How Glossier’s Summer of Code Program helped launch my career as a Front End Engineer
Transitioning from Project Management to Development
Before starting my career as a Junior Engineer at Glossier, I had been working in Digital Marketing and Project Management for the last 11 years. Having managed hundreds of projects from start to finish, I never felt fulfilled or satisfied with the work that I was doing. Building out timelines, constantly following-up with my tech team, back and forth communication with clients, moving the project along, and putting out any last minute fires along the way just wasn’t doing it for me. I felt like my work wasn’t tangible. I wanted to be the person building the project, not managing it.
After a few months of thinking and weighing out the pros and cons of a career change, I decided to quit my job and enroll in a full-time nine week web development immersive boot camp at HackerYou (which I really enjoyed and highly recommend if you’re considering it). Upon completion of the boot camp, I started applying for junior front-end developer positions and found myself getting pulled back into the career that I’d been trying to leave, project management. I was too impatient and it was hard to say no to a job that was going to pay the bills. So much for a career change.
Fast forward a year and a half and I was still working as a project manager, unfulfilled, unhappy, and pondering the thought of actually trying out this whole “becoming a developer” thing. Eager to finally commit to change, I started applying for junior level positions. I was at a disadvantage with my year and a half hiatus, however — candidates with at least a year of experience, or fresh out of boot camps and colleges and were landing these jobs ahead of me. I’m not going to lie, my coding skills were a bit rusty, but I did make the time to brush up; going through old notes, coding exercises and building side projects.
In June 2017, I came across a paid two-month web developer internship program called Summer of Code at Glossier, which was a new program at the time. It was inspired by Google’s Summer of Code, an annual global program launched in 2005 with the goal of bringing more student developers into open source software development. The word “internship” was a bit hard to digest, implying that I was really starting from the bottom. I decided to apply nonetheless. I was looking to get my foot in the door and the dust off of my rusty coding fingers. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to ease back into things and gain some real work experience at a tech company.
One week after applying, I received a call from the hiring manager and went through the interview process: a phone and a video interview with a senior engineer and a technical lead. I was nervous but I think I did pretty well, talking them both through my past work experience, new skills that I had gained at HackerYou, projects I had built, and what I was looking to gain out of the internship. A few weeks later, I received an offer and happily accepted!
My first days at Glossier
I remember walking into my first marketing job after graduating from university twelve years ago, wondering what I was going to be working on, who I was going to be working with, worried that maybe I was just hired to push paper around. That whole feeling came to me all over again. I was nervous but very excited to start my new career as a developer intern at Glossier. On my first day, I was welcomed by Nick Lépine, a product manager who assigned me to work on his team, along with Nancy Naluz, one of the engineers who was going to be mentoring me for the next few weeks. She helped me set-up my laptop to have the Glossier site running on my local machine. We installed my preferred text editor, Terminal Emulator, and she gave me a refresher on how to use GitHub since it had been so long since I’d used it. After we were done, Nancy took me through the stack that powers Glossier.com (a mix of Ruby, Angular & React). I was pleased to learn that I’d also have the opportunity to work with GraphQL, Redux & Jest, all of which were working their way into the equation.
My first real Glossier project
As an intern, I thought I would be tasked with a bunch of tedious tasks that no one else wanted to do. To my surprise, I wasn’t! I was assigned my very own project, Freebies — a page that lives on the Glossier site that directly engages with visitors and loyal customers, housing fun digital goodies such as wallpapers, playlists and fun stickers. This page is also an opportunity to grow our database.
This was a project build from beginning to end, consisting of HTML, CSS, JS, Ruby, Rails, Contentful (our content management system), Segment tracking and Klavyio (for email capture). Coming out of boot camp, the only languages I had learned were the first three and some php for WordPress. I had taken a part-time course on Ruby and Rails but barely retained anything since I didn’t end up using any of it in the year that followed. Freebies was actually the perfect project to help me learn, work with, and get comfortable with our front-end stack. I knew how to set-up a simple file structure for HTML, CSS and JS, convert a PSD file into a beautiful website, and launch it on a domain through an ftp like Filezilla… but how the heck should I go about building something on an existing code base?
I was grateful to have the support of my lovely mentor Nancy and a few other engineers from other teams who made themselves available to help out. She was very patient with me. We did a lot of code pairing in the beginning, she showed me how to get my project started in our existing code base, while letting me drive. I coded while she was guiding me along the way and if I was stuck, she would take over to show me how to do something and would let me continue. It was a great learning process. I feel lucky to have such great mentors who want to help a junior succeed, no matter how busy they are in their day.
Throughout the development of the Freebies project, I worked on some other tickets which I had to ship to production, which meant learning the deployment process. Before deployment, your code has to be reviewed and approved by another developer. Because we work on such a large code base that’s constantly growing, it’s important to refactor as much as we can. You also need approval from design, your product manager, and QA approval if required. Once you have all your approvals and you’re ready to deploy, you need an Engineer to deploy with you (we call this the buddy system). As you deploy your code, if anything goes wrong, they can help you debug or reach out to the team for additional support if needed.
The work culture at Glossier is pretty freaking awesome. Job satisfaction is one of the main reasons why people love working here and speak positively about Glossier as an employer. As an intern, I really loved my work and was doing whatever I could to make the most out of my two months. And it wasn’t all work, there was plenty of fun as well, as long as work was getting done. The people are friendly, fun and very supportive. We have two foosball tables, so when your eyes need to take a break from the screen, we turn to foos! Complimentary breakfasts, snacks and Friday lunches are on offer. The one cool thing I really noticed was that everyone in the office actually took a lunch. And I don’t mean buy a lunch and eat at your desk — most people eat together in the cafe. It was a great way to get to know everyone on a personal level and enjoy a much-needed break from screen time.
The amount of information and experience that I gained in two months made me realize that the career change was a good move and that Glossier was somewhere I really wanted to work. I built a project from scratch, contributed to the Glossier code base, and was able to ship something that had a significant impact on the business. I had the opportunity to work with different teams, doubling or maybe even tripling my skill set thanks to the support of my mentors and co-workers who helped me along the way.
Upon completion of my Summer of Code internship last summer I was offered a full-time position at Glossier as Junior Engineer, and here I am today, seven months later, sharing my experience with you. Maybe you could be the next person to apply and graduate from our next program with great success! Glossier is already working on a more holistic approach for the second version, and I’m part of the task force, so stay tuned for a second blog with more details to come about our new Apprenticeship Program for 2018.