June 2nd, 2015

Aaron Ploetz, Lead Database Engineer at AccuLynx.com
Aaron is the Lead Database Engineer for AccuLynx, where he implemented Cassandra to scale part of their cloud-based business management system. He is active in the Cassandra tags on StackOverflow, and recently became the first recipient of a tag-specific badge in CQL. Aaron holds a B.S. in Management/Computer Systems from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a M.S. in Software Engineering and Database Technologies from Regis University, and was selected as a DataStax MVP for Apache Cassandra in 2014.

The DataStax Cassandra MVP Program recognizes key individuals who have gone above and beyond to share their knowledge and expertise to help the Cassandra community learn about the massively scalable NoSQL database.The MVP Program provides these selected individuals with the opportunity to write articles and white papers, speak with press, analysts and industry thought-leaders, to present both online in webinars and at key events, to blog as an official MVP member, and enjoy recognition amongst their community peers. This recognition is a key differentiator in career development in this exciting market. The MVP designation is awarded annually and announced at the Cassandra Summit.

If you have someone you’d like to nominate as an 2015-2016 DataStax MVP for Apache Cassandra, you can nominate them here. The nomination period will end July 1st, 2015.

Being a Cassandra MVP has been a fun ride.  For me, it is not so much about recognition for work, or knowledge of Cassandra and how to use it. Rather, I am surprised by how much my knowledge of Cassandra has increased since becoming a MVP.

Being A Cassandra Resource

In this past year we have seen several new improvements with Cassandra as of version 2.1.  While I haven’t had the chance to really use all of them in our implementation at AccuLynx, my role as a MVP has had me exploring and experimenting with them ahead of time (usually in a beta or release-candidate build).  On StackOverflow, I have helped several developers with modeling solutions using counter columns (much improved with 2.1) and collection indexes.  By the time I implemented a user defined type (UDT) at AccuLynx, I had answered three UDT-based questions on StackOverflow.

Read Extensively

How was I able to be helpful with features before actually using them myself?  I read a lot.  Specifically, I read articles, blog postings, and books written by other Apache Cassandra developers and MVPs.  I watched presentation videos that were already a few years old.  Being an ambassador of both my company and Apache Cassandra, I wanted to ensure that I knew as much as I could about this great technology.

While many adults in their late thirties spend nights reading books by the likes of Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, and Frank Peretti; I spent time reading the works of Richard Low, Jay Patel, and Robbie Strickland.  My wife would be settling down with something by J.K. Rowling or E.L. James, and I would be unwinding with articles by Jon Haddad, Kelly Sommers, or Christos Kalantzis.  I’ve also been known to kill time at the drugstore or dentist’s office reading through the Apache Cassandra user and developer mailing lists.

Sometimes I’ll get up early on a Saturday morning and notice a StackOverflow question about Cassandra time series modeling while I’m making coffee.  Well, time to bust-out my laptop, fire-up my Cassandra VM, and quickly re-read Patrick McFadin’s “Getting started with time series data modeling” for the nineteenth time (just to make sure I don’t miss anything).  Speaking of which, StackOverflow seems to be full of people trying to use Cassandra with relational models, so I do try to keep an extra-vigilant eye on it.  That, and amassing lots of Internet points is cool.

Improving Presentation Skills

I have done two Cassandra presentations over the last year as well.  The first was to a group of two dozen developers at the Northern Illinois Coders user group.  The second was to about one-hundred and fifty developers at Cassandra Day Chicago 2015.  I learned a lot about myself through those two presentations.  One being that I say the word “um” a lot (something to work on).  Another, that you tend to get more questions at smaller presentations, just because it’s a more intimate setting.  Now, public speaking is something that most developers typically aren’t suited for (myself included).  But I feel that for Cassandra to grow to the level of adoption that we all know it is capable of, helping newer folks get started correctly (through these presentations) is paramount to achieving that end.

Being the Voice of Cassandra

One fun aspect of being a MVP, is the effect that it has had on my teammates at AccuLynx.  First of all, I found that it makes you the target of several jokes.  State a technical opinion at a meeting, and expect to have it met with something like “our MVP said it, so it must be correct!”  Complain about the frustrations of working with a 3rd party vendor, and you get “well, they probably don’t have a MVP on-staff like we do.”  Wear a MVP shirt to the office?  “Hey, you’re missing your sash!”

On a more serious note, as our Cassandra implementation has become more important to our application at AccuLynx, the interest of the other developers has also increased.  When I became a MVP there was one, maybe two other developers who had worked with Cassandra.  Today, almost everyone has.  Last year, most of our employees had never heard of DataStax.  Now, you find a few people (every day) wearing a Cassandra t-shirt, or drinking out of a DataStax cup, tumbler, water bottle, or coffee mug.  Incidentally, bringing SWAG back to your co-workers seems to help in getting them excited about a new technology.

You too can be a Cassandra MVP

In closing, I just want to say that this has been a great experience.  I have enjoyed corresponding with and meeting many people from DataStax, as well as some of the other MVPs.  I’d like to say “thank you” to Lina, Brady, Scott, and everyone else who works hard to make this program as great as it is.  I’ll be happy to continue to share my experience with Cassandra and help the community grow.

Nominate a member of the Apache Cassandra Community for 2015 – 2016 MVP today!

4 things I learned as a DataStax Cassandra MVP” was originally posted on the DataStax.com blog.