Inside ProDev: Unruly’s Software Engineer Ina Tsetsova on remote working, open source and stuffed toys

Next up in our ‘Inside ProDev’ series we sat down with one of our Software Engineers Ina Tsetsova to find out what a day in the life of an Unruly developer looks like. 

Q: Hi Ina, first of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do here at Unruly?

IT: Hi! I’m Ina Tsetsova and I’m a Software Engineer here at Unruly, currently working in our Shared Infrastructure team. The team started by taking over infrastructure projects that didn’t have an owner, and were getting pretty out-of-date. Now we are steadily improving things, instilling best practices, and spreading infrastructure knowledge!

Q: How did you end up at Unruly?

IT: I went to a couple of XProlo events and was blown away by the energy there. The speakers were engaging and the content was stellar. I quickly became curious about the company and its culture. As luck would have it, I already knew a couple of developers working at Unruly. I grabbed a coffee with each and tried to figure out if the company would be a good fit for me. It was, and here I am!

Q: Tell us about your day-to-day experience in the Unruly Pro Dev team?

IT: It is unique! We do a number of things differently than other organisations. For one, we do trunk-based development, and we deploy multiple times a day. Visitors to the office might see a lot of stuffed toys around, but they aren’t just for decoration. They are all deployment tokens and each has its own meaning. We take XP values and practices to heart, we do test-driven development, and we pair on everything that gets pushed into production.

soft toy in the Unruly office

As developers, we also have more ownership of our stories and practices. We do our own research, we talk to stakeholders, and we propose work for prioritisation. We’re very collaborative. If you choose to pair all day, every day, you probably enjoy working with people a fair bit.

Q: What draws you to the type of work you do?

IT: I care about making things better and having a tangible impact. The team I’m currently in enables me to do just that! We are in the same room as our stakeholders and deeply care about removing blockers for them. We also help to automate away the repeatable and manual tasks that get in the way of delivering business value quicker!

In my team, we’ve split the type of work we do across different strands. Mine is about ‘Reducing Toil’ for the rest of ProDev. That is ‘toil’ in the SRE sense of the word – work that is manual, automatable, of no lasting value, that doesn’t scale.  Everyone in our team owns their strand, and mine really aligns with my values. This really helps me feel productive and happy at work!

Q: What have you learnt during your time at Unruly?

IT: I’ve learned so many things! Some highlights have been learning to work with Linux, understanding site reliability engineering practices and ideas, and getting to grips with the infrastructure.

I’ve also gained a lot of auxiliary skills like improving my presentation and interviewing, communicating with stakeholders, running effective meetings, visualising work progress, researching stories, collaborating, giving feedback – the list goes on!

Q: Tell us about any side projects you’re working on.

IT: I want to contribute more to open source as our team has already released multiple open source projects. One of them is a set of Puppet modules for a base Centos 7 configuration.

It’s made me look into open source outside of Unruly. There are so many interesting projects available, and some of my favourites listed are at opensourcediversity.org. It’s a great place to look for first-timer issues! I’ve just completed my first pull request to one of the projects listed.

Q: It’s the weekend: what are you doing?

IT: I read! I read books about fantasy, magic, environmentalism, self-improvement and tech. I also spend time with my husband outdoors. We go to nature reserves, have picnics in parks, or just sit on the balcony and listen to podcasts together.

Q: What kind of challenges do the developers at Unruly tackle?

IT: Work flexibility is a somewhat of a challenge. Things like remote work and flexible hours are fairly new at Unruly and will take some time before they become frictionless. Part of the challenge is because we pair all the time and we’re all collocated. Therefore a lot of our knowledge is either on white boards or shared in person. It’s something that Unruly has been supportive of experimenting with and it’s definitely becoming easier. As a result it’s perfectly common now for me to do my 20% time from home and dial in if necessary.

Q: Describe the Unruly developer culture in three words:

IT: Thoughtful, curious, and kind.

Q: What music do you listen to whilst working?

IT: We don’t really listen to music at work, because we’re pairing virtually all the time. You’ll almost never see a dev with headphones, unless they’re catching up on their admin work. As for my music, I enjoy songs that fall under acoustic, folk or alternative metal. I have a small but growing collection of songs. I also purchase my music either directly from the musicians or from ethical music sellers where the majority of the revenue goes straight to the artist.

