Meet a zulily Developer: John

Each month, we’ll talk with one of our developers and learn about a day-in-the-life of a zulily engineer.

Who are you, and what do you do at zulily?

I’m John, a tech lead on the SHIPS* team.john-self

*The name of my team has changed numerous times during my tenure at zulily, and actually is about to change again. Other names for the team I am on have been: Supply Chain, FMS, PFOAM, SCS, “those folks that deal with shipping stuff to Mom”…

When did you join zulily?

I started in June of 2012, so it has been 2+ years.

What was it like in the early days?  Tell us a crazy story.

  • On my first day, I vividly remember Dan Ward coming up to me and introducing himself. He was wearing a neon orange shirt, white pants, a neon orange belt and neon orange shoe-laces. I remember thinking to myself, “This dude is really friendly, but that is a lot of neon orange!” 🙂
  • Later in the morning of my first day at zulily, I remember hearing “Good morning!!!” <CLAP>, <CLAP>, <CLAP>, <CLAP> over and over again. Of course this was Tatiana leading a conga line of folks who were telling everyone “Good Morning!!!” and giving them a high-five.
  • For lunch on my first day, I went to Pecos BBQ Pit in SODO and ordered a pulled pork sandwich with the “hot” BBQ sauce. I like spicy food, but not ghost chili peppers pureed with the tears of Satan…
  • Later in that first week, zulily announced that they were going to be the first company to integrate with SAP in 90 days (where most companies take 18-24 months to do the same amount of work.) My team did a lot of the heavy lifting on this aggressive project, and we pulled it off.  Even built a LEGO Galactic Empire Super Star Destroyer during the process. 🙂
  • A year later zulily had another aggressive project where I got to travel to London with Dan Ward and Neil Harris to deploy SAP into the UK portion of the business. Again we managed to pull off this aggressive project in “zulily time”, I also came away with a serious love for Brown Sauce, Bacon Butties, and Neil Harris’ ability to function at a very high level sans sleep.


What is different now?

zulily still moves very fast and is very aggressive. What is different now is the number of folks to help with the work, and the impact of the work has been magnified at least three orders of magnitude. I still cannot wrap my head around the growth.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I get into the office around 7am before most folks get into the office, grab some coffee and look at my calendar to see how many meetings I have. I then pound out some code or documentation till about 9am before the meetings start happening. Typically I will have 1-2 phone screens or on-site interviews a day, 1-2 meetings with sister and cousin teams a day regarding system integrations, in between said meetings try to write a line or two of code and hopefully sometime during the day try to remember to have some lunch. I do my best to catch the 5:15pm water taxi to West Seattle where I live. Have dinner with my kids and wife, put my kids to bed and then if I have any energy left write some more code before I head to bed. Rinse, repeat…

What gets you excited about working about working at zulily?

In a word, impact. It is very rare that one gets to work at a place where the requirement is to scale systems by orders of magnitude in hopes of keeping up with the demands of the business.  I would categorize working in zulily tech as “extreme engineering” with very high highs and very low lows.  It is thrilling to be able to triage, debug and resurrect a system that is cratering, or deploy subtle changes to systems that almost immediately start generating more revenue and see it happen on a pretty splunk graph.

In another word, trust. There are not many places where an engineer would be allowed to have the impact described above without backbreaking amounts of process and oversight.