Working in ecommerce means that with every new client, our team will go on a new journey. Different design needs, different catalogs to contend with, different functionality requirements and more. By the time the site launches, we’ve worked with that client’s team to bring their vision to life ready to delight customers. We often keep our spotlight on those projects, showcasing the work of our amazing team and the beautiful, functional experiences they’ve created for our clients. Today, however, we’re showcasing the team behind those experiences.
We’re sitting down with Anna Gallo, our Lead Developer, to talk about her new role, the challenges of ecommerce, and Cold Foam Cold Brew.
As is frequently the case, Anna didn’t always plan to work in development and ecommerce. She grew up in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, and while at high school went into the magnet system attending Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, studying under world-class instructors. Her time there, she says, greatly influenced the person she is today. After high school, she carried on her artistic endeavours at Georgetown University in Washington DC studying an undergrad in English, Theology, and Studio Art.
So tell us, how did you go from studying the arts to deciding to become a Developer?
I started coding when I was a kid in the era of Expage and Angelfire. It was a hobby for me, but eventually people started paying me to make LiveJournal and MySpace themes for them, and that quickly evolved into WordPress and Drupal sites. Dev was always something I enjoyed doing for fun and on a freelance basis and even took a few courses on. When I pivoted after teaching, I had the lightbulb realization that I could do this thing I enjoy as a full-time job.
And what were you doing before The Taproom?
I was working as a UX developer for a well-known government contractor, doing Top Secret things (I’m only partially kidding). I designed and built apps and websites to help citizens interact with government agencies in more meaningful ways. This is where my passion for accessibility started, and I still look at products and development through a lens that that role shaped.
What were you originally hired to do, and has that changed since you started?
I was hired to be a developer here, and I’m still a developer! However, I’m now a developer with even greater responsibilities to other teammates.
What interested you about your original role?
Working in govtech was very fascinating and rewarding, but, after almost four years in that space, I was ready for a change. I followed our founder Kelly on Twitter and enjoyed her memes and values, so The Taproom really appealed to me as a cultural fit. I also liked the idea of moving to an agency with a larger variety of clients and getting to pivot between different stacks and frameworks depending on the project. All of my hunches were correct; I love working here and have learned an incredible amount in just over a year.
Anna was recently promoted to the role of The Taproom’s first Lead Developer. The skills, leadership, and passion she showed in less than a year with our team made her the perfect candidate, and everyone on the team agreed.
Congratulations on your promotion to Lead Developer! How does this change your day-to-day, and what do you hope to achieve in your new role?
Thank you! My day-to-day changes a bit in that I’m touching a much greater number of projects. I now have a team working under me and I meet with them regularly to talk through any concerns, blockers, or questions they have on their projects. I’m also available for impromptu debugging and pairing sessions and to serve as the point of contact with clients on behalf of a given project’s development team. Aside from that, I’m still building features, fixing bugs, and doing the usual dev stuff, like accidentally writing “nom start” in my terminal and laughing about it.
So what does that day-in-the-life look like?
I usually start my work day with planning. Working at an agency in general, it’s super important to be organized and stay abreast of any changing needs or issues in your portfolio of projects. This is even more so the case now that I’ve moved into the Lead role, so the first thing I do every morning is check Slack, then my Asana inbox, then my Google Calendar. Once I have a good pulse on the status of everything, I plan my day out in Asana and another planning app called Sunsama and set some goals and timeframes for what I’d like to accomplish that day.
Most of my day consists of writing code, and I’d say I usually work on 1-3 projects per day depending on the day. I generally also have a couple of meetings per day, and then allocate some time before I log off to reflect on what I was able to get done, and provide status updates both to the team and our clients.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
Being organized! I have some Type A tendencies, which definitely help me stay on top of things, but I still need to be mindful and check in periodically throughout the day to make sure nothing is getting away from me, because it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks when you’re working on multiple projects concurrently.
I also struggle with the requisite Imposter Syndrome that seems to plague all developers. I almost didn’t apply to work here or considered applying for the Junior role because I wasn’t sure I had “The Stuff”. I was promoted less than a year later so obviously I was being hard on myself, but I think it’s really important for all developers to remember that you’re your own worst critic and most people think your work is magic.
What do you find the most rewarding about your role?
I’m a giant goober and still get all mushy when my code works or something really pretty/elegant/helpful comes out. I think we all enjoy those moments of, “Wow, I made this thing people can use with nothing but my brain and my keyboard,” or at least I hope we do.
I also love being able to put on my detective and/or translator hat and get to the bottom of what a project’s needs are and then take that to the client so that everyone is happy and on the same page. It’s easy for developers to forget that what we do is a literal different language to non-developers, and consequently communication breakdowns are just a thing that happens. One thing I enjoy about my role is the ability to make pre-emptive strikes against that stuff.
