press release

Leadership Moves, Delivery Reorganization at Something Digital

This week, ecommerce agency Something Digital quietly announced a delivery team reorganization along with the ascension of four long-time team members to a newly formed C-suite. Changes were announced at the Q4 company meeting on December 5.

SD’s delivery team is moving from a traditional hierarchy to a matrix structure. All practices and associated services will remain intact, but there will be new internal formations around both functional and team-oriented leadership.

Something Digital C-Suite

Additionally, several long-time senior leaders were promoted effective immediately: Mickey Winter becomes SD’s Chief Creative Officer, Jon Tudhope becomes Chief Technology Officer, James Idoni becomes Chief Operating Officer, and Phillip Jackson becomes Chief Commerce Officer. These promotions are well earned, as SD is in the midst of 3 successive years of record growth.

“As a growing company, you can’t continue to operate with 100 people the same way you did with 50,” says Principal and Co-Founder Founder Jon Klonsky. “These colleagues—along with others being promoted—are great leaders who have helped us excel.”

Greg Steinberg, SD’s other Principal and Co-Founder explains further: “The changes represent our effort to better distribute leadership, accountability, and culture. We’re extremely excited about SD’s next decade.”

About Something Digital:
Something Digital creates human focused digital commerce experiences that evolve brands and grow businesses. We specialize in commerce, digital strategy, user experience and design. Our expertise ranges from fashion & apparel to food & beverage, accessibility, and everything in between. We are in it for the long-haul and develop long lasting client partnerships that reap unparalleled growth and success.
Learn more ›

[BRIDGE] SOMETHING A Mentorship Program Designed to Jumpstart Careers  

Bradley Brecher earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from New York University in May of 2019. Like many new grads, he was eager to stay in the Big Apple, and looked around at New York-based companies that could use his newly acquired skills, and quickly settled on Something Digital. Upon joining the SD team in mid-June, Bradley was selected to participate in SD’s Jumpstart program as well as SD’s [BRIDGE] SOMETHING mentorship program.

[BRIDGE] SOMETHING is a 6 month program that brings together newly hired, recent grads with seasoned employees to help ease the transition from school-life to SD-life through thoughtful guidance and structured support.

Bradley was paired with Phillip Jackson, SD’s Ecommerce Evangelist and Magento Master. Eager to know if the program delivered tangible benefits, Phillip sat down with Bradley for a debriefing.

Phillip Jackson: When you graduated in May, you interviewed at a lot of companies, including some big names in this business. Why did you choose SD out of all the opportunities?

Bradley Brecher: First, Something Digital is a multi-faceted agency, so the work will always be interesting. I was also keenly interested in a smaller company, one that would allow me to have an impact from day one.

When I applied to SD, a director, an owner, and a tech lead interviewed me, and frankly, I was impressed. All three are very valuable to the company’s day-to-day operations, yet they took an hour out of their day to speak with me.

I also liked the Something Digital end product. The somethingdigital.com website is very modern-looking and 21st-century focused, as are all the sites the team builds for clients, which I looked at prior to interviewing. From a UI perspective, they’re quite beautiful and I thought: this is the level of quality I want to deliver.

PJ: You were also part of the jumpstart program which is an 8-week program focused on equipping engineers and employees with the skills and knowledge required to excel in their day-to-day responsibilities and careers. What were your thoughts coming into this program, and did it match your expectations?

BB: The Magento platform has a big learning curve, and when I first started five months ago I thought: How am I going to learn this complex platform in just eight weeks? Something Digitals’ jumpstart program spread it out, which made it easier for us. It was clear that there had been a lot of time and effort put into the planning. As a result, by the time we started working with real client sites I felt as if I had been well trained, and that made me feel confident.

PJ: What happened at the end of the eight-week training? Did you know what to expect?

BB: We were placed on teams; I was assigned to the Strategic Engagement Group, other mentees were placed on project teams. At this point, we began interacting with clients, which required new skill sets on top of the technical skills we learned.

We kind of knew what to expect, but until we started working with clients, it’s difficult to know what the environment would be like.

PJ: What were your responsibilities once you moved over to the Strategic Engagement Team? Do you feel as if you’re using the skills you studied in college or are you on new ground?

BB: One thing I really enjoy about being on the team is the real-world experience it provides. You can learn programming skills in school, but that’s just the base. The things you learn on the job can’t be taught in schools. I see this in multiple ways, from working on live projects to working on a team flow where multiple people write, review and change code simultaneously.

PJ: What was your biggest fear when graduating from college and considering a career in software development?

BB: That I’d be stuck behind a computer all day with little to no opportunity to interact with people, or work on other soft skills. But with the Strategic Engagement Team, I’m expanding my technical skills as well as learning vital communication skills, which will deliver dividends throughout my career. This is something most software developers right out of college don’t get to learn or use. I feel lucky.

PJ: What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome so far, and what was easier than you thought it would be?

BB: The biggest challenge was gaining the confidence to make my own decisions when deadlines were looming and everyone was really busy. I know I’m supposed to be under a lead, but there are times when I have responsibilities and I need to make my own decisions. Or, sometimes a manager will put something into my hand and ask my opinion, and that can be tough.

The challenge I found surprisingly easy is deploying live changes to client websites and moving things to production. I thought that would be much harder than it actually is.

PJ: Has the mentorship program been valuable?

BB: Yes, incredibly so. When I was paired with you everyone in the company told me I was lucky to have such a special opportunity, even though we didn’t work in the same office. They were right, of course, as you’re a Twitter influencer, an eCommerce evangelist, and very well known in Magento. All three of these aspects have benefited me a lot, like the time I wrote a code change to Magento Core and you tweeted it out to all of your followers. Almost immediately it was reviewed. This is a direct result of working with you.

