New Chapter: Swiftype

So, after a few weeks of looking for a new job I’m really excited to start my journey in a young, but very ambitious startup called Swiftype which is focused on developing a technology for private site search, that could be used on everything from small blogs to large product sites. The company is growing really fast and I’m going to lead all the work on infrastructure, build the ops team and hope to get a chance to do some coding along the way.

New Job: LivingSocial

After 4+ years with Scribd I have decided to move on and join Technical Operations at LivingSocial. I will still be working remotely from apartment in Toronto.

These past 4 years with Scribd were incredible for me: I’ve made many good friends here, I became better as a professional and as a person, and I tried really hard to give back as much as I could. I watched the company grow from a small startup to one of the top 100 web sites in the world. I will definitely be closely watching the company as it grows and reaches its new heights because Scribd became a really important part of my professional and personal life and I really care about its future. My work at Scribd is by far is the longest period I’ve ever worked for the same company (all my previous jobs were ~1-1.5 years long tops) and it is pretty interesting to reflect on what was done in the last years, how the company grew and I grew with it. Even though it is not a technical blog, here is a list of my most interesting projects at Scribd:

  • Rails application deployment infrastructure – We’ve started this project with a few mongrel-based manually managed servers and grew our infrastructure to a large multi-cluster system tightly integrated with CI and monitoring. New infrastructure is fully-automated and is much more stable and performant.
  • Caching Infrastructure – Built by me back in 2009 to help with quickly growing traffic needs the system (based on squid, nginx + custom modules) proven to be really performant, scalable and reliable and is still serving 90%+ of our traffic greatly reducing application cluster load.
  • Multiple MySQL clusters with sharding – We grew from a single server to a large multi-cluster sharded database architecture and I was the person responsible for many parts of the process: from setting up the clusters to writing Rails code to support it (including writing a plugin DbCharmer to add multi-server support to Rails ORM).
  • Large Hbase, Hadoop and Solr clusters for storage and indexing of a multi-terabyte texts collection – After we outgrew our simple sharded mysql cluster for texts storage, I’ve built a new Hbase-based solution that’s proven to be really reliable and scalable and is serving thousands of requests a second for the last few years.

So, thanks Scribd for all the opportunities they gave me and for the great journey we walked together. Good luck guys!

How to Get G1 Driver License in Toronto

And again, quite a long time without posts… hope this one will be useful for new immigrants in Canada.

Last week I decided to take a test for G1 driver license (so called student’s license that’d allow me to take a driving test and then buy a car). After a short research I’ve figured out that I’d need to take the following steps:

  • Get a letter from Ukrainian consulate that’d proof my Ukrainian driver license validity.
  • Go to a drivers test center, pay something about $100, get my vision checked and then take G1 test.

This is it :-) So, on monday I went to Ukrainian consulate on Bloor Street West (next to High Park). I paid $40 for the translation and approval of the validity and it took them 3 days to finish the work. Procedure was pretty straighforward and I really liked the experience of working with Ukrainian consulate.

When I got the papers, I went to the test center in the Downsview Park. They checked my vision, asked me to pay $85 and gave me the test papers. In 15 minutes I was a proud owner of a G1 drivers license and now I’m going to prepare for the driving test.

Hope this helps someone.

From Syracuse to Montreal

Post by William MacDonald

I immigrated to Canada about three years ago. I was born and raised in Syracuse, NY in a residential area called Strathmore. It was a nice neighborhood; homeland of Onondaga Park, Syracuse’s Historic Preservation District.

I moved from Strathmore to attend Syracuse University, majoring in Broadcast Journalism. I was very happy with my university experience but if there was anything that journalism had taught me, it was that I needed some real life experience too. And, to gain it, I would have to step outside my Syracustic comfort zone.

Okay, so I didn’t venture off to India or anything, but come on, I had been living in Syracuse all my life! And, I knew that Canada had cities like Toronto and Montreal, which embraced a great variety of cultures that I could surround myself with.

