Debunked: the myth of the dreaded all-night coding nightmare

Anthony Sodd

There’s a stereotype that working as a developer at a fast-growing tech company means marathon all-night coding sessions. The image of the tired, haggard, mentally-drained developer is so pervasive that it turns some people off from ever even considering a role as a develop, let alone a startup. And, who could blame them? It's a demanding lifestyle, for sure. But that's not really the whole story.

Sure, developers work hard, but they also work together and play hard. We caught up with three fast-growing tech companies to see how they stayed focused and motivated during long slogs. What they had to say, honestly, surprised us. 


Responses from Peter Elbaor, VP of Product at Emogi

How often do you do big pushes? Do they sometimes go all night?

We make big promises and we keep them. We do it by planning and executing well. Our product-engineering team cares about software quality, so we check many boxes of the “Joel Test”, and have added a few of our own. For example, we have little flags on our monitors — when the flag is up, it means we are heads down.

We are ambitious here at Emogi, so with the build of our new mobile messaging platform, Wink, we’ve never had a ‘light’ sprint. At the end of the day, our hard work pays off when we see major brands and apps tapping into what we’ve created.

Do you have any traditions that help keep everyone focused?

Our ongoing foosball, ping pong, and push-up competitions give us the mental breaks and downtime we need to recharge. The competition is intense, with a running series of matches. We sweat, laugh and catch up. Taking time to have fun really helps with team collaboration 'off the job,' and improves our focus as we get back to work. 

What do you do to celebrate when it’s all done?

What I love most about our team is that we care about each other in and out of the office. We ship solid product and have regular bar outings and dinners to celebrate wins and stay connected.

Sharing a meal is powerful. It's a time to sit down, slow down, and enjoy your friends. And who doesn't love a tech conversation over a bowl of mussels? As they say, the family that eats together stays together.


Responses from Ryan Hubbard, CTO at Updater

How often do you do big pushes? Do they sometimes go all night? 

We actually don't do big releases anymore, but we push out new features and code continuously. This is called continuous integration and deployment, and most companies are either doing this currently or want to move in this direction. Smaller and more frequent releases allow us to move faster and reduce the amount of bugs (and chances of anything going wrong) in a big release.

Do you have any traditions that help keep everyone focused?

We don't have a specific 'thing' we do, but we have Gretchen, our Product Manager. She's the boss. (see photo above). 

What do you do to celebrate when it’s all done?

Many companies who have big releases also have big celebrations. If we celebrated with every release, we'd never get any work done! Therefore, our sprint retros are our version of a celebration and we often host them at bars. We love Mexicue for margaritas and Barcade for the infamous four-way Pacman game.


Responses from Tom 'The Wolf' Wolverton, an Engineering Manager at Justworks.

How often do you do big pushes?

In general, we try to push code out in smaller chunks, but there are bigger 'launches' on some days where we launch a new feature to most of the companies on the system. We try to do these during the day so that we're all in the office and ready in case anything goes wrong. 

Do you have any traditions that help keep everyone focused?

Sometimes a team will go off-site for the home stretch of a project to "bring it home", and lots of times for launch day or post-launch day we'll bring in treats (breakfast bagels, cookies, cupcakes, etc). 

What do you do to celebrate when it’s all done?

After launch and the dust has settled, the team will go out for drinks or somewhere more fun — think Dave & Busters.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Photos provided by companies.

Know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork.

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