In this episode, we are joined by Daniil Baturin, a computer scientist, VyOS project lead, and system administrator with a passion for hard sciences and problem-solving.
Daniil shares with us his journey from being involved in science competitions in high school to leading the VyOS project, an open-source network operating system.
He discusses the challenges he faced in his career, why he dropped out from college, and the importance of community involvement in open-source projects.
Join us as we delve into Daniil's journey in the world of technology and his insights on how to navigate it successfully, especially when the traditional paths may no longer exist.
"Sometimes if you're really convinced that something is right, you need to keep at it even if people say otherwise.
Ad it's actually hard and lonely to do the heavy lifting yourself before people can see that it was actually the right idea."
Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!
We'd love it if you connected with us at the links below:
Make it a great day.
Machined made this, mistakes and all:
[00:00:00] Chris: Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast. Where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't.
[00:00:16] Chris: Welcome imposters. My name is Chris Grundman and I'm here with my co-host the absolutely amazing Zoe Rose. Hey. Hey, this is the Daniil Baturin episode, and you're going to be super into it.
[00:00:30] Chris: Daniil is an enterprise and telecom network generalist, an open source software maintainer, a proponent of functional programming and strong type systems, as well as an occasional technical writer and a player of the clarinet.
[00:00:47] Chris: Hi Daniil. Would you like to introduce yourself a bit further to the imposter syndrome network?
[00:00:54] Daniil: You read my description from link in, I think, uh, and it's more or less exhaustive. Well, I also write music and, uh, sing medieval music sometimes as well as playing the clarinet.
[00:01:04] Chris: Excellent. We've obviously got a lot of ground to cover today, uh, as I, I'm actually really interested in the intersection of networking and open source software, especially in light of today's growth in bare metal and virtual network devices.
[00:01:17] Chris: But before we get into that, I'd like to start today. Back near the beginning. And understand, you know, why you got into technology at all. Is this something that came from a long, young age or maybe later in your life? You know, was it something that was intentional or accidental? Anyway, maybe you can tell us.
[00:01:34] Chris: Uh, why technology?
[00:01:35] Daniil: Oh, well, so I, I've been always interested in, uh, hard sciences, uh, though not only, and, uh, as a child I was interested in, uh, all kinds, uh, things about how the world works. Uh, And how different scenes in the world work? When I had a few strong interests, uh, my biggest interest in school was chemistry.
[00:01:57] Daniil: And I actually participated in quite a few conferences for high school students and Science Olympics, uh, and one, quite a few of them. Uh, well, but then I shifted my focus to programming and computer science, not least because I lived the, the voluntary, many opportunities for, um, doing great research in chemistry.
[00:02:18] Daniil: Uh, You know, there's a joke, uh, about university committee decide in whom to fund, uh, like, uh, chemists and physicists all want expensive equipment. Uh, then mathematicians only want pencils and erasers, and then they decide that they need to fund philosophers because they only need pencils and no erasers.
[00:02:40] Daniil: And, uh, yeah, it's very true if you are in, in a relatively remote, uh, and small location. Uh, and, uh, It's not a realistic opportunity to move very far away, a thousand miles away to get onto college. Uh, for you then your opportunity to do great research. Something like chemistry, physics are going to be quite limited, but computer science and programming are so great because you only need the computer and your mind and some papers for algorithm.
[00:03:10] Daniil: You can do it from anywhere, no matter how well find the two places.
[00:03:14] Chris: I love it. Yeah. You just need the computer. Yeah.
[00:03:17] Daniil: Actually, my, my family was very poor and my first computer was assembled from parts that all their friends donated to me. It was about 20 or two, or 20 or three, and it was in, uh, Intel, uh, 4 86 with, uh, about eight megabytes of Ram.
[00:03:35] Zoe: Hey, I mean, start out. That's really all you need is to get into it. It's more when you actually have stuff to do that you need a little bit more power, or at least that's how I felt.
[00:03:45] Daniil: Oh, well, you know, it's funny that a lot of people, some that I'm much older than I am because I started with all equipment and uh, had the Masters Art of assembly and maintenance.
