Kyle Gehmlich, now a software engineer at Vistar Media, was used to simply logging on, putting his head down to get his work done, and logging off. At the time, Gehmlich worked as a full-stack web developer for one of Vistar’s competitors.
He accepted this routine as standard until one day when he decided he wanted a fresh start. He joined a robotics company for six months as a full stack developer before that same urge to look for a new start creeped up again.
But this time, he found an intriguing opportunity that seemed like it could be more than just a short-term option. Gehmlich researched Vistar and became seriously interested in making the move after hearing from one of Vistar’s employees about the kind of people that Vistar hires.
“He gushed and had nothing but great things to say,” Gehmlich said. “They hired good, competent, trustworthy people. Any engineer worth their salt should care about quality, and everyone here does.”
Vistar Media is a Philly-based software provider and ad-tech company. It has built an end-to-end programmatic advertising marketplace, and software solutions built for the digital out-of-home.
Its industry-leading technology allows the world’s largest brands and agencies to autonomously transact with media owners, and bring targeted advertising to the physical world in a privacy-safe way. And its enterprise software solutions for media owners give digital signage operators full control of their network from device management to monetization.
Nowadays, Gehmlich wakes up early, makes eggs and coffee, and settles into his home office before logging on. But it’s no longer just a 9-to-5 slog for him.
New — and old — tech stacks for new challenges
After working for Vistar for 10 months remotely from Quebec, Gehmlich appreciates that Vistar — which maintains a hybrid workplace for its Philly and New York City-based employees, giving workers the option to come into the office a few days a week, then work remotely for the other days — values quality while maintaining a fast-paced work environment.
“Quality takes a front seat,” Gehmlich said. “Given the choice between getting something done quickly and taking a little longer to make sure it’s really solid, we’ll always go with the second option.”
In the morning, the team has a standup where they discuss their duties for the day. Then, workers check their email, look at the code review, and work on their assigned ticket.
Gehmlich said having the chance to work with Golang was also a motivating factor for joining Vistar since it’s a newer programming language. In fact, getting to use a variety of languages and programs is an important factor that has helped Vistar attract several employees.
Senior software engineer Weiting Chang, who joined the company in March 2018, embraces the challenge of working with technology that she never used in her role as a software engineer for a national media tech company for nearly four years.
“The fun thing about Vistar is everybody has a chance to be assigned to a project or technology you’re not familiar with,” she said. “It’s a bit challenging, but I like having a chance to learn new stuff.”
She was unsure whether she’d enjoy joining the engineering industry following her graduation from Drexel University in 2013, but she decided to give it a chance. Now, she couldn’t be happier with her decision.
When Chang first joined Vistar, she was confidently — and strictly — using Java. But as she got more experience with DevOps projects and gleaned advice from her coworkers, she became more comfortable with Python, Golang, and other languages. Now, Chang is heavily involved with backend engineering, and is comfortable using a variety of languages.
“Working as an engineer in Vistar, I feel like I’ve grown a lot of skills now compared to the first year I was working here,” Chang said. “My coworkers’ comments have also helped me grow. Not just with coding skills, but even the way you design a system and how you make the system better.”
Senior software engineer Craig Ceremuga, who joined Vistar in March 2021 as a remote worker in Albany, New York, was also drawn to the tech stack that Vistar uses. He wanted a chance to use programs that he normally could only experiment with in his free time.
“Being able to build things using a variety of technologies is interesting to me,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of jobs in the past that were stuck in using one programming language. We have a variety of things so I like that.”
Collaborative and constant learning
By implementing technologies that employees may not be familiar with, Vistar encourages its engineers to experiment even though they may fail so they can learn from their mistakes. The nature of the job also helps employees keep up with any new technologies that become popular in the software industry since they work with a variety of programs.
Vistar engineers also aren’t restricted to the projects they’re assigned to. They can pitch “grant” projects, which are projects based on their individual interests, and are encouraged to see those through. They may also give a presentation to the team afterward, sharing their project for others to see.
Additionally, Vistar holds demos every Friday where employees can share with the team what they’ve been working on. These may be done virtually or the team could gather at a restaurant or bar to conduct demos and enjoy drinks together.
“Working here is motivating me to keep learning new stuff even as a senior engineer,” Chang said. “The industry changes very fast because there’s always new stuff coming.”
Knowledge is power!
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