A Goal and an E-Commerce Transition


Walking into my first interview, I heard for the first time how our company (Quiksilver Inc.) was about to migrate their e-commerce platform from GSI Commerce to ATG Commerce.

But first, a little background…
Prior to my Quiksilver start I was working for a smaller company (< 30), still focused in Web Development but working for much smaller companies on a much smaller timeline, on much smaller budgets.  I left that company in hopes to work not just for several small companies, but one large one.  My intention was to “learn how the big guys do it”, and sure enough this was my chance.

My first project was for the new DC Shoes website, www.dcshoes.com. This was amazing to me because I’ve always loved DC Shoes and worn them since I was little, and the ability to work on the site made me feel so happy, so accomplished.

The primary focus for the DC Shoes Project was to redeploy the marketing site, which was hosted on the WWW domain. The store however, was on store.dcshoes.com hosted by what is now known as “eBay Enterprise”.  Although we never really touched the internal workings of the store, I always wanted to get a try at it.  It was cool to re-do the marketing site for a major company like DC Shoes, but also not fully fulfilling as there’s a store piece I knew nothing about. E-commerce though is a giant and I was just getting my feet wet.

Looking at the e-commerce suites, this was a big jump for me compares to my last job.  eBay has 3 main e-commerce entities: The small business focused eBay Prostores, the mid-range Magento Commerce, and the enterprise eBay Enterprise.  I jumped from my last employer using eBay Prostores to my new employer using eBay Enterprise.  I couldn’t be happier with the leap.

Now, although I had to learn a new CMS in eZ Publish for DC Shoes, learn a new e-commerce suite in eBay Enterprise, I always had on the back of my mind the project of the ‘migration’, which was to migrate from eBay to our self hosted ATG Commerce.

I would jump at any opportunity to learn it.

Fast forward a year, and we’re actually knee deep in the migration.  There are lots of discovery sessions, official training, new docs to read, but never any ‘hands on’ with the code.  We had hired an agency to help us and although I was a developer at Quiksilver, we never actually did much for the new site aside from migrate a few pages here and there.  Would this be just like how it was with eBay Enterprise?  Would me as a dev be only a developer for “in-page” experiences, but never that of the e-commerce platform itself?  Truth be told I was a little sad at the thought.

About a year into the project, it was put on hold.  Progress wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and like the good saying goes, “If it’s not broke don’t fix it”, we decided to keep on going with eBay Enterprise.

Fast forward to 2012.

The project kicks off again, this time with a new agency and new host. Our host by the way has the claim ” We have never had a client move to another […] hosting provider”  which definitely warms the heart a bit.

This time, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to get in the code.

I wanted to learn.

I offered my help in any which way I could, from helping out set requirements to helping the Java developers truly understand our needs were as a business, for all users not just developer specific.

In an expected turn of events, the site wasn’t where it needed to be.  This time however, failure was not an option.  These new sites were going live or bust.  Jira bugs were kept coming in and the with the given dev team size, these bugs were not gonna be resolved in time for production launch.  Although I don’t consider myself a pure front-end dev, many of the bugs were front-end related.  And in that, the team had asked if I would be willing to give a hand.

I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

Even though the project was in a do-or-die state, even though I knew I would get bugs I didn’t know how to resolve, I still wanted to jump in. That’s what keeps me going.  I don’t fear asking questions, I’m sure everyone who knows me knows this by now (hopefully doesn’t hate me for it), so I knew if I got stuck I could just ask.

After getting the OK to transition to full ATG development, my Jira list exploded out of control.  I smiled at the thought. A busy day is a quick day, and I love coding so it’s just that more to love at work. If only there were more hours in the day…

I hadn’t even read any Java code since my USC years, but getting something so fresh and different, it was indeed a breath of fresh air.  Not knowing something is amazing to me.  I stayed up reading docs, reading existing source code, it was like I was in 5th grade.

I read things, coded things, broke things, and learned things.  Not everyone gets a chance to learn new things and I wasn’t gonna let this slip away.

As a team we were able to launch the new Roxy.com on May 20th and the Quiksilver.com on July 31st.  We still have the 3rd site dcshoes.com to go at the end of this month.  It’s been tough, there have been long hours, but as long as there’s a passion for what one does it doesn’t really matter.  And for those that go to the sites, there’s still a lot that needs to be finished, I’ll be the first to tell you that.

Reflecting on where I wanted to be a few years ago and where I’m at actually is truly astounding to me. I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to learn what I set out to learn.

I’m so happy to have been given the chance to do something new.