[00:03:56] Daniil: So, cause it was old and I had to look for parts in various dollar store. So to pick, uh, what I could find
[00:04:07] Zoe: that probably taught you a lot as well. Oh yeah. Um, it's starting the hardware I suppose, but it, it taught, I imagine I'm one of those people that are, uh, hands-on. I tend to learn a little bit more effectively.
[00:04:19] Zoe: I'm curious because you had to do a lot more of the, you know, self-learning or kind of building as you go. Is that kind of what directed you into starting your career in tech? I mean, obviously you had just said that you were searching for opportunities from a small area, but I imagine there's also other opportunities out there.
[00:04:40] Zoe: So did that kind of help direct you or was it, you already were pursuing that and it just added to it, I suppose.
[00:04:48] Daniil: I suppose it did. Uh, and well, uh, my first job that I got was, uh, assistant administrator in a very small university department. And my friend, uh, study as there just referred me to them because he knew that I, I knew a lot about Linux and about, uh, maintaining not very computers.
[00:05:08] Daniil: So he knew I was up after the up for the job, and, uh, he suggested me to them and, uh, they took me. And that's how I started.
[00:05:16] Zoe: That's a fair point cuz universities don't tend to always have the most, or schools in general don't tend to have the most UpToDate equipment. That's actually how I got a job as well.
[00:05:25] Zoe: So it's always good to, um, you know, have the more historic knowledge. We'll say. Currently you're a co-founder and lead architect at VyOS. What's that like? What's your day to day kind of like?
[00:05:39] Daniil: Oh, well, since the company isn't all that large, And it's also all entirely open source. It may be quite unusual in that a lot of the time my interaction with, uh, people from my own company and people from the community, uh, is largely the same.
[00:05:56] Daniil: And, uh, actually a lot of the time we had community members present in our internal development meetings. Cause sometimes there are people who contribute as much as people, uh, who are actually our employees. And in fact, uh, quite a few are employees. They're from the community. So sometimes the lines between my work on open source and my work at my own company are kind of blur.
[00:06:19] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. That's really interesting. Does that mean that part of the work is kind of maintaining or sustaining that community or, or do you really just kinda work alongside of them and there's other folks who are really pushing the community forward?
[00:06:33] Daniil: Oh, well, I, I'm also part of the community.
[00:06:37] Chris: Very good point.
[00:06:38] Daniil: So, Well, when we started Virus wasn't the company initially. Oh. So the story was that, uh, there was a project named Vyatta; V-y-a-double t-a,, which ostensibly means open in Sanskrit, but I have never verified the claim. It wasn't, uh, startup in California, venture funded. And, uh, the product was good, but, uh, a lot of management decisions, uh, in the long run.
[00:07:05] Daniil: Um, Made it run out of funding and it underwent a sale to Brocade and Brocade A lot of time, unfortunately, a company where projects go to die. I don't really like to bad mouth any companies. So, but a lot of products that Blockade purchased, uh, went in, uh, pretty bad directions.
[00:07:27] Chris: Yeah, that's fair. I think that's fair.
[00:07:28] Daniil: And with, uh, Vyatta it mainly just died. Uh, but in fact, uh, so I was first a user of Vyatta when it was still a startup. Uh, then from my participation in the community, they knew that, uh, I knew it well and they actually invited me to work on it as a contractor. I started before I worked and. Since I loved, uh, that product and, uh, I knew a lot of people from the community who loved it, and they wanted it to be available as an open source project and not some proprietary closed down stuff.
[00:07:57] Daniil: And, uh, they also wanted it to stay alive. Uh, and since I had the knowledge required to start a fork and, uh, decouple it from, uh, from the original infrastructure, then I became a maintainer just because I wanted at most, and I knew what to do. And then I've been maintaining it for a while. And then, uh, with some friends from the community with Start Company.
[00:08:18] Chris: Very cool. So you were a user of the Vyatta software first, kind of on the networking side, it sounds like. And then you got pulled in and you actually worked for, did you work for Vyatta, the company, or were, were you working for Brocade after the purchase?
[00:08:30] Daniil: Well, first for Vyatta, then briefly for Brocade. Uh,
[00:08:33] Chris: you were there during the transition.
[00:08:34] Chris: Okay. And then once it kind of petered out at Brocade, You stepped in to become a maintainer of the open source version?
