Fretless

Conga (Formerly Octiv)

Octiv is a rapidly growing company in Indianapolis that provides proposal management software. Ongoing success created big expectations for the Octiv development team, which weighed heavily. The leadership team understood that they needed to hire more senior help. The whole team felt the pressure to rapidly enhance and improve the product for their clients. Additionally, they wanted to stay ahead of technical debt, test coverage and framework upgrades. As a result, Octiv started to look for additional senior help in late 2015.

Fortunately, Octiv’s Lead Developer liked Thai food and agreed to join Fretless for lunch! Octiv had a goal of growing their team, and they saw an opportunity to create a mix of contractors and employees to maximize their immediate velocity while maintaining flexibility for the future. This is when Dave Jones from Fretless joined the team!

I knew Dave Jones from Indy.rb. Our previous relationship combined with Dave’s technical skill set and the years of experience made him a great fit for our team. We knew we needed more hands-on-deck!” – Joe Heth, Octiv Lead Software Engineer

At the start of an engagement, it’s pretty common that Fretless will begin working on items that do not require domain knowledge, providing value while quickly building the knowledge of the business. Octiv was no different, so Dave’s first few projects were around tech debt, testing, and updates. Dave began by simply working on their automated test suites to support a future upgrade of the Ruby on Rails framework. Fortunately, Dave was able to jump right in to increase test coverage, allowing he and the team to upgrade Rails through multiple versions over the course of Dave’s time at Octiv. As he picked up domain knowledge, he was able to contribute heavily to not only the Ruby portion of the code base, but the client-side portions as well, contributing to the Ember.js-based JavaScript code base and the SCSS-based stylesheets, as well. He also started to assert himself as a leader by successfully driving the rollout of Code Climate and assisting with team adoption. Joe Heth described what it was like to work with Dave when he said:

One of the biggest things that we grew to appreciate and love about Dave was not only would he do anything that you asked of him, but he loves to teach and mentor other Developers. He played a really large role in our onboarding process. When we would hire someone new he would spend time with them, setting up their environment, getting to know them, help them get to know the application and the technologies. Dave did a lot of pair programming with these developers. Dave definitely had a multiplier effect on our team.

Again, Octiv was in a big period of growth! Their team actually doubled in 2016, and they planned to continue growing aggressively. As a result, they hired a number of software engineers. Like any new members of a team they often needed the assistance of senior engineers. Octiv’s Lead Software Engineer, Joe Heth, felt the burden of coaching and mentoring more acutely than anyone, so I asked him how Dave Jones assisted as a Consulting Senior Engineer. Joe shared the following:

Dave had a huge impact on me, personally. With Dave on the team I was given back time in my day to write code and accomplish my tasks and at the same time avoid being a bottleneck for junior developers who needed mentoring. If our three more junior engineers are waiting on me to help them, that’s actually a really big problem. I can only help one of them at a time!

Octiv found themselves in need of more velocity in the middle of 2016, especially with their initiatives on the front-end. They again looked to Fretless to help in the short-term, bringing on a Fretlessian who could focus their attention on Octiv’s client-side needs. Through the efforts of the Fretlessians and the Octiv team working as one, a new JavaScript text editor was put in place, and the design was converted to a flexbox-based layout–by the end of 2016!

Fretless not only provides the general benefits of adding a senior developer but also brings a breadth of experience to an existing team. “Our goal is to help get them outside of the tunnel vision,” said Dave Jones. Often, the CTO or Lead Developer appreciates the value in having an outsider come in and apply different perspectives and experiences to solving the problems at hand.

Like all Fretlessians, Dave has had experience with multiple different teams and offered a breadth of knowledge. “Often, an existing dev team is going to be very good at their own way of doing things”, said Dave, “and we want to give them another perspective”.

Dave Jones was valuable to our team! Dave started out by giving us another Senior Dev with his “hands on a keyboard” during a critical period of growth, but he soon provided much more. Dave also coached, mentored and worked alongside our junior devs to help with onboarding, training, and growth. He also contributed to the strategic direction of projects and was often seen as a trusted adviser. We would be happy to work with Dave and Fretless again in the future. – Octiv CEO, David Kerr