Meet the team: Allen Leis, Software Engineer

Antimatter HQ

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to the team behind our groundbreaking cryptographic infrastructure service. Want to join us? We’re hiring!

What made you want to work at Antimatter?

I had left my previous job and was trying to figure out what was next, and Michael, who I had worked with before and knew well, asked me to come onboard. Michael is one of the most compassionate, empathetic, kind, and mature leaders and software developers I’ve worked with. Aside from that, he is legitimately the smartest person I have ever worked with. It’s rare to work with highly intelligent people who are also enjoyable coworkers. And Michael is both. That was enough to convince me this was a really great opportunity. 

Has anything surprised you so far?

I didn’t know Michael’s co-founders, Beau and Andrew, but Michael told me he trusted and respected them and I took him at his word. The more I get to know them, the happier I am about working with them. They’re good leaders who care about their people and what they’re trying to build. There’s a pervasive belief in tech that to be a good CEO you have to be a sociopath. I don’t believe that’s true, and our leadership team is a great counterexample. 

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the lack of ego. There’s good reason for me to feel intimidated here—two of the founders are Berkeley CS PhDs and all of the other engineers are CS PHDs. I’m the only one who’s not. But no one cares. People aren’t focused on talking about their resumes. They’re focused on figuring out the best way to do what they’re trying to do in the time that they have. 

Looking ahead into the next year, what are you most excited about?

I’m excited to actually get this product into people’s hands and get their feedback—developing it to the point of moving it forward with real users with real workloads. 


How does this differ from other jobs you’ve had?

At my last W2 job I worked on developing a timeseries database and its surrounding analytics platform, and during the previous seven years I was more focused on data science and machine learning. This job is straight up software engineering, and we’re solving new and difficult problems. It’s not like we’re following a recipe. It’s more like being the first people to ever bake a cake: Someone came up with the concept of cake, and we have to reverse engineer the ingredients, determine the ratios, and figure out how hot the oven should be and how long the cake needs to bake. So this requires a very different set of analytical skills. 

What feels culturally different about Antimatter? 

At Antimatter, there’s a high bar for success. At some other jobs, the bar for success has been a lot lower—like, if you can talk and tie your shoes, you’re a successful person. So the expectations here are higher, but we also place a lot of emphasis on making sure everyone is put in a position to succeed. 

Allen and the team at the second Antimatter retreat, showing off their challenge coins.

Tell me about your experience at the retreat. 

It was nostalgic for me in some respects. When I worked for the Department of Defense, I was a developer and program manager with about 12 people working under me. Every year, I would go to management retreats where we would work out the future of the company. It was exciting! I haven’t had that to the same degree until this retreat, and I hadn’t seen people who were as well prepared to have that type of meeting until now. 

When I participated in management retreats, almost 20 years ago, my boss was the former commanding officer of an entire US Marine base. Things were highly structured and extremely well thought out. That’s what the Antimatter retreat was like: extremely well thought out in terms of the activities, the opportunities for collaboration, and the focus on team building. It hit on all the right things. We came out as a tighter, closer-knit team, with everyone on the same page about what we’re doing and why, what our success metrics are, how the work we’re doing now fits into a wider roadmap, the core values of the company, and how our work reflects those values. 

We have values that are more than just lip service. It’s nice to be at a company where values and principles are more than just something abstract on a whiteboard. 

Which of Antimatter’s values resonates the most with you? 

I really love our core value of putting people in a position to be successful. We make sure that everyone on the team has the tools, the time, and the support they need to do their job and to do it well. Support could be all sorts of things—technical, emotional, schedule, you name it. 

What do you like to do outside of work? 

That’s a tough one. Pre-COVID I used to work full time, teach on the weekends, and attend grad school during the week.  It felt a lot like having three jobs so it was pretty busy for a number of years leaving little time for hobbies, etc.  I suppose you could say I like to “keep busy."

It’s hard to remember the before-times pre-COVID, but I seem to recall my favorite hobbies being woodworking, photography, and skiing. I also played volleyball for 15 years after college on local and traveling teams, but that changed when I moved into DC.  Right now the focus is on personal and family relationships and making sure various cats and dogs are fed and happy.

What are your favorite things about this role? 

In my graduate program, I focused on databases, machine learning, and distributed systems. This role scratches two major itches of mine, distributed systems and databases. 

Building something from scratch is really cool, especially a database. It’s a provable database, and not many exist in the world. So this is a novel problem, which makes it challenging and interesting—you’re not just doing the same thing all the time. 

This is one of the most exciting types of companies to work for because we’re building everything from the ground up. It’s not the type of company where you’re maintaining someone else’s code, or spending all of your time fixing bugs and occasionally get to add a new feature. That’s enticing to most developers. Whenever I’m coding, I'm working on something I've never worked on before, and quite possibly something no one else has ever worked on before. So future developers will possibly curse my name, but it’s fun. 

Two truths and a lie: Go!

1. My first car smelled of Old Bay seasoning for 10 years.

2. I co-wrote and produced a play in DC.

3. I am a level 2 sommelier (Certified Sommelier). 

Answer: 3! I’ve always wanted to take the level 1 exam but haven't gotten around to it.

Want to learn more? Meet our founding team and check out our open positions.