In this installment of the Cosmic JS Developer Spotlight Series, we sat down with Chris Schwab, a Front End Engineer residing in Boston who's currently helping lead the development charge at positivity-prone apparel brand Life is Good. Chris and his team at Life is Good have been using the Cosmic JS API to manage user-generated-content for their positivity campaigns (now in their second consecutive year). Follow Chris on LinkedIn or Twitter, and enjoy the Q/A.
How long have you been building software and how did you get started?
I went to business school and didn’t become interested in coding until a junior year marketing internship in which the start-up I was helping out needed to build a web presence. I took up the challenge and built them a basic Wix HTML site. That really sparked my interest and I decided to pursue an IT minor. This opened up a few doors and another internship as a junior developer with Saltwater Creative Agency. The internship turned into a job offer and this is where I really learned how to code, manage web projects, and be a part of a nimble digital marketing team. I’m grateful for the path I took, as I believe the best way to become a developer is through working on real projects versus in the classroom. Great mentors help too, and I’m lucky to have had a few of those during my journey.
What is your preferred development stack?
I’m certainly not an expert at one particular technology, but I pride myself on having the ability to transfer skills and problem solve across a wide range of technologies. I started developing on the LAMP stack for custom websites and today I mostly work in the Salesforce Commerce Cloud development environment. I also enjoy working on a good ‘ol MERN stack React project.
What past projects are you most proud of and why?
Two single page application projects come to mind, because at the time, we were trailblazing with this new type of approach. One of them was simply using jQuery and AJAX to create an SPA which a bank displayed product information, specials and rates for customers to view on in-branch iPads instead of the traditional print materials. Another early SPA was my first React project in which I helped put together a robust tool for customizing, previewing and ordering a shed through a major home improvement store. Users could customize and order online, or in-store with an associate on an iPad. One of the coolest parts of this project was owning the front end development and helping integrate with the back end web services of a major corporation. The technology was the latest and greatest at the time and we had no experience with it, but sometimes it’s best to be thrown into the fire and just figure it out. I worked with a great team and we successfully navigated the unknown.
Talk a little bit more about your process for building apps at Life is Good. Are they for external or internal audiences?
We have a mix of internal and external applications at Life is Good. Most external apps are for ecommerce or brand building. Most internal apps are for monitoring business and technical KPI’s. Cosmic JS has been a key technology for all of our applications that collect user generated content. Abstracting the content collection, storage, moderation and distribution to a central source have allowed us to rapidly deploy brand building UGC apps without diverting too many resources from our primary ecommerce development needs.
What are some technologies you are excited about that you are using today, or want to learn more about?
As a front end developer who has some back end skills, but would like to become more full stack, I’ve enjoyed working with Node and Python as much as possible. Luckily, being on a smaller tech team, I get the opportunity to work on projects outside of the boundaries of my role quite often and constantly expand my skill set. I’m also interested in more exposure to data viz and voice, exploring blockchain and crypto, and the evolution of AR/VR.
Tell us more about the recent Life is Good UGC Campaign Launch.
After our first successful UGC campaign powered by Cosmic JS last November, the choice was obvious for how to approach our latest UGC campaign for Positive Thinking Day. We wanted to give people the ability to “share one positive thought” and post it as part of a unique community. The challenges were how to collect and store user content, moderate it, distribute it across multiple channels and do it as fast as possible with minimal custom development. We worked with Tony and Carson to choose the best Cosmic JS starting point project for our needs and architect a plan to achieve our goal of creating the hub of positive thoughts. Our design team put together some fantastic looking assets and I customized the React Sticky Notes Cosmic JS starting point project and we were able to put together this application in days versus what could have taken weeks. Cosmic JS provided the scaffolding and plumbing, we just had to do the finish work to pretty it up and brand it. We were able to focus on what we do best while Comisc JS took care of the rest.