Want to join the Unruly family? You’re in luck, we’re hiring! Check out our job page for the latest roles!

Meet some other members of the ProDev team!

There are no winners and losers on Christmas day, except maybe when it comes to share-happy brands. As with “water cooler events” like the World Cup or the Super Bowl, Christmas is heavily-contested marketing ground, with brands teasing their advertising strategies months ahead of the big day.

Though we’re still weeks away from popping the first box on our advent calendar, plenty of brands have started throwing their novelty Santa hats into the ring. And it’s easy to see why. According to Unruly’s Viral Video Chart, two of the twenty most-shared viral ads of all time are Christmas spots, accruing nearly five million shares between them.

The question is: who’s found a gift in their stocking and who’s found coal? Christmas advertising is a delicate art, and John Lewis’ early contender shows the retailer knows exactly what it’s doing.

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Volvo Trucks pranks a valet, the Xperia is unboxed underwater and Jeff Goldblum reveals the secret to great lighting. Yep, it’s just another week in AdLand! 

So which ads have caught fire on the web over the last seven days? Here are our five picks.

Enjoy!

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As more and more marketers realise the impact that short-form video can have, it’s no surprise Vine is high up on every brand’s agenda.

However, with a tidal wave of short-form content engulfing the Open Web, it’s not always easy to find the best of the bunch. So if you’re looking for quality inspiration, you’re in safe hands here. In just 36 short seconds, you’ll know which brands are doing Vine just right.

In this week’s round-up we have an personalised HTC One mobile, a self-hanging jersey and a downpour of apples.

Enjoy!

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Google drops off dog food, Angry Birds become Transformers and Selena Gomez has trouble choosing her footwear. Yep, it’s just another week in AdLand! 

So which ads have caught fire on the web over the last seven days? Here are our five picks.

Enjoy!

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Suarez being banned for biting another player, hosts Brazil being hammered by Germany 7-1 and former champs Spain falling at the first hurdle – it’s certainly been a World Cup to remember.

But as Germany return home as heroes, it’s worth remembering that the men in shin pads and boots were not the only star players battling it out over the last month. Brands and their agencies have also been in the thick of the action.

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The World Cup has not even started, but already its ads have outperformed this year’s Super Bowl.

That’s according to new data released today by marketing technology company Unruly, which found the top 20 most shared World Cup commercials have already attracted almost a third more shares than the top 20 Super Bowl 2014 ads – months after Super Bowl Sunday.

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In the latest part of the Unruly Vine series, we spoke to Jerome Jarre, co-founder of Grapestory and arguably one of the most well-known short form video makers on the planet. In fact, the Frenchman is the 4th most followed to date, with an astonishing 6 million followers.

Jerome spotted the potential of Vine from day one and took it upon himself to get out there and share the love. In fact, he’s even got his own hashtag #lovelifelikecrazy, he’s so passionate about it.

He’s come along way in just over a year and a half. He risked it all to follow his heart and with a little help from some friends along the way has certainly made a name for himself.

We caught up with the entrepreneurial Vine star to find out why Vine has been so instrumental in his own story and how brands can make it a key part of theirs.

1. It seems we’re seeing lots of ex-YouTube stars find their true audience on Vine. How did you get in to Vine and what was your reason for moving focus away from YouTube?

The more platforms age, the more expectations rise. And that’s why I chose Vine, because it’s the first platform where I was creating content for the internet and so I started from the bottom in terms of quality, just like Vine, and that was great. It was good timing for me.

For someone who starts from scratch, with no background in creating online content, it’s good to start on a fresh new platform. Vine is still fantastic for that, and I believe the next big one will be Snapchat. Starting right now with zero audience and zero background in creating content on Snapchat is good because expectations are extremely low, especially because content disappears. So it’s good to play with.

2. What do you think makes Vine different from other formats?

I think the rawness of it; the fact that it’s all made on a phone and that our phones are so close to each other. When I hold my phone in my hand the distance between the phone and my face is one arm. When you watch my Vines, the distance between your phone and your eyes is also one arm. So I consider there are two arms of distance between me shooting a Vine and somebody seeing a Vine. It’s extremely close.

