Out With the Old and In with the New

This time last year, I didn’t even own a smartphone. I was using the same cell phone that I had been using for three years, watching as everyone around me played with the newest and most exciting devices. Although I wished that I too could use that technology on a daily basis (rather than only getting the chance to try an iPhone touch screen if a friend needed me to type in my phone number), it was just more convenient for me to stick with what I had. While my peers struggled to find service in order to navigate the subway system, I continued to rely on my dad’s trusty booklet map of New York City.

For the last four years, I was in college studying new media design (choosing to focus a lot on mobile), somehow getting through all of my classes without ever actually using the technology I was designing for. And although I did just fine, there came a time when that wasn’t enough. I needed to be playing with, touching and experiencing the devices that interested me so much in order to fully understand them. I knew that the world out there was moving really fast, and as much as I loved holding onto my old devices, I needed to start keeping up with the times.

Multi-Faceted Design

When I came to Prolific, I was looking for a way to really enhance my design skills and expose myself to the core of product design. This career field is very multi-faceted, requiring not only visual design skills, but knowledge of UX and strategy as well. I was drawn to product design because of the broad range of skills needed— designers are challenged to consider not only the visual appearance of the apps, but also the functionality and reasoning behind every detail. This type of work was something I dreamed of doing, since I wanted to be more than just a visual designer. There’s something really exciting about designing an experience for people.

Although I had designed apps for class projects, I had never done so professionally. Because of this, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started at Prolific a month ago as a Junior Product Designer. I knew that my first assignment was to be designing an iOS app, but the only Apple product I own is an iPod nano circa 2009. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous.

Always Looking Ahead

Despite my insecurities, I made it through my first month. In that time, I have learned so much about design and gained understanding of the functionality of designs. At Prolific, there is a strong focus on becoming immersed in technology, from attending development and design conferences, to bi-weekly company show-and-tells and team meetings in which we discuss recent topics relevant to our fields. This has been a great experience, especially for someone like me, who is still new to the nuances of mobile technology. I have had the opportunity to use services that allow me to view my designs on iPhones and iPads and create rapid prototypes, which has been instrumental in developing my workflow. Now I feel very comfortable with designing for iOS, although I know there’s still so much more to learn. Thanks to the resources and guidance I’ve been provided at Prolific, I can’t see myself designing for mobile in any other way.

Every day, I’m faced with a new challenge and a new opportunity to grow as a professional product designer. One aspect of design is a strong focus on improvement, and I’m seeing both myself and the company improving constantly. It’s fun and exciting to be exposed to up-and-coming technological advances and consider how those will impact our mobile apps. I find myself pushing to keep looking forward, rather than taking the easy route and standing still. I’ve developed a new appreciation and passion for mobile technology, and working in this environment will only continue to feed that passion. However, I must say—I use apps much more often now, but when navigating NYC I’ll probably always prefer that paper map. That thing is almost 20 years old and still works like a charm.

  • DeAnna Azzolini

How We Hire Engineers

At Prolific Interactive, our engineers are craftspeople. We don’t just build products that work – we care about how they look and feel. We are always on the front lines of product development and innovation, continuously communicating with our agile team members from both Prolific and clients like ModCloth, Rent the Runway and Threadless to diagnose and resolve challenges effectively on a daily basis. As a Prolific engineer, you will be delivering best practices with every commit, feeling a comprehensive product ownership and taking pride in what you’re doing.

Besides the craft, we value your personality. The core culture here is all about the Prolific Ps, who are creative and ambitious professionals with a good “Prolific” sense of humor. We are also self-motivated team players who will work hard to get things right and keep everything simple. Our engineers love sharing ideas. These could be as trivial as a code review comment to the teammates, as casual as a dev talk or lunch & learn to the company, or as thoughtful as a blog post or conference speech to the world. Last but not least, you will find no dogmas (except loving America!) here and we encourage you to be, simply, you. We embrace and celebrate difference. As a matter of fact, the culture crossover among states (even countries!) in Prolific has greatly impacted our teams, our products and our community.