It’s been great to connect with someone who isn’t on my team, someone who isn’t on the engineering team at all. It’s great to be exposed to someone who is on a completely different side of the company.

We’ve read three books together:

  • Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence―and How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
  • The 5 Choices – The Path to Extraordinary Productivity, by Franklin Covey
  • Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, by Nir Eyal

 

As you know, I’ve sought your advice on management questions, technical issues, career advancement and just about anything that confounds someone who is new.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you some questions. Is that okay?

BB: You’re a busy guy; why did you agree to take the time out of your schedule to mentor me?

PJ:  This is something I talked about in a keynote address I gave earlier this year. I realized that I’ll reach a certain ceiling in my career, and while I have some notoriety in the world of eCommerce now, it certainly isn’t destined to last forever. Not everyone is destined to achieve global fame and success, after all. But ever one of us can help others pick up where we left off, if you will. I want my ceiling to be your floor, to give you the tools so that you can build up from there.

This is the open-source ethos. In the open-source world we share all of our learnings, challenges, successes, and failures so that the people who follow behind us won’t need to start from scratch. We want them to start from a higher order level of thinking or a higher platform. This is what the Something Digital mentorship program means to me.

BB: Would you have benefited from a mentor at the beginning of your career?

PJ: I’ve had many mentors throughout my career, though none of them formal like the relationship I have with you. And I didn’t have someone to show me how to avoid the pitfalls I’ve encountered in terms of time management, establishing boundaries between my work and personal life, and setting realistic expectations in what I can deliver. Some of these issues are addressed in the three books I recommended to you, but much of it has been learned through trial and error. Figuring this stuff out early in your career is beneficial, rather than waiting until you’re in your mid-thirties. I wish someone had sat down with me and armed me with tools when I was your age.

If you’d like more information about the [BRIDGE] SOMETHING mentorship program and/or Jumpstart, please contact us! Apply to SD Careers or shoot me an email at pjackson@somethingdigital.com to get started.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist & Bradley Brecher, Programmer

NYU WEST Fest – The Women of SD Offer Perspectives on Careers in Tech

For the last two years, Something Digital has partnered with New York University Tandon School of Engineering’s Women in Technology initiatives to increase access to quality learning opportunities and STEM-focused higher education for young women K-12 and incoming students at NYU. We attended the last three Girls Talk Tech events, where we spoke with inspiring young women with interests in STEM and answered panel questions.

Something Digital was invited to speak at NYU Tandon’s annual WEST Fest, where our team answered questions on a moderator-led panel and questions from students on how to prepare for a future STEM career and our perspective on working in a male-dominated tech industry. This was a huge honor for our company, and for our women-led panelists, to be a part of. Speaking to a full house of eager STEM students, mainly made up of women, was truly inspirational (please note that NYU’s Class of 2022 is made up of 43% women)!

A lack of women in STEM means a lack in perspective of half of the world’s population, which puts any thriving industry competing in today’s economy at a major disadvantage. As an interactive agency that works with ecommerce clients, diversity in our organization from top to bottom is crucial to our growth, as well as our clients’ success. A majority of our clients’ consumers are women (see: PapyrusIndustry West, among others), and having women decision makers in the room has only shown greater successes with our clients. It’s a no-brainer.

At Something Digital, we are proud to say that our team is made up of 41% women, including half of our leadership team! We continue to strive to increase that percentage and support different initiatives to educate future women in technology!

Written by: Yasemin Hizal, HR Manager

Panelist from left to right: Liv Martens, Melanie Lopez, Deanna Acerra, Lindsay Stork and NYU Moderator Cindy Lewis, Director, Undergraduate Enrollment Management

 

Getting Started: A Career in Technology
Written by: Liv Martin, Front End Developer

 

A year and a month ago I had just graduated from college, packed my student apartment into a U-Haul, and moved to New York to start my first ever full-time job as a programmer at Something Digital. There have been plenty of milestones in my career between that first day at the office and now. After trial and error (a lot of error), patient mentorship, late nights, and a few awkward presentations, I’m pleased to say I don’t bear too strong a resemblance to the developer who started at SD a year ago.

Last month I was excited to achieve another career first when I was able to speak on a panel at NYU’s WEST Fest. WEST (Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology) is the Tandon School of Engineering’s summer event for prospective students to hear about careers in tech from professional women in the field. As a relatively junior recruit, I’m still used to having more questions than answers on any given day. Speaking to the WEST Fest crowd was an exciting opportunity to recognize my own progress as a whole and to share my insights and experiences with young women on the same academic and career path that I followed. It was an unexpected joy to be able to experience a form of mentorship with these young women whose concerns and insecurities so closely matched my own not so long ago, and whose drive and accomplishments left me in awe.

I wasn’t the only employee from Something Digital to share her experiences with the WEST Fest audience. I was honored to share the panel with three of my coworkers, project managers Deanna Acerra and Melanie Lopez, and senior designer Lindsay Stork. In the interest of bringing their insight out of the panel setting and into the SD blogosphere, we have a few words of wisdom to share here about our careers in tech.

So here are my words of wisdom: don’t be afraid to ask for input! Sometimes asking for help can feel like an imposition, or even an embarrassment, but remember that everyone feels a little clueless when they start something brand new. No one springs fully formed into existence knowing every bleeding edge code concept imaginable (even though it certainly feels like it sometimes). Give yourself time to adjust, and don’t apologize for having questions.

This goes double for starting a career right out of school when you’re not only establishing your place at work but also building the foundation for your post-college life. Seek support through as many avenues as you can. When it comes to on-the-job input, a tech-savvy mentor can be indispensable, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the tech industry is an island. Talk to people with positions and skill sets different from your own, odds are they’ll have more insight than you expect.

