CSS Dev Conference Recap

In October I was fortunate enough to attend CSSDevConf and listen to a number of excellent talks relating to both CSS and the wider web.

This blog post will recap a few of the key trends I came across during the conference that relate to both Frontend development and ecommerce.

Current web performance is bad. And we should all feel bad

Website performance on the client-side has never been more important than today and it will only become increasingly more important as the next wave of internet users come online. And yet, the size of an average web page has dramatically increased in recent years with ever larger and larger images, javascript bundles, and CSS files.

The next 1 billion users

At CSSDevConf, Harry Roberts gave a brilliant talk about how the next billion internet users are going to be much more diverse and almost exclusively on mobile. Designing and developing for mobile presents a number of unique challenges from offline connectivity due to unreliable cellular service to performant client-side apps that limit the resources required to render and interact with pages. Google has a great landing page which goes over the next billion users along with UX recommendations to consider when designing for these users. The WSJ also has a great article (warning: paywall) on how these users will interact with the web in a much different way than most of us currently are – via video and voice.

The main point to consider is that although we often test for responsiveness in our website designs, how often do we test for a site’s network reponsiveness or the browser responsiveness? When designing mobile-first, we also need to develop mobile-first. To get there, Google and other browser manufacturers offer CPU and Network throttling that can simulate different networks and devices around the world. Testing in a sandbox environment is not enough. We must test our websites on real-world devices with real-world expectations such as dropped service, slow service, slow device, low battery, etc. Designing and developing in a “clean-room” will yield unrealistic experiences and most likely perform less than optimal.

Optimising Our Existing Experiences

However, even if we are not developing an ecommerce experience for emerging markets, application performance has never been more important. WPOStats offers a number of recent case studies demonstrating the importance and real-world business impact that optimising websites can yield. For ecommerce sites, reducing page load times can often increase conversions by providing a faster overall shopping experience.

There are a number of low-hanging fruit than can be optimized:

  • Images can be passed through optimizers either before being uploaded or through image CDNs such as, Imgix which Something Digital uses. Serving more performant file type such as webp can further decrease image sizes and load times. Out of the box, Magento will not optimize the images being uploaded so it is important to optimize either before upload or afterwards through an image CDN. Imigix has a great tool called PageWeight which showcases the performance improvements their CDN will deliver (note that final results will vary depending on the optimization settings used).
  • Videos & Images can both be lazyload so that only the items in-view are loaded.
  • Javascript can be bundled into multiple files and loaded only when needed or asyncronously to decrease time to interactive. This becomes increasingly important as more logic is offloaded to the client side via Javascript where the site will be impossible to interactive until all the Javascript has been loaded.

 

In addition to optimising during development, it is important to track performance over the long run. We already do that for uptime performance with tools like NewRelic and Pingdom but frontend performance and how it improves or degrades over time is important to track. Although a website may be “up” it could be unusable for say the first 10 seconds causing an increased bounce rate. A tool such as SpeedCurve will continously monitor a site’s end user performance and offer guidence and competitive benchmarking.

Progressive Web Apps

To target the growing trend of mobile-first shoppers and to create a more performant storefront for all users (including those next billion), Magento has recently partnered with Google to develop a suite of tools they call the Magento PWA Studio. Progressive Web Apps, commonly reffered to as PWA are web applications that offer experiences similar to native applications but eliminating the requirement of installation and updating. Google considers PWA applications as reliable, fast, and engaging.

Apple Pay-esque Payments for everyone!

During one of the breakout sessions, Wes Bos showcased new features coming to Javascript and the most interesting in regards to ecommerce is most definitely the upcoming Payment Request API.

You can read the full spec of the Payment Request API, but Google has a great overview of why we need the Payments Request API and how to integrate it.

If you have ever used Apple Pay, then the functionality of the Payments Request API will be very familiar. The API acts as an intermediary between the browser and the merchants, acting more as web form auto-fill. For an interactive example (best tried on Chrome at the moment), checkout Google’s demo.

Web payments have the potential to profoundly impact the ecommerce world. For starters, one can expect that conversions will increase as customers will no longer need to enter payment, shipping or billing information and will have a browser-native interface that fetches the required information and directly passes it on. Then if we consider that Amazon’s one-click patent expired in September, one can convienbly create a one-click guest checkout experience!

Browser Support?

