Acronis, a private technology company that provides cloud data protection services for individuals and businesses, first set up in its Singapore offices in 2003. Today, its international presence has expanded and includes offices all over the globe – among them, Russia, Japan, the United States, and more.
SIT-DigiPen (Singapore) graduates Alan Miller and Woon Kok Leong, both from the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation program (RTIS), currently work as software developers for Acronis in Singapore.
Alan does software development for one of Acronis’ enterprise backup and recovery products. He works on the server side to develop new features, improve functionality, algorithms and optimize performance of backup, storage and recovery operations. One of his most recent projects was working on a deduplication feature in the product. Deduplication is a technology that can eliminate redundant copies of data. This technique makes backups faster, uses less storage space, and gives monetary savings for the end user.
“It was really cool to see the new features I developed being used by businesses,” said Alan. “It was also kind of scary. When you make something new, you have to make sure that it works, and that it works fast and reliably. You don’t want to lose data as that would be really bad for the users.”
Prior to joining Acronis in October 2015, Alan worked at indie game studio Springloaded. Comparing the two experiences, he said, is like comparing an apple to an orange. Transitioning from what he described as a cool indie game company, he now has to tackle a much larger code base and figure out a different system that has user’s data at stake. Despite the differences, however, he pointed out some aspects of his job that have remained the same.
“Both companies require you to bear the responsibility whenever you do something or make any changes,” Alan said. “Even though there are more people in Acronis, you can’t expect others to do your work.”
“It was really interesting for me as I was writing a malware by myself.”
Kok Leong joined the team just this past January and hit the ground running immediately, working on Acronis’s anti-ransomware program, part of Acronis True Image 2017 solution for consumers. Like Alan, he was responsible for maintaining the software that was shipped and improving the software’s code to optimize performance. In this case, his challenge is to improve the software’s performance while it works to detect ransomware in the background.
“A few weeks ago, I was tasked to create a ransomware simulation,” said Kok Leong. “It was really interesting for me as I was writing a malware by myself.”
Granted, he explained that his project is contained in a virtual machine, so if anything goes wrong, the outcome can be isolated and controlled with an undo function. He cites his DigiPen education in how he was able to optimize the performance of the source code.
“We’re taught to keep our game projects running at 60 frames per second, and this type of thinking helps me to understand how I could improve the system,” Kok Leong said. “A person’s computer could be running multiple programs at the same time, so I have to find ways to make sure that the code does not slow down the computer’s performance speed while doing its detection work in the background.”
“I am very satisfied with his sense of responsibility. I can throw a problem at him, and he can analyze the situation and come up with solutions that are out of the box. Maybe his education in DigiPen (Singapore) helped. Alan has also grown in many areas, and he is reliable.”
Aside from having the opportunity to work on products that impact the safety of end user’s data, Alan and Kok Leong said they also appreciate Acronis for its multicultural work environment, one where employees from many different countries work together and learn from one another. It wouldn’t be unusual, they said, to catch basic Japanese phrases being spoken in the corridor between a Hong Konger and a Russian colleague. Because of this, the word choice from someone’s native language may not translate elegantly into another language, but that’s just a part of the learning experience. Alan and his first supervisor, Vitaly Pogosyan, one of the team leads at Acronis, shared some funny communication blunders the two had exchanged early on.
“At one point, Vitaly started throwing questions at me to practice thinking about things. He asked about synchronization, which I had no answer to at that time. He then said I needed to ‘check my brain,’” he recalls, laughing at the unusual choice of phrasing. “But now his English is great.”
Vitaly, in turn, had great things to say about his experience working with Alan.
“Even then, I was really impressed with Alan’s organizational skills,” Vitaly said. “I am very satisfied with his sense of responsibility. I can throw a problem at him, and he can analyze the situation and come up with solutions that are out of the box. Maybe his education in DigiPen (Singapore) helped. Alan has also grown in many areas, and he is reliable.”
With more graduates expanding outside of the video games industry, taking the leap into the unknown might be scary. With that in mind, the two graduates have the following advice to give.
“Be open, and you will be surprised by what you can find out there,” said Kok Leong.
“Don’t be afraid to explore your options too,” Alan adds. “There are brilliant, talented people in both the games and non-games industries, and there are really cool projects outside of making games.”