A Day in the Solstie Life: Praneet Sahgal, Senior Technical Consultant

I became an engineer because I want to build something new that changes the world – something I’ll be remembered for after I’m gone. Engineers help build the many things that make our lives better, from cars and smartphones to apps and video games. One of the things I like most about Solstice is that we get to work on the big, hard problems that clients can’t solve on their own. I also love Solstice’s people, who are a blast to work with and teach me so much, even when I’m serving my team as a technical lead.

But the best part about Solstice are the zany things that happen every day. Here’s a particularly memorable day in my life at Solstice:

6:45 AM: Alarm Goes Off

I wake up to my phone alarm. I immediately hit snooze and go back to sleep.

6:55 AM: Wake Up

I wake up to my alarm again. This time I hit stop and crawl out of bed. I brush my teeth, take a long shower, and eat some breakfast, which is usually cereal and a banana. I can’t operate without breakfast.

8:05 AM: Commute

I walk out the door of my apartment, through the lobby, and out into the brisk morning air of downtown Chicago. I live in the Loop, where Solstice is headquartered, so my commute is blissfully short.

8:15 AM: Welcome to Solstice

I arrive at the office, at which point a member of our wonderful Office Experience team greets me with a “Good morning!” I reply in kind and head to my desk, greeting fellow coworkers as they pass by. I get to my desk and put down my backpack.

“Good morning team!” The few team members who are already at work give a warm reply. I pull out my laptop and do some minor tasks, such as reviewing pull requests and updating our project tracking board, before the morning meetings start.

8:35 AM: Morning Greetings

I belatedly remember the most important part of my morning routine and hit the unmute button on my Amazon Echo.

“Good morning, Alexa!”

“Good morning. On this day in the year 2000, the final Peanuts comic strip was printed...”

Some of my teammates and coworkers listen in mild amusement as Alexa explains the fun fact of the day. Ever since our team started working on an Alexa skill, bidding Alexa a hearty good morning has been a morning tradition of mine.

8:40 AM: Defect Triage

“Praneet…”

That’s Kim, our quality assurance (QA) tester. If there’s a defect, she’s the one who finds it and logs it. As a developer, I would hope that this doesn’t happen very often.

“...I think I found a defect.”

Unfortunately for me, Kim has an almost superhuman attention to detail, so she almost always finds defects. I like to think that means we’re being thorough while we’re building features at a breakneck pace across a React Native mobile app and a React-powered web app.

Together we run through the reproduction steps to verify if it’s a front-end bug, a backend bug, or a case of missing requirements. We realize it’s a case of missing requirements, and I walk around to the other side of the pod to connect with our product principal, Chris.

Teams at Solstice are cross-functional, meaning that there are multiple disciplines working together. On any given day, I’ll talk about new features with product and design, review defects with QA, and discuss story estimates with our scrum master. Our teams also usually sit next to each other, which makes communication easier.

I explain to Chris the scenario that we missed and he suggests a solution. Looking at the time, I decide to work on the fix after stand up.

9:15 AM: Stand-Up

I look around. “Stand-up?” I ask the group in general. We begin walking towards our standup room, making small talk along the way. Stand-up is a 15-minute meeting where we go around the room and talk about three things: what we did yesterday, what we’ll be doing today, and if there’s anything blocking our work from getting done. I’ve heard it’s called stand-up because standing encourages people to get the meeting done faster.

As the team finishes assembling, we start up our video conferencing system and a set of faces show up. On most days, we see our client and product owner, as well as our compatriots in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We all exchange pleasantries and the occasional funny story, and then go into our updates.

 

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9:30 AM: Work Time

I fill up my water bottle for the day and review some new code before the next meeting starts.

10 AM: Backlog Refinement

The team piles into a room, alongside our client stakeholders, who have by now arrived in the office. Our clients very much enjoy visiting our new office and meeting with us in person.

Our product principal, Chris, starts the meeting by diving into an overview of what features are coming into the next sprint, which are small two to three-week increments of development within a larger project. We ask questions about the specific details of the story and occasionally, a question will bounce back to our product owner, who will weigh in a decision.

