Speaker interview: Szehon Ho

We are introducing to you some of the speakers of the next Berlin Buzzwords conference 2015. Therefore, we are interviewing #bbuzz speakers ahead of the conference. See what they responded …

Get to know Szehon Ho.

Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I am a software engineer at Cloudera, and also a PMC member of Apache Hive. I have been in this project for only a year and a half, but have been fortunate in doing major development on this widely-used project in the Hadoop space. The best part about Hive is getting to work with and learn from the best minds in industry, in Cloudera and the community. Before this, I was a principal software engineer at Informatica in the platform group learning the fundamentals of enterprise software, and before that I got my bachelor in EECS at UC Berkeley. I was originally born in Hong Kong, but did most of my schooling in the Bay Area, California.

How did you get started with developing software?
I got started late. Because I love learning all sorts of things, I spent a lot of time exploring a different areas like history, foreign language, math, physics, and did not get around to taking my first programming class until my freshman year in Berkeley, and did not decide to go into software over other EECS specializations until halfway through Berkeley. What changed it for me was my realization that learning software was immediately applicable, that is, you do not have to wait years to get the fruits of what you learn.  And with how fast the software industry is changing, it satisfies my thirst for learning as every year there is a new thing to learn.

What would you like to accomplish by giving this talk?
I hope to show how such a widely-used tool like Hive can be successfully migrated to a cool 'buzz' project like Spark, keeping the entire functionality-set and user expectations built on years of production use.  While I am excited with all the new projects being built and buzzed about, I also think its an interesting challenge to re-platform a project already widely-deployed and solving real-world problems onto something new.

Many of the nowadays buzzwordly talks have come from the Apache Software Foundation. What do you think makes Apache projects so successful in particular for communities developing complex software?
One part of the community ideal of the ASF is an emphasis on contribution for the project and not for an employer. Another part is the open nature of the community, allowing membership through merit and all members a voice. Though issues of course exist, it is the best forum for many individuals, even from competing organizations, to work together on a complex software. This allows complex projects to amass a talent pool that allows them to become successful. I have been fortunate personally in my project of Apache Hive to work alongside database PHD's, Hadoop industry veterans, ASF members, and many other talents employed by Cloudera and other organizations, all improving the project in different ways.

Have you been to Berlin before?
I have not been to Berlin, but have visited other big German cities and love the balance between a rich historical heritage and the very modern art and music scene. One of my best memory last year is going to admire the architecture of the Hamburg Rathaus and stumbling across a very boisterous goth rock concert going on there, where we stayed until nightfall. I heard that this is even more the case in Berlin, and am really looking forward to my visit.

Photo "Notes": cc-by 2.0 Brady

Corporate-Design: Extragestaltung, Margarethe Hausstätter
Ilustration: cyan, Berlin