Summer Hires

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 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

Summer Hires

Summer Hires Blog Series – Culture and Community

Something Digital sits in a prime location in Midtown Manhattan, overlooking Bryant Park and walking distance from the best lunch spots, but that is not what makes our office great. The partners and the people here work to build a culture. From the practices we implement to our monthly celebrations, SD is a place where the culture is inclusive, and that makes it easy to come to work in the morning.

We are an interactive agency where every individual has an impact, which is why team members are pulled into engagements from the very beginning. Designers, developers and managers work collaboratively and in constant communication to ensure that projects succeed. Interdisciplinary teams help broaden knowledge, which enables greater efficiency and higher quality.

The office space lends itself to open communication – you can see everyone and easily ask for or offer help. It isn’t a cube farm or divided into distant and separate offices. Instead, desks blend together, creating an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence in shared space. The bright décor reflects our vibrant brand colors. To encourage communication and collaboration, each desk has a cabinet that doubles as a bench, and when you just can’t sit anymore, there are standing desks. The kitchen table becomes a spot for work sessions, impromptu luncheons, Friday wine and cheese gatherings, and monthly celebrations for birthdays and work anniversaries. The office is inviting and comfortable, which helps foster a closely-knit group.

New team members are welcomed by everyone in the office and—more importantly—with food (Summer hires started with a welcome breakfast and were taken to lunch!). At SD, the welcome made it easier to acclimate and put names to all the new faces. The training process and access to help made for a smooth adjustment and mitigated the rookie mentality. There are also educational opportunities for the full-time staff. They can take classes, earn certifications, and attend conferences to continue their learning and improve skills. Lunch and Learns provide opportunities for them to share new knowledge with colleagues.

Creating a positive office culture doesn’t just mean nap pods and in-house coffee shops. It takes careful consideration to foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable in the space and around each other. SD gives its employees room to learn, develop, and share skills. We collaborate at every step to consider all sides of a problem and deliver the best solution. Hiring new members of the team is done carefully and reflects the consideration of our core values. Even the office furniture facilitates SD’s views toward open communication and multidisciplinary collaboration. SD’s attitude and policies ensure that our values remain at the core of everything we do and that our community builds an inclusive culture.

Written by: Jayson DeMarchi, Toni Giacchi, Ekta Rana

Summer Hires

Summer Hires Blog Series – Introduction

We are Summer Hires, not Interns

Coffee runs, sandbox projects, cubicles and terrifying bosses. The universal intern experience – but we are not interns. At Something Digital, we are Summer Hires and for the next two months we are full-time employees contributing valuable work. We work the same schedule, participate in staff meetings, and are encouraged to speak up by the surprisingly approachable company founders/partners. Plus, everyone makes their own coffee.

Sometimes it can feel like we are diving into unfamiliar waters, but SD has done its best to help us acclimate. We will be discussing our take on SD and the summer experience in a series of posts to follow. The first of these posts is the SD welcome and office “tour.”

Meet the Summer Hires:

Jayson DeMarchi
Hello! I am one of the Summer Programmers at SD working to create an internal tool that generates budgets and workplans. I am approaching my final semester at Stony Brook University, graduating with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Japanese Studies.

Toni Giacchi
Hey! I am a Summer Programmer at SD, contributing my coding skills to refining and enhancing internal tools our developers use for systems security and health monitoring. I am coming up on my fourth and final year at George Washington University, where I major in Computer Science with a concentration in Computer Security and Software Engineering. Outside of coding, I enjoy spending my time playing soccer or watching the NYC skyline from my NJ hometown.

Ekta Rana
Hi! I am the Summer Project Manager at SD working to help plan projects, allocate resources and provide my research skills. I’m a rising third-year Junior at Stony Brook University studying Technological Systems Management and Business, specializing in Computer Science and International Business. I am on the hunt for the best chicken parm hero in Queens.

Stay tuned for the summer hire series all summer long!

My Summer Experience at SD

This past year has been a year of “firsts” for me. It was the first time I lived on my own, the first time I commuted to work, the first time I kept a time-sheet, the first time I directly reported to a manager, and the first time I got to work as a summer analyst in New York City. My name is Mia, and I just finished my first year at Tufts University (Go Jumbos!).

