MMA, MTG, CS:GO… Lukas’ life in abbreviations

Sport, history and geography geek helping the tech geeks of Mews be seen and heard around the world.

Have you ever thought about who has influenced the course of your life? Well, Lukas probably hadn’t thought about it until this interview. It turns out that much of what he likes and does stems from his two uncles. From watching them playing PlayStation games and tuning into MMA to enjoying an excellent Irish whiskey. But there’s one thing he didn’t inherit from them: belonging to a community for life – being a Matfyz student. That may not say much for people outside of the Czech Republic, but it’s a real thing, and no matter where life takes you (ideally Mews), it’s embedded deep in your DNA.

Learn programming in school, then just join Mews

Like many others in our team, you study at Matfyz. Was it your first-choice university?

To begin, I interrupted my studies, so I’m technically not a student there right now. I’m hopeful that I’ll resume, but you know what they say: if you don’t start again within a year, it’ll be complicated to finish your degree later on. So even though I only have the thesis and one more subject left, I really needed to take a break. And you know, it was a relatively easy decision for me at the end of the day because when I see all the progress I make at work and the progress our team (tooling) is making, it puts school into perspective.

However, to answer your question, yes, it was definitely my first choice. I also applied to CVUT, but that was just a backup plan. I had my mind set on Matfyz.

Why was that? Did you always excel in mathematics or computer science?

I wouldn’t say I excelled in math, but I’ve always loved computers, and, like many before me, I wanted to program my computer game. That was the ultimate goal. I have to thank both my uncles for showing me the world of gaming. However, the most appealing thing about Matfyz was the rigorous theory behind everything they teach you there. I wanted to learn more than just the practice, which is kind of ironic now since practice is what steered me away from finishing my studies.

I guess the comforting aspect of all this is that the team you’re part of is probably the closest you can get to theory in programming, right?

One hundred percent. And honestly, even though I haven’t finished my degree, I appreciate everything I learned during my university studies because they taught me everything I needed to know (since I wasn’t self-learning before). That’s why I wanted to go somewhere that would teach me things properly. Studying alone at that age, I could make many mistakes that would stick with me.

Lukas sporting our old merch at the 2019 Career fair.

Is Matfyz where you got to know Mews? At a career fair and other events there?

Well, not really. That’s where Pepa, our current VP of Platform Engineering, got to know Mews, and through him, I got to know you. Ever since he got hired, he wouldn’t stop talking about it and trying to lure me in. But as I said, I never went through the classic entry level jobs of developing web pages in HTML/PHP, except for web content management. I had to learn enough at Matfyz to feel confident to join any company, let alone Mews. Once I reached that stage, I appreciated that a friend of mine was already working here, even though they say not to work with your friends.

In August 2019, were you hired for the job you’re doing today? And what is it that you do?

Mews as a whole is on a mission to change hospitality. However, that doesn’t affect my team or what we do since our sole focus is the technical excellence of our code and processes. Our customers are the engineers working on the product. So, we need to listen to them, follow the latest trends, and deliver the best possible experience. Our latest significant achievement was the migration from .NET to .NET Core. And back to your initial question, yes, it is what I was hired for. However, back then, there was only one team overseeing the infrastructure, of which the current tooling was a part of. Nowadays, the team is split and growing faster than ever.

Do you enjoy MTG as much as you enjoy platform engineering?

The ideal time to join Mews and Lukas’ team!

You mentioned that back in the day, the ultimate goal of your programming would be a game, which sounds a lot like a product. Do you miss working on something similar to that?

I’d say that "dream" has been put on hold as game programming is probably the craziest in the industry. But even there, I would enjoy working on bigger and broader problems. I’d end up working on the game’s physics, engine, or something along those lines, not anything related to the story.

Even though many people from our team are Matfyz students or alumni, we also have a lot of people who learned programming on their own. How do you enjoy this dynamic?