The Process

This is why it matters how we hire engineers. We are looking for a generalist, a leader, a visionary. You must be a team-oriented person who can not only get things done but also make things right. As for our responsibility to you, Prolific must be a place you’ll thrive. To ensure that, we continuously refine our interview and hiring processes.

Our interview process usually involves a pre-screen interview with our human resources manager, a phone/onsite interview with a senior engineer, a collaborative code test and onsite interviews at our Dumbo or SoMA office. Pretty standard recipe, but we do add in some Prolific spice to make it a little different.

During each interview, we skip the cliches and dive right into discussing what we are looking for, as well as what we can offer to set you up for success. Unlike others, we will never put you on the spot within unrealistic contexts or drill you for one right textbook answer. Instead, we always work closely together with you to explore, resolve, or improve a real mobile product issue, just like we will in your future routines with Prolific. For instance, as part of the onsite interviews, you get a chance to pair-program with a senior engineer to share your thought process about your code test and make it a better product.

After each interview, the hiring team regroups and shares feedback to ensure we are making the right decision. This decision is based on the role-related knowledge, culture fit and your potential to become a sexy long-term “Prolific P”. We collect and review feedback from all interviewers to confirm we are always hiring the right candidate for the right role, and for Prolific.

The Insights

Our tips for getting hired? Throw away the interview cookbooks, pick a comfortable spot, and talk “you” to us. Your passion, ambition and vision matter as much as your profession. All we ask for is a frank conversation about you and Prolific. You may also find more insight from our engineers’ feedback about their interview experience with us:

“During the technical interview, I saw how important it is for Prolific to produce clean and efficient code, so I knew I would learn a lot by joining the Prolific iOS engineers.” — Thibault Klein, iOS Engineer

“The initial take-home test was a great balance between allowing me to experiment with how to present the functionality and content as well as show my technical ability in understanding core Objective-C concepts and design patterns. Other companies’ tests can be very technically in-depth, which is discouraging because it restricts time for the creative process in developing an intuitive UI. I believe that companies who are looking for developers that not only can program a functional/scalable app but have an inclination to what it takes for a product to be successful are on the right path.” — Julio Rivera, iOS Engineer

“During the entire process, I had conversations with several different people, and each one was engaging and interesting; I felt like we were having a dialogue instead of a question and answer.” — Christopher Jones, iOS Engineer

We truly believe that great minds think alike. As a family, we are more than delighted to invite you to take a little trip with us and learn more about Prolific Interactive. So, if you can see yourself instagramming with us, you’d better reach out. Or we will find you.

  • Gang Cao

Apps We’re Loving

As a mobile development company, it should come as no surprise that Prolific’s employees spend a lot of time on their phones. In between weekly meetings and brainstorming sessions to design and build the best apps out there, the team is always on the lookout for other standout apps on the market today. This round of Apps We’re Loving features the Yahoo Weather app, PackPoint and har.mo.ny!

YAHOO WEATHER

Reviewed by Al Harnisch, Product Strategist

The Yahoo Weather app for Android combines usability, convenience and visual appeal to deliver a one-of-a-kind user experience that goes way beyond checking the temperature.

When you check the weather for a certain city, the app pulls in a picture from Flickr that matches the region (ie: Brooklyn) AND matches the actual weather as best as possible. I recorded myself using the app around dusk at the Prolific office in DUMBO, so you can see in the app a dusky Manhattan skyline view!

As you move down the screen, the background blurs out and there are subtle animations and places to interact. All of this happens while the app seamlessly delivers on its core focus – the weather. You can also move the widgets around to prioritize things you like and have those appear higher up.

The app also responds well to location changes. As I switch to Saratoga Springs (where Phish played this summer, no less), the background picture and all of the corresponding data update to reflect dusk on a clear night in Saratoga Springs.

