Time flies when you’re having fun, right? In the same year that we celebrate being 25 years old, we are also completely stoked to celebrate our growth in such a small amount of time. We are rolling out the “green carpet” for our 1,000 employee, Valentin Rothberg. I had a moment to chat with him on his journey thus far…check it out below!
Kubernetes Core Team
Q: Congrats on being named SUSE’s 1,000 employee! Kind of a mini celebrity around here. Tell us about yourself. Roles you’ve held in the past, your role at SUSE, family life, anything quirky or interesting hobbies?
A: Before joining SUSE, I worked in research and academia for around three years at various places such as Paris, Erlangen and Hanover. Besides research, I also did some teaching in operating-system development, which is something I really enjoyed. My role at SUSE is to support the Kubernetes core team on low-level issues related to the Docker container engine project, the Linux kernel and the ecosystems that grew around them.
My big passion is music. I play the bass and came to learn it for the most classical reason: I was worse at playing the guitar than the other guy. Since then I played various kinds of music and that’s very important to me – to try things out. I don’t want to be stuck, so I love to experiment and explore. Here and there I help out in bands of friends, which is always a good time. A funny fact: my bass lessons were in the same building I am working at right now! My teacher, Peter Haag, taught me how to play and, more importantly, how to feel music and I appreciate that a lot.
Q: Very cool. Perhaps there’s a spot for you in the SUSE band? You mentioned you worked in academia prior to coming to SUSE. What made you make the leap? Why SUSE?
A: Working at SUSE feels natural. I am passionate about open source and when it comes to work, I value working in a collaborative and open-minded environment.
During my time in academia, I had the pleasure to meet and collaborate with a bunch of people from SUSE; developers and managers from different domains. All of them are genuinely nice people and told me what a wonderful place SUSE is. Their strong passion really impressed me, and although I just started in May, I share their experience. I don’t want to “just work”, I want it to be something I truly enjoy.
What I also enjoy is that all people, including managers, have a technical background, which I think is critically important for a technology company. At SUSE, your boss is most likely a better programmer and is certainly eager to share her knowledge and experience with you. Awesome!
Q: What excites you most about working for SUSE?
A: I am really excited having joined the Kubernetes core team. Containerization is a comparably young technology, so things develop and evolve at an incredibly fast pace, so I see a great opportunity to contribute on something big. Although everybody has an assigned position, the team takes a lot of care that everybody can work on various topics, which is a great opportunity to continuously learn new things. So besides my low-level tasks, I can also get in touch with front-end development, packaging, container orchestration and much more topics. Supporting such specialized all-round knowledge avoids the infamous “knowledge silos”. Competences and knowledge are truly shared – all in the spirit of open source 🙂 Apropos open source: the team is not only doing enterprise, but we’re actively maintaining and contributing to various projects in the container domain. I see a great time ahead of me! You see, it’s hard for me to say what excites me most.
Q: And you’ve joined at quite an exciting time! You’ve spent a great deal of time in academia working with students. Why do you feel careers in STEM are often overlooked and what can we do about it?
A: This is a complicated issue, but I love to philosophize and here is my condensed point of view. In general, the choice of studying what and where is really hard, especially in a globalized world where so many doors are waiting to be opened. I experienced a general perception of STEM being something nerdy or even rocket science, and I believe that this perception comes from a general lack of understanding how science and technology work on a very basic level. This is bad, because it makes people blind to the beauty of what one can create when having this knowledge. We should encourage young people’s interest into science as much as possible, and if I made it through the courses, it definitely cannot be rocket science.
Today, in contrast to my school time, there are some really good computer science and programming courses and events for students at schools, so I believe we are on a good track. And many resources come from the free and open-source software community, such as the Raspberry Pi, which is a great thing as those devices are also affordable and education must be affordable. SUSE, on the other hand, just started an academic program offering schools and universities access to various resources and tools and most importantly, knowledge. I find this wonderful, and to be honest, not because I am working for SUSE, but because the program spreads open source. I believe that open source really plays a big role in education, since it enables a true understanding of how things work and allows people to experiment and improve things. It also encourages the spirit of sharing, which, considering the daily news, wouldn’t hurt to be practiced more often.
Q: Out of all of the focus areas in IT, why open source technology?
A: I believe that education is the key to solve (nearly) all problems, and open source allows people to acquire knowledge, which ultimately gives me the feeling to work on something that matters. All romance aside, there is also a mutual benefit for all entities involved, independent if it’s a private contributor or a big company. The Linux kernel community gives a good explanation why.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Everybody practicing kindness and empathy – qualities that keep the world sane.
Q: Something we definitely need more of right now. On a more serious note (lol), who are you currently listening to in the music space?
A: The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I (could) listen to their Californication Album everyday and it never gets boring. I also play those songs for almost 15 years now for practicing purposes, but there’s always a detail to explore that I was blind to before, or a thing left to be improved or improvised. Listening to them brings me to another, pretty nice place.
Q: Good ear and great choice! RHCP are definitely a classic. You also listed one of your interests as gaming. What are you currently playing?
A: I recently finished the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game is wonderful and I feel that it’s made with plenty of love and care. But my fiance and I just adopted a cat, so I am pretty sure the Nintendo won’t receive much attention in the near future.
Q: Hahaha! Congrats on becoming a pet owner and the engagement as well! A lot of firsts for you! Pets are definitely like babies so your time may indeed be limited. Good thing you work for such a flexible company! Speaking of which, how has the experience been working at SUSE thus far?
A: Great offices, great colleagues, great team, great place.
Q: We currently have over 130 open roles. Any words of wisdom for those looking for a change in career?
A: Just do it! A job application can be a stressful process and preparing for interviews means to deal with some unknown variables. As this is my first job outside of academia I did not know what to expect, but in the end I really enjoyed the ride.