Application development is a booming industry that touches every type of business imaginable — and Rewards Network is no exception. At the foundation of how we reward our members and support our restaurants is the Development team, including Dev Ops Engineer Antonio De Leon. Antonio talks to us about what it’s like to work on an agile process team, the collaborative environment at Rewards Network, and what the company offers him that competitors did not.
What do you do here at Rewards Network?
I’m a Dev Ops Engineer here. I do a lot, because we’re a smaller organization. That whole cliché about wearing many hats definitely applies.
I deal with configuration management for the platforms that applications are actually running on. I also deal with build automation, platform maintenance — there are a lot of different things.
And it’s not really because my job is obscure. It’s what Dev Ops in general as an industry is. If you ask anyone today what they do in Dev Ops, you’ll probably get ten different definitions from ten different people. It’s not really well-defined.
You basically have your hands in a lot of different areas. One day I might be writing scripts. Another day I might be just clicking buttons on a page, trying to get something configured. It’s actually kind of hard to answer!
We do a lot with application support as well. I handle any kind of tickets that are coming in from various departments. Sometimes they’re very simple — like, hey, I’m having trouble logging in — and other times, it’s going down the rabbit hole and finding some kind of bug on a website. When things go down, we’re one of the groups responsible for fixing it!
Tell me a little bit about the culture of your team.
We’re very collaborative. That again goes to having our hands in a lot of different areas. We spend a lot of our days collaborating with the development teams, any users that are experiencing issues, and any team that has anything to do with app support or getting an app down a pipeline to development.
Everyone is really supportive, and there really isn’t any negativity. We do a great job of making sure we don’t overstress ourselves, too. We take ping pong breaks — which is a great way to resolve a problem, when you’re beating your head against a wall on a problem forever, but you need to get it done. It may seem counter-intuitive, but playing ping pong for a few minutes can make it happen.
Everyone goes out of their way to help each other. You never hear anything here, like you would at a larger organization, like, “Follow this process before you can come talk to me.” The developers are very accessible.
And we have really great leadership. Jeanne [Steinbeck] creates an awesome environment for us to work. She’s very supportive of new ideas and approaches, and so are the people on the team. Everyone is always looking for the best way to solve a problem — not just, “Well, we’re used to doing it this way, so that’s how we’re going to do it.” or “I always have the best ideas, so my idea is the way we’re going to implement it.”
Why did you come to Rewards Network specifically?
I moved around a lot the last few years, and ended up interviewing with several organizations within a couple of days. Rewards Network got me because of the people. I’d interviewed with a lot of larger organizations and over the course of my career, I’ve started going down to smaller and smaller companies. I recall mistakenly asking if this was a start-up, because the environment sounded so nice.
I did research on some of the members on the team. They had a web presence and were very supportive of the ideas and long term goals of what I wanted to achieve. So, yeah, it’s really the people.
Every company is going to have rules and structure. They’re all going to have benefits. You can weigh those and put them down on paper, but ultimately, it’s the people aspect that’s hard to quantify.
There were other jobs that were like, “Yeah! You’re going to have great this or that!” And that all sounded nice for my career, but when I spoke with guys at these other places and asked, they talked about working long hours and not being appreciated for their work.
Your department works on the agile process. Can you talk a bit about how that works?
It’s very simplified. It helps out a lot, because we’re focusing less on how to utilize the process based on what a book says, and we’re using it to our best advantage to actually get things done.
That’s another thing that got me to Rewards Network. They were using an SDLC (software development life cycle) process that made sense — they all make sense — but now we’re using it in a way that makes sense. Not being a stickler about time allotted or how many details you’re putting in. It’s really a way to track work and show the business that you’re getting things done. And properly organizing and coordinating things in such a way that you’re getting things done most efficiently.
What’s your favorite part of working at Rewards Network?
Ha. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say ping pong. [laughs]
But seriously, the teams and the work environment. Every one here working in the different departments are all really friendly. At any of my previous employers, I don’t think I remember being able to say hi to our legal counsel, for example. It’s a very friendly atmosphere.
And I like having the freedom to be able to tackle problems in a way that works best for that problem, using technology that’s on the cutting edge. All the stuff we’re doing right now is open source, bleeding edge tech, application frameworks. Our leadership does a really great job of not necessarily defining the path. They pick the path we need to go down, but they don’t stop and say we need to step over this particular rock at this particular time. I think that’s a rarity in almost any industry.
Is there something specific you’ve learned since joining Rewards Network?
I have learned a lot technically, because there were different applications here that I hadn’t used previously at other organizations. But that happens at any job that you do, especially in tech.
I’ll say that I have learned how to work in a collaborative environment, using an SDLC process under leadership that allows you to grow, progress, and immerse yourself in new technology. I’ve never been able to experience that and know that this kind of environment could exist, particularly with agile.
I feel like whenever you’re doing agile elsewhere, it’s this really rigid process. You need to follow it down to the “t”. But I feel like it’s really different here. To have this kind of environment where you can be engaged with everyone else is really great.
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