The other thing is creativity. Vine is purely about creativity. Novelty is rewarded on Vine so many times. On the ‘popular’ page, very often you see similar types of content trending. However, if you try something new and fresh that’s never been seen before, you’ll see a lot more engagement.

3. You took your Vine passion to the next level and started a business around it. What inspired you to create Grapestory?

I dropped out of business school when I was 20 to start my own businesses in China. One of them I started with my best friend Chris Carmichael became very successful, and we used the money to set up a software company in Canada. It was going really well, but I was missing something. It was not feeding my creativity. Then Vine launched. I heard about it on its launch day and downloaded it straight away. I was hooked.

It was clear in so many ways that Vine was going to be the next big thing, so I created a company around it to add more creativity to my life.

I started posting Vines just so I could understand the platform. I started making serious Vines, funny Vines. I was on Vine 12 hours a day. I was sleeping very little because I still had to run my company, and one of my business partners thought I was crazy for spending so much time on Vine.

Within just six months, I not only had 20,000 followers but also a good network of Viners, but I still couldn’t figure out what was going to be the business idea. It was then I decided I needed a business partner, someone connected to brands. Then I saw that Gary Vaynerchuk, the marketing legend, was going to be in Toronto. It was a perfect fit. I was inspired by Gary. I learned English when I was in China by reading Gary’s books and listening to his audiobooks.

Gary was going to this conference in Toronto, but I had no way to contact him. So, grabbing the mic at the conference, I asked him to play rock, paper, scissors with me. I said, ‘If I win, we have to have a drink in New York’. He accepted, so I jumped on stage and beat him. Within that week, I had left my business in Toronto, my apartment, everything.

Moving to New York with $400 in my pocket was a huge risk as it’s an expensive city. I had spent all my money before the meeting had even started. Luckily, five minutes into the meeting, he said “wow, let’s create a business together” and Grapestory was born. The idea was simple: help brands get on Vine, help Viners make a living out of Vine. The following day we flew to LA, met with the best Viners and most of them decided to join Grapestory. The ones that didn’t initially, joined later.

It’s been a fantastic year. I’ve been working with amazing brands like GE, Mondelez and Unilever. We’re building very big groups and every month we are almost doubling in terms of number of campaigns run. There’s more and more Viners that can live off Vine, and on a personal level, I get to be involved in both the creative side through my Vine profile and the business side through my company, so I’m having a blast.

My Vine exploded in a month from 20,000 followers to 1 million thanks to my feature on the Ellen Degeneres show. This was when I decided I should keep creating content too, as well as running a Vine business. 

4. Who is your favourite Vine creator at the moment and why?

I could give you a list of a hundred people that have amazing content. For me the most talented comedian “Viner”, not at the moment but period, is Rudy Mancuso. His profile is unique. He’s not only a good actor, but an incredible producer too. He’s also the first Viner I ever saw with a tripod. He’s a perfectionist and it shows in his work.

5. As the platform becomes more and more popular, do brands have to rely on Vine stars to get cut-through and reach a large audience?

There’s no doubt Vine stars help brands reach their audiences. Vine is art and art needs passion and dedication. You can’t hire an intern or a community manager that hasn’t proved themselves on Vine and expect them to make your account popular. You need experts who thinks about Vine 24/7.

6. You’ve worked with brands before. What do you think brands should be doing to make their content stand out from the crowd?

They need to listen. Period.

Brands forget that content is about bringing value. Talking about your brand without bringing real value is old school and doesn’t work. You need to create positive emotions in people. Emotions add value. It’s like love. When you make someone smile, cry with laughter or say ‘wow’, that’s all love and brands need to start giving it.

Brands are getting better, though. They’re listening to good content creators. Some however, go with what the think they know, and fail.

Brands have the power to help Vine stars make even better content. A great example of this is when Marcus Johns and I were taken on a zero gravity flight by GE. It was amazing and only made possible by them. The added value came from the brand themselves and consequently the collaboration was very popular on Vine.  

