Life in Web Communications, then and now

A lot has happened over the last 10 years that I’ve been in the Web Communications department, but looking back it made me realize how much has changed just in the last year.

I thought I would break down some of the basics to put it in perspective:

Then Now
Relied on multiple methods of contact: Basecamp, email, and a shared inbox. Now using a true ticket system, TargetProcess. All support and project related activity is in one place.
Used Campfire for group chat which was limited to just our department. Now we use Slack which allows anyone around campus to join so more people can be on the same page throughout the day.
Almost everyone was working at a desktop computer. Now most work is done on laptops, in shared spaces, and as much as possible, with the client.
Coffee was the drink of choice for the office. Now it seems most people have converted to tea.
Down a few staff members for various reasons and thus not able to take on the amount of work we were used to. Now fully staffed and back up to speed with all projects. Almost each positon has a ‘pair‘.
Our development stack used to be all over the place with MAMP, Ruby and Gem requirements unique to each machine. Now everyone is running the same Vagrant image which can be replicated in just a few steps. Bringing up a new computer now takes minutes instead of hours.
We used to host all our code in SVN which is great for a single project, but multiply that by 600 and it becomes a pain to manage. Now every project has its own GIT repository, branches and pull requests. We use git-flow to standardize code contributions.
Deploying code changes to the server were done by hand and in some instances involved voodoo. Now all code is deployed by script and in a standard way to ensure accuracy, repeatability, and enabled the ability to roll back if anything goes wrong.
We used to wear multiple hats, switching projects and contexts all day long as support requests and quick turn-around items came in. Now we have two teams, the project team works on scheduled client work and the support team handles hundreds of support-related tasks per week. The teams switch up every month and everyone starts each day knowing what to expect and what they are going to work on.
Our office space hasn’t changed, we are still in an open ‘pit’ area but we used to have our large L-type desks configured to take advantage of space optimization. Now we have removed all L’s and have placed the desks in paired rows to allow for people optimization. This allows a pair from each discipline to work closely together all day. We also have one dedicated standing desk that anyone can use.
Everyone used to have a phone and their own phone number. Now we have a one single phone number for the entire department. We still remain without a single printer, and rely on shared resources as much as possible.

But some things never change.

We hire great people and work on great projects for awesome clients around campus. We continue to challenge ourselves to be the best at our craft, contribute to open source and the higher ed community, and raise the stature of the university.

4 Replies to “Life in Web Communications, then and now”

    1. Totally interesting metric for us too. We aren’t completely off coffee, but more people are on tea than ever. We talked about it as a group and I think it’s an overall decrease in caffeine consumption over the last few years. A number of years ago there was a Monster and RedBull on everyone’s desk, now you wouldn’t find a single energy drink around. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next year.

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