Working in a New York City office was intimidating in the beginning. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. In a few weeks, I slowly picked up on habits and office etiquette. The Orientation process summarized the different teams at Something Digital and the company’s history. However, they did not specifically go over how to report to someone, update your time sheet productively, stay organized, schedule a meeting with 10 very busy people, and get up at 7 am every day to catch a train into the city. However, I did finally master these skills (still struggled in the wake-up department though).

My personal summer project ended with a presentation to the managers and partners in the office. When I found out that I would have to give a presentation at the end of the summer, my stomach immediately dropped. I was reassured by my manager, Mickey Winter, that she trusted me and knew that I would learn the material.

This sentiment of trust, confidence, and helpfulness is characteristic of Something Digital’s office atmosphere. The people in the office work like a well-oiled machine. They are constantly discussing strategy, new ideas, and issues, while being very inclusive and smiling broadly. I can tell that the people truly love to be there because of Something Digital’s honesty and transparency.

I discovered a lot about myself and my career by working with the people at Something Digital. My presentation went great (if I do say so myself)! Of course I was nervous, but the sense of accomplishment and positive feedback that I received when I was finished was very rewarding. I can only hope that my career is filled with as much inspiration and excitement as those of the people at SD.

The four weeks that I spent as a summer analyst flew by very fast. I learned a lot from my superiors, fellow summer hires, and the office experience itself. My new skills in scheduling, organization, business, presenting, copying, printing, and lunch run techniques are always going to be useful for me. Starting a new job after college without confidence or any solid occupation idea can be scary. But, this job has given me a better sense of my own skills and what I want my career to be like. This was an incredible year of “firsts”, and Something Digital is definitely a first I will value for a long time.

Written by: Mia, Summer Analyst

Phillip Master of Ceremonies

SD’s Phillip Jackson to be the Master of Ceremonies for Magento Imagine 2018

Magento Imagine 2018 Master of Ceremonies, 3x Magento Master, 5x Magento Certified, 15 years of experience creating unique online customer experiences, organizer of the Magento SoFla Meetup, host of Nomad Mage and host of podcasts MagetalkFuture Commerce, Merchant to Merchant, and SD Office Hours and if you’re still reading this; what do all of these awards, activities and accolades have in common? They all belong to Mr. Phillip Jackson.

That was a long way of saying (and tooting Phillip’s horn) that SD’s Phillip Jackson, our Ecommerce Evangelist is the official Master of Ceremonies at the 2018 Magento Imagine Conference. Please join us in congratulating Phillip for this tremendous honor to host one of (if not the largest) ecommerce conferences in the world. If you’re not familiar with what Magento Imagine is, it’s one of the largest ecommerce conferences held by one of the largest ecommerce platforms, Magento. It’s a place where thousands of individuals who are passionate about ecommerce and innovation get together to share their stories, experiences, and expertise of Magento. If you’re interested in sponsoring or attending make sure you sign up soon! Magento Imagine will be held in Las Vegas at the Wynn, April 23-25.

Make sure you check out the full interview with Phillip on becoming the Master of Ceremonies and a pretty funny video featuring Magento CEO, Mark Lavelle.

If you liked this blog make sure you check out our recap from Magento Imagine 2017.

Magento Master

Congrats 3x Magento Master Phillip Jackson

Our Ecommerce Evangelist, Phillip Jackson was named a Magento Master: Mover for the third year in a row.

Movers are Magento’s top advocates and ecosystem thought leaders who have demonstrated their expertise in driving innovation through Magento solutions.

Phillip was selected as a Magento Master for 2018 based on his 2017 contributions through organizing the Magento SoFla Meetup, hosts Nomad Mage and hosts the successful podcasts MagetalkFuture Commerce and Merchant to Merchant, with over 50,000 monthly listeners. He is also the co-host of SD’s own SD Office Hours for Magento—a bi-weekly webinar answer LIVE Q&A about the Magento platform and ecosystem.

Movers are influencers in the industry in delivering best-of-class Magento implementations and advocate for Magento at industry events.*

We’re so proud of Phillip and the other Masters: Movers named for 2018!

You can meet the other Magento Master: Movers here.

(*Source – Magento Blog)

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