SmarterSelect: 4 Main Product Challenges Solved

Digital businesses need a good ideation, implementation, execution and growth, but at the development side the challenges are huge as well. As much as a product grows, so do the challenges and problems to solve.

In this opportunity I want to tell you the main product development challenge our engineering team faced, and I will show you how we fixed it. Maybe your business are facing some similar issues and this post can help you to find a solution.

SmarterSelect is a web platform to create and manage forms. As they say: “Online Applications. Made Easy”. Over 1 million active users (and counting) are creating and managing online applicationsgrantsscholarships on SmarterSelect every week in the United States.

SmarterSelect enable partners like Texas Tech UniversitySan Angelo Area Foundation and Vermeer to manage online applications.

4Geeks created a engineers dedicated team, getting together Ruby on Rails engineers and Quality Assurance experts, to solve past issues and improve the product constantly.

Let’s start! Here is the 4 main problems we found and how we fixed it.

Challenge #1: QA manual

Too many projects faces issues in production, customers don’t like that for sure. Our first recommendation is to add human power to avoid mistakes on development. QA people is amazing to think on hundred of combinations for test scenarios, that what SmarterSelect needed.

We added QA experts to the team, in the same building to improve communication on issues and help the developers to create ever more code quality.

Listen to this podcast episode when we talked with Meli, the QA Leader in SmarterSelect.

Challenge #2: Dockerize the app

I remember having some bad nights working with server infrastructure, libraries. With Docker we got rid of that, same container, same for all environment, we forget about the differences on development, staging or production.

Also, some advantage we see is when some new developer joins to the team. There will be no need to spend hours or days trying to install all gems, libraries and dependencies with just a docker command, voilà! environment ready. Our client is definitely happy for that.

Challenge #3: Implemented CI tools

The team introduced CircleCI to the projects, helping us on running the small (increasing)  set of automated tests before putting any code into main branches.

For every PR (Pull Request) we run CircleCI containers and confirm the code is not breaking any configuration or code.

Have you implemented (or thinking to do) CI tools on your project? Comment below your experience.

Challenge #4: Rails upgrade

This is a huge deal. Some day we decided that It was time to move from Rails 2 to Rails 4. It sounds crazy but we didn’t want to do a little migration to Rails 3 to later move to Rails 4. It was time to do the roughest change.

So for 4 months the team was focused on create features and migrate at the same time. It was a complete successful, and now we are thinking on move to Rails 5 for sure, but our client doesn’t know (probably he will find out here).

We improve some security issues by that migration and we also did some refactors on old legacy code.

 

Bonus: Download the full Case Study in order to get know how SmarterSelect grew up more than 110% in 2018.

If you need help with your business/product and your annual revenue is $3M+, please reach out to us; our consultants will be happy to assist you on find the right path and solution.

5 Learned Lessons From TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018

I really really love to learn and share knowledge with colleagues, entrepreneurs, makers, startups and companies into technology field. And Disrupt is the perfect event. That’s why I attended this event in San Francisco, California.

TechCrunch Disrupt is an annual tech conference hosted by TechCrunch in San Francisco, New York City, and Europe (London or Berlin), with one 2011 conference held in Beijing.

TechCrunch Disrupt hosts an event called Startup Battlefield at its conferences where startups sign up to pitch their business ideas on a stage in front of venture capital investors, media and other interested parties for prize money and publicity. Past participants include Dropbox, Uber, Beam, Coinbase, Trello, Mint, Yammer, and others.

So, in this post I will share with you what I learned, impressions from my point of view (and phone camera). Hope you can enjoy (and learn) as much I did.

 

Lesson #1: Other places are emerging as the next Silicon Valley.

This is not a new topic actually. There are some emerging cities not just in USA but around the world that are doing a great work putting together entrepreneurship, technology and investors.

Silicon Valley is not about money and technology, it’s about entrepreneurship mindset.

Inside USA we can find places like:

  • Austin, TX
  • Boston, MA
  • New York City, NY

Outside USA we have places like:

  • Guadalajara, Mexico
  • San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Vietnam City.