I like the mental challenge of selling your thoughts and solutions to people from different backgrounds. At the same time, it’s great to work with people who look at things pragmatically because people of my breed would be problem-solving nonstop if they could. A popular book around our office is The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master, which has helped me a lot.

Maybe using Scorpions WinCheater would help our CS:GO team?

Let’s get back to something we briefly touched on at the very beginning: games. How did you get into gaming?

Well, as a kid I watched both my uncles play PlayStation I. So what people are now watching on Youtube with all the esports, I had a live version of that. Plus, they were buying games in Germany, and even though I don’t speak a word, I think I’d still be able to play Age of Empires 1 comfortably in German. So this, and Need for Speed Underground 1, were the first games I could play. And I did my fair share of Scorpions WinCheater use.

Tip for all the AoE fans -> here and here are two Facebook groups with all the game-related memes. You’re welcome.

Which game for you was the one that blew your mind?

Funnily enough, it would be Minecraft. Just because it’s a giant sandbox, these days, you can literally build games within the game. Although back in my day, this wasn’t easy to do, there were mods, and you could write your code to add on top of the base game. This sparked in me the question: "I can do what with a game"?

And now you represent Mews in CS:GO tournaments. Do you also enjoy watching professionals?

I used to watch them a lot when I was younger. And since the pandemic, I got back to watching tournaments quite regularly as there was not much else to do. I’m quite a fan of esports overall, even though I don’t think it will ever replace classic sports. It doesn’t have to. Even though with each Olympics, there’s a debate about whether esports events should also be part of the program. Esports doesn’t need such exposure as it’s built itself from the ground up, and to be honest, I don’t want it to go mainstream in that regard. It has its own set of issues that it must deal with, never mind the mainstream attention and all it brings.

Your gaming name is Coach Luke. Are you the coach of our CS:GO team? And what’s it like representing the company you work for in such a discipline?

Well, I’m rather the one who’s managing logistics and communications. I don’t have the superior skills to train anyone. To answer your second question, I’d say it’s cool and unusual. The nature of the Mews engineering team is somewhat competitive, so it fits in well. I understand that it’s another stream of external exposure for our brand, so it’s a win-win for us. You may think there would be no pressure, but we needed a break now after two disappointing fourth-place results because that’s not the podium outcome we wanted.

Big sports events? Mews’ CTO losing a basketball game by 50 points & Czech MMA history

Shifting from competitive gaming to something else… If I judged you just by what you like on Twitter, I’d say you’re a huge MMA fan. Would that be a correct assumption? And do you know why the sport has risen in popularity recently?

Definitely, and thankfully, in the Czech Republic, the sport’s popularity is growing, and a lot of matches are on TV, so I don’t have to go for the expensive pay-per-view. Funnily enough, I got to know the sport only when the most prominent star Connor McGregor retired for the first time. And I’ll go back to my uncle again, he lives in Ireland, enjoyed the parades for McGregor’s wins, and his influence brought me to it.

To reply to the question about its recent growth in popularity, I believe it’s because the president of the UFC, Dana White, is so crazy and was somehow able to keep UFC as one of the few sporting events that weren’t shut down during the pandemic. This is a paradox since this is the sport where you’re exposed to a lot of bodily fluids from other people.

Recently, the Czech Republic got put onto the MMA map, with Jiri Prochazka winning the light heavyweight belt. I assume you were watching, right?

Of course, I was! We had a small watch party, and no one could believe what we’d just witnessed. It was up and down the entire fight, and it didn’t seem like Jiri was going to win if it came down to points, but by a miracle, he found a way to submit Glover Teixiera, someone who has ten professional wins via submission himself. Not even 30 seconds before the final bell, simply crazy. It was Jiri’s first win by a sub in like eight years, which is ironic because, in an interview before the match, he said he doesn’t play BJJ (the martial art most associated with submissions). More people are walking around in Prochazka’s merch, which helped the sport’s popularity tremendously.

Are you thinking about picking up martial arts yourself?

