IgnitionOne and the House of Code

Throughout the digital marketing landscape, there are but a handful of major players that are capable of servicing the online advertising needs of large companies. IgnitionOne is firmly recognized in the ad tech industry as a leader and innovator in the field. With clients such as General Motors, CenturyLink, Bridgestone, La Quinta and Fiat, as well as advertising agencies such as 360i, GroupM and iProspect ,and a fresh new round of funding, the company is growing rapidly and working feverishly to keep up with demand.

But like any technology company, all of this activity begins with, and ultimately falls back on, the core software product and the engineers who build and support it. IgnitionOne was founded on basic principles of service and innovation and that’s exactly what continues to resonate in the conversations I have had with a handful of engineers from the IgnitionOne team.

As a talent specialist, I often refer to IgnitionOne as the ideal environment for software engineers. And not just because of the beer on tap or the ping pong tables or casual dress code, but the camaraderie within the different teams. It is something very tangible you can experience even just by casually walking by the open cubes on the floor. Either it’s church quiet, or there’s the low buzz of chatter that signifies the collective intelligence of the group collaborating to achieve their goals. And you could just as easily encounter a toy helicopter buzzing around amongst gales of laughter.

The Digital Marketing Suite (DMS) is IgnitionOne’s flagship product that helps marketers to navigate the muddy waters of digital advertising. It is a beast of a system that is simple on the outside and unbelievably complex on the inside. According to engineer Michael Bower, this is one of his primary motivators. “The goal is to make life easier for end users, so that whatever we do is taking away from their daily activities and not adding to it.” For engineer Alexander Fisher, motivation comes from a different angle. “Since there isn’t really one traditional ‘architect’, a lot of that responsibility has been spread out to the rest of the team. And because of that I, get exposed to a lot of new technologies.”

But what makes teams do great things? Or, what are the makings of a great team?
Collaboration comes to mind. I don’t care if you’re a football team or a team of carpet cleaner salespeople, the attributes of a good team are the same. “Collaboration keeps everyone engaged.” Says Donella Cohen, Sr. Product Manager on the search team. “And we strive to get multiple perspectives in the development process. And for a team that’s a little over a year old I think there is unbelievably good chemistry.”

This hints at a larger process that everyone on the floor seems to appreciate compared to their previous experience; the fact that engineers and product are in such cahoots with each other – in most companies that is not the case. “Product is our collaborators” Bower says. “I’m not just sitting down banging out code just to get things done. It is a process that involves everyone.”

It is a testament to the technical leadership at IgnitionOne that Thorne Melcher, a 7 month veteran, would have the same impression as some of the more seasoned engineers.

“In other companies, developers just sit around waiting for the product owners to say ‘go’. Not here, we know what they know and we have the ability to just
start on our own as long as we know we’ll be finished by the next release, “says Thorne.

The consensus is that IgnitionOne is not just a ‘code factory’ but an idea factory that everyone in an unspoken way is responsible for making a contribution to.

It’s also very creative and I often say that the aesthetics of the environment was designed with creative and technical people in mind. Bower concurs with this idea; “It’s water cooler type collaboration vs. scheduling a time and place, and the elephant in the room of ‘don’t waste my time’. We talk about problems over lunch, on the way out the door, through Skype, etc. And the good ideas keep generating conversations that ultimately lead to solutions.

For Craig Alexander (who just celebrated his one year anniversary) the IgnitionOne technical environment is a never ending challenge. “We move mountains of data from one place to another on a daily basis, so there’s a lot of challenges around performance and scalability and the tradeoff between the two. The scale of the DMS is challenging for most of us and it was an area that was lacking in my career and something I was looking for when I was seeking employment.”

This is what is great about our intern program because an intern can come in, whether they are right out of school, still in school, or have 5 years of experience, there is a tremendous upside for them in the knowledge and skill sharpening that’s going to happen in the first 30 days.

In other words, IgnitionOne is one of those shops like Facebook or Google or Amazon where you go to raise your ‘A’ game. And it takes a particular kind of developer. Someone that’s knee deep in the technologies and “someone that’s not just a ‘Tinkerer’” as Troy Larson, VP of DevOps has often said.

But for Thorne, programming isn’t just a way of paying the bills. It is a lifelong passion that has lead her to a place that can really support the kind of thinker and collaborator she is.

“I’ve always found programming to be interesting. It’s a weird way of deconstructing completely unrelated things, picking them apart, figuring out how it works. There’s something very philosophical about programming because you have to understand the inner workings of something in order to build the virtual version in your program. It’s also incredibly rewarding.”

“The problems that I solve on a daily basis continue to be interesting and challenging.
And I think that’s very important to a lot of developers. There are challenges that don’t get boring and remain new” says Fisher.

And given the nature of the ad tech industry, there’s no shortage of challenges to solve and the team that we’ve built and continue to build at IgnitionOne are meeting those challenges head on in a way that’s all their own.

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