If you like interesting challenges and find data center and server solutions fascinating, Intel’s Data Platform Groups (DPG) in Gdansk is the place for you. We recently spoke with Kamil Kuchta, a software engineering manager, and Maciej Lawniczak, a software architect, from the Server Software Engineering team about their current projects, biggest challenges, and their advice for potential candidates.
Tell us about your career journey at Intel so far?
Kamil: I started my career at Intel as a software validation engineer in the Networking & Storage Group, where I learned many topics related to software validation. Then, after taking a year-long break from Intel, I returned to the Data Platforms Group, debugging problems in server platform software. Since I’m always focusing on how to deliver our commitments to our customers, I volunteered to take a project management role and became one of the server platforms leads. Thanks to that role, I gained more management experience and skills, which allowed me to become a software engineering manager after two years.
Maciej: In 2015, I started as a validation engineer and I was following the validation path until 2018, when I switched my focus and took a server firmware development role. I gradually grew in that role and became a software architect after two years.
What does your business group do?
Kamil: Our business group – DPG – focuses on data platform solutions. We’re delivering software and a system level optimized end-to-end data portfolio for our customers to move, store, and process any amount of data.
Maciej: Intel is seen primarily as a producer of processors, but we also produce a lot of other hardware, including network cards, graphics cards, and different kinds of accelerators. Our group creates software and firmware for all that hardware.
What are your everyday projects like?
Maciej: I’m currently working on open source Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) firmware called OpenBMC. It’s an embedded software for a separate chip on the platform that is responsible for remote platform management. It makes life for data center administrators much easier, as they do not have to walk to a platform every time something breaks or requires attention – in many cases they can manage it remotely. OpenBMC is a community in which we collaborate with Google, Facebook, IBM, and other well-known companies.
Kamil: On an everyday basis, we cooperate with teams from all over the world – Israel, India, China, USA, Taiwan, Mexico, and some European countries. As a manager in our group, I’m involved in many projects. One that I’m working on is the AI POT, Post-training Optimization Toolkit, which is the development of algorithms in artificial intelligence applications. We are optimizing the use of our hardware capabilities in AI model inference applications for customers. Just imagine a huge server with many platforms – our firmware is responsible for cooperating with all the components on every board.
What is the purpose and impact of these technologies for society?
Kamil: This impact is huge. Nearly every server in the world has a BMC chip, and our role is to make our firmware best in class. Every day, we keep in mind how much of an impact this firmware has, so each line of code is very closely examined regarding security and privacy. Our firmware is responsible for the functioning of server operating systems, security, and recovery after restart. It makes slowdowns imperceptible to the ordinary user. And this positively affects the performance of all services on the Internet – all websites, video streaming, complicated calculations, and so on.
What excites you most about working in your business group?
Maciej: Definitely the breadth of technical challenges and the number of new projects it offers. There are also not many companies that have such a deep dive in technology as Intel. We have a lot of new interesting projects that are designed and implemented at Intel Poland. The ownership of entire products and solutions is increasing, and we have an influence on products and key decisions for products that will be on the market in a few years from now.
Kamil: Right, we are working on solutions that will appear on the market in 2023 and beyond. It’s exciting to search for the best solution and have the possibility of forging vision into a product, especially when there is so much information and so many requirements from our clients and ourselves. And you need to put all of it into reality, from idea to product.
What is the biggest challenge for you?
Maciej: Technically challenging projects that need to be designed, implemented, validated, and released.
Kamil: Deep dive into technology. From registers and software to a multitude of projects supported by platforms. Decisions are made at every level regarding project development. With great decision-making opportunities there also comes great responsibility.
What do you find particularly special about working in your group and at Intel?
Kamil: There is always something going on here. The amount of possibilities is amazing, and it’s up to you what you get involved in. I love this adrenaline. At the same time, managers are ready to help you develop your skills. We also focus on good communication so that everyone in our team is onboard with decisions.
Maciej: I like learning new things. When I spend too much time on one topic, I’m looking for an opportunity to participate in another project. After five years at Intel, I still haven’t reached the point where I feel I know enough – I learn something every day. And that’s because I can go into another project and dive into its technicalities. Of course, there are people who prefer to delve deep into one project and that’s okay too. They can become world experts on that particular topic. The great thing about managers in Poland is that they are aware of these different types of people, and they give us flexibility – we always discuss whether we want to join new project or prefer to stay longer in current project. Also, at Intel, if you’re a technical person, you can have just as long a technical career path as a managerial one. That’s very important.
What makes for the ideal job candidate for your group?
Maciej: In our team, we have many people who studied physics, mathematics, and electronics, not strictly computer science. It proves that you do not necessarily have to have an education in this field. The most important attributes we are looking for are commitment, willingness to learn, willingness to develop, and willingness to work with the latest technologies.
Kamil: If you expect more from your work, you should join us. Of course, depending on the project, you’ll also need some C/C++/C#/Python skills to develop software. But here at Intel, you have a lot of people to learn from. And I mean access to hundred thousand people worldwide, not only in Poland.
What surprised you the most about Intel?
Kamil: During high season, I usually start Tuesday’s with a football match at 8.30 a.m., then I start work at 10:00 a.m. I’ve also learned here how many interesting hobbies people have. We have around 40 groups of enthusiasts – from squash, diving, and parachuting to chess and badminton.
Maciej: For me, the Intel Labs were the most impressive. The entire floor is filled with servers. The noise and flashing lights, that really makes an incredible impression.
What advice do you have for others?
Maciej: Be active, get involved in different projects. Thanks to that, I have a lot of cross-design knowledge and it’s very useful.
Kamil: Take ownership of the results. When the success comes, you will be responsible for it.