Mic Drop

DCL Mic Drop: James Nestler

  • 5 April 2021
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DCL Mic Drop: James Nestler
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DCL Mic Drop #3

The Department of Customer Love (DCL) is Looker’s all-knowing support team. Yes, they're actually called that. They’re kind of the brains behind this whole operation! You may have talked to them via support chat or on a ticket, or maybe even in the Looker Community.

 

Besides being true Looker savants and genuinely interesting characters, DCLers deeply understand our users’ experiences and challenges because they’re in the code with users like you every day, helping them work through it. 

 

Each month we publish a new Mic Drop to give you a glimpse behind the curtain to meet one of these fabled DCLers in a fun, interview-style format. We will learn a bit about the individual powering the chat magic, as well as leveraging their expertise as they select 3-5 Knowledge Drops that all users should definitely check out!

 

Last time, we had @wonkyoung.park 

This month, we have the pleasure of learning from @jamesnestler

 

Michael:  ‘James Nestler the Data Wrestler’. . . can I call you that? 

 

James:  Haha, that has a nice ring to it - I’ll take it! 

 

M:  It really does! Also, very accurate because you’ve been in DCL quite a while now. How long exactly? 

 

J: You’re right it has been a while actually! I’ll have been with Looker for 3 years this November. It’s been quite the journey and never expected to end up acquired by Google when I first started working here. 

 

M: I definitely hear you on that. I’ll never forget how mind-blown I was by DCL when I first started working at Looker. Seeing so many smart people working together at that giant 4th floor kitchen table, music bumping in the background, sharing lookml hacks. It’s quite the vibe you all have created! How have you been able to maintain that collaborative energy during remote life?

 

J: It certainly has been challenging - our support team really has relied on a “hive mind” approach to helping people use Looker, and COVID made that a bit more complicated. One of the things we implemented pretty early on in WFH was a virtual “Kitchen Table” Meet room running 24/7 where folks could drop in and ask questions, or just hang out. We’ve also been pretty well positioned to handle WFH because of how baked into our org’s culture collaboration and knowledge sharing are. I can only imagine how difficult it is for organizations that didn’t have that going into COVID.

 

M: It’s really cool to hear how fast you all took action to develop a format that maintained the cooperative team ethos. One thing I’ve noticed within DCL over the years is a lot of people seem to have a speciality or an area they really love in particular (Git, databases, etc.) - do you have a specific area of expertise or technical area you enjoy more than others? and if yes, why?

 

J: You know, it is interesting how we specialize - sort of by necessity given how limited bandwidth can be. For the most part we all start out as generalists and over time sortaf settle on a few topics that we feel most comfortable with. For me those are how looker integrates with databases and how we do git. Lately I’ve also been playing around with our SDKs a bit. 

 

M: Hot potato: If you could run a query and exchange that expertise in database integrations/git for an expertise in something totally different - and I mean anything - what would it be? 

 

J: How much expertise in the topic do I get in exchange? Knowing how to write an app in C would be a pretty nice skill to have. :D

 

M: That would be cool! And incredibly practical. Making me reconsider my choice of tightrope unicycling. Speaking of queries though - we asked others in the last two interviews, so I gotta ask you: What’s the last table calc you wrote, and what does it do?

 

J: Ha - you know I don’t know if I have anything especially groundbreaking for you. I think the last one I wrote was just a simple old “measurize a dimension” calc to plot a dimension in a vis. eg: (${random_measure} * 0) + ${dimension_to_plot} . 

 

M: I find there’s something deeply satisfying in simple table calcs like this. It’s like scratching an itch of sorts. Okay, last question for you, James Nestler the Data Wrestler. In your eyes, what about Knowledge Drops make them something worth publishing to our users?

 

J: I think you or Izzy mentioned this in one of the first knowledge drops, but these “drops” are adapted from our internal (informal) documentation that myself and other folks on the Support Team have put together over the years. What this means, I think, is these drops all have a bit of a hacky flavor to them while also speaking to the inner workings of features in Looker that many users would take for granted at first glance. That latter part - the “peeling back the curtain” of how Looker works, for me at least, is what makes the first part (hacky workarounds) possible.

 

The Drop:

 

 


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Thank you for sharing these!

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