Interview with Alexander "Salle" Keremidarski, 2008

Alexander (Salle) Keremidarski

Alexander "Salle" Keremidarski works as the Manager of EMEA Support for MySQL and is one of MySQL's longest serving employees. This isn't Salle's first interview on the Devzone, but seeing as how it's been a couple of years, we thought we'd catch up with Salle and see how things are going.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background? Where are you located?

Salle: I was born and have lived all my life in the city of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Like the vast majority of the MySQL Support team, I work from home.

I discovered MySQL back in 1997 and I have to thank Oracle for that. I came from the Oracle world to work as root@local.internet.provider running almost everything on Linux and there was no Oracle for Linux back then. So I tried MySQL 3.22.something. I loved it. I never went back to Oracle.

Now, Salle, this isn't the first time we've done an interview on you, but for those that are unfamiliar, how and when did you join the MySQL team (aka the Sun Database Group)?

Salle: I joined MySQL in an amazing way. I was dreaming about working for MySQL and suddenly I got a question on whether I would actually like to, without even applying for a job. I almost had a heart attack.

The full story is in fact an example of one of the major driving forces of FOSS. Share your knowledge with the community and you will help not only the community but often the community will reward you! As a MySQL newbie I had questions so I joined the public IRC channel #mysql at EfNET and received great help there. Then I realized I could help some others too, so I began doing that. That's how MySQL learned about me. That's how we hired many excellent people later.

What team are you in and what is your role? What tasks are you responsible for?

Salle: I am one of the first five people who established the MySQL Support team back in 2002. With the team constantly growing I had to step into a manager role back in 2004. Today I am Manager of the EMEA Support group. Being quite stubborn, four years later I am still doing engineering jobs from time to time by handling mysqld (MySQL Server daemon) customer cases. I consider myself more a team captain or playing coach rather than a "pure" manager.

What are you currently working on?

Salle: We in Support have one simple goal: Keep the customers happy. During the years we have maintained a fantastic reputation among the vast majority of our customers and our goal is to keep the pace and continue improving.

What (if anything) excites you about MySQL 5.1 finally going GA with 5.1.30?

Salle: My job is not to get excited. My job is to worry about our customers. You see customers come to our team when they have problems and we work together to resolve them. Customers don't contact Support just to say "Hey! This new GA release is just great". Therefore if I am excited about a new release I am not doing my job. It's much more important to think what kind or problems customers may experience with it. Will new features work as promised? Will new features work together well? Are old problems fixed properly in the new release? These are the examples of questions we ask ourselves and of everyone else in the company well in advance so that we are prepared when a customer asks questions and in the best case prevent such questions even coming up. That's why other departments often see us as having a very negative attitude. We simply have to be like that to achieve our main goal: Keeping our customers happy.

We've gone through some amazing changes both within MySQL and also in the industry itself, how has MySQL joining Sun affected you?

Salle: It's still difficult to say. First of all our department was known to work very well and was often quoted as one of the best in MySQL before joining Sun. Because of that we saw minimal changes at least when it comes to our main job.

Personally I see the the change between MySQL and Sun as big cultural change in many aspects. It will take me hours just to mention what they are.

What are you most looking forward to with regards to the future of MySQL? Where do you see MySQL going?

Salle: Meeting the users expectations becomes a bigger and bigger challenge. By users I mean both paying customers and community who use MySQL for free. It is very difficult to satisfy everyone, but we must try all the time. In a way MySQL must go in various directions at the same time, directions which seem impossible to match. On the other hand MySQL has a long record of doing things almost everyone in the world considers impossible.

Can't agree with you more Salle, let's go out and do the impossible! On that note, my last question: Any other open source projects out there that excite you? Are you involved in any other projects?

Salle: Nothing at the moment. My professional life is fully devoted to MySQL.

Thanks Salle, it's good to catch up with you again and I'm sure we'll check back with you again in the future to see how the MySQL Support Team is doing.

This interview was performed in December, 2008.