Before the holiday season glow fades into the hustle and bustle of a new year, I wanted to start 2022 with this first entry of a new blog series. I trust my teammates will continue to spark and generate buzz about the latest capabilities and enhancements of the HCL Commerce solution, so I will instead give you a peek at the wizards behind the curtain, the people on the HCL Commerce team, who continue to inspire and steer us to become “The Transaction Platform That Helps You Sell More.” (In case you missed it, I interviewed Brian Gillespie, Director of Product Management, about Performance & Scalability last year.)
My first guest of 2022 is Tony Woo, Director of Engineering, husband, father, and veteran of the Commerce industry with almost 25 years of experience. Here’s our conversation lightly edited and condensed.
Tell me about your background in the Commerce industry. What did you do before you became our Director of Engineering?
I feel like I grew up on the Commerce team, having started as a new Java/J2EE Architect back in 1998 when it was owned by a different company, under a different product name. Since then, I’ve broadened my responsibilities beyond design and development to include leading squads, managing teams, and technical consulting on high-profile customer projects. While I developed a deep knowledge of many areas of the solution, I continue to be the subject matter expert on content management, catalog management, and storefront.
I understand that the engineering team went through a tremendous amount of growth in 2021. Tell me a little bit about the team structure and team members. How would you describe your leadership style?
We added roughly 150 team members to our Engineering hubs in Toronto, Canada and Pune and Bangalore in India. The composition of our team has also shifted. We retained all of the core product knowledge with the transition to HCL, and our new hubs in India are making significant contributions to the platform, far quicker than I could have imagined.
That is indeed a lot of growth and a lot of change. How are you and the team adapting?
A few months ago, I restructured the team along functional boundaries, so each squad now has cross-geo representation to better distribute knowledge and skills and also to provide support on every component of the solution 24-7.
The squads are running fairly independently, allowing me to focus on mentoring our newer leaders and teams on end-to-end product design and development, from working with Product Management to understand use cases and requirements to incorporating customer and partner feedback to continually evolve and improve the solution.
We are still navigating through some growing pains, but I am encouraged by how we’re trending.
What was one of the most challenging Engineering projects that you led the team through in 2021?
I don’t mean to sound too predictable but COVID. The teams have adapted incredibly well during the pandemic, despite not being able to collaborate in-person, especially with our newer team members. Our squad leads have really gone above and beyond, adjusting schedules and work practices to keep teams focused on learning and delivering. Generally speaking, we have kept to our original release commitments while also continuing to provide an exceptional level of customer support. Wouldn’t you agree, Amanda?
Who’s interviewing who, here?! But yes; as one who continually hounds you for size estimates and release commitments, I agree that the team accomplished so much despite the challenges you already mentioned: Four releases, 50+ features, including 35 customer-facing capabilities, of which over 35% originated from the most popular ideas that customers and partners submitted. Pretty impressive.
What’s one of your most memorable moments these last 25 years?
Oh geez; it’s tough to pick just one! It’s been 25 years!
Ok; top two?
One would have to be when I was working onsite at one of our largest customers at the time. Executive leadership on both sides were given daily status updates. And being with the customer onsite when they flipped the ON switch for their production Commerce implementation for the very first time. The excitement was palpable amid moments of both joy and panic.
Another is HCL acquiring the Commerce business from IBM. I was actually in the midst of transitioning to a different business unit that was not part of the acquisition, but the potential to revive Commerce, a solution that I had dedicated so much of time and effort was just too good of an opportunity to pass-up.
I had no idea. So HCL lured you back to Commerce!
A couple of more questions, and then we’ll call it a day. What industry or technology trends are you most excited about?
Definitely ML and AI. There is a huge opportunity for the Commerce solution to expand the use of ML and AI in the business user tooling to help our customers sell more and reduce the cost and effort in managing sites while continuing to improve user experience.
Will our tag line change to “The Transaction Platform That Helps You Sell More While Doing Less”?
Uh; I leave those decisions to Marketing.
Ok; we’ve spoken a lot about Commerce, so let’s end on a different note. Where would we find you on a Saturday at 10 a.m.?
Before the pandemic and during the warming months, my wife and I would be walking to the local farmer’s market to stock up on fresh produce and savor some of their baked goods.
If you have more questions for Tony, please continue the dialog by adding a Comment. Who else from the HCL Commerce team are you interested in hearing from? Until the next time, wishing you and your loved ones health, laughter, and adventure in 2022.