Passion projects: 4 Austin techies on their favorite work undertakings

November 27, 2017
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Perks and people play huge roles in your happiness at work. Still, a leading reason employees stay at jobs is because they enjoy the work itself. In other words, the passion lies in the project.

With that being said, we wanted to learn about the coolest projects a few of our peers have initiated — and what influence those projects have had on the companies they work for. Here’s what they had to say.


Kenny Johnson
Product Manager

In April of 2016, Brightpearl announced that it had opened its second U.S. office — and new American headquarters — here in Austin. Kenny Johnson, a product manager at Brightpearl, led the development of the local office as the company’s first Austin employee.


What's the coolest project you've worked on since joining Brightpearl?
Growing the Austin team. I was the first employee on the ground in Austin from our San Francisco office.


What were your responsibilities during the project?
Almost everything — this included interviewing candidates for roles in and out of my department, product training for the sales team plus introductions and coordination with the U.K. team.


What about it will you remember most?
Our Austin kickoff trip back to the U.K. office. It's always fun to get back to the U.K. office, and I think it really helped for our new starters to get to meet their teammates in the U.K. in person.


What upcoming projects are you most looking forward to?
We're really excited about our upcoming product releases. We just released a warehouse management application called Warewolf. We're very focused on omnichannel workflows in 2018.


Brandon Olivier
Software Engineer

Software engineer Brandon Olivier joined eRelevance six months ago. While developing an automated chat application as the primary developer, Olivier got to take on additional responsibilities that extended far beyond the usual coding.


What's the coolest project you've worked on since joining eRelevance?
We have a mobile application that can simulate conversations, and I'm working on a program to enable customization of those conversations that would be impossible today. It's like building an RPG conversation creator. The most challenging aspect of the project is figuring out how to display all that information on the screen in a way that it can be read, understood and edited without too much difficulty.


What were your responsibilities during the project?
My favorite thing about working at eRelevance is the amount of influence that I have over the work I do, and this project was a prime example of that. I was involved in decisions around this project in every area. Primarily, I was coding, but I also worked on requirements and design. It was a more significant role than I had played before.


What about it will you remember most?
This was one of those projects that intimidates you when you see it from afar. There's this enormous mountain of things to do in front of you, and it seems like there's no way you can do all of it. I was the primary developer on this, and it was challenging to do all the coding myself, but we have a great team, and with their support it went smoothly.


What upcoming projects are you most looking forward to?
We have a new suite of tools in the works for our client success managers that we're working on next. It’s something that'll help bring together all the information and operations they need to do in one place. It's still in the ideas phase, and I'm excited to contribute in the very early stages of that product.


Victoria Chuang
Software Engineer

Victoria Chuang joined OwnLocal a year and a half ago as a software engineer. By building an automated system for quality audits, Chuang was able to take a load off of her team. Up next, she said she’s working on product workflow solutions.


What's the coolest project you've worked on since joining OwnLocal?
I implemented a system that took screenshots of our ad product on our customers’ websites in order to perform quality audits.


What were your responsibilities during the project?
I was responsible for the end-to-end solution: researching our customers' most-used browsers and operating systems, development and implementation of the program and tests and documenting instructions for use.


What about it will you remember most?
My biggest win in this project was being able to improve the development process for my coworkers by adding an automated task that would run the program and output a URL that linked to a page with all the screenshots. Even though the new test was an additional step that was outside our existing testing framework, I had to find a way to implement it so that it was fast, user-friendly and easily verifiable.


What upcoming projects are you most looking forward to?  
I'm currently working on a new and improved user experience for a workflow that is critical to our product; it's really satisfying to breathe new life into an existing product and use technology to make people's work easier and more satisfying.


Mika Spence
Director of Corporate Marketing

As NSS Labs’ director of corporate marketing, Mika Spence led the company’s website redesign and e-commerce platform overhaul. Spence said what she loved most about working on this project was striking the right balance between user experience and functionality.


What's the coolest project you've worked on since joining NSS Labs?
One of the coolest projects I have worked on since joining the marketing team two years ago was the company’s website redesign. This included an upgraded e-commerce platform that helps to take our customers and prospects forward in their buyers’ journeys.

The website redesign was part of a significant digital overhaul that also involved a new SaaS-based research library and an e-commerce platform that provides our customers with on-demand access to our research reports. These digital components included several integrations and new workflow features that have increased the value of our research.


What were your responsibilities during the redesign?
As project manager, I was responsible for leading a cross-functional team of several internal and external parties, including web developers, graphic designers and integration specialists. I was also responsible for taking this project from concept to launch, including the integration architecture of our various systems: the e-commerce platform, SFDC and the SaaS research library.


What about it will you remember most?
The most enjoyable part of this project was finding a balance between customer experience and function. Through this project, we created a platform to better serve our customers and drive greater efficiency and automation to meet business requirements. We also integrated several tools and systems to improve our overall efficiency and customer experience. In the brief time since the project’s inception, we have outperformed our targets for sales generated through our e-commerce platform.


What upcoming projects are you most looking forward to?
We are in the process of building a web application that allows our customers to customize our research to their specific use cases.

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