Like with any new web technology, the top question is always about browser support. At the time of posting, Chrome, Opera, & Edge have all shipped Payment Requests in their respective browsers. Firefox currently restricts the funcitionality under a feature flag and Safari has it enabled on their latest technology preview release.

For the most up-to-date data on browser compability, refer to CanIUse.

Who Designs the Design Systems?

There were several talks and a great deal of talk surrounding design systems at CSSDevConf. With the advent of multi-platform experiences ranging from the mobile and desktop web to smart TVs and smartwatches, presenting an experience consistently while also keeping all the components up-to-date can be challenging. Design systems attempt to rectify many of the challenges designers and developers face through creating an ever evolving set of unified components.

Internally at Something Digital, we utilize design systems with every new project through design pattern libraries and interactive styleguides that contain markup and usage examples.

If you’re in the NYC area, checkout the Design Systems Coalition NYC meet-up. They also have a Youtube channel featuring past talks.

CSS Grid Layout is finally here and ready to be used in production applications. The main difference with CSS Grids compared to another popular layout approach, flexbox, is that CSS Grids are for 2-dimensional grids whereas flexbox is more for 1-dimensional grids.

CSS Grids allow us to escape the all too common 12-column grid choke-hold and create websites with more creative and unique layouts all without introducing complex CSS code.

If you’re interested in learning CSS Grids, Firefox has created an excellent guide to get started. There is also an excellent CSS Grid Codepen collection filled with countless examples.

Browser Support

All modern browsers support CSS Grid Layout in their most recent releases (Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Operaria, iOS Safari, & Android)! 🙌

Given this level of browser support, expect to see an increasingly larger number of websites utilize CSS grids.

For the most up-to-date data on browser compability, refer to CanIUse.

Grids, Payments, Performance, Oh My!

The web is changing rapidly but with it comes a host of exciting new features such as web payments, PWA, CSS grids layout. Our job as developers is to integrate these new features while still considering the impact both in terms of applications performance and end user experience. With the proper tooling and testing, we can seamlessly integrate these new technologies while keeping without our performance budgets.

Written By: Gil Greenberg, Frontend Programmer

Women in Technology – Breaking Barriers Conference Recap

Tech has a reputation as a boy’s club—a reputation that isn’t helped when, say, anti-diversity memos written by Google software engineers make headlines. While the buzz around the need to encourage, celebrate, and bolster diversity in leadership—especially in technical fields—continues to grow, the tech industry’s conception of leadership hasn’t seemed to evolve much with the demand.

That’s not for want of trying.  Earlier this year, Something Digital and Women Who Code sent me to Palo Alto to attend VMWare’s Women Transforming Technology conference (WT2), a conference focused exclusively on female leadership in tech.  In this blog post, I summarize some of the conference’s high points, explain my takeaways, and give a few suggestions on what Something Digital and other companies like it can do to start making tech a better, more diverse field to work in.

Established to call attention to the need for more women at tech’s highest levels as well as to cultivate a more female-friendly environment at all levels of the industry, Women Transforming Technology conference ran panels on everything from, breaking STEM pipeline barriers, to pursuing successful careers in leadership, and featured keynote speakers Kara Swisher and Gloria Steinem.

I’ve known for a long time that a conference like this is vital. Despite my efforts to surround myself with female role models through groups like Women Who Code, I’ve struggled to find older female role models during my time in the tech industry.  This lack of a blueprint for female success is cited as one of the main reasons behind why women are underrepresented in technical fields.  According to a global survey of 500 women working in the tech sector conducted by ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), called The Future Tech Workforce: Breaking Gender Barriers, the top three biggest barriers to women getting (and staying) in tech sector are “A lack of female mentors (48 percent), a lack of female role models (42 percent) and limited networking opportunities (27 percent).”

Considering this, one could imagine my surprise when I walked into the conference and found myself surrounded by 300 women who fit both bills: tech success and role model.  The women around me ran companies and ran technology teams.  Many were developers just like me and many were the women who forged the path I am following.

While there, I started asking myself a lot of questions.  If these women exist, why am I only now learning about them? If their efforts have led these companies to great successes, why have they not been publicly recognized? Why have I been left to think my generation of women is forging this path alone, when all along great women were out there developing a career path for women and girls in technology?

