Cyle Gage, Sr. Software Apps Engineer, Tumblr
Cyle grew up in Maine, where he learned to code so he could create Pokémon fan sites. He continued to teach himself code as he pursued a degree in New Media at Emerson College in Boston, MA. He loves working for Tumblr because he loves Tumblr, "I'm an hourly active user." His favorite blogs include "Ice-T SVU," "fuckyeahpilesofdirt," and anything Star Trek Next Generation focused.
What do you do at Tumblr?
I've been at Tumblr for over three years and I primarily do back-end product work. That means if we build a new way of posting, I build the back-end for accepting it and saving it to a database, and making sure users can see it.
The vast majority of work is in PHP because our back-end is 99% PHP.
Tell us about favorite projects you've worked on
I helped build one-to-one messaging on Tumblr. That was the first really huge project I worked on here. I ended up being more or less the one person building it on the back-end, and knowing there's tens of millions of messages being sent every day, and that was me who built that thing—that's an extremely rewarding thing.
We also just rebuilt how all posts on Tumblr are saved. Every day over a million posts get made on Tumblr, and we dramatically changed the entire back-end architecture for it without anyone noticing. There was no hiccup of any kind.
What's it like working at such massive scale?
That's kind of one of the things that attracted me. I've been doing Built By Girls mentorship stuff (BBG is an Oath brand) and one of the things I keep coming back to with my advisee is that it's very rare to work at a company where one person can affect millions and millions of people. And the ratio at Tumblr and Oath in general is insane. It's like a million to one. That's a huge constituency. And that's scary, but it's also really empowering and really cool that there's the level of trust to be like "Yes, we'll give you the keys to this massive infrastructure and you have to both own up to that responsibility and be courageous enough to take risks and work with people to make it happen."
Are you working with any new tech right now?
Yeah, we're rebuilding our entire web front end in React and Redux. And we're rewriting a lot of our internal services in Go as opposed to PHP and Scala. We post about projects like this on our engineering blog.
We're also doing interesting things with PHP. We're trying to do a lot of parallelization which is not something it does well, so we're rewriting core parts of PHP to allow that. We're like "Let's go down to the language level and try to make the language better." And we're hoping to push that back to the PHP community.
So Open Source is important for Tumblr?
We have a lot of projects that we try to go the extra mile after they're done to be like, "What parts of this could be open source?" We've contributed back to some Python, Go and Java stuff.
Oath just made a change to their open source contributor policy that makes it stupidly easy. It used to be a complicated legal process where you had to fill out a bunch of legal forms, now it's one form and a checkbox.
What do you love about working here?
We have an overabundance of ideas. Everybody has a million ideas of what to do next.
And everyone feels empowered to speak up. It doesn't matter if you're a new junior programmer or if you're the CTO, everybody cares about your opinion. We have a lot of debates about the best way to monetize the way we run ads. And the entire 10 years of Tumblr has been a debate about what are the limits of free speech and how we negotiate that.
We are a really weird group of people. And we feel really good about it. We're not afraid to be ourselves.
To see more about Oath's tech talent, please visit oath.com/BehindTheScreens.