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As more and more people work from home and restrict their trips outside of the home, e-commerce companies continue to be the ones reaping the benefits. One of those companies is the real real, a consignment giant with a focus on bringing luxury brands to everyone. Josh Schlanger is the head of dev ops and product support at the Real Real, and he joined I.T. visionaries to discuss how e-commerce sites operate. Plus, he explains how the real real is working to sift out fake products and why he thinks jobs will make a more permanent shift toward remote work moving forward.
Enjoy this episode.
It visionaries is created by the team at Mission Dog and brought to you by the Salesforce Customer 360 platform, the number one cloud platform for digital transformation of every experience, build connected experience, empower every employee, and deliver continuous innovation with the customer at the center of everything you do. Learn more at Salesforce.com platform. This podcast is created by the team at Mission Dog. Welcome to another episode of Visionaries, I mean, Faizan, most of it visionaries, and we have recurring guest.
Josh, what's going on and how are you? Good to have you back. It's been, gosh, like 40 episodes at this point. Time flies when you're having fun, I suppose. So we're excited to have you back to talk about the new gig, what you're working on. We'll talk some dev stuff and everything in between. So tell us about the new company.
Yeah, I'm super excited. I joined the company called The Real Real in January of twenty twenty, so just a little over one hundred days there and so super excited about that. And I'm also excited. It's a little bit more focused work for me. I'm running a dev ops team and what we call product support. So develops I guess is a typical cloud infrastructure, engineering and cyber reliability engineering.
And then our product support team is a team that sits in front of the engineers to help catch any issues or tickets before they get to them so we can triage them and help reduce the load that they may get in from external customers or other employees in the company that are having issues or problems with the products that we are building our software.
Awesome. So tell us a little bit about the company, because this is kind of a unique marketplace you can find.
Obviously, it's the real, real dotcom we are in sort of the luxury consignment space. So the idea is we we work with consignors to bring in product. And you as a buyer, anybody in the world can go to the site and see all the different products. They definitely tend to be a little bit on the higher end. And the interesting thing about there's a couple of interesting things about it. One is every product that we have is is a unique SKU.
So it's not like we have quantity 10 per SKU. We could have two, but usually product SKU count one. And the other interesting thing is that it's you know, it takes the sort of circular economy concept, protecting the environment, reusing products and really can bring it to the masses here. So it's from from my background, I studied environmental engineering. I got my master's degree. So as we were talking about earlier, I wanted to go out and save the world.
And I didn't end up exactly there. But I maybe I am now sort of doing that and supporting his company and our initiatives in that perspective.
And so how much are you working, like with engineering on a daily basis on product focused stuff versus internally on like more of employee experience?
Almost exclusively working with the engineering organization, my team works very closely to ensure that we're delivering the infrastructure, the tooling, the pipeline, the metrics to monitoring that ultimately our software engineering teams are building on top of or using to know what's going on with the products that ultimately ends up in the hands of our customers. I will mention that our customers are sort of twofold, meaning we have external customers and the buyers of consigners that I mentioned earlier, but we actually write a lot of software that supports our employees in the e commerce centers.
So essentially locations where we take product in and then we prep to get put on the website and then when orders are placed and they get shipped out. So there's a lot of workflow that happens in those centers and we write a lot of software to support that. Interesting.
So I didn't realize that's pretty interesting. So your team is actually facilitating that piece of it. You're actually building those internal products?
What we do is so all of the infrastructure. So think so. Just a little bit of background. So we run exclusively in the cloud across a couple of different partners, the suppliers and the software that obviously these are on somewhere's or runs in the cloud. And that software that's running, you know, think about that. That's all running supports those employees in those e commerce centers. So does that mean if you think about what worker in in those facilities, they take product and so they have to scan it in?
Right. We use normal third party scanners, but then there's software that we take that scan and that ends up in a database that we essentially built. Right. So we're not using off the shelf software to sort of track that. We've written our own code that will put it into the database and then track it throughout its workflow. So he gets entered in and then we have to check it into the right bucket. So meaning the clothing, is it is it furniture?