After attending WT2, it became clear that my inability to find female role models in this industry didn’t necessarily correlate with the actual numbers of existing women in tech; rather, it points to the lack of public acknowledgement of their existence and successes.  These women’s contributions are immense, and yet they are consistently underrepresented and underplayed.

These are some of the questions Swisher and Steinem addressed in their keynotes, as well as the questions a panel of female experts fielded from 300+ top women in tech earlier in the day.  They are questions, I realized, that I’ve been grappling with since the beginning of my career as a developer.

WT2 Breaking Barriers Panel

WT2 Keynote with Re/code Decode’s Kara Swisher

Since these questions are on the minds of so many, there are certainly ideas for solutions floating around the industry.  Here are a few of my own suggestions that companies can take to encourage women and girls not to just join the tech sector—and to stay—but to enjoy the space, advance, succeed, and become the next generation of women leaders in tech.

 1. Recruit and hire more diversely. If women and diverse candidates aren’t at the career fairs you’re attending, expand your recruitment efforts. Here are a few services that can aid in your effort:

– PowerToFly
 – Women Who Code Job Board
 – HireTechLadies
 – Girls in Tech Job Board
 – Become a Grace Hopper / Fullstack Academy hiring partner

 2. Be active in your communities. Support groups like WWC, GDI, and GIT by sponsoring meetups, providing meetup content or space, or sending people from your team to represent your company and recruit women.

– Women Who Code
 – Girl Develop It
 – Girls in Tech

 3. Go to conferences that celebrate female leadership and technical skills. Here are a few:

– Women Transforming Technology
 – Grace Hopper
 – Women in Tech Summit
 – Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference
 – Voices Global Conference

 4. Address the pipeline problem. Encourage your company or coworkers to volunteer at schools in underserved communities. Send diverse employees to speak to young people in their communities and show them that not only is it possible to forge a career in tech, it’s empowering and seriously fun. Here are a few organizations that can help jumpstart that process:

– Script Ed
 – TechGirlz
 – ChickTech

Written by: Kate Eldridge, Frontend Programmer

SD Gives Back: Billion Oyster Project

On August 17, members of the SD team ventured to Governor’s Island in NYC to give back to their community for SD Service Day and spent the day with the Billion Oyster Project. If you’re not familiar with this organization here is a little snippet. The Billion Oyster Project is an initiative of the New York Harbor Foundation and is an ecosystem restoration and education project. It’s main objective? To restore one billion live oysters to New York Harbor and engage school children through restoration based STEM education programs. If you’ve been to NYC then you know how dirty and murky the New York Harbor is and this was a great way to help our ecosystem and clean up the city we live in.

The SD team thoroughly enjoyed their day away from the office giving back. They had the opportunity to learn more about oysters, their habitat, how they grow, and how their environment affects the way they taste. Not only did they get to learn about oysters but they got involved in the actual restoration process too. They had the opportunity to build the cages that the oysters grow and flourish in and bag up used oyster shells that will help restore the reefs.

Overall the SD Service Day was a success and they got to end the day enjoying some oysters (ironic we know) by the river!

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Billion Oyster Project you can contact them here.

The Two Jakes, Part 5: How SD Operates (the Summer Hires’ Perspective)

Fortunately, during our summer experience, we have the opportunity to meet weekly with Jon Klonsky, SD’s Principal and Founder. During these meetings, we discuss our work and pick Jon’s brain about the company. Each week we bring a set of questions about the professional services industry, SD’s history, and how the company is managed. Here’s some of what we found compelling.

What are the easiest and hardest things about working in the professional services industry?

Relationships can be both. They make some clients easier to work with and others more difficult. SD relies on emotional intelligence, regular contact, transparency, and events to develop the bonds that forge long and trusting relationships. The effort comes with some risk. For obvious reasons, relationship-based businesses struggle when clients have internal staff or leadership changes. To manage the risk effectively, SD integrates processes that drive interactions (e.g., frequent check-ins, documented roadmaps, etc.). Solid processes should work with most points of contact, even if they change. In our first week, we learned about Jon’s “Triangle” that balances the 3 key elements to SD’s business: clients, employees, and profitability. If all three are kept in balance, SD is successful. To maintain the client part, staff are constantly engaging clients directly, attending to their tactical needs and advising on longer-term strategy. Additionally, SD hosts events that create opportunities to interact and build relationships with clients outside of a business context. By running a company in this manner, SD creates lasting relationships that propel the business forward.

