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Free Fridays: A Technical Writer Works Toward a Graduate Degree in Computer Science

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Free Fridays: A Technical Writer Works Toward a Graduate Degree in Computer Science

Cockroach Labs' Free Fridays let employees spend time on side projects. This technical content marketing manager is working on a CS degree.

· Writers' Zone ·
Free Resource

Over the next few months, we plan to share with you what some of our Roachers are working on for their Free Friday projects. Our Fridays are given to employees as a day to self-manage, where they can decide to come into the office or WFH and to focus on work priorities or a side project. We hope this helps explain the bigger picture of one of our company values: Establish Balance.

-Chelsea Lee, Culture and Office Experience Manager 

Sean Loiselle, Technical Content Marketing Manager

What is your role at Cockroach Labs?

At Cockroach Labs, I'm the Technical Content Marketing Manager, which is a fancy way of saying I write and manage technical blog posts and other miscellaneous hypertext deliverables. I started at Cockroach Labs as a Senior Technical Writer and that's where my background lies.

What do you do day to day at Cockroach Labs?

I spend a lot of time researching the content for our current or upcoming campaigns. This means reading a lot of other company's documentation, watching talks on YouTube, and figuring out how to integrate Cockroach with other technologies.

Then there's actually writing, editing, and publishing the content which takes an incredible amount of time — not only do I have to keep the internals of CockroachDB in mind, but also how it interfaces with the rest of the world. I also tinker around on creating scripts for doing marketing analysis, though it's been a side-side project and I'd like to spend more time on that in the future.

What does Free Friday mean to you?

Free Friday is my chance to grow. Cockroach Labs really prizes the fact that it lets employees determine how best to use their time on Fridays, and I try really hard to push myself to understand things that were totally foreign to me before.

What is your current Free Friday project?

I've been building out a way to simplify how CockroachDB users can access the database's introspective metrics — things like storage space, currently running goroutines, and aborted transactions — by building a catalog of charts. The nice thing about the way I've done this is that developers can easily add new charts to this catalog with a few lines of code. So, not only do I want it to be easy for users to consume these metrics, but I also want to make it easy for our team to be able to expand the number of them we track and make them useful.

Up next, I'm working on building more autonomous ways to detect cases where the metrics are out-of-whack and determine when that means that there's something awry in a CockroachDB cluster.

What else have you done on a Free Friday?

I built a classroom/learning management system in Node.js for an education startup. I got pretty far along with the project attempting to dogfood CockroachDB, but I ended up moving it over to PostgreSQL because I needed some data manipulation functions we didn't support at the time.

Describe a typical Free Friday.

I sleep in until 10 a.m., and then start in on class work (I'm enrolled in a grad program in CS which was paid for by Learning is Good, a program that gives employees an annual stipend to support the enhancement of knowledge and skills). Once that's done — typically around noon or 1 p.m. — I pick up where I left off the week before on one of my other engineering projects. I'll work on this until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., and then grab dinner out in the city.

How does Free Friday support your long term goals?

I would like to move into software development and Free Friday has been a way forward with that.

At a higher level, Free Fridays creates space to engage in the work I find most meaningful and exciting. There's something really positive and reaffirming in the fact that the only person I'm truly accountable to for how I spend this time is myself. You have to reckon with what you really want to do, and Free Friday has been a great catalyst for that. If I wasn't willing to invest time in it, even though I am literally being paid to do it, is it really that important to me?

Please share any other topics that may be related to Free Friday or that you want to share.

Free Friday is the benefit I care about most at Cockroach. If keeping it meant that I had to give back 20 percent of my pay, I would in a heartbeat.

Illustration by Quentin Vijoux
writers zone ,time management ,cockroachdb ,technical writing ,graduate school

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