A day in the life of a Sortable developer

6 minutes read

Welcome to A Day In The Life of a Sortable Developer! My name is Shannon Broekhoven.

Shannon: the GIF

Who I am

I’m a software developer at Sortable and tech lead of the Ad Demand dev group.

My background/How-I-Ended-Up-at-Sortable

I graduated from University of Waterloo in 2016 with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Drama. I spent my co-ops at different places like Communitech, IBM and Deloitte. After graduating, I applied to Sortable. I knew nothing about ad ops and had never worked in it, but the field seemed interesting. After a take-home project, and a day of interviews, I got the offer and accepted it!

Why Sortable?

On the work side, the projects seemed interesting, as did the programming languages. The interview process was straightforward and felt well thought out, which gave me a good feeling about how the company was in general. The people I met during the interview also gave a good vibe.

All of the non-directly-related-to-work things seemed right too. The culture, flexibility and work/life balance, company size, and location were also what I was looking for. The perks like free lunch, candy, and Cocktail Friday were an added bonus.

Okay, but what’s your job actually entail?

I’m a software developer, so the short answer is I add new features, debug existing ones, and generally help keep our software running and getting better. The Ad Demand team specifically is responsible for adding different types of ad demandx such as video ads, native ads, etc. We’re currently working on adding video demand, and a previous project involved server to server connections.8 The Ad Demand team is one of eight teams of developers working on a project, and there are currently three developers (including myself) and a Technical Product Manager on our team.

You promised this was “A Day In The Life”, so what do you do on a typical day?

I typically arrive around 10am and occasionally make hot chocolate when I get in, my beverage of choice. The first bit of the morning is used to catch up on email and Slack messages, checking what lunch today is (via Slack bot), and going on Axonify.j Possibly getting some cat facts by yelling “CAT” at the same Slack bot. If I’m a little fuzzy on where I left off yesterday, I’ll check my notes, then jump into working. This could mean writing code, going over pull requests, or doing research. We have standup at 10:45am, where we go around saying what we’re working on, and if we’re blocked on anything. When lunch is called, I join the stampede down to the lunch room to eat the lunch provided by Sortable.

Lunch time means eating delicious food and doing one of the following: sitting at a random table and talking with whoever’s there, playing Blokus, watching Blokus. Blokus is taken seriously by many Sortable people, and there’s even a Blokus ladder where we record scores from our games and you have a rank based on your scores.

After lunch, it’s more coding, PRs, research, and occasionally meetings, typically only a half hour long and almost always in the afternoons. I often grab candy from Candy Mountain around 3 or 4, whenever I start getting peckish. If it’s Friday, there’s Cocktail Friday at 4pm! Once a week, someone volunteers to be the bartender (I’ve done it 6 times so far) and makes drinks for whoever wants one. Previous cocktails have included Bellinis, Multiple-Choice Past: The Joker and Friends, Hot Buttered Rum, Blue Amethyst, Canadian Frosty, and Havana Fire.

I generally leave around 6-6:30, and make sure I’ve made notes on what I was working on before I leave.

Favourite tools to get shit done?

My favourite editor to use (across most languages and operating systems) is Sublime 2. That’s what I use to write code. Typically I use something different to make notes (what’s done, still needs to be done, notes on possible ways to do things, useful commands, etc). Currently I use gedit for taking notes, though I have also used Notepad and TextEdit. I still have a physical notebook that I take with me to meetings or when chatting with someone in person about things like design, architecture, or even just possible solutions to a problem. Chrome is the preferred browser for developing, and git for version control. I like to listen to music while I work (right now I’m listening to Roundtable Rival by Lindsay Sterling), and I use YouTube for that.

When I’m working on a Mac, I use iTerm and XtraFinder, which adds some useful features to Terminal and Finder.

Other things we use that are my favourites are Slack, Jenkins, and a physical Kanban board.

What’s a new grad trying to get a job in KW tech to do?

TL;DR: take a good look around at companies, find out everything you need to know, some things are different than co-op, remember your worth.

There are a lot of tech companies in KW. There’s the big ones like Google, the medium-but-well-known ones like Vidyard, and the tiny ones that may not even have names because they’re still working in the Velocity Garage. Yes, working for Google could be really cool, but try to find the ones that are less well known as well, because they might interest you even more. Job fairs and the Internet are really good for finding these companies.

Find out all the information you can about a job, as a new grad you’ll probably (hopefully) be there longer than any other job you’ve had. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in the interview. Things you should ask about include salary, fun perks like free food/ping pong/candy, and perks like benefits/stock options. Location matters: how will you get to work and what’s nearby for food/entertainment. Ask about things like work/life balance; listen for what they say explicitly (“we keep long hours”, “willingness to do overtime”) and coded (“we work hard”, “you need to be passionate to thrive”). You can do so indirectly by asking about a typical day, general work schedules, or if there’s times when things are extra busy. Touring the office and meeting potential coworkers is also a good way to get a feel for the culture.

Also, research companies online! You can google them and look them up on glassdoor to get a feel for what it’s like. As with all review sites, take it with a grain of salt, but you can look for patterns. There are also things to consider that aren’t strictly good or bad, but a matter of preference. Do you want to work at a start up, a bigger company, or somewhere in the middle? Do you prefer back end, front end, mobile, or low level C work?

Things that are different than co-op/internships: you’ll almost always have more than one interview; because of this, you don’t need to ask about salary immediately; you can negotiate things like start date and salary (and should, if they’re not what you want!); the timeline for interviewing and hiring is typically longer; you can (and should) let companies know if you have a competing offer but want them more (they might bump up the timeline if they want you).

Remember: companies aren’t only interviewing you. You’re interviewing them as well. Just as they’re trying to determine if they want to hire you, you’re trying to determine if you want to work for them. Find out what you need to know to make that decision.


x the ads that will be displayed on websites

8 connecting to demand partners' servers from our own server instead of from the Javascript on the client, in order to speed things up

j Axonify is the learning system we use. It uses games to teach information about ad ops, Sortable, and other related topics.

Thanks Shannon! To view open roles at Sortable, visit sortable.com/jobs.