Lastly, try and find support through networking outside of work. Professors, friends, and even parents can be great career assets. Find peers in groups like Women Who Code, or even join a meetup online. You have the drive and ability to succeed in tech, so surround yourself with people who share your drive and are invested in your success.

 

Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome
Written by: Deanna Acerra, Project Manager

 

EVERYONE feels like an imposter sometimes and that’s OKAY! I’ve experienced both, first when I was starting out in my career and again recently when I started a new job. New is scary but it’s also an opportunity to learn more skills – embrace it! I’ve dealt with this feeling of self-doubt by being confident in my decision and finding mentors I admire and talking to them.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “fake it till you make it”. Showing your confidence in words and actions is the first step to overcoming the little voice inside your head telling you that you may not be good enough. You’re not an imposter if you’re willing to put in the time. As long as you have the drive and the determination to get where you need to be, you’ll be alright. No one is going to look down on you for trying, so don’t be shy, it will only hurt you in the long run.

Another way to overcome this feeling is by talking to people! Finding commonalities (not just tech) will help break the ice with your new-found mentor. Find someone who is where you want to be and strike a conversation, learn from them, you may even end up forming a mentor relationship without even knowing.

Lastly, remember the positives! We as humans are very quick to toss a compliment aside, when you’re feeling like a “fraud” remember the wins! Most of all, just remember you’re not alone. Even the most successful people get this feeling.

The Importance of Mentorship
Written by: Lindsay Stork, Senior Interactive Designer

 

It can be tempting to believe you are so independent and competent that a mentor is unnecessary, but even top-level employees have trusted mentors to guide them into uncharted territories. A mentor not only gives insight into your future path, but also can prepare you for difficult career situations. For those beginning their careers, a mentor is paramount to previewing into what your working life will consist of. Finding and approaching a good mentor can be challenging, especially in an age where people are consistently busy and distracted. I’ve found, however, that most people thoroughly enjoy helping others and are willing to mentor you if you are genuine in your approach. Mentors are all around you! Look to find someone who is where you want to be in 5 years or so. They will have a fresh outlook on the steps taken to succeed, whereas someone who is too senior might not have relatable life experiences.

At Something Digital, a mentor program was implemented to help fresh graduates transition into the workforce by pairing each new hire with a seasoned employee. New employees have an outlet for questions, concerns, and career advice. For me personally, my mentor is my own manager who has always been a strong advocate of my ideas and my career path. But if you don’t have a mentor set up in your school or workplace, reaching out to former coworkers or utilizing your network of classmates, peers, or even LinkedIn connections can help facilitate a mentor relationship. I find it’s always best to have a connection with someone in person before reaching out on LinkedIn or emailing out of the blue. Forming a genuine rapport with your mentor prospect will allow mentors to see your passions and want to foster them. For those that mentor others, it’s fulfilling to see your mentee grow while simultaneously realizing how much knowledge you’ve gained in the process.

Want to learn more about SD? Check out our 20 year anniversary blog!

Women in Tech

My Journey from Full-Time Student to Interactive Designer

My experience here at Something Digital has been an exciting journey. This is my first full-time job, so I was not sure what to expect, especially in an agency. Most of my past internships have been at tech companies or in-house. As a Communication Design major from Parsons School of Design, I was eager to work in an agency after I graduated since I knew working with many clients and working on multiple projects at the same time would be great exposure for a young designer like me starting a career.

I recall going to the Parsons Fall 2018 Career Fair and discussing my senior thesis project with Mickey and Yasemin. That same week I remember nervously entering the SD office for my first interview with a couple of the team members. After two weeks, I got a call saying I was hired for the position of an interactive designer on the creative team.

My first day was filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. I was nervous, shy, overwhelmed and excited all at the same time. There was a lot of information to process, from how to set up my work station, to learning how to see my work for each day, to logging in my time. What helped me the most going through the day was the positive environment of Something Digital. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly. My coworkers on the creative team helped me with any questions I had. I believe an office filled with talented, energetic and positive coworkers who encourage each other and make others feel comfortable around one another is the best environment to be in, and that is exactly what Something Digital offers.

Throughout my time here, I have learned numerous skills on design tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Sketch. I’ve been exposed to a variety of UX concepts I can now utilize in my work, how meetings are structured and presented internally or with clients, as well as what components are included in ecommerce design. Most importantly, I have learned how to juggle multiple clients/projects at the same time. The difference between a full-time student and full-time employee working on multiple design projects at the same time is that for school, it was internally for my professors. However, working on multiple designs as an employee in a design agency is a totally new experience. I am acquiring real world experience through my daily interactions with our team of programmers and designers, as well as our clients. Being able to see how my designs help our clients and their businesses is a great feeling. It feels rewarding to see my designs on a staging site or website that has been launched for the public to utilize.

Overall, my transition from a student to a full-time employee has been unexpectedly enlightening. I have gained a lot of experience from the various projects I have completed and from speaking and interacting with my coworkers. Something Digital provides me with an opportunity I did not know I would receive in an agency. I am excited to continue my journey here becoming a stronger, more experienced designer in the process.

Written by: Amena Tyebji, Interactive Designer

20 year celebration

The Women of Something Digital Reflect on the Past 20 Years of the Tech Industry

Something Digital turns 20 years old this year. We launched in 1999, the year before Y2K, a time that many assumed the digital universe as we knew it would come to a crashing halt. Smartphones, today’s ubiquitous accessory, and the app marketplaces they quickly gave rise to, were still some years away.

It was a time of cautious optimism, wide-eyed wonder and naivety. Ecommerce was not quite the major engine of the consumer economy as it is today, as many people didn’t quite believe that giving their credit card info to the ethernet (as it was often called) was a good idea.

