Frontend Developer Jeroen van den Berghe is bouncing off the (pay-) walls
Jeroen van den Berghe is a professional seducer. No, it’s not what you think - you were thinking Temptation Island, right? Frontend Developer Jeroen seduces people with paywalls and marketing messages. Sounds tempting? Read on.
Jeroen’s Seduction squad is responsible for the paywall for all news brands like Algemeen Dagblad, de Volkskrant, and De Morgen. “Yes,” Jeroen admits, “we’re the ones behind the irritating onsite ‘subscribe now’ messages. We build the system through which marketers can place the messages.”
Upgrading development skills
Jeroen has been with DPG Media since 2010. “When I started at DPG Media, I was purely a Frontend Developer. Over time, I’ve also picked up other programming skills, out of personal interest but also because it comes in handy in teamwork. As a team, we take ownership of a wide range of products. We work on everything together because we don’t want one team member to know everything about a specific topic and leave the rest of the team in the dark. So we do things like pair programming and mob programming to ensure that everyone has more than enough knowledge to keep our applications running smoothly.”
Calling himself a Fullstack Developer is a bridge too far for Jeroen. “To me, fullstack means you know everything about every technology. I don’t think that’s possible. But I do know a lot. I can easily and comfortably work with all my squad’s services and applications, but my biggest passion remains frontend development.”
When he gets the chance, Jeroen is keen to upgrade his skills through online courses or events like Velocity Amsterdam. DPG Media’s in-house academy also offers a multitude of courses on time management, design thinking, and storytelling, for example. “It’s good to see and experience that DPG Media invests in such things,” says Jeroen.
It’s been a decade already. What keeps Jeroen at DPG Media? “Well, first of all, I’m pretty loyal,” Jeroen smiles. “And I think that the grass may seem greener on the other side, but it rarely truly is. I’ve seen quite a few colleagues leave DPG Media, only to return soon after.”
Jeroen isn’t surprised by those boomerang colleagues, as he very much values the work-life balance and the freedom to plan his work as he sees appropriate. “Also, the work we do here has so much reach. Technically, there is endless data to process, but just think of how many people see your work: millions! That’s both ego-stroking and mind-blowing.”
Back to the future
The way tech was organized back in the day was very different from the current setup. “At the time, we maintained all Dutch and Belgian news websites with only one backend team and one frontend team. Because of acquisitions and new insights, the teams expanded and were organized differently. Much more efficient, if you ask me.”
DPG Media’s tech organization is now structured in several clusters, which contain different areas, and those areas include squads. Jeroen is a Frontend Developer in the Seduction Squad, which is part of the Marketing and eCommerce Area. The area aims to seduce and convert people into paying customers.
Jeroen’s squad is dedicated to the paywalls and marketing messages of the news brands. The service they build is called Temptation internally. “We seduce and tempt users into buying a subscription,” Jeroen explains the name. Basically, the Seduction squad works on core functionalities of the service and the paywall templates. All news brands share the core, but the templates differ. One of the challenges for the core is to keep the costs and performance of processing a massive load under control - FYI: 45 to 55 million calls per day! For the templates, flexibility and speed are extremely important.
The templates require mainly frontend work. Marketing usually works with a UX Designer on a template design, which the squad then builds. Jeroen: “We take end-to-end responsibility. We build the template and make sure it shows perfectly online. It’s much more efficient to organize the process within one team, as it reduces dependencies.”
In a fast-paced marketing environment, needs and demands pivot, which makes it difficult to plan ahead. That’s why the squad reserves a percentage of the sprints for the template requests. “We know it’s coming, but we don’t know the specifics of the templates and business rules. So reserving time in this way works perfectly, although we do, of course, have to juggle the priorities of the different brands.” But luckily, solutions made for one brand can often be reused for other brands. That knowledge is freely shared between the brands.
“You can imagine that we collaborate closely with our marketing colleagues. We align on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis, as they always want to try new things - they run AB-tests non-stop,” Jeroen grins. That’s why the sprint demo is also slightly different from standard sprint demos. The squad, of course, gives a technical demo, but marketing also shares insights on previous AB-tests. “I appreciate that. Sometimes I build something of which I’m unsure of the effects, and I wonder: has it cost us money or made us money? It’s cool to see the results and be this involved. It makes my work meaningful.”
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