Fellowship (of the) Tech

Today marks one week at my new job, as a User Experience Developer at Fellowship Technologies. A few weeks ago, a third party recruiter from the Rowland Group named Jessica Wilson contacted me on their behalf, asking if I'd be interested in a faith based organization in the DFW area. Initially, I was skeptical because many IT recruiters can't tell Java from JavaScript, but she seemed well versed in the subject matter, so I decided it might be worth looking into. After talking with the dev team, it became clear that they are a sharp group of guys, and that I would have something to bring to the table. To quote the Godfather — "They made me an offer I couldn't refuse."

The Office

So far, things have been pretty fast paced yet fun at the same time. We use the scrum agile software development methodology, and I was able to hit the ground running in the middle of a project sprint. We wrapped that up mid-week, and presented our progress to the stakeholders. We are now in the process of moving to our newly renovated office a few miles away. The other UX designer / developer did the workspace layout, and chose most of the furniture. Below is a photo of the nearly completed dev area.

Fellowship Tech - Dev Area

The dev team purposefully wanted an unfinished ceiling to make the space feel more open. There are also brick walls that were added, to lend an urban grunge feel. We're actually considering having an artist come in and do some tasteful graffiti to spice things up. For ease of project management, we have a ridonculously big white board which will house, among other things, the progress on each project sprint. Could double as a movie theater, too!

Scrum Wall

The rest of the office is equally cool, but in a different way. Near the reception area, there is a wall made of old stone, with a stained glass window and wooden church pews. Opposite that, is a decidedly more contemporary juxtaposition, with a wall made of glass brick and a wide screen TV. I will be sure to post more photos on Flickr once we get situated in the new digs.

My Role

Anyway, enough about the sweet work environment, and on to the actual work. My job there will entail a lot of interaction design, as well as front-end development and some .NET, working on the flagship product Fellowship One. While public facing FT sites are handled by our marketing department, the dev team handles F1. Basically, everything beyond the login page is our jurisdiction. If you're not already familiar with it, essentially Fellowship One is to church metrics what Basecamp is to project collaboration.

The astute standardistas amongst you might be saying: "dot-NET? Is that not incompatible with Web Standards and good front-end code?" I must admit, this was once my perception, having seen good HTML and CSS fall prey to pre-fabbed tools in Visual Studio. Like any tools though, success or failure lies in the hands of the craftsman. Thankfully, the guys at FT don't condone cookie cutter approaches, and instead wrote their own MVC framework modeled loosely after the approach taken by Ruby on Rails.

That was prior to Microsoft creating an official MVC of their own, so down the road we might switch to that. Some of the FT devs were even invited up to Redmond, WA to discuss best practices with the MVC team at Microsoft. Again, one might be thinking: "You use a Mac, don't you?" In fact, yes. For the time being, I'm using a Dell while I await the order for a shiny new MacBook Pro to arrive. I plan on having partition running Windows within VMware Fusion, in order to edit ASP and C#, and to compile code via Visual Studio.

The Future

As is the case with any big web app, our sprints will comprise a larger marathon, gradually overhauling all the components to be more modular and extensible. One of my coworkers demo'd a sweet RESTful API that he's been building, so eventually 3rd party apps will be able to communicate.

As for myself, I will be forging consistency in our front-end code and design patterns. I will also be championing the migration from Prototype to jQuery, which everyone is on-board with, now that Microsoft has decided to officially support jQuery by distributing it bundled with Visual Studio. I am looking forward to all the cool stuff we are going to build in as a team.

Speaking of which, we are looking to hire an additional .NET developer.