Why start SEG (the Strategic Engagement Group)?

SD always offered post-launch support for their projects. More recently however, SD established the Strategic Engagement Group (SEG), which not only provides site monitoring, maintenance, and support; but also provides clients with strategies for growth. SEG is more than just the “plumber” who gets called in for an emergency fix. They are the accessible advisors, who always point the client in the right direction. In providing this unique package, SEG helps to form and maintain better company-client relations that are valued deeply at SD. And better yet, SD receives recurring revenue while doing so!

Why add QA to the SD Process?

SD seeks continuous improvement as part of their growth. In the last year, they added an internal Quality Assurance (QA) department to replace what was previously an outsourced service. The results are more efficient project processes, improved timelines and profitability, and higher-quality delivery. If you spend any time in SD’s Bryant Park office, you’ll become instantly aware of their emphasis on organization! Every process is meticulously detailed and well-structured. This adherence to better quality enables more efficient collaboration and better outcomes.

What’s the best way to accelerate your career as an SD employee?

SD expects a lot from its employees. The company benefits when workers are flexible, demonstrate leadership, and succeed in team environments. SD values team members who help train others, participate in business development, and exhibit the skills to deliver high-quality outcomes under the allotted time. As team members gain experience, SD expects them to develop in these areas and become more valuable to the company. Furthermore, we’ve heard time and again that it’s critical to understand the vertical market—how the client businesses operate—to ultimately thrive here. You can’t only code to succeed. You should find your role and understand how it contributes to improving the entire business if you expect to advance.

Working all summer in a real office was a totally new experience for both of us. Along the way, we’ve gained new skills, asked many questions, and learned so much about SD as a company. Whether you are a client, a prospective hire, or even an e-commerce enthusiast reading this post, we hope our perspective provides useful insight about SD’s values and operating techniques.

Be sure to stay tuned for Part 6 (the final post of the series) next week!

Written by: Jake Berkson and Jake Reifer

The Two Jakes, Part 4: The Bryant Park Lunch Experience for SD Summer Hires

Both of us are very excited because we finally get to write a post about our favorite part of the day: lunch! We’ve realized how lucky we are that SD is located at Bryant Park since there are many restaurants of all different cuisines within walking distance. We aim to give you a “taste” of what it’s like to dine around the SD office by putting together a list of our favorite places to eat.

Untamed Sandwiches

As the name of the restaurant conveys, their sandwiches are off the hook! For this very reason, we constantly find ourselves making the long trek to 39th St for these quickly served, tasty, and truly ‘untamed’ sandwiches.

 – Rating: 5/5
 – JB’s Favorite: The Butt — Cider braised pork butt, sharp cheddar, broccoli rabe, pepper jelly, dijon mustard
 – JR’s Favorite: The Hot Goldie — Beer braised beef brisket, red onions, sweet and sour cabbage, black pepper aioli

Tip: There’s not much seating inside, so order ‘to go’ and enjoy the delicious food sitting in Bryant Park!

Chopt

This chain has awesome customizable salads, sandwiches, and more. We liked the food so much we even hosted a Chopt catered lunch at the office last week!

 – Rating: 4/5
 – JB’s Favorite: Classic Cobb Salad
 – JR’s Favorite: Mexican Caesar Salad

Tip: The more the merrier when it comes to toppings!

Pret a Manger

If you want great food as quickly as possible, stop by Pret overlooking Bryant Park on 42nd St. Enjoy eating the pre-made sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups, and desserts while sitting in the park!

 – Rating: 4/5
 – JB’s Favorite: Chicken and Bacon Sandwich and chicken noodle soup
 – JR’s Favorite: Caprese sandwich and chicken noodle soup

Tip: Definitely include a cookie in your order because if there are two stuck together, they give you the extra one for free!

Szechuan Gourmet

This 39th St Szechuan joint is always packed out the door during lunch because of its tasty food. If you don’t mind the wait to get seated, there’s so much variety to choose from!

 – Rating: 5/5
 – JB’s Favorite: Cashew Chicken lunch special
 – JR’s Favorite: General Tso Chicken lunch special

Tip: It’s always packed, so get there early for lunch or you’ll have to wait to be seated!

Zest Szechuan

This szechuan restaurant, just down the street from Szechuan Gourmet, has some great, cheap lunch options. You’re always seated quickly even if the place is packed! One time, the hostess even sat us upstairs in their special party room when there weren’t enough tables in the main dining room.

