One of the themes over at Wildcard Engineering is continuous self improvement as an engineer. Since we have team members working on all sorts of different projects, using many different programming languages and technologies, we have clear opportunities to learn skills from one another that we wouldn’t if we were all pigeon holed into one particular project or codebase. In addition to general team meetings and pair programming, two ways in which we try and share knowledge with each other are tech talks and hack days.
Once per week an engineer at Wildcard gives an hour long tech presentation on a topic that may be new to most other people on the team. Someone may present on a Wildcard specific topic like the architecture of a particular internal service, or on an interesting technology that we may want to considering using the future like a new iOS framework or devops tool.
Last week the super talented @yusmi gave a great talk on search architecture and ElasticSearch , and this week Matthew Ng will be speaking on automated entity extraction. The talks are generally interactive and leave plenty of time for examples, questions, and looking at code. Outsiders are welcome to attend or even speak, so if you’re in the area and want to participate in the future just drop us a line.
This past Friday we broke from regular work to hold our first internal hack day. We pitched some projects, split into teams of 2-3, and sprinted to finish working apps by the end of the day. The benefits of spending a day like this include:
- Collaborating with people you don’t work with frequently.
- Learning and experimenting with tools or technologies that are out of your comfort zone.
- Get in the mentality of shipping something quickly.
On top of that, it’s fun. The hack day was a tremendous success. Business folks, designers, interns, and developers all got down to work. Some people hacked on Wildcard related one offs that add a ton of value, but never seem to make it onto the product roadmap as top priority. Some people worked on office related improvements like the ability to buzz people into the office without getting out of your seat.
The winning hack, called Entrance Music, was an iOS app where you can choose the song that you want to play as you walk into the Wildcard office…much like a baseball player picking the song that plays as he walks up to bat. It used iBeacons, donated by Estimote, to detect the users location, and a custom music server hooked up to our Sonos speakers to play the song.
Maybe we’ll release it so guests can make a powerful entrance of their own design.
After a few months of living with the leftover artwork hanging on the walls of our Chinatown office, we decided that it was time to spice things up a bit….
When we speak with engineers who are considering joining our team at Wildcard, they tend to hone in on two attributes of our business more so than others:
- it is ambitious
- it is technically difficult
We agree wholeheartedly with both. Wildcard is ambitious in that it is attempting to replace the web browser, and all web views, on your mobile phone. It is technically difficult in that in order to take the first steps towards doing so we have to structure data and actions representing a large portion of interactions on the existing web. These attributes are simultaneously exciting and frightening - there will be no overnight success here, but instead there will be a rewarding journey towards building something great over the long term.
Each team member to join so far, regardless of what they’re working on, has signed on to work on something that’s both ambitious and challenging. The engineering team is entrepreneurial by nature. Each member has started their own successful business in the past, or is looking forward to doing so sometime in the future. As such, everyone owns their own projects, and are responsible for putting points on the board via whatever means they deem the most appropriate - engineering solutions, algorithmic solutions, manual solutions, crowdsourced solutions, and clever hacks. Collaboration is constant, but in the end you are responsible for your own metrics and your own impact.
There exists a significant breadth of engineering problems that we’re working on at Wildcard. We have a team focused on iOS development, working closely with talented product designers, and thinking about consumers. We have a data team, focused on turning the existing world wide web into consistent, data and action based cards. We have a platform team building a system that sits between every client interaction and the existing web, dealing with issues around web emulation, proxying, session management, and performance. We are building SDKs, developer tools, search systems, and more. We have people thinking about what things look like in the mobile world in three months, and also what things look like in three years.
It’s been a pleasure putting the beginning of this team together as we’ve been getting the company started, but we still have a long road ahead. If you’ve been thinking about the next step in your career, and you’re looking for an entrepreneurially focused environment where you can learn a lot, have a big impact, and take ownership over hard problems that haven’t been solved before, then please get in touch. We’d love to talk soon and show you what we’re building.