Employee Spotlight: Ben Smith on fighting the 2am fire alarm and being a chef

In this series we’re highlighting some of our awesome employees and the work they do. In their own words, you’ll hear about our employees biggest wins, favorite moments, and reasons for doing what they do. Interested in starting a career at Lookout? Check out our open jobs.

BD500FC0-DC7A-4890-939C-D5A3DCC01DEB

Ben Smith
Principal engineer, Operations

Why do you do your job?

I really love the people I work with. They challenge me to improve constantly and operations puts me in contact with amazing engineers and passionate customers. For awhile I was in computer repair, and was a chef at a Michelin-rated restaurant. Operations has been what really challenges me from an engineering and math perspective.

It’s actually a weird story how I got into ops. I was trying to learn about networking devices while I was at the University of Oregon. I bought a cable from Cisco and when it arrived, it was the wrong cable. I called them to return it and the service rep told me to email them. The email bounced saying the server was full, but in the header there was a phone number. Of course, I called the number to tell them the email service was broken and it turns out it was an internal helpdesk. He asked for my employee number and when I told him I didn’t have one he actually told me to send him my resume. Basically, I’d found a fire and actually cared enough to call it in. They flew me down to San Jose, relocated me to the Bay, and I’ve been loving it here ever since.

What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on at Lookout?

The team I lead right now is responsible for dramatically changing the way we deliver infrastructure at Lookout. There is a shift going on in the operations industry right now. Ops, for a long time, was just a firefighting role, but that’s morphing. About 15 years ago the software industry started doing test-driven development. The idea is that you set up what it is you want to do, it will fail for a while, and then bit-by-bit you build your software to pass these tests. This idea was never possible for ops until a few years ago when a couple companies, Amazon namely, created tools for infrastructure automation. We now think of infrastructure as code and are working towards full automation and test-driven operations.

What is something you really care about bringing about in either your job, your team, or this industry?

Because ops is such a firefight, it’s always a battle against the 2am page. The less times our teams get woken up in the middle of the night, the happier we all are. My customers may be Lookout’s customers, but they’re also my internal engineers and that’s a big motivator for me.

Beyond making our jobs more proactive than reactive, I want to help operations stop being firefighters and really start working as engineers. There’s a divide — many people in ops aren’t seen as engineers, and I think that can change. I definitely want to build more respect for the operations industry over all — we’re engineers building systems that support the rest of our organizations!

Learn more about what it’s like to work for Lookout on our careers page.