 – Rating: 4/5
 – JB’s Favorite: General Tso Chicken lunch special
 – JR’s Favorite: General Tso Chicken lunch special

Tip: Wear a coat because it’s a little chilly inside!

Crisp

This restaurant on 40th st, which has generous seating, serves cuisines from all over the world, forming great burgers, salads, and flatbreads.

 – Rating: 5/5
 – JB’s Favorite: BBQ Burger — yams, BBQ sauce, and pickles
 – JR’s Favorite: BBQ Burger — yams, BBQ sauce, and pickles

Tip: Most people wait on the long line for the cashier to order, but you can skip the line and put your order in yourself on one of the touchscreens against the wall!

Pax Wholesome Foods

If you’re really not sure what to eat, stop by Pax Wholesome Foods on the corner of 40th and 6th since they have a little bit of everything. There are some awesome ‘make-your-own’ options, a variety of drink selections, and plenty of seating to enjoy your lunch.

 – Rating: 4/5
 – JB’s Favorite: Make your own burrito
 – JR’s Favorite: Make your own burrito

Tip: There are so many options, so look around all the menus posted on the walls before you decide!

Kobeyaki

Japanese-American Fusion: what is it? We still don’t really know. We do know that it was an awesome combination of cultures, though. In fact, while eating our burgers, both of us became immediately reminded of sushi.

 – Rating: 5/5
 – JB’s Favorite: Kobeyaki Burger
 – JR’s Favorite: Kobeyaki Burger and sweet potato tempura fries

Tip: You are given a buzzer to let you know when your food is ready. Hang out at a table instead of waiting by the counter like everyone else so you can snatch a seat!

Over the past 5 weeks, we’ve worked on many different projects, met many new people, and worked with various SD teams. However, there is one thing that has been constant throughout the summer: the great food in the Bryant Park area. If you’ve been following our blog series, you’re aware that we’ve gained many skills throughout the summer. We like to think that developing expertise as restaurant critics is one of these skills that will surely come in handy for the rest of our lives. We hope that this list is convenient for you if you ever find yourself at the SD office or in the Bryant Park area!

Be sure to stay tuned for Part 5 next week!

Written By: Jake Berkson and Jake Reifer

The Two Jakes, Part 3: Web Development Experiences Leading Up To Our SD Summer

Like any students starting their new summer jobs, we didn’t know what to expect from Something Digital. Having never worked in real offices before, we relied solely on our previous interactions with web development and computer science to shape our expectations for the job. Since we are now through our first 4 weeks as summer hires, we thought it would be compelling to compare the gig to our previous experiences and the expectations we had coming in. Hopefully, we can provide valuable insight about the experience for those who are interested in working at SD in the future.

JAKE B:

While working at SD, I am building on prior web development and computer science experience.

I started working in technology in 2008 as a volunteer at the Tourette Association of America (NY Hudson Valley Chapter). As a volunteer, I designed and developed websites to help promote the organization’s cause; I resolved technical issues, executed updates, and improved usability; and I set up video, audio, and text archives, making the organization’s content accessible and universally available. I also trained volunteers to interact with web technologies.

During high school, I became interested in more Web-specific technology and combined interests in technology and healthcare. I co-founded VideoHab, Inc. in 2012 and became the CTO and Web designer. VideoHab is an interactive Web application that delivers Web-based, personalized physical therapy programs to patients. I designed the marketing website, developed the app technology, and oversaw product testing. Our clients include a professional sports team that uses VideoHab for athletic training and injury recovery.

In 2015, my last year of high school, I created Biotic Wear, an online fashion retailer. I designed the ecommerce website, and the brand’s product lines. The creation of this ecommerce website contributed to my passion for ecommerce and my awareness of its complexity.

In my first year at New York University, in 2016, I created an ecommerce website platform as my final project for a web development course. The platform

featured a product catalog, user registration/login, and full-text search.

Working at SD has expanded and deepened my knowledge and interest in Web development.

While I have used some of SD’s standard tooling at school or at home, I also learn how to use several new tools, like Magento for ecommerce. SD also differs from my previous work in the way labor is distributed. Everyone collaborates with colleagues both in the office and remote locations. I’m meeting my expectations for learning new practices and methods. I have insight into new best practices for formatting and writing efficient code, and I am doing substantial on-the-spot learning. Surprisingly, I’m even working on real client projects and quickly on-boarding to standard SD procedures. The experience helps to shape my plans for future web development, including creating libraries for building and deploying static websites.