And then there's there is a we do a lot of work around authenticity because we tend to deal in luxury items. You do end up with a lot of fakes at times, so we do a lot of work around authenticity to ensure that, hey, this product really is what it is. So there's a whole whole bit of workflow that are around that. There's a lot of software written around that. And when I say luxury items, we do a lot of business with fine watches or fine jewelry and watches.
So we get a lot of interesting products that come through and then name brand stuff that you would think like Gucci or Mezze. We have to make sure that that's real stuff. There's a lot of fakes on the market. So all that software runs on the infrastructure that we ultimately deliver to the engineering team.
So what are some of the unique challenges that you see from a dev ops perspective? Again, like we kind of talked about, it's a pretty unique marketplace because it's not something like a like a Craigslist or like Facebook marketplace or these things where it's all verified by its users at your own risk. Right. Like there's inherently some different challenges there. But specifically, there are also just some challenges in running retail stores and doing all those things. So I'm curious, like, how have you approached the problem?
So, yeah, I take a deep breath because it's an it's an interesting question. I think there is some commonality across my experience in various industries that that is always the same meaning we've got to deliver infrastructure to how do we do that? So we're using common tool sets to do that. Right. If you think about TerraForm as a tool that we use to bring up or update or even tear down at times infrastructure, we're doing a lot of work with Docker and Cooper Nettie's and running our applications on that.
But that that's sort of a common theme that you see across a lot of companies where where it differentiates or starts differentiating the business that we're in. It's really around like how do we manage scale from an e-commerce perspective? Right. So holiday times and a lot of e-commerce companies. So we need to track that. What I'm saying is we need to prep and always think about the holidays that will be coming up at the end of the year and how what are we doing to make sure that we can minimize any impact to the infrastructure?
So that's that's definitely one area of focus that we have, another area of focus as we have regular sort of marketing pushes, marketing, sales and marketing pushes where we're seeing that send out an email twice a day and we see big spikes during those. So how do we manage performance and low during those periods of time? We do a lot when we are doing a lot of work or as with respect to podcasts or advertising on TV. So at times we'll see spikes on usage in those areas.
And so just making sure that we can meet demand during the spikes is obviously huge and critical for the business.
And then we will I will mention we live in a sort of new world right now where everybody will work from home. So how do we continue to ensure that, you know, consignors can consign, buyers can buy and working with engineering teams to pivot and deliver through virtual appointments that we've set up or curbside drop off in our curbside pickup. So we've done a lot of work. So we have a few a couple of retail stores where we started doing curbside drop off.
Or if you're a consigner and you want to consigns stuff, you don't want to mail it, you can drop it off or and I think we are also looking at doing curbside pickup, but I may have that backwards. The idea is we're using our retail store locations, which are close right now as another way to continue to move product through the system and just working with the teams. Right. So we're very supportive of the engineering team to make sure that they can deliver those capabilities back to the business that's interested.
How are you how are you doing the podcast tracking and stuff? I'm curious as a creator of podcasts, always looking to learn more. Yeah.
I don't know how we're doing it. Like our marketing team works with, I guess, companies that find spots in podcasts for advertising. All I know is my kids all the time say now when they're listen to a podcast, they'll come to me like, Dad, Dad, guess what?
I just heard an ad for the real reason I was listening to this such and such podcast on the like. That's great. And then it's funny. I've even noticed it a few times, too, so it's not my area of expertise. I don't know how they're getting in there, but they are.
OK, so I want to go back to the authentication piece, so walk me through that again. So how how do you take like a physical good and then authenticate to make sure that it can then go to shore? Was that do you say, was software? Is that human plus software? How does that work?
Yeah. So it's really today it's it's mostly driven by human. But what we do is that we do track I don't want to give too much away here, but we do track when we when we get. Goods, and we track it through a number of different mechanisms. Think like combination of maybe like who sent the email address as such, so that when we get additional products from those particular areas, we may definitely hold it to confirm or if we definitely have had positive instances of fakes, it could be immediately bounced.
So there's a lot of work, but today it's mostly driven by human. We are looking at ways to do that a little bit more with software, but that's that's a difficult problem to go after. And the frequency or the speed at which fakes hit the market is impressive to any other particular dev ops challenges that you've that you've encountered.