At the same time, the number of ecommerce sites was exploding; People magazine ran a weekly column, called “The Net,” that highlighted the amazing range of products that were now available on “The Net.” In 1999, Amazon patented it’s 1-click service, and Alibaba launched — events that undeniably ushered in revolutions in consumerism.

It was also a time when we were quite naive as to what it meant to go online, as cartoonist Peter Steiner’s famous cartoon so aptly captured (“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”)

We assumed that the Net was the place to go when you wanted to explore, shop, and browse in absolute privacy. How things have changed!

Now that global marketplaces and apps are our new normal, it’s hard to imagine there ever being a time when going online required computers and dial-up modems, or that Amazon only sold books!

To honor our 20-year journey, as well as all things digital, the women of Something Digital answered 20 questions about working and mentoring in the digital ecosystem.

Lindsay Pugh, Senior Digital Strategist & Writer

1. Where are the biggest career opportunities for women in the digital ecosystem?

There are opportunities for women everywhere and as we continue to progress companies need to ensure that they are hiring them at salaries equal to men, and providing necessary benefits like flexible time off and maternity leave.

2. Do women have a fair shot of advancing their careers in the digital ecosystem?

In general, no. Women are deterred from entering careers in tech, perhaps because 1) the leaders in the industry are all men, 2) the pay gap is significant, 3) young girls who are interested in STEM education don’t realize that those types of careers are even possible because they don’t see themselves represented in the field.

3. What advice would you give girls interested in pursuing computer science?

Find female mentors and male allies and don’t be afraid to ask them for advice. Be confident in your skills, even when other people dismiss you or try to make you feel inadequate. If you can, pursue internships during high school and college and try to learn as much as possible. Maintain connections with the people that you meet in those internships because they might be valuable when you’re ready to enter the job market. I am fortunate to have a wonderful female boss at Something Digital who does a great job providing advice, feedback, and a clear path for growth within the company.

4. What impediments still hold women back in the tech industry?

Here’s a quick list of what immediately comes to mind:

  • Gender wage gap
  • Promotion bias
  • A need for more work/family flexibility
  • Lack of maternity/paternity leave options
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Lack of mentorship opportunities
  • Lack of female role models in leadership positions

 

Megan DeLeonardis, Director of Strategic Engagement

5. Are there aspects of the digital age that have empowered or inspired you?

It’s inspiring to know that we’re in an industry that is always changing, one that demands us to grow and adapt to in order to survive. For example, digital has become so customer centric that agencies and service providers are forced to become more strategic and creative about what’s needed now, as well as what we project will be necessary in 12+ months from now.

6. What can technology companies do to help women progress in this field?

Promote women in thought leadership! The more women that are front and center and a part of the conversation, the more normal their leadership positions will become. Personally, when I find good talent, I’m willing to create a new role for that person to keep them engaged and growing within the organization. Women should feel empowered to create a role and position for their skill sets, even if such roles never existed before in that company. As quickly as digital is changing, so does the makeup of how we deliver it.

7. What is your favorite part of being a woman in this industry?

When I first started at SD there were ~8 other women in the company. Within a year we headed out for “tea at The Plaza for the women of SD” and we couldn’t all fit in the same elevator. My favorite part of being a woman in tech is hiring women that are better than me, which has turned out to be quite easy.

8. Is the digital ecosystem a force for good?

It depends on who you ask. Digital is everywhere and everything, but the way a 30-year old mother interacts with it is very different from a 65-year old grandmother or a 22-year old college graduate. It can be misused and abused, but it also provides conveniences and capabilities to individuals that previously didn’t have the opportunities. It may monopolize time or free up time. Each individual has the power to let it be a force for good or evil.

Melanie Lopez, Product Manager

9. What advice would you give girls interested in pursuing computer science?

Seek internship opportunities as early as possible to gather a wide range of experience and exposure before entering the workforce full-time. Having a range of internship experience with different companies will give you exposure to the way that different organizations are run, how role definitions may vary from company to company, and will give you insight into what organizational values resonate with you and allow you to do your best work.

I recommend looking for internship roles that will allow you access to doing as much hands-on work possible, and prioritizing working with companies and supervisors that value mentorship as one of their core leadership values. I was lucky to have a strong mentor as my supervisor in my first professional role, and the extra focus on professional development and the lessons that I learned early on from that experience still influence the work that I do directly now, and how I’ve approached the management of my direct reports over the years.

10. What progress do you see being made in the next 20 years for women in the industry?

I hope to see more representation for women in positions of leadership in technical and creative organizations in the coming years. I believe that companies in the industry can directly influence this in part by prioritizing diversity in their recruitment, creating mentorship and professional development tracks for women looking to advance within their organizations, and supporting and prioritizing paid family leave for men and women.

11. How can women help future generations of girls interested in the tech industry to further their education and possibly careers in the digital ecosystem?

A great start for women and men alike would be volunteering for mentorship programs that specialize in providing opportunities for extended education, training, and exposure for girls of all backgrounds who are interested in tech. Women may also consider creating internship opportunities within their organizations, and connecting with mentorship programs or women in technology groups in universities to promote these opportunities to candidates who may benefit the most from them.

Mickey Winter, Creative Director

12. Which trends are you most gung-ho about?

The digital trend that has peaked my interest the most is the rise of AI Voice Assistants. Think Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. These voice enabled devices are proving to be super helpful and totally ingrained in our everyday lives. They help us shop online, screen our calls, manage our calendars, give us the latest news, entertain our kids by playing “Baby Shark” over and OVER AGAIN, you name it. They are the equivalent of a human personal assistant.

However, I find it very interesting that the majority of these AI Assistants are either branded as a woman or utilize a woman’s voice. “They embody what we think of when we picture a personal assistant: a competent, efficient, and reliable woman.” (Source).

