Building a Toolkit

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ErikaErika B. is a multidisciplinary designer, thinker, researcher and strategist from Caracas, Venezuela. She is an alumni of Savannah College of Art and Design where she studied Industrial Design and Service Design. She works at Daxko as an Interaction Designer and during her free time, works as a community organizer at Code for Birmingham.

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Everyone has their own toolkit. Over time, people create their personal toolkit by collecting experiences and skills that allow them to express, think, create, and make. In my case, different places, experiences, and people have shaped my toolkit. The quest to expand it brought me to Birmingham, AL where I joined the Daxko Nation over a year ago as a designer and user experience advocate.

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I am going to share with you 3 things I’ve learned at Daxko and how they have shaped my toolkit and the person I am today.

1. You got this! Just focus on your strengths. Since day one at Daxko, strengths have been a hot topic. Daxko encourages us to identify our strengths and lean on them to succeed. Forget your weaknesses and focus every day to get better and to sharpen your strengths.

2. Be bold and dream the impossible. At Daxko, a sense of ownership is deeply embedded in every team member. With passion and persistence, you can achieve the impossible. Just step up and give yourself a chance to do the things no one will.

3. Co-create the ecosystem. Products are just a tiny piece from a larger system, an entire structure that needs to be thought out to deliver excellent experiences. Design, strategy, and technology teams work jointly to understand how products, services, systems and spaces work together. We do that by co-creating mutual value and empowering stakeholders to be designers.

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Daxko is a place where the opportunities for personal and professional growth are limitless. Daxko fosters collaboration, innovation, and leadership which allows team members expand their personal toolkit. 

What does your toolkit look like and what will you do next to expand it?

Tech the Halls features posts from developers, designers, and engineers every Tuesday in December. Want to grow your career at Daxko? Check out our current opportunities.

Giving Back with an Hour of Code

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Butch M. is a QA Engineer and bacon connoisseur who has been at Daxko since 2012.

December 7-13th is Computer Science Education week here in the U.S., and with it comes a call for technical volunteers to go into schools to speak and lead students through an Hour of Code put on by non-profit This year several teammates from Daxko signed up to participate. Here at Daxko, we’re all about giving back to the community through our semi-annual Impact Days, toy drives, and other collection drop-offs during the year. I really felt like Hour of Code was a way I could give back to the next generation of young thinkers, and it allowed me to do just that!


Butch M. and Matt C.

Matt C. and I were invited to speak at Shades Mountain Elementary to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. I’m not going to lie – it wasn’t quite what I was thinking when I signed up, but we came up with a plan to keep the children’s attention for a 50 minute presentation. We kicked everything off with a quick introduction of who we are and what we do, followed up by a short demo of what I do as an Automation Engineer. I showed the children how easy it is to create a script that can automatically log them into their accounts at I walked through the 8 lines of code with them and explained what each line was doing. We had some good questions from the crowd along with some “wows”. Our hope in showing this was to inspire the children to find something they repeat often and to automate it with code.

IMG_8453Next, we gave the students some background about the history of computing and explained that computers are everywhere (phones, refrigerators, cars, etc.).
We then demoed how to control a remote control BB-8 with code. We used an iPhone app called Tickle to program the BB-8 using Scratch, an easy to follow visual program language. At this point the children were really excited, so we took their suggestions on what color we should make BB-8 and what actions we should have him do. We explained 2 major programing concepts, loops and if…else statements, during this time. Many of the children had already been using Scratch to complete coding exercises through the website, so they were somewhat familiar with some of the concepts we demonstrated.

We then spoke about the origins of coding. We showed a picture of Ada Lovelace and explained that the first programmer was a woman. When we first showed her picture we asked if anyone in the group knew who she was. The first guess was Princess Leia (which made me really happy inside) but the second guess was correct (way to go teachers!). To give the students someone they could really relate to, we mentioned Ethan Duggan, who crafted his first iPhone app when he was 11 – the same age as a lot of children we were speaking to. We explained that coding really is a key that can unlock many doors, including solving real world problems or just having fun.

Excitement filled the room as we transitioned to a slide reading, “Who likes Minecraft?” We asked the students if any of them had ever used a Minecraft mod, and a few hands were raised. We explained that today we were going to show them the code behind a simple Minecraft mod. We had all the code written for a mod that creates a TNT-like block that explodes when you hit it with fire, but with a tiny blast radius. It was named wimpyTNT for that reason. I showed the students the part of the code where the force of the explosion was set to 0.5. We compiled the code, booted up Minecraft, and showed them the new custom block (which we added the Daxko logo as the texture). We placed the block, hit it with flint and steel, and saw a small 4×4 block explosion. We all agreed that that was one wimpy explosion. We then asked the kids how we could make this better, and someone suggested making the explosion bigger. We went back to the code and decided as a group we should change the force of the explosion to 100. All the children were “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” at this point. We compiled the code, booted up Minecraft, found a clear space, and asked the kids what would happen. The room was full of energy when we placed the wimpyTNT block (which wasn’t so wimpy anymore), ignited it with flint and steel… and KABOOOOOM!!!! A giant hole was left in the game, resulting in some really excited children. We then proceeded to add 7-8 wimpyTNT blocks all together and ignited them, triggering the biggest in-game explosion yet. The room erupted with cheers and clapping as we were blasted into the air. Matt and I ended the session by taking questions and giving the kids some resources where they could start having fun with code, specifically MCreator.

