How this ShopRunner software engineer learned to embrace mistakes - Technical.ly Philly

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Jun. 4, 2018 7:51 am

How this ShopRunner software engineer learned to embrace mistakes

“I don’t *want* to make mistakes, but I see how they can be a learning experience,” said Sean Lawrence, “especially when we grow from them, instead of just getting chastised or penalized.”

Sean Lawrence sits in front of his own coding notes at ShopRunner's Conshohocken office.

(Photo by Juliet Shen)

As a child, Sean Lawrence was always interested in “puzzle solving.” Finding that he could spend hours at a time on the computer throughout high school, he figured he “might as well get paid to do it” and opted to study computer science at Lehigh University. Today, Lawrence helps solve puzzles of a different sort as a software engineer at ShopRunner, an ecommerce network that provides free two-day shipping and returns to its members.

During his morning train ride from Center City to ShopRunner’s office in Conshohocken, Pa., Lawrence likes to get primed for the day by listening to podcasts, the Fiction Podcast from The New Yorker and Recode Decode are two favorites.

As soon as he arrives at work, Lawrence dives into checking email, reviewing open tickets on his three-screen desk and touching base with coworkers in their cubeless office space. After participating in the company’s daily standup meeting, designed to ensure all team members are on the same page, he gets to work on the day’s tasks.

“ShopRunner gives you the freedom to work the way you want,” said Lawrence, “If you want to sit and code all day, you can. Or not. Ultimately, they trust you to finish the work that needs to get done. It’s refreshing to be part of a workplace that lets you to manage your own time.”

Sean Lawrence at work. (Photo by Juliet Shen)

Sean Lawrence at work. (Photo by Juliet Shen)

Joining the team a little more than a year ago, we spoke with Lawrence about his experience at ShopRunner thus far.

###

What’s your morning routine like?

I am not a morning person. I keep my phone next to my bed so when I wake up, I can check Slack and skim emails all from under the covers.

What are your primary responsibilities as a ShopRunner software engineer?

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To design, develop, test and evaluate the various ecommerce products that ShopRunner presents to its retail partners. Right now, I’m working on out-of-stock notifications and a partner reporting dashboard.

What was it like when you first started working at ShopRunner?

It was a learning experience from the get-go. My team was just really cool and awesome and trusted me to make decisions on my own. What I really liked was that anytime I had questions, I didn’t have a problem asking anyone. They would sit down, explain it to me and show me why I was wrong. And they’re still doing that. It not only helped me innovate, but also grow as a developer.

What did you do before this job? Why did you want to work here?

I worked at a large financial services company as a software developer. At my previous job, I was never given enough responsibility to mess anything up. When you’re not given enough room to make mistakes or fail, it’s impossible to really come up with anything new because you’re constantly staying with the status quo. Here, it’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them.

Can you tell us about a time you made a mistake and what happened?

I was working on optimizing a placement on a retailer’s site and experimenting with making our shipping information look like the retailer’s shipping information. Because multiple pages are labeled the same way, I accidentally edited code on two pages instead of just the one. It got pushed to production, so it was live on the retailer’s site and people could see it.

It’s much scarier when, instead of hearing: “Someone from a retailer is upset with you,” you hear: “The retailer, as an entity, is upset with you.”

I felt so bad and guilty. But then another team member came up to me and said, “Hey, we all do this.” He gave me some examples of other instances when people had made mistakes, and then he showed me what went wrong and how not to make the same mistake again.

Now I can share that learning with the next new person. I don’t want to make mistakes, but I see how they can be a learning experience — especially when we grow from them, instead of just getting chastised or penalized.

What do you admire most about the company and its mission?

I just love that our team is always attacking on all sides. My team is focused on retailers, but there’s a whole other side to the company that’s focused on consumers and working together with the retailers to create one awesome brand with cohesive products. [ShopRunner] breeds so much creativity and opportunity.

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Organizations: ShopRunner
People: Sean Lawrence
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