“My name is Pascal Christen and I am 25 years old, a computer scientist, working as a system engineer at Hostpoint. I’ve been with Hostpoint since 2017 and currently spend about 50% of my time working while also doing my computer science degree at the Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences in Rapperswil.
I completed my computer science apprenticeship with a Federal VET Diploma in systems technology at V-ZUG in the city of Zug. Even then, I found Unix/Linux interesting and fascinating, and I was able to work on furthering my skills in the field during my apprenticeship.
Shortly after I completed my apprenticeship in 2016, I was already thinking about studying at a university of applied sciences at some point. So I started looking for a suitable entry-level position where I could continue working with Unix/Linux, and which was also close to a university of applied sciences. My search led me to Hostpoint relatively quickly and I found myself with an employment contract shortly after I applied.
Between Hostpoint and university
When I joined Hostpoint in 2017, I started off in the System Operations team. As a system administrator, I was responsible for maintenance and further development of different operational components like the web, database and mail clusters, work equipment and multimedia installations. Back then, the team was still new; it had only just been founded and it was only the team leader and me to begin with. The exciting thing was that I got the opportunity to help define the tasks, responsibilities and processes in this new team.
I was still interested in studying computer science, which I finally did in 2019. I was able to reduce my workload to 50% of full-time and began my degree at the HSR in Rapperswil (now part of the OST – Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences), which I expect to complete in 2023. Hostpoint supports me with flexible working hours, which allows me to combine my work with my studies.
“Hostpoint supports me with flexible working hours, which allows me to combine my work with my studies.”
In 2021, I was able to transfer internally from the Operations team to the System Engineers. With both teams coming under the same department at Hostpoint, the transfer enabled me to link my new role with my previous experience.
What exactly does a system engineer do?
The System Engineering & Operations department at Hostpoint essentially takes care of the entire hosting infrastructure and other centralized systems such as the name server, monitoring and internal IT.
While the Operations team is primarily responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of our existing infrastructure (software updates, commissioning of new servers, security updates, technical points of contact for Hostpoint support), the system engineers tend to focus on expanding and optimizing our infrastructure.
We maintain, expand and renew systems, such as the storage systems, the network and many other components. We are also responsible for evaluating new services and technologies and implementing them as needed. We plan, develop and monitor the entire process, from conception to operation.
But we also have primary responsibility for security. It is very important to us that right from the outset, our systems are designed and developed to be robust and secure. This major responsibility for security also includes continuously monitoring our systems so we can detect and respond to threats early on, and remedy any security gaps as quickly as possible.
“It is very important to us that right from the outset, our systems are designed and developed to be robust and secure.”
The engineers in our team all have degrees in IT or a lot of expertise and interest in Unix and the technologies we use. We have a good mix within the team. We have some experienced engineers who have worked at Hostpoint for many years. Other colleagues are still quite young and bring a breath of fresh air and new ideas from their studies.
Technology experts, system designers and guardians of security
At Hostpoint, we believe it’s very important to have thorough knowledge and understanding of the technologies and products we use. We need a complete understanding of how things work to put them into practice. To avoid nasty surprises, we build in the time we need to plan projects as accurately as possible.
We are aware of the huge responsibility we have as a technical department at Hostpoint – not only to our customers, who rely on the stability and security of our hosting infrastructure, but also to Hostpoint employees in other departments. After all, our internal colleagues rely on us and the systems we maintain as well.
As the largest web hosting provider in Switzerland, Hostpoint manages over 900,000 domains and more than 300,000 websites and online shops. The smooth, secure operation of our infrastructure is therefore crucial for a considerable portion of the Swiss internet. And that’s something we’re proud of!
My most exciting projects so far
Since I joined Hostpoint, I’ve been able to work on numerous projects. Back in 2018, for example, during my time in the Operations team, I provided technical support for the migration of PHP 5.6 to version 7.2 and worked closely with the Support team.
For the past year, I have been actively involved in combating phishing attacks. We are constantly identifying and implementing technical measures in this field to avoid phishing cases, or at the very least reduce them. In 2021, for example, we integrated a list of known phishing URLs, which is maintained by the Swiss Internet Security Alliance, into our spam filter.
Another security project I worked on was conceived to block IP addresses that use brute force to gain access to login information. We developed a mechanism to enable centralized internal collection of certain IP addresses and make them accessible across all systems. This also benefits our Support team, as they can get the information centrally rather than spending time hunting around for it.
I’m currently working on a project to update the sets of rules for our web application firewall (WAF). We will soon be launching a pilot project in which we will test and refine the sensitivity of the ruleset. The challenge here is to ensure the best coverage of the wide range of applications used in our shared hosting.
Collegiate atmosphere, open communication and personal responsibility
We have an excellent team culture throughout the System Engineering & Operations department. Helping each other is a key priority for us, because we believe that we can achieve our goals much better and more efficiently by working together. Right from the start, I felt highly valued by all my colleagues and I had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions, which helped me quickly get to grips with the environment and pick up new knowledge.
One thing I particularly like about my job is that we get to take on a lot of responsibility; Hostpoint actively encourages independent working. That doesn’t mean that we each work on our own in a quiet room. Quite the opposite: we exchange ideas with each other every day. It is more about us taking the initiative so we can keep developing and fulfilling our potential with various projects.
I really appreciate the trust and freedom that Hostpoint give me. Across every department and team, we have flat hierarchies, short decision-making paths and open communication. Every door is open and everyone is really helpful.
And then there are our company and team events. We have regular events and they are not only a lot of fun, they also help boost team spirit and collaboration within the department and beyond.
All of this, combined with the flexibility around work and study, make Hostpoint the ideal employer for me.”
Hostpoint is always on the lookout for motivated, tech-savvy talent. We currently have two exciting vacancies in our System Engineering & Operations department:
System Administrator Unix (80-100 %) (in German)
System Engineer Unix (80-100 %) (in German)