The Hero in Four Acts: We’ve Got This, WTF, Oh Shift, We Did It

19 Oct 2020 2:07pm, by

Welcome to The New Stack Makers: Scaling New Heights, a series of interviews, conducted by Scalyr CEO Christine Heckart, who interviews engineers about the problems they have faced and the resolutions they sought.

These are the stories about engineering management and how technology decisions are made for scaling architectures to support the demands of the business.

Pooja Brown is vice president of engineering at online personal style shoppers Stitch Fix and also one of the founding members of ENG, a peer network of vice presidents and chief technology officers from leading SaaS companies. Brown spends most of the discussion talking about the work in developing a modern infrastructure prior to her work at Stitch Fix.

The Hero in Four Acts: We’ve Got This, WTF, Oh Shift, We Did It

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Brown tells her story in four acts, discussing her work on monoliths and the move to a modern architecture that came with hiring. The developers were hired for their Node.js skills. And, they were quite different than the .Net devs they had once known so well.

“The premise was: ‘take this monolith, build it into, at least, horizontal layers where you have a clear separation of API on the front end, right and evolve the front end application with a much more modern technology stack so you could rapidly innovate, iterate from a CI/CD perspective, all the things that we want to see in software,'” Brown said. “I’d built out a team, we were building software, we had a plan, we were reimagining this experience, and sort of led me to act two.”

The What the Fuck (WTF) moment: The tooling was different from the old tooling, the skill sets were different,” she said. They were looking for Node developers versus .Net developers. The processes were changing, people were working out of multiple offices.

“And when you start thinking about that difference and the impact that it is going to cause in, at least, the success and adoption of the project, that’s when you realize, like, ‘Oh, shit,'” Pooja said.

Then the shift in thinking comes. The pivot, so to speak.

At StitchFix, the apps are not necessarily legacy but the scale is the challenge most of all.

“How do you bring personalized retail at scale?” Pooja said. That’s not an easy thing, right? It has to be personalized to [the customer], but it has to work at scale.”

In the end, Pooja’s story is about the culture and the people. We often hear about how DevOps is a culture. Pooja’s account tells us what happens when the application architectures do change and the reality of the new way comes apparent in everyday work.