What does this say about our society that these devices test better as women, and that these female branded devices perform menial tasks similar to a 1950’s secretary, while IBM’s “male” branded Watson is utilized in cancer treatment, operating rooms, and the “all-knowing” Jeopardy winner?

13. Does the digital ecosystem represent women and their needs well?

Given my thoughts on AI Voice Assistants I truly don’t believe the current digital ecosystem represents women well. We have come far, but not far enough. If we had more women in a tech leadership position at these larger tech companies perhaps these devices would have been branded differently, even providing the end user with the option to name it as they see fit. “Bob, play Baby Shark”. We can do better, and we will.

Caitlin Mekita, Strategic Engagement Manager

14. Why do you think it’s important for women to get involved in the digital ecosystem?

By including women’s voices, experiences, and skills in the designing and building of technology, we can create better, more inclusive products for everyone. The digital ecosystem is a cornerstone of a modern economy, and one with tremendous growth opportunities. As women strive for equality on all fronts, progress in the digital ecosystem will be of paramount importance.

15. Do you think schools are offering enough exposure to computer science to young girls?

Schools are not offering enough exposure to computer science, period. The subject is often dismissed as extra-curricular and computer science classes are among the first to be cut as school budgets are slashed. Offering equal opportunities to excel in computer science to young students is extremely important for women. As we know, talent in this arena is distributed equally among all students, and equal and enthusiastic encouragement for young students to study computer sciences will benefit women’s progress in the field.

16. Do you think the way the media represents computer science and coding is gender inclusive? Why or why not?

A quick Google image search of the word “programmer” yields thousands of images. The first appearance of a woman is the 36th result. As a society we still perceive “programmers” “engineers” and even “hackers” as men. TV (looking at you, Silicon Valley) and films tend to reinforce the perception. On a positive note, women’s computer science programs, such as Girls Who Code, have been able to garner considerable media attention and therefore have been able to reach a wider audience of girls and women looking to enter the industry.

Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

17. In which ways (if any), do you think, are we still naive about the internet?

I worry that we are naïve about how much free will we truly have. I’ve been thinking a lot about a medium article I read recently. In it, the writer, an MIT researcher, discusses the consequences of information online becoming more centralized and how our social media feeds gaze inward, failing to link out — with the exception of paid advertising — to other sites in the greater, potentially-soon-to-be-forgotten web ecosystem. Among the negative effects is that we lose control of what we’re exposed to, leaving the decision of what we read and digest up to inherently biased algorithms or machines. The writer doesn’t touch on PWAs, but I wonder if by saving only the apps we ‘choose’  to our devices, and cycling through them exclusively over and over, we shut out other voices, ideas, and opportunities. It may look like free will, but our exposure to the outside world increasingly becomes programmed, curated to a singular viewpoint, and therefore disconnected. A limited point of view, with content dictated by a limit group of people, winds up limiting our freedoms. That said, maybe the thing we are most naïve about is accepting that everything both on and offline evolves; we are not and have never been fully in control.

18. What feature or service do you wish existed but doesn’t today?

As a UX designer, I would love to be able to optionally cherry pick and turn off the extra noise on the websites I visit and the apps I use. Technically, I can do that using browser inspector tools, but those preferences don’t hold upon refreshing a page or entering a workflow. Not unlike a pop-up blocker, but for fixed elements within a webpage or product, anything that I find distracting in the moment or hinders my ability to enjoy the shopping, reading, task-managing experience. I like the idea of having sessions-based or cookie-based personalization controls, like the ability to easily change a typeface to one that is more legible if I’m reading a long article, hide all upsells and cross-sells on product detail pages so I can focus on the product at hand, or universally suppress paid content that I might mistake as genuine. I imagine it like a simple gesture, one that can’t be mistaken for any other. I suggest sessions-based, because I don’t want to risk missing out on information that might apply to me on subsequent visits. Our tastes, needs, and capabilities change over time, so what’s ‘noise’ to me today might not be tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if some level of this kind of customization already exists, and if it does, tell me about it stat!

Leslie Hernandez, Office Coordinator

19. When you consider the digital trends of today, which are you most cautiously optimistic about?

I believe social media has become a great way for women to discover new interests and connect with influencers and confident women to look up to. However, I think that sometimes the lives we see on social media are idealized to a fault. Social media can often contort our ideas of reality- and make women unfairly compare themselves to the ‘picture perfect’ lives they see online. I believe it’s important for women to look beyond what social media tells them is “perfect”, and find worth in the work they do, the interests they pursue, and the talents they have.

Brittany Wheeler, Marketing Manager

20. What is your favorite part of digital?

My favorite part of digital is how connected digital has made all of us. It definitely has it upsides and downsides but overall I believe it’s made a positive impact on the world. It allows us to collaborate with people on the other side of the world and helps us solve problems. It can also make it difficult to weed through what is true or false but it’s given us a better sense of awareness about what to believe and makes us do research to learn more. It has opened our minds to other cultures and beliefs and allowed us to connect with people no matter where they are in the world.

At Something Digital we feel it is extremely important to be inclusive to all. Over the last 20 years we have continued to work to be inclusive and are excited to share the following stats:

  • Currently, our leadership roles consist of 50% women.
  • We offer competitive wages for men and women.
  • We offer opportunities to speak at events focused on supporting women in tech.
  • Our female to male ratio is 41%.

 

If you’re interested in speaking with SD about career opportunities or how you support women in tech we’d love to hear from you! 

Connected Commerce

A Joyous Occasion: A Summary of SD’s talk at Connected Commerce

Given that public speaking is fear number one for me, whenever I am approached to speak in front of large groups of professionals my first fantasy is that the talk will be cancelled. ‘Surely a hurricane will come through the same day as the event! The date is also dangerously close to flu season – I’m most definitely going to get the flu!’ That internal dialogue began when my creative director here at SD, Mickey Winter, first mentioned the two of us giving a talk at Connected Commerce 2018, a conference in New York City. She might as well have asked me to climb Mt. Everest. But after the panic subsided and reality set in, I realized that planning ahead, one step at a time, eventually makes that mountain look more like a hill.