 

PACKPOINT

Reviewed by Kevin Bui, Business Development Manager

As Prolific’s business development manager, I am constantly traveling for work and spending a lot of my time in hotels and airports. Because I’m traveling so often, packing items for my trip can become cumbersome and I always seem to forget something. This is why I use PackPoint.

PackPoint tells you what you need to pack for your trip based on your length of travel, weather of your destination, and activities you have planned. Once you have inputed all of this information, the app curates a list of suggested items that you can manually edit.

PackPoint allows you to input items that you want to pack when they don’t appear on the list, and edit the quantity of those items (ex. Work shirts, pants, umbrella, etc.)

This app is great as it allows me to pack all of the essentials for my trips, which saves a lot of time, stress, and interaction with the TSA!

 

HAR.MO.NY

Reviewed by Kenya Stewart, Software Engineer

har.mo.ny is a visually-appealing puzzler that challenges you to rearrange color blocks back into their original color palette.

Each block contains a dot that indicates the number of times the block can be moved. Blocks can only be moved vertically or horizontally via swaps.

The app certainly lives up to its name: the color palettes are harmoniously hand-crafted, the sound effects are harmonious and there’s harmonized ambient music that plays in the background. The music arrangements even coincide with the style and feel of the color scheme.

Over 1000 levels are available, and each level can contain anywhere between 3 – 10 different colors.

The app also offers an undo feature that serves to help you rewind and backtrack faulty moves. 20 undos can be purchased for $.99, while you can get 100 for $2.99, 1000 for $7.99 and unlimited undos for $11.99. Alternatively, you can just skip them altogether and simply restart the level. Having to start from scratch actually adds to the challenge of each level and helps to build your game strategy.

Harmony keeps my attention because the aesthetic is clean, simple and pleasing. The objective is also very simple, but progressively challenging.

  • Bailey Bennett

Right Back At It Again


A lot has changed for me since I interned for Prolific last summer. For starters, I graduated college and dyed my hair. But, I’m not the only one who has changed in 52 “sprints.” After spending last summer as a marketing intern, I returned this year to find that they have undergone some drastic changes as well. To start off my first day of work in the “real” world, I walked to the old Prolific office on Washington St., expecting to enter the familiar environment I had grown used to. As I was standing outside the door, I smelled the familiar scent of rich and bold coffee, but couldn’t find the blue sticker with a fluent “P” on it. At that moment, I knew I walked to the wrong office: old habits are hard to break.

Old vs. New

Upon my arrival to the right office, I found the team had grown to nearly 40 people, doubling that of which I was working with a year ago. After about 30 minutes of staring at the company website memorizing new faces and names, I realized that the company I had gotten so familiar with last summer has grown in more ways than one. The projects are much bigger and this “small start-up” should no longer be called that. Fortunately, change is never a negative word for Prolific, as the passion to develop innovative and impressive products will always remain the same. Plus, there are plenty of signs of the old Prolific that still endure: Jaclyn’s scrumptious baked goods, the copious amounts of Red Bull cans scattered around the engineers’ desks, Pat’s very faded Quinnipiac t-shirt on his chair, the “standing” desks, Joe’s award-winning beard, Pauly’s Brooklyn Roasting Company cans stacked on his desk, and the kegerator.

I didn’t have to think twice about coming back to work full-time at Prolific after graduation, even if that meant taking a break from binge-watching Game of Thrones. Last summer was a rewarding experience for me both professionally and personally. Prolific is filled with a desire to learn and to grow, which makes for the most perfect and ideal work place one can find.

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

When Prolific told me they wanted to hire me as a Project Manager, I was thrilled but a little confused. My responsibilities as an intern last summer were completely different from the responsibilities I would have in this new role. But, out of desperation to come back to Prolific, I decided to take it and signed my offer letter that day. I knew that because this role was new to both Prolific and myself, we’d be learning together and defining how projects should be managed as a team. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of an app and take advantage of my PM role to understand how it all comes together.

