Adapting to Agency

When Prolific reached out to me about leading a product team in their San Francisco office, I had never considered working for an agency. After college, I jumped straight from my engineering program into an ecommerce startup based in San Diego. Moving back to the Bay Area, where I grew up, it was my intention to stay in startups, diving further into the community that defines the tech scene here.

Curiosity, more than anything else, motivated me to take the interview. Arriving at the office, it was hard to ignore the pleasant atmosphere, the light streaming through the large windows and the casual camaraderie as everyone sat down to lunch at the office’s picnic table. Talking through my experiences and the expectations of the role with Pat and Joe, I was surprised to discover how compatible my startup experience was with the innovative atmosphere of a digital agency.

It’s been six weeks since I joined Prolific as a Product Manager and I could not be happier with my decision.

Building from the ground up

One of the most exciting challenges I can face as a PM is starting from scratch on a new product; at Prolific, I get to do that on every project. It’s both invigorating and a little frightening to scope and plan an entire app, but it also means that I get to learn how to do things right the first time. I am free to experiment with new work styles and organizational flows to determine the process that works best for me and for my team. Most importantly, the open culture here makes it easy to learn from every failure and success, both others’ and my own.

Everyone is client-facing

I am expected to understand my client, their industry, and the business challenges they face to make sure the product we deliver meets all of their goals. While Prolific has account managers for every project, all phases of our work are open to the client and almost every meeting includes stakeholders from their internal team. While this presence means we are always aligned with our client’s needs, it also requires me to maintain a constant dialogue around the decisions we make and the reasons by which we make them. Further, while team dynamics are important to every project, the openness of our work necessitates an extra degree of closeness between product, design, and engineering. The alignment between these core product areas not only improves the quality of our overall work, but drives us to become stronger contributors and communicators individually as well.

Always innovating

When working in-house, I would never have the time or resources to implement every new trend or technology that comes along; at Prolific, that is exactly what our clients hire us to do. We are constantly looking for better workflows and tools to improve our work process. The freedom to experiment with both tools and processes keeps me from getting fixated on a single approach. I see the value in being able to adapt to each new technology, especially as the pace of development in mobile product seems to get ever faster. Further, we are required to become subject matter experts in the tools we use, often onboarding client engineers and designers to use our process even after our scope of work is completed. From team dynamics to planning tools, I’ve learned a lot in my short time at Prolific, but, more importantly, I’m excited for all of the lessons to come.

  • Chelsea Fischbach

Utilizing Xcode 6

Another year, another new version of iOS–and with it comes a brand new version of Xcode. They say a worker is only as good as his tools, and so it is reassuring to know that Xcode 6 has added a slew of new features to make life as an iOS developer easier and faster than ever.

Adding New Files

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One of the most frequently used dialogs in Xcode has been given a bit of a facelift.

  1. –New file types have been added for Swift. Specifically, a Swift file empty template and a Playground file which allows for dynamic debugging as you code.
  2. Objective-C File is now a category for a bunch of Objective-C file types including Category, Protocol, and Extension. There is also an “Empty File” option which creates a regular .m file without a header.

Storyboards with Size Classes

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The release of iPhone 6 / iPhone 6+ means we iOS developers finally get to deal with the wonderful world of fragmentation! One thing that will make lives easier is the introduction of size classes for design instead of defaulting to separate iPhone / iPad view files. Size classes allow you to use only one storyboard per view controller instead of having multiple views and deciding the right one at run time. Further, you are able to add UI elements that are specific to certain views, so you can have, for example, custom iPad elements that are not seen on iPhone and vice versa. It’s also possible to set constraints for each view differently for each size class, allowing for really simple UI design across a multitude of devices.

You can enable size classes in the same way that you enable Auto Layout in a storyboard file, and in Xcode 6, size classes are enabled by default when you create a new storyboard file. Most sizes are compatible with iOS 7, but be aware that Compact Width, Compact Height and Any Width, Compact Height are not respected in iOS 7.

Application Launch Screens

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LaunchScreen.xib is a new way to handle launch images. This allows us to use Interface Builder to create launch screens instead of relying on using multiple image files for each orientation and size. We can simply use Auto Layout to control how those items will look while only needing to create one design for launch. The old LaunchImage folder is still supported, but all new projects default to the .XIB approach.

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Resizable Simulators

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The simulator menu now has options for all of the device types supported by iOS 8, as well as two new options: Resizable iPhone and Resizable iPad. These simulators are coupled with size classes, allowing you to test the various iPhone and iPad sizes in one simulator instead of having to constantly reboot the simulator or rebuild your project to debug the views.