Once the details are hashed out, it’s time to estimate. June (the other developer on the team), Kim, and I use an online tool to secretly assign points to the story: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, or 13. These points represent the relative effort of a given task. Once we all finish estimating, we reveal our points at the same time and discuss the difference in estimates. Our scrum master, John, pushes us to settle on a number. We will use these effort estimates to plan out the work within a sprint later.

We repeat this process throughout backlog refinement, discussing stories and putting estimates. Chris usually leaves the last five to ten minutes of refinement to talk about a story that is not yet ready to be estimated. We discuss our ideas and Chris notes them down.

11 AM: Defect Work

Time to tackle that defect! I update the defect’s status in our project management tool so that everyone knows I’m working on it. I reproduce the defect, inspect the code, and implement a fix. Of course, I also write a unit test to verify that the fix works. Then it goes up for pull request and code review. Sometime later in the day, June will make a comment or two, and I’ll go address them. June and I have worked together for a while, and we generally trust each other to build out features and fix defects while keeping code quality high, so code reviews tend to go very smoothly. Usually, defect fixes end up in the build the next day.

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12 PM: Lunch

I ask my teammates if they want to go get lunch. A few of my teammates decide to come with me. We argue about where to go for food while in the elevator; the Loop has a lot of options. Sadly, today is Thursday, not Friday, which means I can’t rope people into joining the Falafel Friday run I organize every Friday.

We bring lunch back and sit in the office’s central area: the café. There are some familiar faces here that our group sits with. The company is growing fast, though, so there are a lot of new people to meet. If I’m lucky, I get to make a new acquaintance over lunch.

12:30 PM: Continue Work

After finishing up my lunch, I continue working through defect fixes. There are a lot of little things to fix before the sprint ends, but it’s not all heads-down time. As a technical lead, people ask me a lot of questions, especially when something goes wrong. My work time ends up divided between getting my work done and helping the team. It’s a balancing act.

Our team also has a lot of silly conversations while we work.

boat

[The result of one of those "silly team conversations"]

4 PM: Silly Team Conversation

“...I have a problem with too much onion, our user experience (UX) designer, Alyssa says, in response to an unrelated conversation.

“Okay, now you just put the image in my head of someone eating an onion like an apple," I say. “...How much would I have to pay you to eat an onion like an apple?”

“Ew. How much would I have to pay YOU?” We begin haggling. At some point someone suggests something they’d rather do instead, which eventually leads to this outrageous question from June:

“Would you rather eat an onion like an apple, or an avocado with the skin on?”

4:23 PM: Company-Wide Poll

The company-wide team meeting is starting in seven minutes. The weekly beverage cart is going around. I’m busy putting this question into poll format in the company Slack channel devoted to silly things. To my shock, we get a sizable response in a short amount of time. Soon there’s a long comment thread about the specifics of this bizarre challenge. A new tradition has been born. I’ve been sending out silly polls before the team meeting ever since.

4:30 PM: Weekly Team Meeting

I head to the café, which is where our team meeting takes place every Thursday. During this meeting, fellow Solsties introduce new hires and make company-wide announcements. As I find a seat, I hear some people are chuckling about the silly poll I posted. I sit back and enjoy the show. While not every Solstie is able to make it to the team meeting, I feel it’s an important part of our culture, and I make a point to attend it whenever I can.

5 PM: Board Game Night

The team meeting ends, and it’s time to call it a day. A coworker and I organize a board game night, a regular ritual on Thursday evenings at Solstice. After a few rounds of Exploding Kittens, I decide to head home.

game

6:30 PM: Winding Down

I settle in and figure out what to cook for dinner. Usually, it’s homemade Indian food. To unwind and end the night, I often play a relaxing video game or surf the web. On nights when I’m feeling super productive, I work on my side project, a video game that I’ve been building for a while.

10 PM: Bedtime

I decide to call it a night and turn in, looking forward to another day working at Solstice.

Do you want to work alongside Praneet? Check out our careers page for more information and to apply.