2021 Year in Review

by Taichi Nakashima,


I continue working at Mercari, Inc.

One of the biggest changes in this year was I changed my role from the individual contributor (IC) to the engineering manager (EM). I’ve been the IC role in all of my carrier and recently worked as Staff plus role. Actually, I was thinking to continue to strive IC path, but, since I got the good opportunity, I decided to take the new role and try new area (another reason is, as The Engineer/Manager Pendulum described, it’s important to do both to be a good lead and I agreed on it. And I also don’t I’m good at EM or not).

The main opportunity is to become engineering head for the entire infrastructure area (we call developer productivity engineering division internally). Until this year, I’ve mainly focused on the platform engineering but, with this change, I started to take responsibility of other infrastructure related areas as well like SRE. This requires me to think things wider (area) and longer (time).

As an EM, I have 2 main direct reports: the one is platform developer experience (DX) team and the other is embedding SRE team. As shared in the last year’s post, platform DX team is team to be the interface of platform teams and product teams and give good developer experience of platform tooling and system. In the last year, it was still new team and we achieved less but, in this year, we’ve developed many toolings and I think they become very critical for our organization. For example, we developed Kubernetes manifest abstraction framework which allows developers to write less YAML (but gives good flexibility) and deploy new service faster and easier. We also developed temporary role granting system which gives required production access temporary with approvals by the owners and it reduced lots of production risk. We’ve provided many but I still feel it’s far from the ideal experience and requires more investment.

The embedding SRE team is, as name said, a team to provide embedding reliability support to the product team (This is the one of the form of SRE). Since it’s impossible to hire SREs per teams, one of the team mission is to spread SRE practices to the entire organization so that they can develop and operate services reliably without direct SRE support (The Third Age of SRE). To achieve this goal, there are many things to do. For example, we need to design better way to find the best embedding target (I think this is the most important), and how to effectively communicate with product teams and so on. Not only that, we also want to find good way to collaborate platform engineering team and embedding SRE team. If we can collaborate this well, I think we can create good feedback loops between them. It’s still new and needs many experiences but I hope we can open some of our works in the next year.

Compared with Staff plus path, there is lots of good books for the EM onboarding like Will Larson’s “An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Eng Management” or Camille Fournier’s “The Manager’s Path”. I read them but the one of the best for me is Julie Zhuo’s “The Making of a Manager”. And I think it’s really good for who becomes manager for the first time. Since EM role is new to me, there are still not much to say but would like to output some day about my experience in the future.


Here are some of the outputs.


After COVID-19, I don’t publicly speak but in this year, I got an opportunity to talk at CloudNative Days Tokyo 2021 Keynote. So I did the talk: “How We Harden Platform Security at Mercari”. The security is one of the important focus at the platform team and I tried to summarize the some of the important initiatives we’ve worked on. The slide itself does not give the details but the video is available (Japanese).

In addtion to this, from this year, I’ve started my own podcast named e34.fm with @rrrreeeyyy (the name comes from number of ‘e’ of the hosts). We released new episode almost every month and this becomes my main outputs. In this year, we’ve released 12 episodes with 8 guests (Thank you for joining the episode). It’s just one year but we’ve got 300+ followers on our podcast twitter accounts 🙏. We would like to continue it and provide better contents.


I wrote one blog article in this year: Scaling Kubernetes Tenant Management with Hierarchical Namespaces Controller. This is about the one of the biggest projects I’ve worked on for the last 1 year.


Here are some of inputs and learnings.


The followings are technical books I read in this year and liked!

There were few books about Staff plus role until this year but, from this year, I started to see some books about it and it’s great changes, I think. The books I listed above for Staff role is really good (one is still early release though) and if you want to strive the IC’s path, it’s very recommended.


I hope we will back normal in the next year.