I’ve noticed that as the digital and mobile industries are constantly changing, Prolific is always adapting to new trends. Because of this, I’m learning something new every day from the projects I’m working on and the people I’m working with. Still, I know there’s so much learning to be done. In just a short month (and 2 months last summer), I have realized how important learning and adapting is to Prolific, and I want to continue to grow with them. I can only imagine what my future has in store for me as ProlificSahithi.

  • Sahithi Akula

UX & Other Extreme Sports

“Testing is like having friends visiting from out of town. Inevitably, as you make the tourist rounds with them, you see things about your home town that you usually don’t notice because you’re so used to them. And at the same time, you realize that a lot of things that you take for granted aren’t obvious to everybody.”

           –Steve Krug on usability testing

As a UX designer at Prolific, I understand this feeling all too well. Since I started here, I have been able to dive right into what user experience is all about: putting our product in front of our users in order to learn about them through frequent user testing. I have also had the pleasure of sharing that process with the rest of the team. However, this is not something I would have ever imagined myself doing a year ago.

Tackling the Great Unknown

This past May, I quit my job in consulting to pursue a career in user experience design. It may have seemed sudden to some, but in reality the decision (or series of decisions, I should say) had been a couple of years in the making. Nonetheless, it was terrifying. I felt like I had just jumped off a cliff without knowing what lay beneath, clinging to the hope that I’d be able to survive through sheer will. But I didn’t want to be governed by my fear of the unknown. So I took the leap.

After fully immersing myself in the world of user experience design by way of General Assembly’s full-time UX design course, I started to look for job opportunities that would continue to feed my design education. I constantly fielded the question, “I know you want to be a UX designer, but what specifically are you looking for?” This was always a struggle for me to answer, since choosing UX design was already a significant narrowing of choices for me. To go even deeper beyond that seemed like a whole new level for which I wasn’t ready. I really wanted to be able to say, “I’m looking for a startup of about 7 people that is doing cool things in the Uber-for-gondolas space,” but I just couldn’t. I didn’t have enough experience in tech to know for sure. Anything I thought I believed about my preferences would have been pure speculation.

In reality, I was looking for three things:

  1. 1. Awesome people that I could happily have lunch (or a beer) with.
  2. 2. An environment in which to learn and grow as a UX designer.
  3. 3. A mission I could stand behind.

Suffice it to say that I found that at Prolific.

Focusing on the People

There is only so much you can glean from a couple of interviews. Sometimes you just have to go with your intuition, but even in a couple of scattered hours over the course of a week, I had a feeling that I was in the company of some pretty great people, and that’s always been one of the most important things to me. I knew I would be able to have the support of other designers while still helping to define and shape the role of UX at the company. We’re all just figuring it out, and I think that’s the best way to learn.

I’ve always had a fascination with technology’s potential and, simultaneously, a fear of technology taking over all of humanity (I think I watched too much anime as a kid). I believe that innovations in the mobile space are headed in the right direction when it comes to integrating technology into people’s lives in a non-intrusive, Spike-Jonze’s-Her way. That’s really what brought me to UX design in the first place. How can we make technology work for people, rather than the other way around? We’re all just at the beginning of figuring that out, and I’m so curious to find out where we can go from here.

Bringing it All Together

It’s been a month since I joined Prolific, and it has been quite a ride already. It’s been exciting and fast-paced but not overwhelmingly so. I have never worked in an environment where an entire team of diverse roles is so closely aligned on what is going on within the project. It truly feels like a collaboration, and this includes the client as well. It has been great to work so closely with them. It feels like we are all in it together. Such a partnership means that we can focus on what’s best for the people who will be using our product.

I’ll end with one more quote because I’m just not eloquent enough to say it myself:

“When you’ve made the leap and you’re far from shore, nothing is guaranteed, but we do it together and that’s what makes it worth it.” – Elle Luna

I’m so happy I made that leap.

  • Christine Lee