Fostering a continuous learning environment and mindset in our engineers is key to helping Grab stay current in the ever-changing technology landscape. What better way to learn than from our very own Grabbers?
We recently wrapped up the second edition of our internal engineering conference, called Tech Island: Live (TIL), which covered 60 different topics over three days. Attendees got a chance to learn about the new software, tools, and technologies that various teams across Grab are working on.
Story behind Tech Island: Live
The name ‘Tech Island: Live’ pays homage to our humble beginnings in 2012. Back then, we only had one table for each department and we called them ‘islands’. We’ve grown tremendously since, and built a strong company culture guided by what we call ‘The Grab Way’.
The Tech Island community regularly discusses new technologies, random learnings, shares (or creates) memes, and helps troubleshoot issues. So when the suggestion for ‘Tech Island: Live’ came about, we jumped on it. Plus, TIL also means ‘Today, I Learned’, which aligns perfectly with the spirit of this event.
Tech Island: Live Roundup
Similar to last year’s event, TIL was held virtually with a mix of panels, presentations, and tech talk sessions across the five tracks: Demo, Backend, Mobile, Data, and Miscellaneous. During tech talk sessions, attendees could pick one of the topics and head into track-specific breakout rooms, while sessions like panels were streamed in one virtual room for all attendees.
We started off the three-day event with an insightful presentation from Suthen Thomas, Chief Technology Officer for Mobility, APEX, Deliveries, Experiences at Grab, who shared more about the vision and goals for Grab Engineering.
Day one of TIL ended with an engaging discussion with our Women in Tech panel, comprising of Xiaole Kuang (Deliveries Head of Engineering), Janice Zhu (Deliveries Senior Tech Program Management Leader), Rosaline Wang (APEX DevOps engineer), and Afina Kong (APEX Program Manager). We heard many inspiring anecdotes from these leaders and have certainly learnt a thing or two. For example, as Janice shared, making sure you are well prepared and getting the right context will help you grow in your space and hone the art of asking the right questions.
The second day of TIL started off with a Data Tech panel discussion with Roopali Agrawal (Data Tech Head of Engineering), Cheng Feng (Caspian Senior Data Engineering Manager), Jia Chen (Head of Data Science, Integrity and Mobility), Edwin Law (Senior Data Engineering Manager), Saubhagya Awaneesh (Senior Analytics Manager), Oscar Cassetti (Principal Machine Learning Engineer), and Alex Dobrev (GrabX Lead Product Manager). The panellists spoke about the future of Grab’s Data and Machine Learning infrastructure. The audience got a glimpse into how modern data movements, such as Data Mesh, co-exist in Grab’s ecosystem.
On the final day, Jay Chin (Head of Infrastructure & Dev Ops) spoke about OVO’s partnership with Grab and Timothy Goh (Senior Principal Software Engineer, Deliveries Architecture and Operational Excellence), shared about getting promoted in Grab Engineering. TIL (and in TIL, we learnt) that getting promoted isn’t only about career advancement; Tim was actually referring to how the Go compiler promotes embedded types.
In the span of three days, there were a total of 60 different tech talk sessions including topics like data security, developing a centralised analytics platform, empowering engineers to help themselves, open source software development, improving search and mobile developer experience, expanding experimentation capacity, preventing fake account creation and so many more.
The event has changed since it was first conceptualised in 2021; the biggest change being the rebranding to Tech Island: Live. Adam Seyer (APEX Head of Engineering) and Elvis Do (Deliveries Lead Technical Program Manager), who have been on the organising committee since the start, felt that TIL truly reflected the spirit of engineering. “Interestingly enough, Tech Island root deeps into Grab’s tech culture from the original Malaysia office, all the way to the camaraderie we see [consistently] on the tech-island Slack channel, this was casually selected and voted by Grabbers themselves.”
Adam was also grateful for the high turnout and engagement in TIL. “It was very exciting to see the continued support for the second year of our Grab internal engineering conference. I was absolutely floored by the support our engineers gave to this effort and their desire to showcase the amazing technologies they have created.”
“Even as we are starting to come out of COVID, our ability to come together remotely for a three day engineering conference really helps drive the culture of engineering and innovation that Grab is known for across the region.” Adam continues, highlighting the commendable spirit Grabbers demonstrate daily.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of all the learning points in TIL but there are tons of opportunities to learn from fellow engineers at Grab. If you’re up for growing your skills and fulfilling challenges, check out grab.careers for open roles today!