The Yext Engineering team just got back from our Spring 2016 offsite in Puerto Rico. We stayed at the El Conquistador resort for a few days of technical learning and team bonding. It was a great event, and we’ve returned to New York and Virginia fired up to improve our platform.

El Conquistador Resort

The Technical Side

One big goal for every offsite is spreading technical knowledge throughout the team. We accomplish this through training sessions, talks, and hackathons. Recent training sessions have included engineers leading the team through 2 hours of material on a technical topic relevant to most of the team. In the past these have included training on advanced JavaScript, Selenium, our devops toolset, and CSS. The two training sessions this year focused on automated testing. The first was devoted to taking an existing piece of code and refactoring it to make its core logic unit testable. The second involved writing service level tests that fired up a local Docker container running MySQL and established a known good set of database data to test against.

Nicholas on jQuery

The talks at this offsite covered a wide range of ground, everything from an overview of continuous delivery to a comparison of Fork/Join vs Futures for asynchrony in Java. There were 8 talks in total, delivered by both junior and senior engineers. There will be follow up blog posts with the content from many of these talks over the next few weeks.

Jon on Code Security

I continue to be amazed at the breadth and depth of members of Yext Engineering, and find these talks to be excellent ways to let them share their knowledge. Jacob’s talk about Java asynchrony provided a great solution to a nagging problem in another area of our system in a much more elegant way than it is solved now. The production monitoring tools shared by Manoj and Dan have already been used to identify the source of a performance issue for a large client and a fix has been pushed less than a week after the trip.

The Bonding Side

We work hard here at Yext, but we also genuinely enjoy each other’s company. These offsites away from the day-to-day of the office provide an excellent opportunity to interact with team members on a more human level. These events tend to be a lot of fun, and Puerto Rico was no exception.

Iguana on 18th Hole Cart Path

Wednesday morning was free time. I played a round of 18 holes with one of our engineers in perfect weather, with views of the ocean and a pair of 5-foot long iguanas. Some people went to the resort’s private island for some time on the beach and beach volleyball.

Beach Volleyball

Wednesday’s dinner was a buffet style over looking the resort’s swimming pools and the Atlantic Ocean. The mojito bar provided a nice tropical touch. Following dinner we headed downstairs and joined with fellow travelers in singing karaoke to a hundred strangers, something that is always on my todo list.

Thursday night was an organized sunset sail on a catamaran in the bay and ocean surrounding the resort. We made it back to shore with a full staff, and headed up to a dinner in a private room at Chops, the resort’s steakhouse. Post dinner trips to the pool and hot tub rounded out an awesome day.

Catamaran Cruise

Friday was unscheduled, with some people returning home with others deciding to stay the weekend. Those that stayed did things like a rainforest hike, tours of old San Juan, and visiting a casino.

Wrap Up

Puerto Rico was another awesome offsite with lots of learning, fun, and bonding. Stay tuned for future posts with details of some of the technical talks.

Wrap Up