Data Services & International Collaboration

Drew is Director of Data Strategy & Acquisition for our Seattle Data Services Engineering Team. He and the rest of his crew recently visited our Budapest Office to collaborate and align on future Whitepages products and services. Drew discusses the fruitful trip below showing how Whitepagers work hard (and play hard!) to use Data for Good.

The week of October 15th was an exciting week in the Whitepages Engineering world.  For the first time, our Seattle-based Data Services Engineering team traveled to our offices in Budapest, Hungary to begin a multi-project collaboration with our Pro engineering team there.  To date these two engineering teams operated fairly independently, generally connected only through product managers in our Seattle office, but as our products and development resources evolve the opportunity, and quite honestly the need, for these two teams to work closely together became readily apparent.

So with that, a foursome of us from the Seattle office headed across the world to spend a week with Whitepages Budapest.  Not surprisingly it was a memorable trip!

Our goals for the week were pretty straightforward:

The first was to educate each other on the differences between the two teams in terms of development practices, technologies, and team structure.  This is critical as we are going to be working on the same projects and deliverables together for the first time and we need to make sure we are aligned with how this will be done.  Fortunately, Whitepages has an awesome team of software engineers that are eager to learn and quick to pick up new languages and practices.  Everyone was very excited about expanding their scope of knowledge, as well as teaching what they know.

The second goal was regarding tactical project planning for the various projects on which we will be partnering.  These projects are all focused on expanding the international data offerings and capabilities of Whitepages Pro.  I won’t dive into the specifics of the projects, but we have prior blog posts on our international expansion (The Four Phases of International Identity Check and Key Tips of Sourcing International Data) for additional context.  Our plan was to end the week with a detailed set of milestones and project scope for the four different projects on our plate, and after many meetings, brainstorming sessions and resourcing exercises we left with the clear sense of direction we were aiming for.

The third goal was to build out strong lines of communication and cooperation directly between the two engineering teams.  In the structure of Whitepages engineering & product, the Data Services team creates the Identity Graph and internal microservice APIs that all of our client teams, including Pro, access to develop their products.  As a result, the WP Pro dev team in Budapest constantly interacts with the products that the Data Services team creates, but until now there has been very little direct communication between the two development teams…it has mostly been through product managers.  While we have an extremely talented team of product managers, there are efficiencies with direct communication between the development teams that we were not getting.  After this trip and many hours spent together, we are much better equipped to reap these benefits and produce better products at a quicker rate.

The last, and really the most important goal was to get a little flavor of the Budapest culture, and our local colleagues are great hosts.  We were treated to some outstanding restaurants (I tripled my lifetime consumption of roast duck on this trip!), we discovered world-class Hungarian wine, we frequented Budapest’s famous ruin bars and of course we sampled, err..oversampled, Hungary’s native spirit, Palinka (ouch!)

All in all the trip was as successful as it could have possibly been.  Our teams are well set up for successfully working together, we have some big, impactful projects we’ll be delivering over the next couple of quarters and we have built great working and personal relationships that would have been impossible to replicate with Skype calls from halfway around the world.

I feel very lucky to work at a place that not only has these diverse teams but also highly encourages collaboration and learning.  It makes for a great, great place to work.

International collaboration deserves a good meal!