At Zalando Technology we love Club-Mate. And, we are totally in love with our own logistics software ZALOS. When we were asked to do a workshop in the context of the sci business week at TU Ilmenau, we had to put our deeply loved ones into the concept. Themed "Agile software engineering for Europe’s biggest wardrobe. From idea to software – in one workshop" we challenged 20 participating students: "Have you ever thought of developing logistics software for the fulfillment of Club-Mate?" This was a felicitous surprise, as we could read from the puzzled faces of the students - but the confusion quickly paved way for a big fun for all of us.
According to our hands-on mentality, it seemed reasonable to put our students into the roles of a Zalando Technology scrum team, so they could learn, how we work at Zalando Technology. And lucky us, they weren`t complaining about the fact, that they did not have to listen to a three hours theoretical speech :-)
The main actors of the workshop were well cast: The participating students as product managers and developers, Club-Mate as the product which needs to get its own fulfillment and we Zalandos as mentors. The idea to experience agile software development in an enterprise context was well received by the students. And they took their roles quite seriously, becoming more and more eager to see how we as Zalando leverage the benefits of in-house developed software. Everything was framed alongside the bits and pieces of our own logistics software ZALOS, which is already in use by all of our own warehouses. We brought a handful of laptops, barcode scanners, Club-Mate, and a "naked" ZALOS application for the students - waiting for new features.
While the product managers were heads-down into the Club-Mate fulfillment specification, the engineers got used to our technology stack and ZALOS' design principles. Diving into the technologies of our overarching ZEOS platform, we introduced the students to the way we use PostgreSQL, stored procedures to access the databases, our own Java webservice layer on top of that, and a slim GUI frontend built in GWT. The developers were eager to engineer the front- and backend features using pre-built artifacts of the ZALOS core application, while the product managers supported them continously and patiently. We were impressed how vividly developers and product managers discussed the features and their options for implementation. Role playing a second case study ensured that we also kept the pace high for our product managers. Confronted with two completely opposing requirements and pushy stakeholders from a real world example the PMs drafted a concept to fulfill the conflicting requirements by a technology driven concept. Interesting and surprising for us though, all solutions proposed some automation by machines, rather than pragmatic software solutions.
It was a great day at TU-Ilmenau. We received excellent feedback from the students, especially for the fact, that they had the opportunity to get such deep insights into how agile software development at Zalando works. AND: They really loved the idea about an own Club Mate fulfillment - What a blessing it is, when you know how much Club- Mate is left in the fridge and when you have to order more just in time.
Convinced by the success of this workshop concept, we’ll be conducting many more at other universites, too. For all the ones who love technology and Club- Mate, as much as we do.
See you soon!