Auto Layout Margins

Auto Layout now supports default margins for leading / trailing space. This means that there are now 16 pixels of built-in space between the edge of the screen and the margin. This means a leading space of 0 puts an item 16 pixels away from the edge. This is only supported in iOS 8+, however; iOS 7 does not support this, and Xcode will throw a bunch of warnings to alert you to this, so be careful if your app supports iOS 7.

View Debugging

You can now debug your views. By going through the debugger, you can pause execution of the application and Xcode 6 will display your view as it exists at that moment in time. You will see all views – even views that are currently not visible. This allows for very rapid debugging of Auto Layout at runtime, instead of having to guess and check by rebuilding the application every time. By going to the Attributes Inspector in the view debugger, you can look at all of the Auto Layout attributes that are applied to each element, which attributes are active, and even which attributes were ignored or not used by the application.

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Live View Rendering

Now you can have a live rendering of a view in a storyboard as you edit it in a text editor by using IB_DESIGNABLE. Now edits that are made in drawInRect will be rendered live in the View. You can now also specify IBINSPECTABLE attributes to property values that you want to be assigned in the storyboard file. This allow for enhancing storyboard functionality by being able to see your custom controls rendered on the storyboard itself instead of just a placeholder white box where the control would appear at run time.

Conclusion

The latest version of Xcode really adds some great and much-needed features to the iOS developer’s toolbox. View Debugging and Size Classes are the two most useful and long overdue features that will almost assuredly be the most used features in this last release. iOS as a platform has grown quite a bit with version 8 and the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus; the newest features of Xcode 6 make this transition considerably easier and more seamless.

  • Christopher Jones

A New Beginning

I worked as a software engineer at a few large corporations straight out of college, but I was never really happy in that kind of environment. Teaching myself Android (back when Eclair had just launched and people were still using Cupcake) enabled me to strike out on my own as an independent app developer. This experience was a great ride, but after a few years, my apps had fallen into maintenance mode and I wasn’t sure what to do next. I was, unfortunately, burnt out and bored with what I was doing.

I tried contract work, but I was tired of doing everything myself, and I missed collaborating and learning from others. I wanted to be a part of a small team where I could focus my efforts on engineering, and where my colleagues could take the lead on everything else necessary to producing mobile apps and running a business.

Moving Forward

When I found Prolific, I discovered what could be a great chance to learn about the latest and greatest in Android development. As a mobile development agency, Prolific is in a unique position where it can focus on mobile and build deep expertise in the field. Given the quality of their clients and apps, I knew Prolific’s designs and engineering would meet the standards I was looking for. A dog-friendly office also helped seal the deal.

After working from home for so long, being at the Prolific office is really refreshing. Working with a talented, fun team makes me happy to go to work every day. However, my excitement is nothing compared to my dog Teddy’s. It certainly helps morale in the morning to watch Teddy run around the office like he hasn’t been there in forever and like it’s the best place he’s ever seen.

The Edge of Innovation

In my short time at Prolific, I’ve had the chance to learn some really cool (and powerful!) libraries that make developing for Android easier and faster, and I’ve rediscovered my passion for Android. The mobile world is changing very quickly, so it’s important to stay on the cutting edge in order to remain relevant. I always loved that about Android. Prolific really understands this, and Prolific engineers (and designers) are constantly posting links to updates, new tools, and cool finds in group chats, making it easier to keep up.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been only been at Prolific for two months. I’m learning something new every day. I’ve already contributed code to two projects, gave a lightning talk, and participated in dev talks and a hack day. There are plenty of leadership opportunities, and learning is encouraged, as well as writing blog posts, contributing to the office culture, going to conferences, and contributing to the open source community. Working at Prolific has already made me a better engineer, and I can’t wait to see how much more I’ll grow here.

  • Irene Duke

A Fresh Start

After co-founding a new business venture, spending time leading product development, and engaging with investors, I reached a point where I needed to make a pivotal decision in my life.

Coming from a team of two, I missed the constant collaboration that comes out of working with a larger group, as I get a kick out of bouncing ideas off of my colleagues. I was looking for a young but established company focused on creating great products; a place where I could utilize and build upon the lessons I had learned in mobile and product development.

Culture is a very significant piece of the puzzle for me as well. The effort a company puts into the creation of a fruitful working environment says a lot about how much they are willing to invest in their employees. I was hoping to find an environment in which people were encouraged to speak out their ideas and thoughts, regardless of their role or years of experience. I also needed a company that supported personal aspirations and growth. While I enjoy programming, I also have a deep interest in the complete process that turns an idea into a usable product.