[00:08:43] Daniil: Yes, so I resigned from Brocade. Took the last public version of the software and started from there.
[00:08:49] Chris: Very cool. That's awesome. I really like that story. I think it's really neat to see this, right where there was this product that, you know, maybe the company running it had some issues, but the product itself was beloved by the community.
[00:09:01] Chris: And to see the community kind of come up and then, and grab it and, and continue maintaining it and building it and, and I think VyOS is probably now deployed farther and wider than Vyatta ever was. I think
[00:09:13] Daniil: it, it might be, A lot of the time since, uh, it's all open source and we intentionally don't include any mandatory telemetry or anything.
[00:09:21] Daniil: It's hard to estimate how many users we have exactly.
[00:09:24] Zoe: That's a fair point, although it's a really good, kind of, kind of a reoccurring theme on our, uh, episodes comes back to community and how important community is for people's careers. So it's interesting to see kind of a different perspective is not only been very important for your career, but literally for the job that you currently do.
[00:09:44] Zoe: It's been a whole part of continuing on that software. So that's actually really interesting. I like that. One. One thought I had is, I know you previously were a DevOps engineer. I imagine that means you did development and day-to-day. How much would you say that as a co-founder and lead architect, your development background has been a huge benefit to your experience?
[00:10:10] Zoe: Um, or is it something that's their slightly different careers?
[00:10:14] Daniil: Well, since I never stop writing code, like if you go to GitHub and look at Commit History, there's still a lot of me. Thankfully there, there are lots of people other than me. Like at first, uh, it was basically just me and a few people from the community.
[00:10:29] Daniil: And now we are, we are very close to our thousandth pull request,, uh, in the documentation, the repository alone. And, uh, in the main code basis there are 30 pull requests short of two thousands.
[00:10:42] Chris: Oh wow. That's, that's fantastic. Yeah, no, that makes sense. I mean, I see that. So I guess maybe what's also interesting is going back a little bit further, and as you said, right, you kind of started as a system administrator.
[00:10:53] Chris: I know you had a few jobs in system administration and then kind of moved, I think we moved from there into that DevOps job and then ended up being a developer, uh, at Vyatta. And, and, and I'm interested, you know, was coding kind of always a part of that? Like were you doing some little scripting and, and.
[00:11:10] Chris: Automation as a system administrator or, or was that actually a shift from kind of running more general IT systems?
[00:11:16] Daniil: Ah, of course it was. I also did quite some lance web development, uh, different points. Like, here's a very funny story. So one of the first jobs I had, uh, was during the Great recession and, uh, the company, uh, a furniture retail chain, uh, like, you know, during recessions furniture is one of the first things, uh, The sales drop and, uh, the company was deep in trouble and it actually didn't have money to pay its own employees.
[00:11:42] Daniil: So I was responding to calls from, uh, uh, users as the, as the company, uh, sysadmin and also writing website for sales project clients. So to actually make some money before the main company wasn't paying me like I was paying with months or the months delays.
[00:11:58] Zoe: Wow. It sounds like a lot of your career has been surrounding just being able to survive essentially.
[00:12:05] Zoe: Originally you were chemical engineer, or at least I believe you did that at university and then you moved to system administration.
[00:12:13] Daniil: Uh, well, I, I dropped out of the university to, I plan to, to go back. So the reason I'll admit up and there was a pretty bad depressive episode, like mental health issues, so are no joke.
[00:12:24] Daniil: And sadly I never really had an opportunity to. Got back there with, uh, with a need for a full-time job to support myself.
[00:12:32] Zoe: No, I understand that completely.
[00:12:33] Daniil: I, I became a second time student of classical music much later, but it's a different story.
[00:12:38] Zoe: Fair enough. I also am a, a university dropout. I was, uh, studying botany that did not succeed cuz I am allergic to plants, so That's wild.
[00:12:48] Zoe: I can relate. Not the same exactly. But I remember when I dropped out it was quite hard because I felt like an absolute failure. I just spent so much money on university and then dropped out. How did you get through that?
[00:13:03] Daniil: Well, a lot of the time if you wait long enough, the depressive episodes just go away, but yeah, well, I'd say to everyone that if, if you fairly bad people really need, uh, to contact mental health professionals.
