What really brings a team together to produce great work? For the User Interface (UI) Engineering team here at DataXu, it starts with a desire to continue learning, working with other ridiculously smart people, and creating a product that ensures customer success. For our first “Day in the Life” Team series, we’re introducing DataXu’s UI team and the creative ways they work together to deliver for our customers.
Our UI team is working on the next generation of DataXu’s industry-leading Digital Marketing Management (DMM) platform; built with state-of-the-art technology and techniques and used by leading advertisers to manage their online ad campaigns across all media channels, device platforms and advertising exchanges. The team strives to deliver a best-in-class user experience that is intuitive and easy-to-use while still being powerful and flexible. The team executes using principles of agile engineering to provide rapid incremental value to our customers.
In this special team edition of “A Day in the Life of a XuKeeper” meet the UI Team:
Justin Basque, Director of Engineering
Jeffrey Luckett, Sr. Software Engineer
Vincent Recca, Sr. Software Engineer
Babasaheb Gosavi, Sr. Software Engineer
Harman Stinson, Senior UX Designer
Zhuoming Tang, Software Engineer
John Skolfield, Principal Software Engineer
Zaheer Khoja, Engineering Manager
Nick Escallon, Sr. Software Engineer
Yash Kochar, Software Engineer
Anthony White, Sr. Software Engineer
Most the team is based at the DataXu Headquarters in Boston, with two exceptions: Babasaheb Gosavi works in the DataXu office in Bengaluru, India and Anthony White works remotely in San Diego. Team members have a wide range of tenure with the company, from just three months to over five years.
Keep reading to learn more about the team members themselves and the work they do at the ‘Xu.
We have a very diverse team. Why did you choose DataXu?
Tang: Before joining DataXu, I worked a software engineer for a company based in China using C#, .NET, and ruby on rails for wireless network optimization. I chose DataXu because it is at the forefront of the ad tech industry and is continually developing. We use a lot of different technology solutions in our work which means it is a great place to learn and develop new skills.
Recca: I began my career working as a computer programmer at a big life insurance and annuity company. I had to wear a tie every day. I lasted four years in that field before moving to Burst! Media and online advertising in 2000. “The web” was hardly even a real thing back in 2000. The only form of advertising on was banners. Burst! was one of the first companies to create automated “ad-serving” technology. I worked there for about fourteen years and over time transitioned to a database-centric role, which I loved.
I chose to work at DataXu because it provided an opportunity to surround myself with smart and dedicated people and grow my skills. At my previous company, I was the SQL guru. At DataXu, most of my colleagues have vastly greater database knowledge than I do. I knew that coming here would be a huge challenge but also very rewarding.
Kochar: I was working towards my Masters in Information Systems at Northeastern University when received a LinkedIn message from a member of the DataXu People Strategy team. The message mentioned the great work that was happening at DataXu and if I would be interested in coming in for an interview, and here I am.
A big part of why I am here is because of the interview experience with the team. I loved the work that the UI team was doing and the other exciting perks that came with being a XuKeeper, such as Innovation days, hackathons, the open-door policy between colleagues of all levels, the DataXu core values and more.
Basque: As a leader in the DataXu organization, I put a lot of emphasis on the diversity of background and experience when making hiring decisions on the UI team. We have team members from varied educational levels, ranging from intensive bootcamps to masters degrees and post-graduate work in computer science and related fields of study as well as years of experience in a number of industries. Five different countries of birth are represented and an even greater number of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This gives us the greatest ability to execute against challenging engineering and business problems with agility.
What are some of the unique and or creative ways you work as a team to deliver value to DataXu’s customers?
Khoja: In order to accomplish the common goal to deliver value to the business, collaboration is essential across the engineering teams working on the functionality and also with departments outside the engineering/development teams. Apart from the front end and backend teams involved in Campaign Manager, I coordinate at various levels with the Release Engineering team, the QA Automation team and sometimes with the RTS teams.
All the teams involved collaborate and coordinate with each other on a consistent basis in different ways. For example, the front end and backend engineering teams collaborate by attending each other’s process meetings, design sessions to come up with a plan to execute on a project. Since DataXu is globally present, we also have team members on the west coast and in India. Communication with them using video/audio chat tools and ensuring they are included in team processes ensures that they remain in the loop.
Collaboration outside the core engineering teams mostly happens with the Product Team (since they are responsible for defining requirements) and the Release and Support teams. Apart from in person discussions in meetings, some other ways we communicate are using tools like JIRA (to create and maintain project work and support tickets), Hipchat, and audio/video chat. Apart from this, DataXu recently established a Project Management team which closely works with all the involved teams to make sure they are coordinating and collaborating with each other to resolve dependencies and meet the customer’s goal.