Deciding between Montreal and Toronto was tough. Both cities had a lot to offer. But I was very attracted to the idea of Montreal- a bilingual city. French Canadian culture and politics fascinated me and I thought it would be good to learn a new language.

I figured the best way to integrate myself was to apply to school. So I applied for a student visa at College Platon, a language school in the city’s Plateau area, in order to learn French. A few months later, I got my acceptance and it was finally time to say goodbye to Syracuse.

I did quite a bit of traveling back and forth from Syracuse to Montreal, trying to find an apartment near school. It was a great area, surrounded by trendy bars, shops, restaurants and a wonderful community of local artists. What a change from my home town! It was every bit as cool as New York City, but so much more intimate. I was in love.

I found myself a small studio apartment on St. Viateur Street (just across the street from the best bagel shop in the world). Once I was settled in, the job search began. I desperately needed a part-time job while I was going to school. This was a bit tricky though, considering the language barrier. The Canadian business directory became my new form of literature. I called just about every broadcasting, media, and newspaper outlet I could find, over a month’s span. I attended copious interviews, until finally, I got hired!

It was a part-time job as a technical writer for a pharmaceutical company. Not that I had much experience, but they needed English writers and I was willing to do anything at that point.

I became very good friends with one of my work colleagues and she helped me improve my French. She was like my own personal tour guide, introducing me to all the best kept secrets of the city. We went to great local restaurants; the Jean Talon market; theatre productions; live music shows; jazz clubs…. Needless to say, I fell madly in love with this girl and after six months, we moved in together.

After about two years of living together, I decided to propose, and lucky for me, she said “yes”. I was thrilled. By this point, I was done school and had started working as a Personality Afternoon Host for AM Talk Radio station, CJAD. I am currently still working at the station. My wife is now a Senior Medical Writer and Research Assistant for another pharmaceutical company.

Montreal has become my home.

Blog updates

And again, after quite a long period of silence on this blog I’ll try to start writing here. So, pretty soon I’m going to cover the following news from our life in Canada:

  • We’ve got new US visas for me and Tanya, this time – in Toronto consulate
  • We’ve applied (yes, finally!) for Permanent Residence in Canada
  • We’re still thinking about buying an apartment in Toronto
  • And finally, we’ve been to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario

One more update on this blog future: today we’re saying Welcome to another blog author here, William MacDonald, who was born in Syracuse, NY and immigrated to Montreal, Canada. I hope his stories will be interesting for my readers and we’ll make this blog more fun to read.

Starting Over: Changed My Employer

It took a long time before I decided to continue writing about our life in Canada. I wasn’t writing too much because many interesting and (sometimes) disturbing things were happening here, but now it looks like everything is fine again so it is time to tell our story here (see this and other following posts) :-)

So, as you maybe noticed in this post’s subject, I’ve changed my work place. It was quite a painful process because my new employer is a company from the US. Actually, there were many factors which made this process painful and one of them was the fact that we didn’t know (we weren’t sure) that a US company could hire non-canadian citizens who are temporary canadian residents now. At the end we’ve retained really great lawyers (the best immigration lawyer in Canada and one of the best in the world) and they’ve helped us to fill all papers and make it easy to switch to the new employer.

My new employer is Scribd.com – online document publishing company which is in top-500 sites in the Internet now (and growing). My primary duties there as a Scalability Expert are “simple” – our site needs to be able to keep up with growing popularity of the service. :-) I still work remotely from Totonto, company’s head office is located in San Francisco, California.

So, here we are, I’ve started writing new posts again :-) And, to emphasize the major idea of the post I’d like to say it again: if you’re not a canadian citizen, you CAN switch to a new employer even if it is non-canadian company (at least it works for the US companies).

Интересное видео о Торонто

Сегодня нашел очень интересный видео-ролик о Торонто. Очень понравилось в нем то, что видео не профессиональное, а просто любительская сьемка того, что видят глазами жители и гости города. Ну, вот так и живем :-)