Interview: Carnegie Mellon Professor Ari Lightman On How Students Are Empowered By Learning To Use Brandwatch Consumer Research
By Kara FinnertyJun 10
Sitting, perusing API documentation for a popular social media channel, I look out the window at the gently stirring sea between the spokes of the Brighton wheel, which charges the public a paltry fee to get a once-in-a-lifetime view of this chunk of East Sussex (much like the view from this desk, except from slightly lower down).
I see young seagulls on rooftops flapping their wings in preparation for that first flight, their mothers protecting and tending to them tirelessly (amidst dropping their ‘business’ upon pedestrians. How do they find the time?).
These views are fairly commonplace here in Brighton, but what of inside this towering hall of development? What goes on in here? Where a 40+ strong team of this town’s finest coders combine to produce our wonderful app for you, the world’s finest end users.
Do we spend our days frivolously sniggering at the mention of pointing one’s frontend at someone elses backend? Yes, invariably, but we work pretty bloody hard too.
We start with a scrum, tea then scrum or – on Fridays – pastries, tea then scrum. In any case, we make sure that whatever happens, tea and scrumming feature heavily.
This ‘scrum’ doesn’t, somewhat unfortunately, involve us locking cauliflowered ears together and wrestling each other around the room (far too much equipment around for that level of shenanigans), it involves us standing in a group and briefly (we don’t want to be standing for too long, there’s tea to be drunk) outlining one by one what we did yesterday and what we’ll be doing today.
These scrums help the company to keep track of progress and get an idea of who’s doing what.
After this, it’s dev until lunch, bar the odd planning meeting or tea break. Here at Brandwatch we sit in product teams; I’m currently in the Channels team on one of the more lonely islands, with one other developer.
The rest of the Channels team are based in Berlin. It’s not all doom and gloom though, I have 6 servers blowing nice warm air on my shins, which is pleasant at the peak of British summer.
Each team generally has a number of frontend and backend developers and some design and UX resource. With everyone sitting together – or at least connected on an IM platform – collaborative decisions can be made easily, and product managers are never too far away.
As a company, we pride ourselves on building software with the user in mind, and that means thinking about different job roles.
Luckily, with the open office layout and the transparent company structure, there will usually be someone actually doing that role internally anyway, who will always be happy to answer questions and offer an opinion.
There are also more fun, fleeting elements to the working day. Cue the foosball table. And then Queue [by] the foosball table.
The growth in the popularity of Brandwatch foosball has been somewhat exponential of late, notably following an epic doubles tournament last year. Managers and staff all muster that competitive spirit and gear up for games.
Time has yielded some esoteric foosball rules to suit the environment. The “snitch”, “NPI” and “wallbanger”, whilst I’m not at liberty to explain them, are all widely accepted additions and restrictions to the game.
After lunch, once everyone has filled up on foosball and exotic meats, it’s back to development. The free juice/fizzy pop provides the impetus to surmount the post-feast lull.
Working hours run until 5:30 but you wouldn’t really know it. The relaxed environment and reluctance to micro manage people leads to the office being a great place to be.
Couple that with bright staff who want to do well for themselves and the company and you’ve got people staying late on a daily basis, despite it never being the expectation or demand.
Ideas come in, product managers ratify and refine, developers develop, designers and UX create a great user interface, QA perform automated and manual testing, and the support team produce documentation and features get released.
All from this lovely room with a lovely view. Anyone for a cuppa and a game of foos?