[00:13:17] Chris: Yeah, absolutely. Always good advice.
[00:13:18] Daniil: There are cases that you cannot wait out, although there are also cases that are. And since, uh, those issues are usually lifelong, I would also argue that people also need to learn to cope, with it, and need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Like I find that exercise actually helps my mental health a lot if I don't have opportunities to exercise, I actually start feeling much worse both physically and mentally.
[00:13:43] Chris: Yeah, I find the same thing. I've become a fairly regular runner anyway, because I definitely notice a fairly drastic difference in, in my mood and my attitude and my ability to work, especially longer hours and, and be friendly with people while I'm doing it. If I get up and get some exercise in the morning.
[00:14:00] Chris: Do you have like a routine around exercise? Or is it just something you do as much as you can?
[00:14:05] Daniil: I guess as much as I can. Sometimes there are better opportunities, like if I have more time, I can go for much longer run. If I don't, I just make a quick route, uh, like run around the university campus here nearby than go to go get groceries, so, or go for a coffee or something.
[00:14:20] Chris: Yeah. And I think that's, you know, something that, especially here in, in the US walking in most cities is not. Highly normal or even easy to do. Um, there's some really big suburban sprawl and things like that, so I would reiterate that that. I know when I moved away from New York City and came kind of back to more of middle America and suburban America, I, you know, I didn't notice it at first, but I realized fairly quickly that I was getting much less exercise because in New York I had been walking everywhere.
[00:14:47] Chris: I mean, you would take the train in between, but almost everything was walking. And then, you know, when I moved here, there was almost no walking. So not even to go get the groceries. And especially working from home, it can be, you know, days where I don't even get up and leave the house. So remembering to go exercise I think is super important, especially depending on your environment.
[00:15:04] Chris: Cause a lot of us don't necessarily live in, in places where even normal activities, like going to get some bread is, is not a, it's some places great, right? Like in a lot of European cities that's, you know, there's more local marketplaces and some of the bigger cities in the US and other places as well.
[00:15:17] Chris: There's. More of that kind of neighborhood vibe, and you can kind of walk around and, and pick things up. But, uh, yeah, if you, if you're not getting even just a walk in the day, it's, it can be really hard on, on your, at least for me, on kind of your emotions and
[00:15:31] Daniil: Yeah. I, I greatly enjoy this area. It's Cork in Ireland, uh, uh, you can even walk to nearby towns from the.
[00:15:39] Zoe: I was also gonna say it's Ireland, so it's quite beautiful. I lived there before where I currently live, so that also helps. And you know, in the area people tend to be quite friendly.
[00:15:50] Chris: Yeah, that's nice. And then so. More recently, a, as you mentioned, you went back to university, I think, around the clarinet performance and your music writing.
[00:15:59] Chris: Maybe you can talk to us a little bit about, I mean, one, I'm just interested right in, in kind of where that passion or or hobby for the clarinet specifically came from. And then also,
[00:16:09] Daniil: oh, actually I wanted to play clarinet as a kid, but I had no opportunity so, Not least because there was no way my family could afford a clarinet.
[00:16:18] Daniil: Fair enough. And there were also no teachers in the area.
[00:16:21] Chris: When did you go buy your first clarinet?
[00:16:24] Daniil: Ah, well, so a funny story actually. When people contacted me about a tricky issue with, uh, VyOS, like they wanted a very tricky setup. Uh, they, they were small hosting company and, uh, the network was kind of convoluted and they wanted me to help them simplify it.
[00:16:41] Daniil: And somehow there was some disagreement about the best way to send me a payment. And I asked that guy, uh, like, uh, he was running this mostly single handedly. So can you order the clarinet and send it to my address? I love it. It was easier to arrange that payment, uh, send me actual money.
[00:17:00] Zoe: That's really interesting.
[00:17:01] Zoe: We had one guest a while back that, uh, his career is, uh, what was it? He wanted to be in a band and so, but he, that he couldn't pursue that. So he worked to make money to be able to afford the, um, instruments. So it sounds sounds very similar. Oh, well, not the same, but, uh, but your true passion, it sounds like his music.
