Thursday 28 September 2017

Podcast Interview with Tomasz Bratanic

This following podcast recording is an funny one. First of all because it took me and Tomasz like 3 retries and multiple scheduling rounds to get this thing done - and secondly because of who Tomasz is and what he is doing in our graph community. As you will read below, Tomasz is nog just a novice to Graphs - he's a novice to IT in general. A year ago, he was still filling his days with online poker - and now he is implementing and enhancing some of the coolest parts of Neo4j's APOC libraries. DEFINITELY worth a listen - it's an inspiring story.

Here's the transcript of our conversation:
RVB: 00:01.917 Hello, everyone. My name is Rik, Rik Van Bruggen from Neo4j. Yes, I got it right this time. And I'm here recording another episode of our Graphistania podcast. And today, I've got a lovely gentleman from Slovenia on the other side of this Skype call, and that's Tomasz Bratanic. Hi, Tomasz. How are you? 
TB: 00:21.637 Hey. How's it going? 
RVB: 00:23.603 Yeah, it's going really well. Thank you for making the time. I know we've had some scheduling issues, but we made it, right [laughter]? 
TB: 00:29.700 Yeah. 
RVB: 00:30.881 Exactly. Very good. Tomas, not everyone will know you, yet, so why don't you introduce yourself? Who are you? What do you do? And what's your relationship to the wonderful world of graphs? 
TB: 00:42.588 Okay, so let me start. I've only been in the computing, or let's say programming, world for like a year and a half. Before that, I was playing poker semi-professionally, I guess. 
RVB: 00:59.071 Are you serious [laughter]? 
TB: 01:00.365 Yeah. 
RVB: 01:01.648 No way. I didn't know that. 
TB: 01:03.320 I'm serious.
RVB: 01:04.638 That is fantastic. Okay. What made you quit [laughter]? 
TB: 01:09.983 Yeah, well, it was kind of like I wasn't really enjoying it all that much, because I was playing online every day, sitting behind the computer. Just wasn't, after a couple of years, wasn't as appealing as one might think. And actually, I was also thinking in the long run because I don't want to be 50 years old and still play poker [laughter]. So I was thinking I need to-- 
RVB: 01:40.787 Get a proper job? 
TB: 01:41.887 Yeah [laughter], get a proper job and start thinking about the future a bit.
RVB: 01:48.751 That's so cool. Wow. Okay. And how did you get into programming? And then how did you get into Neo4j then? 
TB: 01:54.863 So I got my first job through a connection to my brother because he is also a programmer, and he got me this job as a favour to him. And my interview was very funny because I didn't have any experience except for poker and they told me, "What am I good at?" And I told them, "I can Google pretty good [laughter]." And that was my key skill, at the time. 
RVB: 02:26.818 That is so cool. Wow [laughter]. I'm impressed. Yeah, okay. 
TB: 02:31.924 And the best thing that happened to me was the boss, Bill, was really interested in Neo4j and graphs and he [inaudible] a year ago, a bit more. And he was basically like this, "Learn Neo4j in two months, the basics, and you get the job [laughter]." He didn't specifically told me, but I noticed that he's really obsessed with it, and so I started to import some CSVs to Neo4j and get to work a bit with Neo4j. And I immediately loved it from the start because it's got this cool browser that visualises stuff and it's really simple to think about data. I tell people, "I deal with bubbles and points [laughter]." So when you put it on that level, it's very simpler than-- 
RVB: 03:43.585 I always tell my friends that I deal with dancing balls [laughter]. So-- 
TB: 03:48.045 Yeah. 
RVB: 03:52.256 So then what attracted you to it? I mean, aside from getting a proper job [laughter], what was the-- why did you get into it? And what's so appealing about it? 
TB: 04:06.778 Well, it's funny because I never dealt with [inaudible] before and when I was starting and I got into Neo4j, it was really [inaudible]. So I was really impressed with how you can do the pattern-matching, like you're only limited by your imagination. You can do lots of cool stuff with [inaudible] and pattern-matching if you just got the imagination. So I was thinking more like we humans are like a pattern-matching machine [laughter] and Neo4j is also a pattern-matching machine. So it was a perfect combo of-- 
RVB: 04:55.592 Fantastic. And so what types of things have you been doing with it? I know you've been working on some of the APOC stuff, right? Or what has been your point of attention? 