BTW, Guadalajara and San Jose are cities where 4Geeks has offices.

Lesson #2: Innovation is at the heart of entrepreneurs.

Every hall during the event, I found absolutely brilliant people and with a lot of passion for what they do. The innovation is completely in your DNA, which allows you to find solutions to day-to-day problems.

Definitely entrepreneurs around the world are called to a simple thing: solve problems.

And if you think about it, the solutions that humanity enjoys today in the field of electricity, transport, communication, have been thanks to those entrepreneurial minds that never stay still until they find a solution. This makes us advance as humans on this planet.

 

Lesson #3: AI is a trending topic among startups

If you are not familiar with the term, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the set of many advances in the field of information technology, which allows us to use the brain of machines to make decisions. These machines learn with every interaction, similar to humans.

So if we take this concept to startups, we find solutions such as systems that predict natural disasters, chatbots for customer service, find less congested routes in the city, book a flight, etc. The ability of AI today is immeasurable.

2017 and 2018 were years of introduction to this type of technologies, where the big players like Google, Microsoft, Apple and HubSpot integrated AI to the majority of their products. Some startups also started to create smart products based on Machine Learning.

2019 will be a year where we will see even more cases of AI success in society.

 

Lesson #4: Investors look for people not ideas

The main investors of Silicon Valley and New York were in Disrupt SF 2018; they sought to meet the best entrepreneurs and products in the room.

For years we have believed that for an investor the product and the ROI is important. Yes it is, but the personality, passion and experience of the team behind the product is much more important.

Ideas are worth 0, people have no price.
Investors are looking for a team to trust, honest, to know how to execute ideas as quickly as possible.

Why? Because an idea may not be successful, but the resilience of the team will pivot it until it finds a correct path.

So, if you’re in the stage of discovering your partners, take your time.

 

Lesson #5: Networking opens doors and make business

By now you should recognize the importance of meeting new people and connecting with them. This is the main reason for the TechCrunch Disrupt SF event.

If you have the interest and disposition, in less than 10 hours you can find your future partner, client or supplier. How to achieve it? By asking.

If you ask the right questions to the right people, you can change your own future.

Did you attend this event? Liked it? Please use the comments section below to share what you think about this kind of events. What’s your favorite tech/business events?

Take care!

Meet Kris Alvarado

Welcome to another interview of the series Meet our Geek Team. In this opportunities we talk to Kris Alvarado, which is in charge of making sure all finances are making sense at company level.

She is from Golfito which is a in the Southeast cost of Costa Rica. She likes new challenges, that why besides doing all the numbers work she is always trying to learn different ways to help the company in different areas. She studied at some point pharmacy, so she is the first person we ask if we don’t feel well, Kris always knows about what we can take to feel better.

How will you describe yourself?

I consider myself a quiet and reserved person, kind, a little clueless, but brave and dedicated to take on challenges and be in the work area as the personal area.

What do you do in your free time?

 In my free time I like to read, watch a movie or series with my daughter also I like to go out for a walk.

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. Safe
  2. Merlí
  3. Two and a half Men
  4. CSI
  5. Law and order
  6. The Big bang teory

Mountain or Beach ?

I do prefer the mountain, because I really like the sound of the wind among the trees, the humidity, the smell of its colors and animals.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

I am currently in the gym but I like to ride a bicycle a lot.

Which type of music do you like?

I have no favorite singers or genres, I like a little of everything.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. One hundred years of solitude
  2. In memories of my sad whores
  3. Don Quijote

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

I really like science fiction and fantasy movies, so my favorites are Harry Potter, Lord of the rings, The Hobbit and all of Marvel productions.

What is the most excited part of being Finances manager ?

Besides doing just finances, which really is not an excited position. I really love to put myself on the process of selecting new collaborators and organizing small events so that the team stays together.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

Learn a new idiom.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

I have met excellent people in different roles, put into practice the knowledge I have acquired and that this has helped other people on the team

What are your goals for this year?

Train and acquire new knowledge in my area and in others.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.

