes to a bottom up way of work-and-play that makes working here enjoyable.


What’s your favorite perk at LinkedIn?

Like other Silicon Valley companies, LinkedIn offers many traditional perks. But, my favorite is not a traditional perk, rather it is courtesy of our office location: the running trail around the office (see picture above). Having meetings over runs along the bay make for the most enjoyable and productive meetings I have had in my career. I’ve had 1-on-1s with my manager, discussed thorny engineering issues with senior engineers, and discussed career issues with my director all over a nice long run along the water’s edge.