Robert Merten

Director Development Shop Applications


Scaling ABOUT YOU mobile, desktop and app while using the most exciting technology stacks possible and having fun with my team.

Robert about ABOUT YOU:
ABOUT YOU is an employer that really gives its employees the freedom to grow and flourish.

Who are you and how did you come to ABOUT YOU?

I'm Robert and I'm originally from Bochum, Germany. After graduating from high school, I first completed an apprenticeship as an IT specialist in software development. After that I found it exciting to work as a freelancer and to program all kinds of things for customers. One of the results was a trade show registration tool for a major car manufacturer. In retrospect I don't really like to think about the code quality of that era, but today it would probably be called "full-stack development". At some point I got tired of being a freelancer and started a permanent job as a software developer at a digital agency in Hamburg. Luckily for me, this very agency got the contract to build the first mobile website of some time later and I was the implementing developer. This was followed by my participation in the Code Talks and some great conversations with ABOUT YOU employees, so I decided to join ABOUT YOU permanently in 2015 as the man for the "mobile version of the website". 

What does a "Director Development Shop Applications" do?

In my current role, I am responsible for the ABOUT YOU mobile app, the website and the storefront API of SCAYLE (product management and search of the SCAYLE commerce suite) with about 40 employees. In my day-to-day work, I currently do about 40% recruiting. This means that I look at the coding challenges with our lead developers, then take part in the deep dives where we give feedback to the candidates and often have a small pair programming session. In the day-to-day operations, a lot of the technical work is now done by my great team. We now have some really awesome talents on board who are already much better developers than I ever was. In addition, I am increasingly trying to get involved in product development as early as possible with my design eye. For example, when it comes to product conception and how to get our users to accept web push messages even more often, I can fully contribute my more than six years of ABOUT YOU knowhow. In addition, I look forward to the weekly meeting with my product lead colleague Flo and the numerous one-on-one meetings with my lead developers. 

What have been your best moments at ABOUT YOU?

The really big releases are the ones that stick in my mind the most. The first mobile ABOUT YOU website. The first ABOUT YOU app - at that time still with fiddly web technology. The release of the completely rewritten ABOUT YOU app based on Flutter. All pretty ambitious and stressful, but we all learned so much in the process and were able to keep expanding our teamwork. Currently, I'm very proud of building our new business logic backend called "Tadarida". The idea behind the project – named after an extremely fast flying bat species – is to bundle our business logic, which we currently have distributed in many different places in our applications, into one central, high performance backend written in Go. This will solve many long-standing pains, and we will have to build much less duplicate code and vulnerable front-end business logic in the future. 
In addition to the technical achievements, however, there are always personal surprises for me. For example, when we discover a working student as an exceptional talent and he or she then really starts working for us as a real employee at some point and becomes a permanent part of the team. Or when you notice how people grow and flourish with the freedom you give them - that's something that always excites me about my job.

Which technologies & tools would you definitely not want to do without at ABOUT YOU?

The programming language of my choice is Go. With it, we can develop and operate extremely fast scaling backends in conjunction with Redis, for example. For app programming, we rely on Flutter at ABOUT YOU and are still totally thrilled with it.  We also use typical frontend technologies like React and Typescript on a daily basis. On my MacBook I mainly run VSCode, zsh and the normal office tools like Slack, Google Workspace. For the right mood to work in, I use Tidal. 

What do you do to balance your job?

In my free time I often go bouldering with friends. Climbing is for me the perfect balance to switch off my head but also physically very challenging. I also like to ride my bike and listen to a lot of music. When I have a lot of free time I also experiment with digital music. I have a small synthesiser, I can play some piano and I like to push some buttons. But honestly: since I'm already constantly sitting at the computer in my job, I'm often happy in my spare time to finally get out into nature and be in the fresh air.

Robert is actively recruiting for his team! Apply now to Go Developer  (m/f/d) - onsite or remote, Dart Developer Shop Applications (m/f/d) - onsite or remote, or many of the other positions on our Jobs page!

To boost my productivity, on my MacBook I mainly run VSCode, zsh and the normal office tools like Slack, Google Workspace.
In part because we needed a lot of control over the performance of the app, we decided against the flexibility of GraphQL and in favor of gRPC. Dart can also be used out-of-the-box with gRPC. Today, we even use gRPC with web-grpc for the website.
For app programming, we also use typical frontend technologies like React and Typescript on a daily basis.
Fun fact: The tests for our ABOUT YOU app are still running via Gitlab CI/CD with Gitlabrunner on Mac Minis in our office. That should be optimized soon as well.
For app programming, we rely on Flutter at ABOUT YOU and are still totally thrilled with it.
One day Sebastian Betz, our Co-Founder and Co-CEO responsible for Tech and Product, approached me and said, "Have you actually seen Flutter before?". [...] After nine months, the new app was then live on Flutter - with a new design and optimized UX.
Currently, we are working with Golden Files testing - a testing method in which reference screenshots are generated, which are then compared with the current screenshots of the app during each test. But for larger changes, we also rely on integration testing.