Yeah, I’d probably like to try the above-mentioned Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), a "grappling" sport. No kicking or punching, but you can still choke or seriously injure the opponent, and they can do the same to you. So, if you’re both smart about it, you don’t hurt each other, but you try to outsmart each other. It’s almost like chess, as you always have to think a couple of moves ahead.

OK, this is one thing you’d like to do, but what other sports have you done in your life?

I grew up in the small city of Nymburk, which has been the capital city of basketball in the Czech Republic for the past two decades, so naturally, I picked up basketball early on. I also attended the games, but they almost made basketball boring as they were always able to get the best players and win everything. On the other hand, they’re growing their own talent in their academy. I played just before it was established, so that’s why you are interviewing me now, not Sports Illustrated.

And a fun fact, it’s very likely I was at a game in 2010 where our CTO, Honza, played against Nymburk. His team got trashed, but he played in the highest league, so that’s not bad.

Although Lukas cannot prove it (as he threw out all his old tickets), this seems to be the game.

Do you play basketball at least in a beer league these days?

Not really, besides going out on the court every once in a while with friends to shoot some hoops. And actually, I switched to floorball in my teens. Even though it’s a hugely popular sport in the country, it doesn’t get as much attention and funding as other sports. So, I didn’t pursue a "career" there. However, I have officiated a couple of games as a referee. But only in some junior leagues and even that career didn’t last too long.

Sipping whiskey and casting spells with a favorite card

Something that has definitely lasted long is your passion for Magic the Gathering. I played it around the time you were born, which is insignificant information to this story, but I felt it had to be said. Was it one of your uncles who got you into it?

No, no uncle was involved this time. An older brother of a friend of mine showed us his cards, and I just loved the art. I didn’t understand what the cards said, but the pictures got me. And after a couple of years, when I was 15, I finally knew enough English, so I rediscovered my old cards and started going to a shop/game room called Černý rytíř in Prague, which every player must know. Reading the cards, playing the battles, and talking to some of the English-speaking players helped me a lot with the language.

What I like about it, till today, is the fact that there are so many ways to play and so many formats to choose from. Now it’s the Commander I enjoy the most. It’s more laid back, and you have space to talk more during the game. Also, the same card can’t appear twice in your 100-card deck, which makes it more interesting. And since over 20,000 cards have been created, an unreal world of combinations can be played.

Is this the most expensive of your hobbies?

Board games in general, but yes, Magic cards are something I spend a lot of money on, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. One of the reasons is that Wizards of the Coast, the game’s publisher and its parent Hasbro, the toy conglomerate, publish more and more cards as the game gets more and more popular. There are also restrictions for some formats as to which cards and editions you can use. The other reason is simply the collectable value of some of the cards. Some cards are rarer than others, and for the price of some, you could buy a new house.

I used to collect hockey cards and still like to follow the news about sports cards and broken records in their values. But in this case, you collect them and place them on a shelf or in a safe. With MTG, you also want to play them in your deck, but their value decreases as their condition does, right?

As you mention, some people collect them like sports cards. It can be an investment, or you’re simply a fan and want to have them in the drawer. That’s not my case, at least not just yet. I want to have fun, even with the more expensive ones, because they give power to my deck and boost the game.

OK, tell me. What is your most expensive card?

I recently purchased a Yawgmoth’s Will, worth around 220 USD. That might sound like a lot of money, but you can spend way more.

The last question, I swear… I imagine whiskey, another of your many interests, can get expensive. What’s the story there?

I think it’s nice that we’ll end the interview with one last mention of an uncle. It seems like I was influenced a lot by them. 😅 Not surprisingly, the one living in Ireland is into whiskey and took me to the Jameson Midleton Distillery. One of the best experiences was walking through one of the old storage houses where the whiskey ages in barrels. Air only enters when tourists come and go, so you can experience something called Angel’s Share, which is when the whiskey evaporates. And one last fun fact for you is that you’re not allowed to stay there for more than two hours a day because if you did, you’d be legally drunk.

Sport, history and geography geek helping the tech geeks of Mews be seen and heard around the world.

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