MongoDB CTO: What today’s developers need to succeed

MongoDB CTO Mark Porter discusses relational snobbery, the triumph of JSON, the importance of trust, how companies mismanage developers, and how the third tier needs to evolve.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Porter: Frankly, given that my kids or wife might read this, I better be honest and admit that we’re all still struggling with my work/life “harmony,” as I like to call it. I’ve always loved working and still do, and it’s sometimes hard for my family to see me making some of my choices. That said, I also love my dear wife and soulmate and my five kiddos and I love spending time with them. I’ve made progress. I have even learned to disconnect occasionally in the last couple years!

You might wonder what I mean by “harmony” rather than “balance.” In Agile, we talk about a “prioritized backlog,” which is just a fancy way of saying “a list of things in strictly prioritized order.” But people think they need to divide work and home and build two backlogs. Where I’ve seen people fail, and where I am trying to do better, is by having a single prioritized backlog rather than two separate ones which both have a “priority one.” When you have two backlogs, you have to have some meta-prioritization process to determine which priority one to look at. People think this works because “balance” implies some kind of time budget— and so they rigidly agree on boundaries of time and boundaries on clocks and calendars. But with a wife, five kids, and an executive job, that just doesn’t work. The needs of my life surge back and forth between the two and can’t easily be predicted. So the system has to account for that.

Sometimes, for days or weeks or even months at a time, the items on the top of that merged list are mostly work — and sometimes they are mostly family. I’ve found workplaces amazingly supportive during times of family stress, and my family has been unbelievably supportive — pretty much all the time. The key, if I had to name a single thing, is not to let the pressure of both — that meta issue of having two priority one items fighting with each other —  get to you. Don’t be in “the sandwich.” Instead discuss what’s going on with all your stakeholders and come to an agreement.

On a side note, I owe the birth of this philosophy to the recently deceased Clay Christensen and his piece “How will you measure your life.” I strongly suggest that every parent, executive, and partner read it.

Tyson: What are you most hopeful or excited about in terms of where software and technology might head in the near future?

Porter: What I’m most excited about is what I call the “new third tier.” We used to think about three tiers as “client/server/database,” or “presentation/application/data,” and the developers for the first two tiers had to provision, wire up, and maintain everything in that third tier. Not only that, but the third tier was just data, not the manipulation, movement, or governance of that data. That’s all changing.

The third tier that developers of today need has to have so much more in it. Look at the cloud providers with their hundreds of services, all trying to provide these foundational services. But the problem is that they gave people a toolbox and parts, not the well-designed integrations they need today so that they can focus on their business logic and building apps. I believe in a completely different approach to that third tier. With new best-of-breed software platforms like MongoDB, we can re-invent the third tier to have all of those mission-critical capabilities that developers need. Starting with the database, but adding built-in search, mobile sync, visualization, streaming, analytics, and everything else developers need—all in an open-standards, integrated, composable way.

My personal goal is to make the developer of today feel like they are working with an elegant and delightful system, one that handles all their data fluidly while not locking them into anything they don’t want. And, pretty shamelessly, I’ll close up by saying that if you want to learn more about all this, you can see me at MongoDB World in New York, our first big in-person event since the pandemic started, June 7 through June 9. I’ll be doing a keynote and “meet the CTO” sessions as well. I look forward to seeing you and your readers there!

Tyson: This is a tantalizing vision of things to come. Thanks again, Mark. I’m excited to watch where both you and MongoDB go in the future!

Porter: Thanks so much for the chat. It’s been fun and I look forward to readers’ comments. I can be reached at @MarkLovesTech on Twitter or on LinkedIn at MarkLovesTech. And I truly do love tech!

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
How to choose a low-code development platform