7. Do you believe that Vine stars will join YouTube celebrities in the future?

Yes! Vine stars have a bright future because what matters now is mobile. I see some YouTubers having a hard time creating content on a daily basis, whereas Viners can make lots of micro content very quickly. Young audiences are getting addicted to consuming micro content in all formats, whether it’s tweets, Vines or Instagram posts. Making one YouTube video a week isn’t going to feed their needs, where Vine can, easily.

At a higher level, YouTube hasn’t been great at getting its mobile platform sorted. They need to evolve and think like Vine and Snapchat. 

8. As a content creator yourself, what do you think to people uploading content to Vine rather than making it on the platform. It certainly seems to be happening more and more.

This is a great question! I used to be a huge defender of organic Vine content, but the fantastic viner Marcus Johns introduced Vine-hacking to the mainstream and began blowing people’s minds. There was certainly a lot of mixed opinions in the early days. With HD production content coming on to Vine, people thought the rawness and the beauty of Vine would be lost.

However, it all changed on the day Marcus hit 1 million followers. He uploaded a clearly hacked piece of content to celebrate this milestone. However, this time Vine didn’t take the content down. It stayed on the popular page all day. That’s when my mind was changed.

To me Vine is a game. The founders write the rules, and if they’re happy with this, then so am I. I miss the organic days, but it’s evolving. Who knows, in the future we may be allowed to upload within the app.

9. I’m often asked what the most popular trends on Vine are. Would be great to hear your thoughts on the most.

Firstly, I try to avoid trends. I’m all about novelty. However, thinking broadly about trends, Vine is different. The life of a trend is much shorter, perhaps less than 24 hours.

When a trend does break, it breaks in a big way. The entire popular page often follows the same type of content, but once it’s broken, it’s gone for ever and no one will want to see this type of content again. They want something new. 

10. Vine is evolving fast, faster than any other other video platform. What do you think the future holds? What are you expecting to see

The future of Vine will be content that evolves past comedy. Currently, 90% of the most popular Vines are comedy-related. But that’s changing. What’s coming is a broader audience demographic, so don’t be too surprised if your mum joins Vine. It’s going to happen.

Comedy will eventually just be a small part of Vine. Currently there are three real parts to Vine. Comedy, stop-motion (art), and music! Music is getting great traction on Vine. Look at the success of Us The Duo or Amy Marie, for example. Everyone needs to learn to tell stories in 6 seconds. This is the way our brains are becoming formatted. I see it as an espresso of content.

11. Just for fun. What’s the best reaction you’ve received from a Vine?

I did a prank Vine on a plane 3 days ago, where I was screaming about a pizza. It confused a lot of people. My Vine friend Robby Ayala texted me the next day saying his uncle had just emailed him about a guy he saw shouting about pizza on a plane and that everyone had wanted to talk to him and take pictures with him. He said he knew immediately that his uncle had been on the same flight as me.

I’ve had lots of epic reactions. One day I saw a man sleeping in his truck in the middle of the day and went up to the window and started singing about the beautiful day. He jumped out the truck and started running after me. Rudy was with me and he shouted that the driver had a gun. I ran as fast as I could all the way back to the office. I was terrified. Only then did I find out Rudy was pranking me.

Apart from that, it’s always positive. If I include someone in my Vine, I always like to spend 10 minutes talking to them about what I’m doing and find out more about them. I love meeting people and hearing their stories, that’s why I always Vine with strangers!

READ NEXT: 6 Vine Predictions for 2014 – What Does The Future Hold?

It’s hard to locate any well-constructed list of top Vines these days without coming across video content created by Zach King.  

The content wizard is certainly enjoying a lot more than just six seconds of fame. Zach, who incorporates magic into a lot of his Vine content, has amassed more than 1.3 million followers on Vine and has even made an appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show. So when we had the chance to sit down with him this week to discuss what tips he has for fellow Viners hoping to follow in his footsteps, we grasped at the opportunity.

Whether you’ve never made Vine content before but are thinking about it, a Viner hoping to take your content to the next level or a marketer thinking about distributing short-form content in your next global brand campaign, there’s something here for everyone.

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