The tools and tricks 2 engineering teams use to stay one step ahead

February 22, 2018

Whether it’s months-long work on massive projects or working together to ensure continuous delivery, good communication practices are crucial for engineering teams. Recently, Built In LA spoke with two local engineers about how their teams collaborate, which tools they rely on and what traditions have developed over the years.

 

meundies ecommerce startup los angeles

Founded in 2011, MeUndies is one of the reasons why LA has become an e-commerce powerhouse. Behind the scenes, however, is a thriving digital product team who operate cross-functionally, handling everything from UX to product management.

Because the team decided to respond as a group effort, it was decided that the team mascot, Charley the dog, would serve as the spokesperson. Because, why not?

Tools: Pivotal Tracker, Jenkins, GitHub, Code Climate, Slack and Hound

 

How do engineers at MeUndies collaborate on projects?

Engineers are embedded on cross-functional squads in digital product. While we work day in, day out with our UX, UI and product management teammates, we stay connected with other engineers in a number of ways.

A typical day for an engineer might start off with code review. All of our pull requests are reviewed by a minimum of two other engineers before they can be merged. In addition to manual reviewers we use a few automated services, too, like Jenkins, Code Climate and Hound.

We have a daily standup meeting, during which we report on what we did the previous day, what we’re doing that day, and if we are blocked. The standup is an opportunity to raise your hand and ask for a partner if you’re stuck on something, which leads to another way we collaborate: pairing. Interwoven through all of this is a lot of discussion on Slack. You’ll never feel disconnected.

 

meundies ecommerce startup los angeles

What sort of communication is needed for longer projects?

A lot. MeUndies is not the sort of place where we under-communicate, especially if what we’re talking about is going to be a months-long project. Large projects can come from anywhere, but if, for example, engineering gets a request from accounting to implement a new system, engineering is usually involved from the very beginning, vetting different providers, investigating their APIs and the amount of work the integration may take. Once we’ve narrowed down the scope of work, we begin with an engineering resource document (ERD). This is our way of scoping the project in phases and gives a rough estimate of the number of iterations each phase will take.

With a rough estimate of the number of iterations a project will require, we have a meeting with our stakeholders to figure out when we should schedule the project.

 

How would you describe the engineering team’s culture? Are there any fun traditions?

Ship. Ship. Ship! We try to get every new engineer we hire up and running, make a pull request to fix something small, and deploy it to production on day one, which is usually accompanied by the entire office erupting in applause. Also, Korean BBQ always!

 

RealtyMogul Los Angeles startup real estate

Headquartered just off Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles, RealtyMogul offers a real estate crowdfunding platform for investors to pool funds and buy shares in pre-vetted investment opportunities. According to Director of Engineering Andrew Kou, the team’s focus on maintaining continuous delivery can only happen if communication remains consistent and effective.

 

How do engineers at RealtyMogul collaborate on projects?

We have quick standup meetings each morning to make sure everyone is on the same page as well as to resolve any issues that might have come up during the previous day or overnight. We communicate a lot, and at any given time will grab each other for rubber-ducking, which, for the non-tech people out there, is a practice where we talk things out, line-by-line to help simplify complex tasks.

 

What sort of communication is needed for longer projects?

For longer projects, we make a concerted effort to break down our longer projects into smaller projects and group releases into phases. Additionally, we try to constantly deliver updates and releases — a tech term called continuous delivery — as opposed to sporadically implementing major releases.

 

RealtyMogul Los Angeles startup real estate

How would you describe the engineering team’s culture? Are there any fun traditions?

The culture among the engineering team is very collaborative. We try to grab a meal together once a week, and of course stay well-caffeinated. We have a RealtyMogul coffee club and are constantly bringing in new beans from around the world.

 

What sort of tools does the team use to make sure everyone is in the loop?

We use Slack to communicate, but I think our collaborative culture is mostly responsible for keeping everyone in the loop. We are always talking to each other and really enjoy sharing information to ensure everyone is consistently learning and informed on the latest progress updates.

 

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