It’s not common knowledge, but the retail industry employs more engineers than Silicon Valley. While this stat might shock those outside of the industry, key e-commerce players like Gilt, Zappos and Indochino have been building up their tech talent for years.
The technology department is one of the largest at Indochino with more than a dozen full-time engineers. These engineers are responsible for developing the e-commerce platform, building the mobile apps that power the in-store experience, and creating the systems and processes that create patterns, manage partners, and assess quality.
In conjunction with the release of our This is Retail feature on the role of technology in creating a unique, seamless customer experience at Indochino, I took a few minutes to talk with one of their software engineers, Patrick Lawrence, about his career as a backend developer and what he really does all day in the retail tech atmosphere.
You’ve worked for several different industries throughout your career in software development. What’s the best part (or most surprising part) of working for a retail brand like Indochino?
I was actually a bit hesitant joining Indochino. I wondered why an online retailer needed a large development team. But once I spoke with the CTO about what Indochino engineers were doing, and what their plans were for the future, I started to look at the company in different light. Indochino is a tech company applying its products to retail rather than being a retailer that requires technology to sell products. That was a big surprise – and also the reason I ended up joining.
Describe the coolest project you’ve worked on so far at Indochino.
A surprisingly cool project we did recently was in automating our shipping process. The biggest challenge was in logistics. We needed a simple way to get all the information about an order to FedEx. We came up with the solution of creating unique barcodes for each package. To do that, we engineered some scanning software that interfaced with the FedEx system to automatically sync our data with their API. The best part of the task was tweaking the scanning hardware – it shows how we’re willing to build our own technology to create elegant solutions.
Men’s fashion is one of the hottest segments in retail today. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the Indochino customer through your work in software development?
The Indochino customer has grown as the company’s grown. At first he was the man in his twenties looking to buy his first suit – maybe he had a wedding to attend or was finishing at a University. I was that young man when I bought my first Indochino suit – yep, I was already an Indochino customer when I joined the team. As the company and the products have matured, our customers have grown up with us. Indochino’s customer today is a bit older and more established – someone that wears a suit to work most days rather than just at the occasional event.
How closely do mobile analytics drive projects in development?
Mobile users are drastically different than PC users. Their attention span tends to be lower because they are often engaged in other activities — so you need to grab their attention quickly. Many of our email click throughs are from mobile devices, so it becomes important to ensure the pages they land on have really polished responsive design. In short, pretty closely!
In three words, describe the perfect retail tech team.
Intelligent, responsive, handsome, dangerous, mysterious, cooperative, thoughtful – and unable to count to three.
Gotta ask: hoodie or three piece suit?
Totally a hoodie guy.