Chicago’s title might be locked in as “the Second City,” but what it offers its residents and visitors alike is nothing if not first place. A culinary capital; a cultural melting pot; an established hub of diverse industries and technical innovation. So why shouldn’t an engineering team’s tech stack in the Windy City reflect the same?
For engineers at nine of Chicago’s growing companies, the opportunity to access and combine different technical applications allows them to pursue new horizons and build crucial products for the clients they serve. Tackling these challenges from an innovative perspective also encourages team members to come together and let their unique capabilities shine – even while working remotely.
Ari Roth, lead software developer at CSC Corptax, attributes their particular success to the depth of their tooling.
“In most places I worked, ‘dev tools’ meant ‘a bunch of undocumented commands to run on the command-line that were passed down from engineer to engineer,’” Roth said. “Here, our DevOps team puts together scripts, processes, and even a Visual Studio extension to make common tasks easily executable and repeatable.”
However, even the most intricate and capable technology can only take you so far.
At Sprout Social, practicing inclusivity and welcoming team members of every level to be active participants in architectural conversations has led to a sense of collective ownership, Software Engineer Madelyn Nelson said. And according to Software Engineer Alex Barber at XSELL Technologies, fostering a culture of constant learning has encouraged subject experts to train fellow team members so that everyone can mutually benefit.
Built In Chicago recently checked in with Roth, Nelson, Barber, and six other leaders across the city to learn more about the technology their teams are embracing to tackle the projects that drive their creativity.
CardX is a provider of zero-fee debit and credit card transactions for retailers.
Their tech stack: “Our technology approach is not just focused on the latest tools, but rather on those that solve a business problem or improve the developer experience,” De Guzman said. “Some of the key technologies we use are Vue.js, Node.js, Datadog, Sentry, and LogRocket. LogRocket, for example, is a session recording and playback platform integrated into our products. If a merchant is having an issue or has a question, our client support team can use LogRocket to watch their CardX Portal session and recommend specific actions.”
“CardX Portal is wholly serverless residing within AWS. Though our infrastructure is primarily driven by Lambda functions running Node.js, we also make use of Simple Queue Service, DynamoDB, MySQL Aurora, and a number of other services.”
Simplifying the process: “CardX Portal always leads the pack. All our products are either part of, contributing to, or expanding the range of use cases CardX Portal can meet. It is the merchant’s one-stop solution for everything from running transactions all the way through line-by-line deposit reconciliation. Finance has many layers, and CardX Portal seamlessly integrates these layers into a single product and presents information to merchants in a way that is easy to understand.”
Growing together: “The engineering team’s dynamics at CardX are the best I have ever seen in my career. This is a team that is open to new ideas and is constantly learning and growing. We take pride in the fact that every engineer can make a big difference in the codebase, no matter how long they have been at the company.”
“Development is not perfect, and each individual sprint will have its own unique challenges, but I have consistently seen this team carry each other through it all. If an issue arises, we do not look to assign blame, but instead work together to identify the problem and fix it.”
Affinitiv is a marketing technology and social media company that focuses solely on the automotive customer lifecycle.
Their tech stack: “Most of our team members are full-stack developers who enjoy staying on track with the fast-moving world of software development,” Orozco said. “Our company is very flexible, giving us the freedom to research and use new tools and technology if we feel like it will add value to our projects. I have always enjoyed using Microsoft Visual Studio and C# to build code, GitHub for version control, Jira for planning, and Confluence for collaboration.”
Developing skill sets: “I enjoy working with some of the largest and most successful automotive companies in the world. I find integrating with their external APIs extremely interesting. Right now I’m working on a feature that integrates ride-share services with our scheduling applications. Being exposed to so many implementations has helped me mature as a developer, to feel more comfortable talking to external teams, improve error handling in my code and create more unit tests.”
Embracing diversity: “Affinitiv has, by far, the most diversified group of engineers I have worked with. A big number of our team members are from different countries, which implies talent from all over the world. People are collaborative and friendly and, as an agile team, we foster communication and encourage one another’s success.”
Silverwork uses technologies such as software robotics and machine learning to create intelligent automation built for the mortgage industry.
Their tech stack: “We’ve recently upgraded our entire tech stack onto the .NET architecture, and it’s done wonders for our ability to integrate projects cleanly and efficiently,” McClellan said. “The full feature set of Visual Studio keeps context switching to a minimum, and C# gets continuous quality-of-life improvements that keep the language fully modern.
“Outside of development, Postman is a must-have tool in my opinion. Being able to quickly test APIs gives us the necessary feedback we need to confidently move forward with development. Finally, even with Entity Framework in our apps, I like to do some good old-fashioned queries in Microsoft SQL Server Studio.”
Analyzing from every angle: “We are working on consolidating our codebase and making our product more scalable. Questions we ask ourselves: On the business side, which features should we add to our base product set based on client feedback, and which should we keep customized? On the software engineering side, how do we accommodate more features without proportionally increasing complexity? I get to see both sides of this process, and it provides a holistic experience of participating in the conception of an idea into a deployed solution.”
Contributing to a greater goal: “Some engineering teams I have worked with in the past have fostered what I can best describe as a ‘bro’ culture that is heavily competition-based and values one-upmanship. It can lead to a very cliquey group with minimal diversity. However, that’s not the case with Silverwork. The members of our development team all have unique interests and experiences that contribute to a great sense of individualism. At the same time, our primary value has always been cooperation in achieving common goals. It’s great to work with a variety of personalities who are all willing to set aside their ego and come up with the best solutions to satisfy all parties.”
Braviant Holdings uses advanced analytics and big data to solve difficult lending decisions.
Their tech stack: “We’ve upgraded this year from Java 8 to Java 11 for the backend services on Spring Boot 2.3 with plans to stay up to date with Java’s long term supported versions,” Ritchie said. “Currently we’re running with an Angular 9 UI and a PostgreSQL 12 database all deployed out to a 100 cloud-native environment in AWS. One of our favorite tools is IntelliJ – the built-in code completion and analysis tools even without any plugins are great! I’ve also had fun building a few bash scripts to help manage our microservices. When you get to have so many, it’s awesome to get to build tools yourself to help manage keeping your local machine up to…
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