And that’s just what we did. We prepped and rehearsed and came up with relatable content not only for merchants, but for every person interested in the attainment of joy. We were inspired by Ingrid Fetel Lee’s 2018 TedTalk “Where joy hides and how to find it”.  We researched what brings us joy, how we can manifest these ideas into a web store’s UX/UI, and some of our own work at SD that represents these ideas.

After arriving at the conference, Mickey and I were resolute in executing this presentation with confidence. The conference itself is a one-day summit that brings together brands, retailers, and solution providers for a day of talks and networking, hosted by our good friends at Logicbroker. Those dreaded butterflies fluttered for the hours leading up to our talk, and lingered backstage as the two of us waited for our turn. But after shooing them off with some silent aerobic exercises just before we walked into the spotlight, we finally presented.

And here you have it, a brief summary of our talk:

5 UX/UI Principals that Evoke Joy

What is joy and how can we use it?

First, there is distinction that needs to be made between the feeling of joy and the feeling of happiness. Both are emotions almost every human experience in a lifetime. Happiness is how good we feel measured over time whereas joy is what you feel in the moment. Right now. Psychologists describe the word joy as is an intense, momentary experience of positive emotion.

What about the images below give off a feeling joy? If you analyze closely you’ll find that there are 5 common UX/UI patterns seen in all of these images that can help evoke joy within an ecommerce experience.

#1 Roundness or Curves

From an evolutionary perspective, humans prefer rounded shapes compared to shapes with sharp angles. Sharp angles often signify danger, while curves elicit a feeling of ease. Incorporating this into a UI could be as simple as designing buttons with rounded corners or placing imagery within rounded containers.

RileyHome utilizes round shapes throughout the homepage and navigation elements.

 

#2 Pops of Color

Who doesn’t love a beautiful rainbow? Color gives of a feeling of energy and signals to us life itself. People in colorful spaces often feel more alert, confident, and friendlier. When it comes to UI elements, color is easy to manifest in calls to action, promotional banners, and even the product photography itself.

Industry West utilizes color in their photography and UI to elicit a feeling of joy.

 

#3 Floating or Lightness

If you’ve ever swung high on a swing set, you know the feeling of being completely weightless for the brief second before gravity kicks in. The feeling of floating or lightness can be seen and felt when adequate white space is used throughout a page. Customers find content easier to digest when a page is less cluttered.

Malin & Goetz utilizes a white space around its products and within the packaging design itself, giving a feeling of lightness. 

 

#4 Abundance or Multiples

From a primal perspective, scarcity is a dangerous feeling. An abundance of food means survival. Showing products in groups or in a way that it looks like they are abundant will make Customers feel more at ease.

Baked By Melissa showcases multiple cupcakes in almost every product shot.

 

#5 Symmetrical Shapes

Symmetry is beautiful. People generally prefer symmetrical faces to non-symmetrical ones. We are hardwired to look for patterns and balance, and when we see it, it just feels right. Symmetry in UI can be done using equally sized images or similar content on both sides of the page.

Lib-Tech’s homepage is design to be completely symmetrical.

 

These 5 principles designers and merchants alike can follow when creating customer experiences:

1. Roundness or Curves
2. Pops of Color
3. Floating or Lightness
4. Abundance or Multiples
5. Symmetrical Shapes

If these principals are incorporated tactfully into a web store’s UX/UI, customers will leave the store feeling wonderful about their purchases, and likely to return for more.

As Mickey and I walked off the stage a warm sense of relief and excitement flooded over me. For both of us, it was our first time presenting to a crowd of this size, and the feeling of personal accomplishment was immensely fulfilling. The best part of the whole experience was meeting with professionals after the talk who truly wanted to discuss ideas further with us. We both agreed, the experience was a joyous first!

Written by: Lindsay Stork, Interactive Designer

Women in Tech

Digital Marketing Minor to Digital Strategist: How to Prepare for Entry Level Positions

At some point, your college career must come to an end. Although this can be sad thought to wrap your head around, everyone must prepare themselves for the pomp and circumstance and get ready for the next step in life,  your professional career.

Don’t get me wrong, working my first full-time job as a digital marketing strategist has been the most exciting, educational, and surreal experience of my life so far. Being employed at Something Digital is truly a blessing. The culture here allows for an easy transition and the training I have received from experts in the industry has expanded my knowledge base tremendously. As I look back on my first month there are some things that college does not prepare you for when you enter the working world. Based on my experiences thus far, here are some tips that will help any young digital marketer succeed as they launch their career.

Be Agile:

Being a marketing major was great. I would go to class and watch advertisements, talk about the latest pop culture trends and their impact on marketing strategies, and have in-depth conversations about Starbucks branding. This compared to my peers; who had to study for endless bio exams. Although these class discussions  were engaging, they did not always apply to what is now and more importantly, what is next. Part of being a great marketer is the ability to predict digital trends before they even happen. It is about being ahead of the curve and to always expect the unexpected. What professors teach us in school is old content derived from even older textbooks.

So, my tip, always read to stay ahead, educate yourself, it will pay off in the long run. Know what is next rather than what has already past. Be agile with trends because digital marketing functions tend to come and go. What is relevant today may be gone within months.