This was definitely the highlight of my month. I really enjoy having the flexibility in my job to inspire the next generation, and I encourage anyone who wants to give back and share technical knowledge to participate in Hour of Code.

Read the press release on Daxko’s participation in Hour of Code.

Tech the Halls features posts from developers, designers, and engineers every Tuesday in December. Want to grow your career at Daxko? Check out our current opportunities.

A Culture that Fosters Team Member Development

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Daniel V. is a Software Quality Assurance Engineer who has been at Daxko since 2006.

DanVanWhen I graduated from Auburn with an undergraduate and a graduate degree in business, I didn’t anticipate that one day my job title would include the word “engineer”. I began working at Daxko in 2006, and I’ll be honest – I didn’t know a lot about technology. Over the next 7+ years, I served in various roles as a member of the Support Services team, but I still had relatively few technical skills. What I did have was a ton of product and domain knowledge. Fortunately, this kind of knowledge is extremely valuable to our Quality Assurance team and team lead, so I was able grow my career last year and step into the role of QA engineer. One of the primary traits I’ve found that I need in my job is a desire to learn, especially since I come from a non-technical background.

Daxko definitely fosters this desire to learn. The company not only provides each team member with a generous budget to use for professional development each year, but there are plenty of chances to develop professionally on a daily basis in my role on a product development team. This year I’ve been able to attend the Conference for the Association of Software Testers (CAST) and the Software Testing Atlanta Conference (STAC) to learn more about my craft and develop my testing skills. I’ve also been able to use technologies like SQL and Ruby to contribute to the work we are trying to accomplish on my development team. Thankfully, Daxko team members are very willing to help others develop their skills, so there is always someone to ask when I have questions or a person willing to pair with me so I can learn. My team lead also helps foster my desire to learn. He helped me set a goal to develop my technical skills, with objectives to complete online tutorials and pair with other team members.

I had two other “real world jobs” before coming to Daxko, so I can say from experience that I don’t believe there are many companies with the same kind of culture that purposefully fosters team member development. If you have a desire to learn, you will most certainly grow at Daxko.

Tech the Halls features posts from developers, designers, and engineers every Tuesday in December. Want to grow your career at Daxko? Check out our current opportunities.

Using Strengths to Achieve Your Team’s Vision

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MichaelMy name is Michael B., and I am a team lead at Daxko. I lead a team of software engineers that monitors our production environment and squashes bugs for our customers. I started at Daxko in October of 2014 in an automation role on our infrastructure team and accepted an offer for my current team lead position in February of 2015. I love my job because I am inspired every day by my team lead and peers, and I am provided endless opportunity to grow and develop my career. 

At Daxko, we call our managers “Team Leads” because we place a fundamental importance on that person’s ability to lead their team in the right direction. One of the most important responsibilities of a team lead is our dedication to offering big challenges that require our teams to develop big ideas, instead of developing these big ideas ourselves. This is the definition of empowerment. Each team member at Daxko – whether they are a direct report, a team lead, or both – is empowered to make monumental contributions to their team and to this company by employing their strengths to push their team in the direction of its vision.  

My first realization of this principal was in my tactical role on the infrastructure team in 2014. My team lead, Matt C., recognized the need for greater visibility into our production environment and proposed this project to our team: “Build a monitoring infrastructure that provides increased visibility into our production environment.” That’s it. Our team spent the next 3 months implementing a framework that elegantly solved this exact problem. We implemented the ELK stack for shipping and aggregating web logs, Sensu for server availability and statistics, Graphite for collecting time-series event stream data, and Grafana for creating awesome graphs and dashboards that make sense to everyone from our tactical team members to our CEO. There was an inspiring amount of empowerment and freedom surrounding this project, and our team really felt that we were using our skill sets to solve an organization-wide problem for Daxko.

Instead of providing a structured set of rules for each project my team works on, I strive to provide the broader vision and let my team decide how best to accomplish that vision. This brews innovation and creativity on our team and allows team members to make decisions that force them to use their strengths when accomplishing a task. It turns out that this approach provides an astounding amount of opportunity for our team members here at Daxko. For example, a team member on my team realized she didn’t particularly enjoy writing code. She chose to contribute to the team in a way that accentuated her strengths around communication and collaboration. She dominated this role, solved some really tough problems, and has since accepted an offer for a promotion to a leadership role on our Customer Success team. In fact, in the last 2 years, we have promoted five team members from my team to different teams within our organization for seeking out opportunities and dominating them. This is a company-wide practice at Daxko. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

“Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.”

I have this quote posted on the wall above my desk. As a leader, I know Daxko’s people are our biggest assets. If we hire motivated team members, provide them with a vision, and then inspire them to reach this vision, our team members will use their strengths to capitalize on this opportunity and accomplish great things for Daxko and their careers.  

Tech the Halls features posts from developers, designers, and engineers every Tuesday in December. Want to grow your career at Daxko? Check out our current opportunities.