Gosavi: We work with many teams across the company such as the Reporting Warehouse, Real Time Systems (RTS), ESC Squad, Support Team and others that are directly dependent on our team.
From your perspective, what is the value your team provides to DataXu’s customers?
Luckett: Currently, I am the Sr. Engineer on the CMS Endpoint Execution squad. I’ve been involved in building the new APIs since the beginning of the project. I am coordinating my efforts with those of two off-shore developers and in-house QA personnel. The CMS API project is at the heart of re-engineering our User Interface, and how our back-end systems interact with user-provided campaign data. This allows us to decouple the UI and other dependent systems and create a more modular system that allows each system that interacts with Campaign metadata to have a consistent interface into that data. Ultimately, this allows for a much more testable system which will drive greater system reliability and confidence in our system for our customers. Also, as we begin exposing the API to select tech-savvy clients, it will allow them to programmatically interact with our system and allow greater efficiencies and avenues for innovation for them as well.
Khoja: As an Engineering Manager, I am responsible for projects and business deliverables for a portion of the UI work going on at DataXu. I am currently working with the backend API team that furnishes data to be used by the front end Campaign Manager UI. I am responsible for cross-team coordination and making sure that team deliverables and individual goals are aligned to meet company objectives and the customer’s needs.
What’s the biggest project you’re working on right now?
Escallon: Recently, my time has been completely devoted to DataXu’s new Campaign Manager. We’ve built out a powerful single page app with a focus on simplifying the user experience without compromising the ability to manage complex campaigns. We spent a significant amount of time creating reusable foundational components, which has since allowed us to rapidly roll-out new features. I’m excited to see the value we’ll be able to deliver to our customers in the near future with these updates.
Skolfield: After leading API development for the past year, I’m now the lead on our TV team. We’re focused on building the best-in-class solution for audience targeting and forecasting in the new world of digital TV marketing.
White: The biggest project for me is definitely the updated UI for DataXu’s Campaign Manager. We had a chance to start fresh with the project, which gave us the opportunity to redefine our workflow and best practices as well as spend the time to get the architecture right from the start.
What technologies are you working with?
White: We’re using AngularJS and TypeScript to build out Campaign Manager, as well as some supporting tools like Gulp and Webpack to build the application. We’re using Karma, Mocha and Sinon for unit tests, and Protractor for integration testing.
Skolfield: I just wrote my first Spark app using the Databricks platform – it’s amazing how much data you can crunch in just a few lines of code. For our backend needs, I’m working with AWS to develop data pipelines and API gateways. For the front end, I’m exploring upgrading to Angular 4 for our UI components.
Other technologies from all team members: Ruby on Rails, Postgres, Python, Jenkins, Github, Memcached, Solr, Node and SASS. The team is constantly iterating on this stack and regularly welcome improvements and changes.
What is something personal or professional you’ve improved on since you joined DataXu?
Kochar: I would say ‘Customer Obsession’ even though it’s not directly a skill. As one of DataXu’s core values, it is a way of thinking that I feel I’ve fully developed by working here. As a UI Developer, we often received changing requirements based on user feedback. We strive to accommodate as many requirements as we can to deliver a product that really enables customer success. In this same train of thought, collaboration is another core value that is fully developed and used within our team.
Luckett: I have continued to enhance my performance tuning, application scaling and architecture skills. DataXu has a larger number of inter-connected internal systems than I’ve often worked with, so there’s a large focus on the smooth flow of large volumes of data amongst the inter-dependent systems.
Recca: When I started at DataXu I didn’t know how to use a Mac, I had never worked in a Postgres database, used Ruby or Rails or used the Git version control system. Now, these things are integral to doing my job and I use them every day.
Do you have any advice for people looking to join DataXu?
Escallon: Absolutely. We’re looking for candidates with a passion for learning. There’s no better way to impress us than to put that passion on display. Come prepared to show off something cool you learned recently and walk us through it. We love to leave an interview feeling like we learned something new from a prospective hire!
Tang: Choose a job that you are interested in and concentrate on it. If you find you want a change, DataXu is very supportive of career development and can help you adjust your path to better fit your goals and interests. There are a bunch of opportunities and possibilities here. (Not for me, I like my current position and the team, but know other XuKeepers have taken advantage of the opportunity.)
Interested in learning more about the UI team? Reach out to People Strategy. You can also apply to join the team as a Sr. Software Engineer. Check out the job listing here or visit our careers page for the other open opportunities we have at the ‘Xu.