Meet Byron Hernandez

Hi 4GeeksNation! Some Mondays we have shared with you about our team. You already meet a big percentage of the team members. Today, I would like to present you Byron Hernandez. Hi has a very successful story to tell.

Byron is a Software Engineer here at 4Geeks, and has moved from San Carlos, his born city, to the capital, just to be with all the 4Geeks team. Byron loves cars, swim but what he really enjoys the most is to code and learn trend technologies.

Let me show you a little interview of Byron tastes.

How will you describe yourself?

I consider myself as a proactive, dynamic and creative person, eager to learn every day and give the best of myself in each activity.

What do you do in your free time?

I like to invest my free time in knowing new technologies, besides that I enjoy doing sports, mainly swimming.

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. Dr. House,
  2. Two and a Half Men
  3. Friends
  4. The Walking Dead

Mountain or Beach ?

I do prefer the mountain, I don’t feel very comfortable with the heat, I also like fresh air.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

I practice swimming and I like to play futbol (soccer) once in a while.

Which type of music do you like?

Heavy Metal, Trash Metal, DeathCore, Symphonic Metal, Jazz.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. Green Mile
  2. Cien años de Soledad
  3. Drácula
  4. Los Crímenes de la Calle Morgue

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. Van Helsing
  2. The Imitation Game
  3. The Avengers 2
  4. Hulk
  5. Underworld 2

What is the most excited part of being Software Engineer ?

The best part of my role in the company is to learn every day, the freedom of being creative when solving problems and be updated with technology topics.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

Learn and develop at a crucial moment for the project. Learn new technologies and keep track on things.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

Definitely human quality, feeling like a family, the freedom to ask and express yourself as you are.

What are your goals for this year?

Specialize in the technology in which I work and obtain some certification that proves it.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.

Here is the new 4Geeks logo

Hello World !!! At 4Geeks we are very excited to present one of the smaller, but, an impactful change. A new logo is here!  This is the first step to continue with our growing, making 4Geeks more and more robust and trusted technology brand.

Some months ago We published about the 4Geeks Style, as company “slogan”.  It means Right talent, right experience, right technology.

This new fresh image will just be part of this philosophy of doing things right.

We always apply everything we create external (clients) into our own product, 4Geeks. We think It’s highly important to keep a fresh image and branding that can describe what we are. We look forward to hear from you about our new logo image.

Guys, any feedback? Feel free to email us.

Meet Diego Méndez

Welcome to another interview of the series Meet our Geek Team. On this occasion we talk to Diego Méndez, which is an software engineer here at 4Geeks. Diego is creating amazing products under 4Geeks branding, own software to make the world easier.

He is from Zarcero, which is a nice place un Costa Rica, They produce a lot of dairy products such as milk, cheese and sour cream. In Zarcero we can find a really amazing park with some tree sculptures. But let’s meet Diego:

How will you describe yourself?

I consider myself a cheerful, respectful, kind person, and always willing to help people who need it, also a person who loves their profession and that is why I always try to do my best.

What do you do in your free time?

 In my spare time I like to play soccer, go to the beach, take a walk in the mountains to clear my mind. I like to spend time with my family and friends but also I try to to learn new things about technology.

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. The Walking Dead
  2. La casa de Papel
  3. Vikings
  4. Marco Polo
  5. Game of thrones
  6. Z Nation
  7. West World

Mountain or Beach ?

I prefer the two options, since both are quite nice and they are places to have fun and recover from stress, also, both are part of nature and serve to clear the mind of all situations.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

At the moment the sport that I practice is soccer, but then I hope to practice other sports both extreme and adventure. If we talk about extreme sports I would like to practice skydiving and motocross, and in adventure sports it would be mountain biking, diving and climbing

Which type of music do you like?

I like music electronic, pop, rap and a little rock

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. The Lord of the Rings
  2. The Hobbit
  3. The Art of Loving
  4. The Challenge of Love
  5. The Art of War

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. Titans of the pacific
  2. BattleShip
  3. Avengers
  4. Saw
  5. The Purge

What is the most excited part of being Software Engineer ?