Jake R:

Already halfway through my experience, I see the comparison between working at SD and my previous endeavors in computer science/web development. For instance, I’ve noticed that while programming at SD, I sometimes run into code issues that I’ll need to fix before moving forward. Just like for college programming assignments, I’ll have to turn into an expert problem solver, spend time debugging, and use the resources around me to solve the issues in a few iterations before moving to the next phase of the project. At SD I’ve learned how to use important tools, such as Laravel, Git, and Github. They not only help to fix bugs in code, but also encourage more organized and concise code. On the other hand, the main difference I’ve noticed between computer science at school and at Something Digital is the distinct support systems. At school, if I’m having difficulty with a coding assignment and I’m in an extremely large class, it’s often difficult to get one-on-one help from a professor. Here at SD, I’m comfortable asking my manager or any of my colleagues for assistance; everyone is eager and willing to lend a hand to help out.

Learning is my most critical expectation for the summer. It was very important that I acquire new skills and real world applications for the topics that I cover in school. I’m relatively new to programming compared to some of my fellow computer science students at Northwestern (many have been coding well before they got to college). I’m eager to learn more, and I don’t want to feel left behind when I return to school in the fall. Fortunately, SD is meeting my expectations. Even in my first week here I started learning new languages, new techniques, and new aspects of the tech industry that I had not previously considered.

I’ve also had some pleasant surprises at SD so far this summer. For instance, I didn’t expect I would work on useful projects for the company. Many of my friends and classmates who have had tech internships weren’t able to work on projects and gain hands on experience until the summer after their junior year of school. However, at SD I was quickly assigned work that put my new skills to the test, giving me a taste of real work. Another surprise is how organized each process is. This is no accident, as I have undoubtedly become a better programmer having learned about the Github and code review processes. Now, on my own time, I’m using the skills and techniques I’ve learned to create a task manager web application so that I can stay organized at school. With the experience I’ve had at SD, my personal project shouldn’t be out of reach.

In only one short month, both of us have realized how well we’ve acclimated to SD. This summer has certainly been the perfect opportunity for us, as we’ve learned applicable skills and experienced the applications of topics we’ve learned about in school. We’re putting our skills to use for the company and even for clients. Because we are growing so much as computer scientists, it’s safe to say we’re receiving a great summer experience (all thanks to our colleagues at SD)! We still have a couple weeks left of the summer and are looking forward to more challenging work. Hopefully, we’re leaving a clear sense of work life for summer hires at SD.

Be sure to stay tuned for Part 4 next week!

Written by: Jake Berkson and Jake Reifer

Phillip Jackson – Keynote at Mage Titans Austin

Time to give it up for SD’s Phillip Jackson who will be giving his second keynote speech of the year on September 15th at Mage Titans Austin. Now if you’ve had the pleasure of witnessing any of Phillip’s talks then you know, they do not disappoint. In this talk two-time Magento Master Phillip Jackson will talk about the failures and challenges that led to success in his career, and the changes coming in our industry which may prove that the hardest battles are still ahead of us.

Here’s a little snippet of his talk:

“Success takes many forms – but the most satisfying is achieving personal success. Personal success can best be described as reaching your own personal achievements. Along the way we all face trials and hardship – and it’s our determination and perseverance that leads us to having satisfaction with your life and career.”

Whether you’re looking to learn or just need a reason to bring out the cowboy in you, make sure you purchase your ticket to Mage Titans Austin before they’re gone.

 

SD will be at Connected Commerce 17

Join SD at Connected Commerce 17 in September to discuss the future of digital commerce and learn how successful eCommerce projects really get done. The 1-day summit will feature thought leadership around scaling digital commerce operations and delivering an exceptional customer experience.

[ATTEND]

Looking to attend Connected Commerce on September 21 in Connecticut? If you have not already registered, email SD to receive a code for a free ticket.

[JOIN]

SD’s Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist and Brian Lange, Director, West Coast will both be presenting at Connected Commerce 17.

– Phillip Jackson – The Shopping Cart is Dead: The New Wave of Digital Commerce
– Brian Lange – Stacked: Gain the Edge by Leveraging Commerce Partnerships

You won’t want to miss their talks!