[00:17:21] Zoe: And, uh, your career has been, you know, you're, you're doing it to survive, to build a career, to build the foundation, but then you, uh, celebrate that with, with music.
[00:17:32] Daniil: Well, for me it's, I'm actually passionate about many things, so fair, fair. So, I, I do a lot of programming that no one pays, pays me for just because.
[00:17:43] Daniil: I like to solve my own problems and, uh, also solve problems for other people.
[00:17:47] Zoe: Yeah, I think, I think anybody I know that works in open source software that's quite common is also being a part of the community, the bigger community, and providing support as well as, you know, content, even when it's not necessarily financially funded.
[00:18:04] Daniil: Well, I, I would say I'm very grateful to everyone who makes free and open source software. Because it's only the work of those people that has often poorly funded or not funded at all, that I can throw quick prototypes together. If I were to write all that from scratch, it would take years to get anywhere.
[00:18:23] Chris: Yeah, it reminds me of, I think it was Isaac Newton who said, if I have seen further than other men, it's only because I stood on the shoulders of giants.
[00:18:31] Chris: And I think that definitely plays out in open source software.
[00:18:33] Daniil: Oh, yeah. Oh, it's attributed to Newton It's true. In any case, no matter who says
[00:18:40] Chris: yeah, whoever said it, and it definitely applies in, in software, right? Where to your point, right, there's a lot of projects that couldn't exist if they weren't building on, on previous work.
[00:18:48] Daniil: Yeah, exactly.
[00:18:50] Zoe: You've had a pretty, pretty lengthy career. Um, I believe, cuz you said you started a system administrator in 2007, which is quite a while ago. Over the years, I imagine you've had some lessons learned, you've had mistakes, you've had achievements. Um, I have two parts to my question. One is, what's the, not the biggest necessarily, but the, the achievement you're most proud of.
[00:19:13] Zoe: And second is if you could go back in time and give yourself advice when you were starting, what would it be?
[00:19:20] Daniil: Uh, well, so I guess the biggest achievement is quite easy to make. Uh, when I started VyOS, like, you know, a lot of startups create a lot of technical debt in the, in the code base. Because, uh, if you need to crank out feature fast, uh, you need to cut corners.
[00:19:36] Daniil: And a lot of the time, those design decisions you make in the early stage to cut corners, the technical debt is not just suboptimal code, it's also suboptimal design that is very difficult to change. And one of the biggest challenges with VyOS was to get rid of the luggage of both coordinate architecture problems.
[00:19:58] Daniil: But now, The design that I came up with and that we're methodically implementing, it actually proved scalable enough and it made a lot easier for people to contribute. Like there were some areas, there were basically no touch for anyone except, uh, staff engineers at Vyatta, and I was delighted when using my new framework for that component.
[00:20:22] Daniil: Now specifically, it's automatic conversion of old configuration syntax to new if you make in compatable changes. So one distinguishing feature of Vyatta was that you can make change to the configuration file syntax and they can be automatically migrated to new version. But the API for it was also horrible that, uh, it was black magic to write anything.
[00:20:43] Daniil: And using my new approach, people from the community started contribution new migration scripts, and I was delighted to see that it not only works, it actually makes it easier for the community to contribute.
[00:20:53] Chris: That's fantastic. Yeah, I love that. Right? I mean, and that, that ability to kind of avoid technical debt by allowing things to be upgraded.
[00:20:59] Chris: Absolutely huge. Yeah.
[00:21:02] Daniil: One difficult was that, uh, well, it's now going to sound a little self congratulatory. I guess I admit that, uh, I guess I was as lucky as I was smart with decisions. But still, uh, in the early stage, quite a few people, even from the community didn't believe that it was the right thing to do.
[00:21:20] Daniil: And people were insisting that we need to keep up, uh, right in the existing style because at least it was proven to work. And my ideas sounded pretty radical at the time, at least. So sometimes if you're really convinced, uh, that something is a right, uh, is a right idea, you need to keep it, even if people say otherwise, and it's actually hard and lonely to.
[00:21:45] Daniil: Do the heavy lifting yourself before people can see that it was actually a right idea.