The most exciting part is that every day there are new challenges to be solved and with this, every day, I gain more and more experience.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

The most challenging part of my current project is to implement different designs within the project, giving users the ability to select their preferred UI. 

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

The best part was meeting the team of 4Geeks, as they are always willing to help or evacuate the doubts you have, and the good thing is that you work in an environment where you always feel encouraged and with all the desire to work.

What are your goals for this year?

My goals in this year are to learn more programming languages ​​in order to have more experience, in addition to certify myself in the JavaScript part, another goal is to get my English improved.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.

Meet Maria Laura Gonzalez

Welcome to another interview of the series Meet our Geek Team. On this occasion we talk to Maria Laura, which is the person in charge to find 4Geeks talent around the world. Most of our engineers and talent is here because of her. She is from Venezuela.

Maria Laura answered some questions about her and her tastes:

How will you describe yourself?

I describe myself as a very organized person, I don’t like improvisation and I always endeavour to doing good. If it’s possible, on my part, live at peace with all.

What do you do in your free time?

 I like to listen to music, rehearsing with my choir, reading books and watching series and movies.

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. Black
  2. American Crime Story
  3. How I Met Your Mother

Mountain or Beach ?

Beach, always beach. I just love the relaxing sound of the sea and swimming.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

I currently don’t practice any sport. I just sing in a choir.

Which type of music do you like?

All good sounds of rock, reggae, tropical rhythms, classical, instrumental music, jazz, blues.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. Animal Farm.
  2. Harry Potter.
  3. Cien años de soledad.
  4. La tregua.
  5. The Goal

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. Star Wars.
  2. Whiplash.
  3. 12 Years a Slave Mask.
  4. Obsessed.
  5. Finding Nemo.

What is the most excited part of being 4geeks talent acquisition ?

Knowing people from many different places.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

In one opportunity, I provided distorted information to a candidate, because I wasn’t familiar with the Costa Rica laws. Fortunately, the situation was solved.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

I love the working methods and the coworkers always are willing help you. Unfortunately I can’t join them in all outdoor activities (she is in Venezuela).

What are your goals for this year?

1. To spend a wonderfull time with my family at the Margarita Island.
2. Buy a car.
3. Emigrate.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.

Meet Erifranck Nuñez

Welcome to another interview of the series Meet our Geek Team. On this occasion we talk to Erifranck Nuñez, which is an software engineer here at 4Geeks. Eri is a proactive and self-learner person. He is always trying new technologies and looking forward to become a better engineer.

He has a youtube channel where he helps developers to be better and he teaches technology stacks, demonstrating his willing to help to the community. We decided to know Eri deeper, that’s why I asked some questions, check it out:

How will you describe yourself?

Passionate and creative frontend developer.

What do you do in your free time?

 Draw, learn about other programming languages or programiming paradigms, read about productivity, record videos for youtube to teach about development, listen disney sounds

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. Stranger things.
  2. How to train your dragon.
  3. Sense8

Mountain or Beach ?

Beach, because i’m from the coast of Venezuela.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

In only workout at gym.

Which type of music do you like?

Rock music.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. Eloquent javascript.
  2. You don’t know javascript.
  3. Scala for the impatient.
  4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  5. Rich dad poor dad.

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. A beautiful mind.
  2. Infinite war.
  3. The internship.
  4. Hercules
  5. Mulan

What is the most excited part of being Software Engineer ?

Learn everyday about javascript frameworks and so.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

Learn about react and flux and migrate to react redux.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

They are very funny, you can learn a lot from the team.

What are your goals for this year?

Learn more about software architecture, learn ilustrator for create my own content

You can follow Eri on his different social networks like Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter an check the content he is creating.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.

Blockchain 101 and industries

The blockchain does one thing: It replaces third-party trust with mathematical proof that something happened. – Adam Draper

There are no final words on blockchain, and that’s because Blockchain is a new technology, a disruptive one that is becoming a trending topic on tech ecosystem.

I think nowadays the term blockchain is more and more separated from Bitcon, and that’s good, but I want to clarify that Bitcoin is a result of aplying Blockchain technology.

