Ninjas are hard to find these days but we have our own right here – his name is Kaarel. He is the person who was last year described as “Office Ninja who does his job quietly and seemingly effortlessly in the background, comes to the office as if he’s in stealth mode (blink and you’ll miss him!), and is so quick-witted you never know when you’ll be hit by another on-point remark.” But who is this fascinating man behind the ninja mask?
Photo: private collection

Kaarel describes his journey of finding Positium as a very straightforward story. He was looking for a job and Positium happened to have an opening for an unusually specific position – Spark-oriented big data processing specialist. This happened to closely match Kaarel’s existing skills and interests. He actually had no knowledge of the company beforehand, so he guesses that it was mostly luck or fortunate coincidence that he ended up in Positium.

By today, he has been working here for two years as Big Data Systems’ Developer. This involves improving Positium’s existing data processing solutions and implementing new ones with a focus on high performance and scalability. He says that the work involves development of both traditional SQL database approaches as well as more scalable solutions like Apache Spark and Hadoop-based systems.

“There is a great feeling of success when a small change to the code saves hours or days of calculation time.”

This might sound difficult to many people but Kaarel has acquired his knowledge from the University of Tartu by learning computer science with a focus on distributed systems. In addition, he has done writing and editing for an Estonian e-textbook on beginner-level programming. But that’s not all: Kaarel has also worked as an assistant teacher holding beginner-level practical sessions in programming at the University of Tartu. He is a man of many talents and we are happy he’s part of our team!

Kaarel says he likes to work with mobile positioning data because developing big data processing systems really gives a sense of empowerment. He finds it exciting to make the impossible possible, to solve problems that would take prohibitively long to compute with naive approaches. “Working at Positium has given me many opportunities to tackle tasks that feel important and impactful. There is a great feeling of success when a small change to the code saves hours or days of calculation time,” Kaarel explains. He also believes that MPD has a lot of potential if used properly and he likes that his own work can contribute towards positive improvements across the world.

Kaarel at Montjuïc Castle in Barcelona in 2016. Photo: private collection

In this complicated, yet interesting world of developing big data systems, Kaarel thinks the main challenge is to combine correctness with high performance. He describes that Positium’s data processing model involves a considerable number of steps across several different input and intermediate datasets. This is also the reason why optimisation is both necessary and challenging.

Besides unravelling the mysteries of datasets, Kaarel is a fan of computer and board games and has a reasonably sized collection of both physical and digital games. He considers himself too lazy to walk so he rides a bicycle all year round, even in –20°C winters. Kaarel encourages it also by saying: “It's not difficult if the roads are reasonably maintained, your bike has winter tyres and you wear snowboarding or mountain climbing-appropriate gloves and facewear.“

When asked to describe himself as an animal, Kaarel chose “sloth” and explained it as being deliberately slow (or lazy overall). He also associates it with thinking before acting and not acting when not needed. He says, “There are always more problems for those that look for them.”

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