Be Willing To Learn:

Being willing to learn coincides with being agile. As digital marketing trends fade, new ones will surface within the industry. Therefore, the willingness to learn is a vital component to any digital marketer’s success. Learn to expose yourself to as many different theories, strategies, and ideas as possible. What may work for one client may not align with the goals of another client, so expose yourself to as much knowledge as possible. For example, a lull in sales does not mean your customers don’t want to make a purchase, maybe they can’t. The issue could be stemming from the technical aspects of your client’s website. As a result, one must be willing to study all sides of digital marketing, both technical and non-technical.

A huge part of digital marketing is the ability to know how to use and understand a lot of different platforms. Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google Search Console, MOZ, Google Keyword Planner, MailChimp, and Google Tag Manager are just a few of the most popular digital marketing tools. Learn how these platforms work and keep learning, they’re always being updated and upgraded, especially Google’s.

Be Innovative:

Learn to stand out by being creative. Even in a technological and data-driven industry, innovation is valued. Try to be creative in your data findings. Do not just look at the numbers. Ask yourself, what do these numbers mean? Do not jump to conclusions, look for all possible answers in your insight. Digital marketing may not seem as creative as other areas of marketing, like design and branding, but there are ways to stand out to employers by being innovative in your analysis.

Be Confident:

Transitioning from college student to a full-time job is not as easy as it may seem. You go from being comfortable in an environment you have been excelling in for years to a whole new world. If you are like me, you are moving on from a small school to a big city agency, and it is intense. New people, new routines, new theories to learn and practices to understand is a lot to take on, so my tip is to be confident. It is easy to get discouraged in such a fast pace, digital world. Constantly remind yourself that you can do it, stay focused, and set goals to achieve.

Entering into a fulltime position is not easy. It is stressful, nerve-racking, and very intimidating. All these feelings are worth it in the end. You get to work with people that make you better, learn new applications and theories, and advance your career. By following these tips, you can give yourself an edge as you transition from full-time college student to a full-time digital marketer.

Written by: Tori Oates, Digital Strategist

Summer Hires- Culture

Summer Hires Blog Series – Reflections

For the final summer hires’ blog, SD’s three summer hires look back on their experience this summer.

Conquering Client Relations

At Something Digital, I am a Summer Project Manager. When SD extended the opportunity to me, I accepted because Melanie Lopez would be my mentor. I work directly with her to manage projects, which involves scheduling and running meetings, interacting with clients, and creating documents. I even managed projects independently for an internal tool and a new page for the SD website. Everything I did contributed to my learning, but I grew the most in the daunting space of client interaction.

My main goal this summer was to better my client relations skills and build confidence and comfort in interaction. I began by easing my way into it – saying hello on client calls and sending emails. However, the most impactful experience was when I led a client call unexpectedly. I memorized the agenda and read and re-read the talking points Melanie provided me. I knew the clients from earlier meetings and they are reasonable people, but I was intimidated. I dialed in stressed, but thirty minutes flew by and with the support of the SD team, I communicated everything I needed to. I was able to convince the client to push launch date, get sign off on documents, and address their questions. I have led a handful of meetings since then without any fear.

The success of that first interaction pushed me to overcome my hesitations. I accepted the chance to attend an offsite meeting at a client’s office. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the SD team put me at ease and explained how face-to-face time is extremely valuable. I built comfort in written communication with clients as well. A client can spend 30 seconds scanning an email I took 30 minutes to write, but that decreased with practice and developing concise communication became natural. I owe much of this to Melanie’s guidance, which pushed me to get better.

The internal SD work also helped me grow. When I collaborated with other departments and debriefed with them after, I treated the opportunity as if I were presenting to clients. These interactions also helped me acclimate.

To say that I achieved my goal would be an understatement; I feel like I completely obliterated it. I was trusted with responsibility, so I was able to do much more than I expected. Working at SD was a privilege – I now have real-world experience and a mentor I know I can always count on. I will carry the skills and confidence I gained here with me into all my professional interactions moving forward.

Written By: Ekta Rana

Developing as a Summer Hire

Hey! I am the back-end Summer Hire, and I’ll use this entry to highlight some of my work.

First, I worked on enhancing an internal application called HealthCheck that runs tests on our clients’ systems. It was initially developed by our Tech Lead and my mentor, Max Chadwick, to monitor databases. I write security checks that send different alerts to our teams when an issue is discovered. HealthCheck is an important tool because it helps us keep our clients’ sites free from cyber threats.

My tools include various software and platforms, like PHP, XAMPP, and Magento. Each presented a steep learning curve for me, since I had no prior experience and little knowledge of their functionality. To start, I conducted lots of research on which applications would work best and how to integrate them. Once I set up a local environment, I began refactoring the code. This was a challenge because it was my first experience with PHP. I learned the syntax, functions, and concepts to have every file and class communicate. As my code became executable, I integrated with Magento to read server databases. Due to lack of documentation, it was hard to understand errors I came across. But with direction from Max, I was able to understand Magento’s behavior and fix the problem.

In addition to working on HealthCheck, I contributed to the quality assurance process for some project deliverables. I learned QA practices and tested several client sites to ensure they function correctly on various devices and browsers. After passing a list of test cases, the site can go live. Taking on QA was a big step for me because I actually executed on client-facing work.

The summer was filled with challenges I enjoyed overcoming. Through the process of working through difficult tasks, I started to see significant improvement in my development skills, particularly with how I structure and integrate code. As a Summer Hire at SD, I’ve truly grown and contributed my knowledge to the company. By working on my particular assignments, I gained an understanding of who a back-end developer is, which is awareness I expect to carry into my future career.

Written By: Toni Giacchi

Gitting My Act Together

At Something Digital, my job is to expand an internal tool designed to keep my coworkers organized, alleviate tedious tasks, and improve the overall workflow. The tool was created by Something Digital’s Front End Lead, Nadav Speigelman, who has also been a fantastic mentor, helping me along every step of the way. The project is a JavaScript app built using the React framework coupled with the memory-managing JS library, Redux. It uses Google’s platform Firebase for database storage and user authentication and connects to ConnectWise’s API to read and write information to project workplans. Though there was a lot of development work to learn, my largest takeaway from working at Something Digital would be my improvement in organization and decision making.

