Meet the Aries Team: Jesse “JZ” Zoldak, Engineering Lead

Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been working for Aries? What did you do before joining Aries?

I’m somewhat new to Aries, as I’ve been an employee for a little under a year now. Prior to joining, I worked in the elections industry, in education, and in healthcare. I’ve had quite a long career in tech, working in environments from startups to enterprises. One of the things I like best about Aries is that the team has a small, agile vibe, yet also the solidity of a big company behind it.

What have your roles at Aries been?

I joined to help with the cloud migration initiative, moving our Editorial Manager and ProduXion Manager applications from a self-managed, on-premises infrastructure to managed services on AWS. It’s been quite a complex and challenging undertaking, but very rewarding. I’m proud to be involved in a project that positively impacts the experience of our customers and millions of authors and peer reviewers. The migration itself has been a lot of work but enables us to deliver future features more rapidly and reliably, while also improving scalability and security.

How have your previous roles helped you in your current position?

I don’t have an Engineering background per se, but rather earned an undergraduate degree in Mathematics from MIT. Lately I’ve been focusing on Cloud Computing projects, including helping a startup in education grow from a platform that served hundreds of students to serving tens of millions. During the 2020 US Election cycle, I led the DevSecOps team for a company that manufactures voting systems, where we securely scaled time-critical calculations by migrating systems from metal to the cloud. In doing so we were able to provide timely and accurate ballot counting results and audits. My job at Aries has required me to tap into all the knowledge and experience that I’ve picked up over the course of my career, both with the pragmatics of the EM/PM cloud migration project and in helping to envision our lofty future goals.

How do you stay informed with customer needs and industry trends?

Last summer I was lucky to attend our annual Editorial Manager User Group (EMUG) meeting, where I was able to meet customers, partners, and colleagues in person and attend sessions that expanded my understanding of who uses Editorial Manager and how and why. One way I keep up to date with the changes to our application is via the biweekly internal demo showcase meetings, in which I get to see the changes that the other teams are making and some of the background data behind those new features and updates. Our teams often start their presentations with how they used customer interviews, focus groups, and industry research to inform their decisions.

How do you collaborate with other departments within Aries?

My squad’s name is the Platform team, which falls under TIO (Technical Infrastructure and Operations) within Aries. We consider the other engineering development squads to be our customers as well as our colleagues, and work in close coordination with them all! My team creates and supports the infrastructure that the applications run on, and along with Product Management and Client Services teams, we have a shared responsibility with the squads for the experience of our users.

Describe your typical workday.

Every day starts with our team’s standup meeting. We are an Agile development squad and hold the usual ceremonies such as Refinement and Retrospective meetings. Our squad has an attitude of continuous improvement. We seek to create a blameless culture where we are transparent about mistakes and focus not on errors themselves but rather on the contributing causes so that we can fix systemic problems. We have team members who live local to the Aries headquarters in North Andover, MA and others from around the US. I am a home-based employee working from North Carolina. Most of my job is done while collaborating with colleagues over webcams and shared screens.

What do you most enjoy about your job? What do you enjoy most about working for Aries?

The people that I work with are outstanding. I am proud to be a member of the Aries Platform team, which is a group of smart and skilled engineers, from a wide variety of backgrounds. Everyone on the team is stellar and has their heart in providing a great experience for our customers. It’s amazing to work in a team with such high levels of trust and respect.

Tell me about some of your hobbies/interests outside of work.

Outside of work, I spend my time practicing yoga, and studying Astrology and Ayurveda. I’m also a musician, and on Saturday afternoons you can catch me playing harmonium at a drum circle with my friends.