TB: 05:03.541 Yeah, I started with the APOC integration stuff, so like exporting data to [inaudible] or elastic. Because basically, the first thing that we wanted to do once we got the data into Neo4j was to have some [inaudible]. So that was the first focus. And APOC can really help you with exporting data to the level you want. And so yeah, that's why I got into APOC. And then, it was kind of-- I was talking to my brother. Then he told me, "You don't have any official education, so you have to start with a blog or something so people will get to know you, see that you can do some stuff." And that was basically my-- then, I decided I'm going to start to write a blog about using APOC with Neo4j because I struggled with some things because there was no documentation. Then you have to go check the service code to see what's up. And I decided to make it easier so that anyone else that will follow me on the APOC page, to make it easier for them. 
RVB: 06:33.913 That's so crazy. I mean, you're doing all of this without formal IT education, right? You're doing this just-- 
TB: 06:40.937 Yeah, it's just bubbles [laughter] and-- 
RVB: 06:44.716 Just dancing balls. 
TB: 06:45.874 --and dancing balls [laughter]. 
RVB: 06:47.917 That's so great. 
TB: 06:50.952 Because it's funny because now I've been also helping Michael with graph [inaudible] and I've been reading lots and lots of graph [inaudible] documentations. And now that I kind of know-- like when I see any math equation, I cross my eyes [laughter] [inaudible], but when they talk about how do they do and why do they do, I feel like if I translate all that metrics, multiplication stuff to [inaudible], it feels really simple to me. 
RVB: 07:29.834 Wow. To be honest [laughter], I'm supposed to have a formal IT education. It's 25 years old but I'm supposed to have one. And I think it's pretty complicated, so I'm impressed [laughter]. I really am. Wow. That's fantastic. So what do you plan to do with this? What's your goal for the future? Are you making this into a more real job? And what are you doing with this now? 
TB: 07:58.851 Yeah, my goal for the future is to work full-time for Neo4j [laughter]. 
RVB: 08:06.263 Okay [laughter]. I wish I could help with that [laughter]. 
TB: 08:13.047 Yeah. Because I've been working with Michael and the community's really great. I mean, Michael is really great. Having Michael as a mentor-- he's better than any college degree, I guess. And it's really awesome. And I also like all the positive [inaudible] and it's a really cool community. And yeah, I want to be a full-time member of it. 
RVB: 08:46.858 Fantastic. Does that mean that-- are you also doing some work for clients? Or is this just-- you actually want to be building the product? 
TB: 08:55.945 [laughter] I don't know. Right now, I have-- I am kind of Neo4j customer success or something like that, but they are using the community [inaudible]. But still, I have my first customer that I got myself and I'm trying to build them an automated data analytics warehouse and it's going pretty good [laughter]. It's actually really not that difficult as one might imagine. 
RVB: 09:32.051 That's fantastic. Super. Well, I mean, I think we'll put some links to your blog and to your work on the transcription of this podcast so people can find it easily. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of this. I think it's fantastic that you started with poker and ended up with dancing balls [laughter]. That's just fantastic. I'll remember that. And I don't know if there's anything else that you wanted to add, Tomas, but otherwise, we'll keep this recording quite nice and short and-- 
TB: 10:07.901 Yeah. I mean, just there's lots of stuff now on the-- there's lots of [inaudible] done on the Neo4j graph [inaudible]. So check them out because they're getting better and better by the day. 
RVB: 10:23.068 It's unbelievable. If you look at some of the performance stuff, as well, these things are just lightning fast sometimes, if you compare it to other solutions out there. So really impressed by all that work. Thank you for that. 
TB: 10:35.630 Yeah. Thanks. 
RVB: 10:37.904 Thank you, Tomasz. Good talking to you. I'll put some links on the website and I'm sure we'll hear more of you [laughter]. 
TB: 10:43.928 Okay. Bye. 
RVB: 10:45.283 Have a good one. Bye-bye.
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