COVID-19 & Engineering
As every other company in the world we at LiftOff LLC were also impacted by COVID-19, few challenges on business front & couple of good things that happened. We are going to speak about positive things that happened with our Engineering team @ LiftOff LLC.
On business front several of our customers in retail domain were affected because of lockdown & had to stop the product development for those products, that put at least 20% of our engineers become available. But it was only a short break, before new startups approached & we started new projects.
WFH & long hours?
LiftOff Engineering team was well equipped with laptop / tools & process for enabling us to work from home (WFH) from day #1 of the lockdown (in fact few weeks before the lockdown). Is it true engineers are working long hours because of WFH? likely since we save our time in commute & pretty much available for most part of the time we are up / awake as there is no place out for us to be.
But did we work long hours to deliver more code or write better code? it was later & will find out in the next few sections.
Along with working / building some great products in past 6 months, we also started doing several fun activities to keep us all connected & not bored by working at home alone.
- Games channel on Slack, with daily / weekly puzzles for us to solve
- Virtual Coffee with colleagues — weekly once / twice video meet for coffee
- We played tambola / housie game that was fun
- Birthday celebrations with virtual cake cutting
Exploring new tools
April — August 2020, we have explored & used several new tools in our discovery to push the limits of engineering efficiency.
- Netlify : Web app build & deployment provider, one of the fastest web page loading via their delivery network (CDNs), also provides a split testing capability that can be driven by source code branches with a flexibility for us to configure the % of users to be directed among the selected branches.
- Vercel : Similar to Netlify, with more language support & better optimised for ReactJS based web apps.
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk — Docker based deployments : Heroku was our comfort zone in launching the backend / frontend apps, not any more team is equally comfortable in setting up the required pipeline, Docker scripts to auto deploy a Github branch to Elastic Beanstalk.
- Github Actions for CI / CD : We now have automated deployments to AWS configured via Github Actions., something that was done pretty well in Heroku & now we have same pipeline setup for products deployed on AWS.
- MS appcenter : Automated build & deployment of iOS / Android apps was a challenge for a long time, we are finally using a tool from Microsoft (after Visual Studio Code) that helps in doing the build & deployment of a new app based on a commit to a branch in Github.
- Cloudflare : DNS management & handling universal SSL is a breeze, we were able to setup flexible SSL configuration in Cloudflare & terminate the SSL at Cloudflare. Also, we now have a well established best practices for URL / DNS configuration for QA / Stage & Production apps.
- FullStory : We love this! within few weeks of using this able to identify several tough to reproduce bugs in the product & fix them as well. It plays back the user’s activity on your web application.
- Google Tag Manager : No more having to make code changes for adding a new GA / Facebook tags, just use the Google Tag Manager console to define some thing & instantly live without having to push a new build. Checkout our detailed blog article on this called Google Tag Manager for Beginners.
We all went from the joy of working from home since we can avoid the traffic, travel time that gave the team a good 40–50% higher productivity to after a few weeks it’s back to 20–30% higher & probably after 5 months it’s same as earlier or slightly more. But the main aspects that has given a good productivity boost for the engineering @ LiftOff LLC is the use of tools mentioned above along with several years of product development experience in building 30+ products from ground up.
We now crank up the complex products in weeks that was earlier taking us months, I bet the joy of re-using existing components, leveraging the awesome features of the new frameworks is a great feeling!
August / September 2020 — we at LiftOff LLC are in the phase of having maximum number of ongoing products, new ones starting & building a healthy pipeline of ideas to build for the rest of the 2020!