Lucy Talbot · March 28, 2022
Introducing Alex Lagerström, Principal Engineer
This is the second in our series of team interviews showcasing the talent at Tactic. We are a unique and talented bunch (in our unbiased opinion!), spread around 7 countries and counting. We think the world deserves to meet the personalities who, from Monday to Friday, are typically found building a new category of data automation. Alex has been with us since early 2022, when he joined the Data Engineering team to make our search more powerful. He’s a professional problem-solver and a key component to Tactic’s scale. Get to know him a little better below.
Hi Alex. What’s your job?
I’m a Principal Engineer at Tactic. Right now we’re a really small team so I do a bit of everything across the data engineering department, same as everyone else. But I was brought in to look at some of the bigger picture aspects of how we make our technical decisions. I do a lot of problem-solving between what the product needs and what we can do on the tech side to fulfil those needs. Basically, working on getting the product to be the best it can be.
What experience or ambition led to you working for a startup or startups?
Yeah, I’ve worked for a few actually. I joined Spotify in 2013. That was my first real startup experience, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was all about freedom. There weren’t many rules or policies when it came to data engineering - it was just like, let’s get it done. I think we had stickers saying, ‘think it, build it, ship it, tweak it’. My real passion is for building things over maintaining them, and I like to be inspired by new projects. Plus, I really like the culture you get in very small companies to collaborate and work with your instincts. I like to feel that I’m really making an impact.
What did you find attractive about Tactic when you applied to work here?
Jack reached out to me over LinkedIn and we had some nice introductory chats about the problems they were trying to solve at Tactic. That was what fascinated me. Tactic’s goals are for a product that is, engineering-wise, very complicated. I immediately wanted the opportunity to work on it and design the roadmap. I often read up on engineering case studies for smart solutions, and I’ve been looking for my next project to immerse myself in. Tactic is it!
What are you excited to achieve at Tactic?
As of now, what I’m looking forward to is getting the real-time search response working and scaling up our pipeline. Those problems go hand in hand, in a way. We’re working towards getting Google-speed search results for our users. To get there we need to solve a few more problems, but it’s going to happen and I'm excited about it.
What’s your favourite app in your stack - as simple as sticky notes, or as sophisticated as you like - and why?
My favourite note-taking program is Obsidian. I’ve been using it for a while and I really like how the user interface is so intuitive for programmers, especially for fast formatting. There are keystrokes to quickly make something a heading, for example. It’s really useful for making read-me files on GitHub, which I do on a regular basis.
What’s the best part of remote-first working?
I would say the freedom. It’s very easy to handle your life admin during the day and be flexible with your hours as needed, because you’re not having to go from a to b in the morning and evening. It’s also easy to do an early start at home, whereas in an office you’d be all alone with the lights off. Not having a commute is amazing. I live in a town called Linköping which I think has the best startup culture in Sweden after Stockholm (which is just 2 hours away). I moved here because I wanted to live here anyway, and then became a remote worker afterwards but it’s a place full of startups and a tech university campus so I’m in good company even when working from home.
If you could work remotely from anywhere in the world for a week, where would it be?
To be honest, I would be at home because I have a great set-up here. I would have liked to say the International Space Station or something cool like that, but I imagine the internet connection would be horrible.
Home is where the heart is. Any work from home rituals?
I always get up and get properly dressed first thing. I like to warm up into my day by checking email and making some to-do lists. I read through my code from the day before while I finish my breakfast. All of these things are more reading and less typing, so they’re a nice start to the day.
Sounds idyllic. I can see a piano behind you! Any musical rituals?
I wish I could say I played it a lot, but at the moment its job is to be a nice Zoom background.
What are your go-to emojis on Slack?
The one called something like the sweaty smile, or the nervous smile! Maybe that’s me as a person, but it fits so many contexts. I use it all the time. 😅
What food and drink power you through the work day?
If I’m working late in the afternoon or evening, it’s good to have some candy to snack on. Usually chocolates or some squishy, sugary jelly sweets.
How do you switch off from work mode?
This is really important. On the weekends I might look at Slack and email on my phone but I really try not to turn on my computer. It’s not a hard rule, but I try my best because it takes a lot to keep your mind off work for those couple of days, and it makes a big difference if you can. On the weekdays my hard deadline for finishing up in the evening is 8pm so that I can wind down and get a good night’s sleep.
Dogs or cats?
Burgers or hot dogs?
Mac or Windows?
Slack or Zoom?
Film or TV?
City or countryside?
Spring, summer, autumn, winter?
Definitely summer! I’m Swedish and our midsommar festival is a highlight of the year.