Blockchain basically is the concatenation of unlimited blocks that are inmutable, in other words, we can modify a block inside the chain, we can, basically, only add data.

Each block has its own hash value that is built from its own data. This hash can no be change. When a new block is added, a reference of previous block is created. If a block changes its own main hash value, it won’t match with the previous reference, this will cause the block to be deleted and restored to previous version, inmutable.

Blockchain is based on trust, we want to know that the information is reliable and we don’t need third party system/person to tell us when something is correct or not. Blockchain wants to be clear in a two way binding.

Decentralizing is a key word here and this is because we need to forget about the normal behavior of apps. Centralized applications contains all of its data (database) store in one place (Google, AWS, Own host, etc) with decentralized we have a copy of the data separate in nodes around the globe.

Having this decentralized organization we can ensure our data is secure, using proof-of-work, which is basically get approval of all nodes interacting with the blockchain, same a if some block changes it own hash, the rest of the nodes will get notified and put the block back to the real value/state.

Private vs Public vs Hybrid

There are three different types of blockchain so far, private, public and hybrid.

Public: It’s like Bitcoin, so you can be part of this by only downloading a copy of the blockchain and run it in your computer.

Private: This one is close for only specific parties, like a group of hospitals, institutions, etc.

Hybrid: It’s the combination of public and private. So basically, some components can be for the entire world, like main personal information, but other can be private for specific reasons (medical history for example)

Industries to disrupt with blockchain

This is not a final word yet, and the possibilities and this moment are endless, blockchain is not a stable technology yet and all of the industries I will list are open to different ways and millions of possibilities.

Banking

There are some banks working and experimenting with blockchain for internal process. The majority of them are investing on trade finance with blockchain. The idea is to remove fax, papers and all the untrusted processes.

Security

Since blockchain based its technology on security, it’s almost self-explained how blockchain will impact this area. We can now make sure our data is handle in a good way and always having us as the real owners of that.

Supply chain

From my point of view, this one is the hardest one but the first to be real impacted. Using IoT (internet of thing) we will be able to track all the phases in a supply chain. Check if our fruit is 100% organic or if our coffee is actually with all the standard on the market. Actually, Starbucks is doing some work on that.

There are some other areas We can explore and start working with blockchain. The only true here is that blockchain is here and we may use it to explore new functionalities and new ways to improve the world.

If you have an amazing idea and want to start doing some blockchain, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at sales@4geeks.io.

 

Meet Alí Guillén

Welcome to another interview of the series Meet our Geek Team. On this occasion we talk to Alí Guillén, which is an software engineer here at 4Geeks. Alí has shown a desire to growth and gain more knowledge. He has deliver more than one product for different clients, which is a clear example of his work approach.

Alí is always happy to help and give his opinion on different topics. He likes to keep learning every day. He is another 4Geeks entrepreneur by creating his own system to connect with Ministerio de Hacienda de Costa Rica (similar to Department of Treasury). Alí answered some questions about him:

How will you describe yourself?

A person who loves to learn for improve myself and help others for improve themselves.

What do you do in your free time?

 I really like to listen music, go to movies, eat a hamburger or going out for a coffee. Meet new people, make new friends, all the social interaction stuff.

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. Death Note
  2. WestWorld
  3. Neon Genesis Evangelion
  4. The Big Bang Theory

Mountain or Beach ?

Beach. The view of sea is awesome, and the people always seems to be relax.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

No at all, only the 4Geeks challenge workout!

Which type of music do you like?

All good sounds of rock, reggae, tropical rhythms, classical, instrumental music, jazz, blues.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. El Origen perdido
  2. The picture of Dorian Grey
  3. Needful Things
  4. Los árboles mueren de pie
  5. The Double

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. Inception
  2. Iron Man
  3. The Mask
  4. Powder
  5. Point Break

What is the most excited part of being Software Engineer ?

It’s to do what I like the most: to be a programmer, and find new ways to give solutions for issues.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

The management of new required technologies for a big project.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

Work with a professional high level team, learn every day a new topic and a new solution for the work I’m doing.

What are your goals for this year?

A new programmer level, and see one of my personal projects online.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.