When it comes to new organizational skills, most college students think about having to fix their life around their new work schedule but working at SD taught me how to track time better. Every task we perform, big or small, gets logged. As a multitasker, it sounded daunting at first, but I quickly came to realize the benefits of time tracking. Explaining each task in writing, helps solidify my personal understanding of the task and creates clear checkpoints for next steps. Furthermore, seeing exactly how long tasks require gives me perspective on my on my own abilities. As time logs gradually became shorter as I repeat similar tasks, I appreciated having a visual display of my growth as a developer.

Similarly, I improved my decision-making skills. During the development of the internal tool, I attempted to incorporate an external library, but ran into issues when integrating with my existing code. With Nadav away on business, I had to address the issue on my own. After an hour of attempting with a preexisting solution, I determined it would be more efficient to build my own. My solution took an hour to write and another to implement, significantly less time than originally expected.

Working at SD taught me more than the technical skills required to be a developer. I learned to better track my time, increasing my productivity in each task. I gained intuition in decision-making, enabling me to identify workflow issues and handle accordingly. These are skills a developer can only gain from being a part of an organized team in a professional setting.

Written By: Jayson DeMarchi

Summer Hires- Culture

Summer Hires Blog Series – Bedside Manner  

Something Digital has Guideposts, short sayings that suggest different ways to deliver value and produce quality. They remind us to stick to the process and have quality interactions, among others. Deliver bedside manner is the one that piques our curiosity; it differs from what we were taught about the business world. If you don’t know what bedside manner is, don’t worry, we didn’t either. This philosophy ensures we deliver recommendations based on expertise instead of what the client wants to hear. A patient experiencing headaches might want her head chopped off, but a physician delivering bedside manner would recommend pain relievers over decapitation.

Bedside manner is frequently practiced by teams at SD. For instance, we had to convince a client to push back on their launch date. Their projected launch happened to coincide with the week that the client’s team was attending a conference. Due to the intricacies of a go-live procedure, we strongly urged them to push launch until they had the appropriate personnel available. It was not ideal, but the client understood it was in their best interest, and we rescheduled. If there are two choices, and we understand one would produce greater benefit, we would be remiss by not informing our clients.

Delivering bedside manner is providing perspective on ways to improve a business and informing clients as such. While our clients are experts in their business, we have expertise in building and growing ecommerce sites. We’ve done hundreds of them and have definitive insight into what works and what does not. SD practices bedside manner because a client’s business success is in our best interest.

Throughout our summer, we’ve seen our colleagues practice bedside manner and prioritize with clients to help them succeed. When clients don’t understand why certain tasks take precedence, they can become justifiably concerned. However, we then discuss, cite a rationale informed by experience, and agree on a plan of action. SD tells clients what they should hear, not just what they want to. Our clients trust us because we care enough to challenge them to achieve their goals. We strive to change clients’ priorities when we disagree, and it truly does build better relationships.

Written By: Jayson DeMarchi, Toni Giacchi, Ekta Rana

GrowNYC

GrowNYC Service Day

Here at Something Digital, our team loves to give back to the place we call home! Once a year, we partner with a local non-profit organization that helps better our NYC community. This year we are proud to have served GrowNYC at their Governors Island Teaching Garden location.

The GrowNYC’s Governors Island Teaching Garden is a 21,000-square foot urban farm featuring a ½ acre small-scale farm, fruit trees, an indoor kitchen and solar oven, a green house and much more! The garden aims to engage and educate visitors in all aspects of urban farming. The program offers opportunities for NYC’s underprivileged schools and summer camps to visit the garden and learn the benefits of community gardening and take part in planting, harvesting, watering, and even cooking what the garden has to offer. GrowNYC also teams up with communities around NYC to help build community gardens in low-income neighborhoods.

Our team rolled up their sleeves to participate in tasks such as spreading topsoil, sanding, and building flower beds that would later be used to help low-income communities start their own gardens. Both SD teams had a positive experience with the work they accomplished and partnering with the staff of GrowNYC.

“Our service day with GrowNYC was easily one of my favorite experiences with my colleagues at Something Digital.  It felt so rewarding to have our large group help accomplish projects that would have taken them several days to complete. This service day showed me that we all work really well together inside of the office, and outside as well.”

– Anne Langworthy, Functional Tester

However, it wasn’t all hard work! Our teams enjoyed the fruits of their labor! We savored the taste of the fresh growing berries, were gifted fresh produce from the garden at the end of the day and got a close look at some of the animals in the surrounding farms.

“Our service day at Governors Island Teaching Garden was a ton of fun! Getting out of the office and into the sun was nice, but more importantly I appreciated being able to make a real difference in such a valuable educational resource. We mixed soil, setup planting beds, weeded and applied linseed oil for new planting beds as well. The leaders at GrowNYC were a lot of fun, they even gave us some free, organic produce from the garden at the end! I’ll definitely be going back.”

– Leland Clemmons, Front End Programmer

Volunteering with GrowNYC was a great experience from start to finish. Working with such a professional staff for a great cause and being able to spend the day with coworkers outside of the office, in the sun and dirt, was a blast.

“GrowNYC’s Governors Island Teaching Garden was a ton of fun. We set the foundation for a new garden that they were trying to build.  All the while, we learned about agriculture and how much of an impact it has on our surroundings. Definitely was an educational and fun experience!”

– Ethan Yehuda, Programmer

If anyone is interested in learning more about GrowNYC, visit https://www.grownyc.org.

Written by: Alyssa Brady, Office Coordinator