Yeah, I don't want I don't want to say we've had any challenges because I think I look at them as opportunities to learn something and every business does things just a little bit differently. So I think as we talk here a little bit on the fly, I think the one opportunity we have is how do we take these general tool sets that maybe we're not currently using today, but sort of or where we need to be and how do we apply them to the to the business that we're in that supports the teams at the end of the day.
So I think that's been interesting. Right. So I'll give you an example. So I said a lot of words, but what does that really mean? So my last opportunity, last company I was we did a lot of work around containers and ultimately went down the Carbonetti path, which is great, was a huge opportunity for the business. The speed we found, the speed of deployment, local development was increased so that that was huge. Now, today, we don't use as much of containers and we don't use as much Eco-System.
But so it's how do we then bring that to the company to help them continue to be quite agile, improve speed, improve local development, while also giving us the ability to continue to do more with less, I guess is the best way to say it is. We want it. We want to do all of these great things, both from a software development perspective, building up products, as well as the tools that need to support that. And we feel pretty bullish on our ability to do that with some of the newer tools and technologies that are out there today.
That's one one area of opportunity that I'm super excited about. And then the other opportunities challenge that I've taken on since I've joined the company was thinking about how do we make the platform even more more highly available than it is today, particularly as we look to expand in the future here in the US, potentially overseas. That could end up leveraging the cloud, may be able to be multi region more highly available across those regions is a big challenge, big opportunity, be a fun one as well.
We just need to figure out sort of plan for and then use the tools that we're implementing today to help us deliver that in the future.
Obviously, covid has changed a lot of things. I'm curious, how has your team been building remotely and doing things remotely in this time? Like how do you think that other leaders that are that are kind of managing during similar periods of uncertainty can can leverage some best practices?
Yeah. So for my team specifically, we the current the current structure, the team is we have three, myself included locally here in the area. We had one other remote works out of his home in Denver. So that's so we are sort of partially remote anyway right now as I look to grow the team in the future. Me personally, I'm not going to be tied to just the Bay Area like San Francisco. If we find somebody here, great.
But I fully anticipate to have a partial to full remote team as we as we move forward. And I manage remote teams in the past. It's not a huge challenge for me, but I'm sort of best practices are things that I think about is regular communication. And then I think that's hugely critical. Most teams probably do this today with some concept of a daily stand up or weekly reviews, look at ticket reviews or whatever it may be. But I'm a I'm a big fan of having regular one on ones with individuals.
Just we use we use slack pretty heavily. So slagging people. Hey, how's it going? Just keeping the communication as open, as transparent as possible is critical. You do have to do more work, right? You do have to email or slack more often than maybe walking over to somebody's desk where if they all work in the same office previously, the time that I've saved and commute and. It's unique to the Bay Area, right? I used to spend an hour, maybe a little bit more time in the mornings.
In fact, I'm able to save some of that time for myself and then get on the computer sooner is great. The caveat is that the schedule time to sort of walk away. So as we work more remotely or work from home or wherever you end up working from, you have to also remember to sort of take time for yourself and make sure that you do step away. Otherwise you could be in front of your computer for eight hours and never walk away.
And that's fine if you're into that. But you'll get burnout, I would believe, pretty quickly. Yeah. What about you know, you don't have the crystal ball, as we always say, but leaning forward a little bit. What are some of the things that you want to be working on that you want your team to be working on or thinking about as we get out of this kind of period that maybe there's some time after this where people are going to be able to focus on building or future projects?
I mean, I mentioned a little bit, right, in thinking about how we help the business achieve the goals that they want to write. So while there's a I love tech and I get excited, I always love learning about new tools and existing tools that may have been out there for a little bit and how we can maybe best leverage them. But I always challenge a team to think about. It's great to go do something, but how does it really help the business achieve its ultimate goals?
And it doesn't necessarily mean when I say its goal doesn't have to be more revenue or less cost, but maybe you can just help people do their job better, more efficiently, which ultimately could lead to some cost benefit analysis.
