Balancing software engineering and writing a master thesis


Giulia Di Pietro

November 16, 2021

Dominik Augustin, software engineer in Graz, is currently writing his master thesis at Dynatrace to pursue a degree in Computer Science.

Dominik (top left) and part of the Graz Lab during a team event in Summer 2021.

Tell me a little bit about yourself!

Hi, my name is Dominik, and I was born and raised in Carinthia. I moved to Graz after high school and studied Computer Science at the TU Graz while working part-time as a software engineer.

In my free time, I like to play board games and read books.

I’m currently working as a software engineer at Dynatrace whilst writing my Master’s thesis.

How did you get to write your Master’s thesis with Dynatrace?

As already mentioned, I have already been working for a while alongside my studies at the TU Graz. During my masters, I was part of the Catrobat project, which aims to develop solutions to help young people learn how to code.

During my time there, I got to know about Dynatrace. Some representatives of the company came to us to do a demo of their product and they asked if anybody would be interested in writing a master thesis with them. It was a bit too early for me at that time, but one year later, I remembered their offer and I contacted them to ask for more information.

I knew I wanted to try to work on my thesis at Dynatrace because I thought the software was awesome from an engineering perspective. I was also doing a lot with DevOps already and I knew that Dynatrace could allow me to continue on this path.

How was your application process?

First, I contacted Dynatrace to ask about their recruitment, onboarding, and writing a thesis there. I talked to them before searching for an appropriate advisor at the university, in case the application process wouldn’t have worked out.

I met with our Lab Lead Chris and our recruiter Conny. We did the whole interview process and I was offered a place. I also had the chance to meet my future team captain, Nico, and thesis advisor, Daniel, during the technical interview. Once I had a contract, I talked to my thesis supervisor at the TU Graz, Wolfgang, and he approved the idea. For him, it was important that Dynatrace would give me the free time to concentrate on writing the thesis. I should not have to work full time, then go home and work another 4 hours on the thesis.

Dominik (second from left) on his first day in the Graz Lab (January 2021).

How did you select the topic for your thesis?

Chris, Wolfgang, and I had a meeting to discuss potential topics for the master thesis. Chris proposed the topic of researching and implementing a modern software deployment process for cloud native applications to address some pain points in how Dynatrace currently handles it. Dynatrace wanted to go forward with Keptn as orchestration tool, but this would require quite a bit of research and experimentation, which sounded perfect as a topic for a master thesis.

I thought it was a very interesting topic because I had been working in DevOps for a long time already, but I hadn’t had the chance to touch upon cloud topics. So, we agreed on it because everybody was happy with it.

How was your experience at Dynatrace?

I started in January 2021 as a normal employee and went through the whole onboarding process. Before I started, my colleague Dieter had already worked on preparing the cloud environment for a new deployment process, driven by Keptn. That was a great starting point for the practical application.

Dominik’s official Dynatrace photo.

I had a great support system throughout the whole research process, and even now that I’m writing the thesis itself. I had two dedicated advisors at Dynatrace: Daniel and Dieter. Daniel helped me structure the timeline and had regular meetings with me to discuss my progress and to keep on track. Dieter helped me a lot with the content and the topic, answering all my questions about DevOps and cloud technologies.

Now that I am done with the practical part, I have reduced my work time with partial educational leave (Bildungsteilzeit). This helps me a lot because I can dedicate specific days and weeks to writing my thesis, without any work interruptions.

In general, I felt like I’m part of the team and not just “somebody who writes the thesis”. And I am happy to be able to learn and deepen my expertise in DevOps and cloud — it was definitely the right decision to do the thesis here at Dynatrace.

What are your plans for after the thesis?

In July 2021, I joined a newly formed team in Graz that focuses on enabling safe and frequent delivery of value to production in a quickly growing service ecosystem, a perfect home for my topic. It’s great that now I can share my expertise about cloud native deployment processes and influence the roadmap within this team. I hope that I can stay at Dynatrace and continue on this journey — for now, it looks like they want to keep me. 😉

Is there anything you would do differently?

If I could go back in time, I would plan the writing process more thoroughly. I felt like I lost some time there because I was quite deeply focused on the practical part and should have started preparing a bit earlier. But this is more a nitpick than anything else, overall, I am quite happy on how it progressed.

Any tips for somebody who wants to write a thesis with Dynatrace?

If you are interested in doing a master thesis with Dynatrace, just reach out to the company and ask about it. They help you along the way. They explain how it works; the whole interview process is structured, and you’re never left alone.

There are many different topics, not only in Graz but all over Austria. My colleague Vanessa, for example, is currently writing her master thesis in collaboration with the data science team at the Dynatrace Lab in Hagenberg.

In general, if you are writing a master thesis, plan your time well and make sure you don’t overwork yourself. Dynatrace really supported me with optimally structuring my time to prevent burnout.

Balancing software engineering and writing a master thesis was originally published in Dynatrace Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Giulia Di Pietro