[00:21:50] Zoe: I could definitely relate to that. Sometimes people don't see what you see and so it's, it's, it is really hard to kind of continuously pursue that even when you don't have necessarily all the support you're hoping for.
[00:22:04] Zoe: Uh, the second part, my question was, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? Is that the advice or is there other advice that you think you would've benefited from earlier in your career?
[00:22:15] Daniil: Well, it's a good question, not least because, uh, I think my career path no longer exists. A lot of small companies and small departments just don't have that kind of sysadmins anymore to be convinced because modern computers, uh, you don't need so many people maintaining them.
[00:22:32] Daniil: A lot of the time they aren't even repairable in the first place. It's a bad scene, of course, easily repairable, but a lot of laptops, for example, even, even come with memory soldier to the board, there's nothing you can do if it breaks. Good question.
[00:22:47] Chris: So what do you think you would do now if, if you were, if you were starting, I mean, I know this is a hard question to answer, but just hypothetically, without those opportunities, I mean, do you think you'd find another way into tech today?
[00:22:56] Chris: Or, or do you, do you see a path for, for new folks who are just starting out and, and kind of coming from humble beginnings and wanting to get into technology?
[00:23:03] Daniil: Well, for, for new folks, there are of course a new paths now. Like, uh, there are still a lot of people who need. Even if you're exclusively using a cloud platform, uh, like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud, you still need people who can administer VMs, even though you don't need people installing Linux by hand.
[00:23:22] Daniil: But I, I can see how for people who can be harder to start out, because entry level positions often require skills that are hard to acquire other than on the job because universities don't really teach you the day-to-day stuff of develop engineers, for example.
[00:23:38] Chris: That's very fair. Yeah. And I think it's twofold, right?
[00:23:40] Chris: I think that practical experience is sometimes hard to get, cuz if the job requires practical experience, but the practical experience requires the job, you're, you're stuck in that catch 22, right? And so that's tough. I, I even saw not too long ago, and I, I forget who it was or what the programming language was, but, but there was, you know, somebody had created a new tool and saw a job posting that required like five years of experience with that tool.
[00:24:06] Chris: And the, this particular gentleman who had written the tool wrote a post, I figure it was on Twitter or LinkedIn somewhere, and said, well, I guess I'm not qualified for this job because I only invented this tool like four years ago. So sometimes it's just these unrealistic expectations too, right? Which is hard.
[00:24:22] Daniil: Oh, well it, it's also that, uh, yeah. I've written article recently specifically about women in tech like that. A lot of job offers are just written in an very unrealistic way. And a lot of women are less likely to apply if they don't check every point of the checklist, even if all those points are simply impossible to check for anyone like that guy five years ago.
[00:24:45] Chris: Right, exactly. Yeah, I, I, I saw a similar article. Yeah. I think there was a research study that recently came out that, that showed something like that. So, and, and it's, it's not just women too, I think it's other, other minorities, other folks that are, you know, not represented in the community as well, often won't apply for jobs that they don't feel fully qualified for.
[00:25:01] Chris: Whereas I, I can be honest, right? The, the only reason my career has been what it is at all is because I've only applied for jobs. I wasn't qualified for, So flip side,
[00:25:11] Zoe: which is hilarious because I definitely fit in the earlier, I know there's been situations that have held me back because of my limited confidence or because like you said, I didn't qualify it for everything and so I didn't apply
[00:25:25] Chris: As per usual; the timers are going off here. We'll have to wrap it up. We're outta time. Um, Daniel, thank you again for coming on the show and sharing your story with the Imposter Syndrome Network. This has been a lot of fun. And thank you to all of our listeners for your most valuable time and attention. If you found this episode insightful or interesting, please take a moment to like follow and share it with your friends, family, and colleagues.
[00:25:49] Chris: Pay it forward and let others know about this show and the great guests we have on. Now Daniil, before we totally wrap up, I, I did wanna ask you one more question. Maybe you can tell us just a little bit about, uh, is it Soupault? Is that how you say it? I know it's a French word and I, I'm terrible at pronouncing them, but it's your, your static website management tool I think you're kind of doing on the side right now.
[00:26:32] Chris: So we'll put that link in the show notes along with a bunch of other stuff, all your socials and, and, and by as well, by os. And we will be back next week.