So getting back to so specifically, we want to look at the future highly available capabilities as more of our workforce does go remote and the supporting our I.T. organizations will have a peer who runs it, which is really supporting the end users from laptops and VPN and things like that is working with them to make sure that as these users go remote, they have all the best tools at their disposal and working with them just to make sure that, again, the employees can do their job, which could mean more use of the cloud depending on what we're talking about.
We use a lot we have a lot of SaaS applications that we use, but there are still some legacy pieces we do have. I mentioned e-commerce centers earlier in a lot of locations and offices and luxury consignment offices where people used to come. So if we have hardware or other things that we can maybe move to, just rely on the network. So those are those are some of the areas that I think about.
And the team I asked the team to think about as we move forward and then working closely with security, like as we move more and more online and do more work, work from home or work remote, is making sure that we're being as secure as possible, because I believe the attack surface is going to continue to get larger as people who work out further out from from those central locations. Awesome.
Will just it's been great having you having you back on the show. Any final thoughts here before we get into our our our lightning round? Nothing, really.
I just you know, whoever's listening to this just we hope you're safe and healthy and you're making it through these different, I want to say difficult, but definitely different times. It could be difficult in some cases, but I know that you're not the only one out there. We're all in this together and we'll get through this. And I'm sure one time, one day, a couple of years from now, we'll look back and say, man, what a time that twenty twenty year was this?
I hope we can look back then. So that's it. That's really it. And those who are interested and a little bit of plug, you know, the real world dotcom, if you're looking for some quality consignment items, you know, take a look. We've built a great product. We have great products that we sell. So if you're interested, take a look at just one other avenue or thing to do. All everybody is at home.
Let's get into our lightning round. These questions are fast and easy, just like the sales force customer three sixty platform leading cloud platform. Go check them out. They've sponsored us since the very beginning. We love Salesforce and the Salesforce Customer 360 platform.
You can go to Salesforce.com platform to learn more all about the things that they've got going on. It's they're the best. So check them out. Lightning round questions. Josh, are you ready? I'm ready. Number one, what habit have you picked up in shelter in place?
I am drinking too much whiskey and bourbon in.
Aren't we are. What's your get out of the get out of the house, get out of work. What's your break from work moment?
Usually at the end of the day, somewhere between four and five o'clock, a little after 5:00. I'll take a break. And because where I live, it's hilly and I got great use. I'll take about a mile, mile and a half park and listen to a podcast or some music and just sort of try to chill with nature.
So last time we had you on, you said that you were working your way through Harry Potter. Where are we at? Have you made any progress?
Oh, I finished. I enjoyed that. It was great.
Welcome to these 20 years since the first one came out. So I feel like I hope you didn't get too many spoilers.
No. You know, like anything that I think the books were much better than the movies. Oh, yeah.
It's not even close. Yeah. Movies barely scratched the surface. And there's some like glaring omissions in there. Exactly.
Too much I could go on and on. OK, what about if you weren't in I.T., what would you be doing?
Yeah, I think I'd go back to what I mentioned at the very beginning of our conversation. I'd probably be doing something around the environment.
You know, I'm not sure exactly what, but probably maybe and maybe it will be a blend of using technology to help improve the environment in some way.
Well, we have just recently done our huge sustainability series on IT Visionaries, and we had so many different folks that are working that are in technology that like one trillion trees and all sorts of different initiatives. So I feel like now more than ever, being a technologist and being able to, you know, support the environment and to to make a difference is actually attainable. As part of the reason why we want to do that series is like it's just it's so hard to figure out where you fit in.
Right? You're like, I'm sitting here, you know, in the tech company or whatever, like where do I fit in? But yeah, I'm totally with you. I love being outdoors, so I love the Bay Area and I feel so more awesome. That's it. So we got anything else? I'm good. It was it was a pleasure. I appreciate it.
Yeah. Awesome to have you as always. And take care. Will follow along.
It visionary's is created by the team at Mission Dog and brought to you by the Salesforce Customer 360 platform, the number one cloud platform for digital transformation of every experience, build connected experience, empower every employee, and deliver continuous innovation with the customer at the center of everything you do. Learn more at Salesforce.com platform.