Exciting times! I’m moving from Newcastle University to Jane Street London to work on the OCaml build system Dune. I’ve received a lot of questions about this move already, so I decided to write down some answers in a blog post.
I’ve been studying and then working at Newcastle University for 14 years and enjoyed this time tremendously. People there, both in the streets and in the university, are warm and friendly so I felt welcome from Day 1. Academic life isn’t perfect for everyone but it was perfect for me. (By the way, I’m happy to recommend Newcastle University to anyone who is thinking of an academic career: it’s a great place and I’m happy to introduce you to my former colleagues.)
What I like about academia is the freedom of exploring new topics without asking anyone’s permission. In particular, in 2014 I unexpectedly started working on build systems, first practically by developing a new build system for the Glasgow Haskell Compiler and then theoretically by exploring the space of existing build systems in the paper Build Systems à la Carte. This led me to the build system Dune, which didn’t quite fit the model described in the paper, so I started collaborating with Jane Street to understand Dune better and we wrote another theoretical paper on “selective functors” together.
I find build systems fascinating and would like to dedicate some time to work on them. When I heard that the Dune team was looking for new developers I thought that this would be a great opportunity to both deepen my understanding of build systems, and also do something I wanted to do for a while — get some experience of working in industry and see if it would be a good environment for me too.
Like other members of the Tools and Compilers team at Jane Street, I plan to continue being involved in programming languages research. Fortunately, Dune and a few other Jane Street projects are open source, which makes it possible to openly collaborate and publish. I’ll also stay in touch with my former academic colleagues; Newcastle University has kindly granted me the Visiting Fellow status, so if you’ve been in touch with me via my university email, don’t worry, it will still work. Looks like this blog is still up too, although I’d like to set up a standalone blog at some point.
To complete the picture of my new place of work I’d like to highlight a few Jane Street tech talks: algebraic effects, incremental computation, compiling OCaml to FPGAs, as well as a more general talk about the use of OCaml at Jane Street. Not sure I’ll have time to contribute to any of these projects as I’m going to focus on Dune first, but it’s exciting to work in such an environment. My new Day 1 is tomorrow!
P.S.: If you are in London on 1-2 October, come along to the Build Meetup organised by Cloudflare, Bloomberg and Google where I’m giving a talk.