What have been the biggest lessons you've learned throughout your time with The Taproom?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that every developer has their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s also really, really important to be generous to yourself when you are providing estimates unless you enjoy being stressed out at the end of a project.
What are your favorite projects to work on?
As someone with design roots I’ll always have a soft spot for the front end. I think design systems and organized approaches to component development are very fascinating, so I love projects that have those elements. I also didn’t often get to do things that were “fun” in govtech, so I really enjoy when a client with loud branding comes through and I get to play with colors and patterns and animations and typography.
Last for these questions, what advice would you give to your past self getting started in development?
“Papyrus is not a web font.”
Working in ecommerce, with every project gives us new challenges and a new industry niche to learn about. It’s an exciting and interesting area of the digital space to work in, and especially for developers where each storefront has its own unique requirements. Equally, as an agency, it’s important that we’re all on the same page when working on a project.
Do you find it challenging working in a remote team? What do you feel is the most important factor in a successful remote team?
I don’t find it particularly challenging working on a remote team. Even in my last role, which was in an office, we all worked “together” on our separate machines and the pieces came together in source control, so it’s not much different, and I actually find the communication that remote work requires helpful. In a shared office it’s easy to yell a question over to your cubicle neighbor. Sometimes that’s great because it’s quick, but then that interaction is lost; there’s no record of it and no documented discussion. Working asynchronously forces us to really understand our own problems and needs before we can communicate them to others, and then the interaction is documented in case we need to refer back to it. Obviously when we’re pair coding or have an involved question it makes more sense to get on a call together, but a lot less of our discussion evaporates into the ether.
I’d say communication is the biggest key to successful remote work, then patience, then respect for one another’s time and boundaries.
What about the ecommerce industry specifically do you find interesting? And how is your perspective on it different from someone in say a marketing or project management role?
I find ecommerce interesting because I interact with it every day from the consumer side. I’ve had those moments of buying things because the UX was so stellar that I didn’t have the willpower to stop myself, and I’ve had the moments where I really wanted to buy something but got frustrated with the technical hurdles and backed out. I think a lot of really exciting things are happening now with how immersive ecommerce/remote buying is becoming. Now more than ever, people are looking to buy experiences rather than just products, and it’s become another way for us to stay connected with the world.
What's challenging about working in ecommerce?
I think the goal for all of us is to make that UX that recedes into the background, because that’s how you know it’s good. We want to give people conveniences that they didn’t know they wanted or needed. For that to happen, there are always tons of moving parts behind the scenes, and making them into a Good UX Voltron can be tough.
Ecommerce is by its nature also a competitive space, and it’s our job to help clients stand apart from their competitors on the tech front. Sometimes the competitor has had a dedicated development team for 10+ years or five times the budget, so it’s always fun but challenging to put our heads together on how to “Do X, but better.”
Any trends piqued your interest recently?
I’ve found the recent increase in social selling very interesting. It used to be that eBay and CraigsList were the only places where people could sell things if they didn’t want to build their own websites, but now everything from TikTok to re-selling apps like Poshmark give everyone highly visible selling power. I was “influenced” to buy a sweater just last week and almost all of the end tables in my house are Facebook Marketplace finds.
Building amazing experiences might be her day job, but Anna wears many other hats at The Taproom. Namely “Chief Horticulturalist” and “Cold Foam Queen”...we’ll let Anna explain.
Who do you live with currently? Any pets?
I currently live with my Trusty Assistant of almost 9 years, our sausage dog, and about 170 plants (but who’s counting?)
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Keeping all the plants alive is just about a part-time job, so I definitely make the rounds at least once per day. I like doing crafty and hands-on things, I think because my job is so cerebral, so I’m always tinkering with something or doing some kind of DIY project. Right now I’m taking a metalsmithing class and actually just ordered some tools of my own.
What are some of your favorite sites to spend time on?
There might as well be a hole in my wallet connected directly to Etsy. I swear my next app is going to limit how many times I can open Etsy in a given day. As a plant collector I’m also in a bunch of really intense plant Buy-Sell-Trade groups and have a few tried and true growers to check for restocks. And of course Reddit.
For anyone who wants to start collecting plants, I highly recommend leafysoulmates.com, botanicarus.com, canopyplantco.com, and bluemoontropicals.com; support small businesses!
What's your favorite drink to have first thing in the morning?
I’m known at The Taproom for having an addiction to Dunkin’ Donuts Cold Foam Cold Brew, so that. Still waiting for my official sponsorship offer.
If you could learn any skill, what would it be?
I would really like to learn printmaking one day, but I’m not very good at drawing and should probably start there.