The Two Jakes, Part 2: The Highs and Lows of Life as Summer Hires

After our first couple of weeks at Something Digital, we’re starting to get the hang of things. We have more company knowledge, understand more about our daily assignments, and need less help from our respective managers. Since we’re finally in the groove, we thought it would be compelling to convey our favorite and least favorite things about work at SD. To organize the topic, we put together Top-3 and Bottom-3 lists. Here’s our insight into being an SD summer hire.

Top 3

1. The Company Culture and Structure:
Even though SD is a small company, there are many benefits to working here. Whenever we need assistance with anything, we receive it quickly or rarely wait very long. Another benefit is the overall trust in an employee’s ability to get their job done. It creates an awesome community. Colleagues always have time for others and seem to enjoy helping one another. Because of this culture (reinforced by a work area without walls), we regularly interact with the team and now understand everyone’s role. We’re guessing that the openness of the staff goes hand-in-hand with the trust factor. As a result, even as summer hires, we participate in meetings every day and often learn about the business from the bosses themselves. Lastly, SD values long lasting relationships with clients, and we can tell that they have the same values regarding their summer hires. Lots of the team gives time to help us, which has supported our growth and development.

2. Learning:
For us, SD is a place to learn. We get hands-on experience with coding projects that serve the rest of the team and even clients. Since our first week, we have learned and applied new skills, interfaced with clients, and gained insight into the retail and ecommerce industries. This real-world experience is a perfect departure from our academic work. We basically get paid to do awesome stuff and learn things that people can’t learn in the classroom!

3. Location:
If you don’t believe us when we say that SD’s location is awesome, just look out the window! On one side of the office you see the top of the Empire State Building and on the other you see the entirety of Bryant Park. We’ve realized that the park is a great place to hang out during our lunch break. It’s one of the city’s most beautiful spots and we constantly find ourselves there eating, enjoying some shade, and avoiding standoffs with the usual gang of street pigeons. Furthermore, when it comes to dining in the area, there is an incredible selection. We can pretty much find whatever we’re in the mood for each day, whether it be fast food or sit-down options for whichever cuisine. In fact, some places have such good dishes that we keep going back. Lastly, the SD office is only minutes away by foot from both Penn Station and Grand Central, which certainly saves time for commuters.

Bottom 3

1. The Commute:
Since we’re from Westchester, both of us have obviously taken Metro North into the City many times before this summer. However, these relaxing off-peak trips with friends or family do not compare to the crowded peak trains going to and from Grand Central. In both directions, we’re extremely exhausted either from sleep deprivation or from a hard day’s work. And it’s especially rough when you’re unable to find an open seat. Furthermore, rushing to Grand Central in the summer heat after work, dressed in a button-down and slacks, doesn’t exactly result in a comfortable 45-minute ride when you’re on train with no working air-conditioning.

2. Sleep (or lack thereof):
As we discussed in last week’s post, we had both been home from our universities for around a month before we got started at SD for the summer. During that period, we consistently stayed up late and slept well into the afternoon. As a result, when we started at SD, we were not prepped to wake up early or deal with the stress of working hard on limited sleep. Unfortunately for us, even after a couple weeks on the job, we don’t have the self-discipline to abandon our late nights with friends or video games. And sleeping in on the weekends totally messes up our sleep schedule. Additionally, working in the SD office is different than attending a large lecture at our colleges. There is never a time to subtly doze off and catch some z’s (don’t tell our professors). We also take a financial hit, since a big chunk of our paycheck is spent on coffee each week.

3. Working Part-time:
One of our biggest gripes with SD is the limit on how many hours we’re allowed to work. As part-time employees, there is a legal limit to the hours we can work each week. We wish we could work here full-time and continue on our projects, even after we have to leave the office. Jake and I can’t wait to graduate and become immediate partners. See you soon Jon!

The benefits we’ve experienced thus far at SD totally outweigh the negatives we’ve had to power through. Additionally, we’ve noticed that the lows are really just the normal difficulties associated with work life in general (we’re guessing we have a lot to look forward to). All in all, we still have much to learn this summer, and we undoubtedly will experience more ups and downs, but we’re excited for what’s next!

Be sure to stay tuned for Part 3 next week!

Written by: Jake Berkson and Jake Reifer