Feeling Right At Home

I found Prolific Interactive while browsing the web for agencies based in the New York area that were developing mobile applications for successful and prominent companies. (I’ve since learned that the Prolific website is, in fact, an accurate representation of the company, as it shows the vibrant culture that exists here.) Plus, working in the consulting area appealed to me because I would be working on many different projects with different clients, keeping things fresh and exciting.

I knew this was the place for me after coming into the office for an interview. When I walked through the front door, I got a warm welcome from one of our office dogs, Blitz, and immediately felt right at home. After that, all I had to do was look around me. There were drawings, markings, and charts all over the glass walls of the conference rooms, people walking around discussing their projects, and I could just sense the energy and excitement.

The Prolific Experience

The culture at Prolific is something really unique. I have been a part of some great company-wide events such as a team SoulCycle Ride, an office Oktoberfest, and recently Prolific Hack Day–an all-day event when we worked in teams and spent the day hacking away at an idea. We set out to improve different areas of the company, whether it was benefits, internal products and services, or the physical space. I was a huge fan of this event, as it was a great way to focus and work on improving areas that had room for progressive change, ultimately improving our daily environment.

The past month working at Prolific Interactive has been an awesome experience. I’m a part of a project that allows me to use my skills and expertise while still learning a lot every day. Working on David’s Bridal has been a great first project for me. All my friends and family are familiar with the company, so I can’t wait to show off some of my work when the iOS app hits the store. There are a lot of companies interested in our approach to building mobile apps, so I am also excited for what is next.

I have met and befriended a group of smart people who are all passionate about mobile and want to collectively create great products. Considering all of the great things I have seen and experienced here in a short amount of time, there is no doubt in my mind that there are many great things to come.

  • Julio Rivera

Prolific Hack Day 2014

Around 11:30 am this Halloween, the sound of a hand saw cutting ferociously through wood echoed around the Prolific office. At that moment, we knew Hack Day had truly begun.

Prolific’s Hack Day gave everyone on the team a chance to brainstorm ideas, try new experiments, and implement the changes they wanted to see happen in our office. Clad in our finest Halloween attire, the Prolific Ps banded together on the last Friday of the month to make big things happen at Brooklyn HQ in a very short period of time. With only one day to work, the group arrived early and quickly split up into teams, choosing to focus on physical spaces in the office, Prolific policies and products, or even new mobile creations.

Hack Away

Within a matter of minutes, the office was abuzz with activity as teams organized, schemed, and got to work. Hallways and communal spaces quickly filled with unwanted furniture and unused office supplies as six different Prolific spaces got a complete overhaul. While office improvement teams set out on a mission to Ikea, product teams selected leaders and assigned tasks, pushing people out of their comfort zones and into roles they had never inhabited before.

The Kourtolific team, dedicated to working on an internal app for Prolific that would allow employees to credit and fine each other for hard work or other incidents, insisted on making Hack Day a true learning experience. Sr. iOS Engineer Gang Cao took over as Product Manager (his first time in such a role) and quickly put his team to work on tasks they had never faced before.

In another area of the office, Business Development Manager Kevin Bui (a.k.a the man dressed as a dolphin) single-handedly took on the project of installing hardwood flooring in one of the Prolific conference rooms. Shutting himself in Washington room for the day, and playing techno music to keep himself motivated, Bui banged out the entire project before the 5:30 pm deadline and certainly impressed us all.

In yet another corner, Nick Kroetz and Sahithi Akula took on the difficult task of turning a cluttered storage closet into a usable and practical space. After a long morning of clearing out the space and a quick trip to Ikea, the storage closet amazingly transformed into the new Prolific Phone Booth, an organized nook with seating and a whiteboard table where Ps can take important phone calls, hold small meetings, or even complete rounds of user testing.

A Better Prolific

Throughout the office, more original projects than I can name were completed before our eyes in the time span of 8 hours. Hack Day truly proved to be a testament to the creativity and talent that exists in the Prolific office. From those who wanted to take a break from their desks and put together a new couch, to those who couldn’t wait to partner with other designers and engineers to bring a new mobile product to life, the entire team completely dedicated themselves to the cause of bettering Prolific.

Walking into the office this Monday morning and contemplating all of the physical changes that have been made (as well as those that aren’t quite as visible) made me realize that many of our one-day hacks are here to stay. This past Friday, we all worked together and made Prolific a little more prolific.

  • Bailey Bennett