Posted in Development, People, Work Styles

Victoria University of Wellington ICT Careers Expo

In early May, a sizeable chunk of Powershop’s delivery team made a bright pink appearance at the ICT careers expo at Victoria University’s Kelburn campus. We were a diverse group of former and current Vic Uni students, dev managers and our almighty CTO. We set up our stall in the morning, and set out to make a lasting impression on every student we talked to. Our goal with this event was to spread the word about Powershop’s delivery work and culture, and to meet some awesome people. Powershop has had great success with finding interns through Summer of Tech (SoT) in the past; we’ve hired 14 interns through SoT over the last four summers! Nine of these interns are now working as permanent full-time software developers (including myself), and the current batch of interns are with us part time while they finish their studies. Our internship programme aims to give students an all-encompassing experience of […]

Posted in Uncategorized

From customer service to testing. A five year journey at Powershop

API, Xcode, Java, specs… these are all words that five years ago I would have looked at you like you were speaking a foreign language if you had mentioned them in a conversation. Specs is another word for glasses and Java is coffee right? I wouldn’t have been wrong but since then I have learnt that Java is also a language that you can write code in and specs are a way of testing this code. When I started at Powershop I was 19 years old and fresh out of high school. I started around the time New Zealand’s ‘What’s my number’ campaign was launched and as a result the call center was lucky to get their list of tickets (inbound emails from customers), below 100 at any moment in time. It was pretty crazy. A week after I started I was on the phones and taking calls. My first job was making sure that ICP’s (Installation […]

Posted in Development, People, Work Styles

Fear and Coding at Powershop

Starting a new job is an experience that falls somewhere between ‘somewhat stressful’ and ‘utterly terrifying’. When I started at Powershop 10 months ago I was very anxious, not least because it was my first job as a Software Developer. My mood one week after starting at Powershop was the polar opposite. I still felt like the ‘new guy’ in a lot of ways (I didn’t yet feel comfortable coming to work in jandals and shorts, for example), but my anxiety had been replaced with confidence and excitement. This transformation can be largely attributed to the unique training program that all new Ruby on Rails developers go through at Powershop called the “Devtrain”. This blog post explores the Devtrain experience, in particular as it pertains to employee fear and anxiety. Before we get into that, though, let’s take a quick look at where I’d come from prior to joining Powershop: Hospitality Construction Agricultural Contracting Sales Evangelism […]

Posted in Development

Our journey to TDD

Steven and I came to Powershop in late 2013 to work on the company’s Android application. The original application had been built by a third-party and had no test coverage at that stage. Neither Steven nor I had experience writing tests other than what we had learnt during our formal education. Jason, our product owner, would do manual testing for both the iOS and the Android applications. We had a considerable number of incidents back then, some of which forced us to make patch releases from time to time. Soon the amount of effort involved in manual testing increased. To release Jason from (part of) that burden, Jess joined our team as a dedicated tester for both apps. After gradually polishing our development and testing process, the number of bugs that made it to production significantly decreased. We still had a similar amount of bugs in our code, however most of them were now being […]

Posted in Design

Answers to all those (other) questions

If you’ve ever visited a website, which is highly likely, then you’ve probably come across one of those annoying pop-ups that ask you something along the lines of “What did you come here to do today?” At Powershop our customers are at the centre of nearly every decision we make, so we are curious about what people are looking for when they visit our website. So yes, you guessed it, we too have one of those annoying pop-up surveys.

Posted in Design, Development

My road map to refactoring CSS in large code bases

For any organisation working on a large code base over a long period of time there will eventually be a point where the code has become unwieldy and it’s time to do a clean up. In the last few years we’ve seen CSS3 standards roll out, some great tools and preprocessors such as SASS, the Rails Asset Pipeline (sprockets), and new standards for images such as SVGs. We’ve also seen how necessary responsive layouts are for the (ever growing) mobile user-base. We’ve all seen how CSS files can quickly get unwieldy and the cringe moment of finding code comments that say things such as /* Temp fix */ and it’s still there four years later. Let’s think about the timescale of front end technology…I imagine it being like aging in DOG YEARS. So that makes a seven year old code base like 40-50 human years. By this age people tend to have accumulated a lot of stuff. It’s […]

Posted in Design, Research

Hands-on at the local Global Service Design Jam

I was part of Wellington’s participation in the 2016 Global Service Design Jam –  about 75 teams from around the world spent 48 hours designing services from scratch during that final summer weekend (26 -28 Feb). Check out the website: The emphasis was firmly on doing – process over outcome – meaning it was a fantastically easy way to practise some of the basics of collaborative design. At the Biz Dojo shared workspace in Tory Street fifty of us Jammers ended up producing eight service propositions – from brainstorms to finished prototypes – at a crazy fun pace. On Friday night organiser Struan Rickman unveiled the Jam’s kick-off theme. It was not a ‘thing’, but a sound – I imagined a plop as if a heavy object had been released into water – or alternatively something had risen from beneath to break the water’s surface. And the Jam commenced… We milked every conceivable and […]

Posted in Development, Work Styles

Reflections of a new Powershop software development manager

Hi, I’m Emma and I’m a software development manager with the team here at Powershop. My role is a little different around here compared to the technical focus of developers. I am one month in and would like to give you a fresh insider’s glimpse into this special place. What does that look like in practice? What impact does it have on how people work? I have condensed these into five things that have resonated with me in these first weeks. I’ve been a Powershop customer for five years. I hadn’t previously been excited about electricity, let alone paying for said electricity. A colleague had recommended Powershop when I moved house. Everything was suspiciously easy and awesome. My interest as a conscious consumer grew into a professional interest in following years: their mobile app kicked ass; they did fun, playful, smart things in the tech community; people smiled with their eyes when they talked about working at Powershop. Something […]

Posted in Work Styles

Getting Ship Done

At Powershop we’re always looking for ways to learn and to improve our software delivery practices. Recently we’ve been focussing on Agile practices that lead to the consistent delivery of value by the end of each sprint. We’ve been implementing practices and techniques in the following areas: small user stories pair programming visible work spaces shared responsibility across the team This post will detail some specific examples of changes we’ve made and the effect the changes have had. Small stories We’re using effective ways to split user stories as our stories are still bigger than they ideally should be. Agile-for-all has a really practical resource for splitting stories here. Recently a 20 point story made it to one of the team’s sprint planning meetings. The team worked with their product owner to split the original story into two stories sized at 13 and 5. The PO identified the 13 point story as offering more value, […]

Posted in Development

Diagnose SSL certificate issues (with openssl)

Lately I have been confronting issues with various sites’ SSL certificates. Here’s a quick guide to how to work out the issue so that we can resolve the problem at hand. SSL_connect returned=1 errno=0 state=SSLv3 read server certificate B: certificate verify failed You might see the above error while connecting to What does that mean? In simple terms, it means that your SSL client has probably failed to verify that the certificate for the domain is ultimately issued by a “root” Certificate Authority certificate. [1] It might also be possible that the certificate has expired. Currently, there are some fantastic online resources that can check all aspects of a SSL certificate for you. I find these two sites to be very valuable. These would be my first port of call: Google Chrome also shows a lot of useful information about the certificate if one clicks the padlock icon on the left of the […]