Two engineers said they’re improving eBay technology – if they succeed, will it make a difference to sellers? The pair gave a presentation on Thursday at QCon Plus, “a virtual conference for senior software engineers and architects that covers the trends, best practices, and solutions leveraged by the world’s most innovative software organizations.”
Randy Shoup, eBay VP of Engineering and Chief Architect, and Mark Weinberg, Vice President of Core Product Engineering, spoke about a new approach.
They were brutal in their assessment of problems they identified. One disclosure that speaks to concerns of online sellers was about managed payments:
“We found we’re really flying blind in a lot of places. Alerting, better observability gives us more confidence to deploy faster or roll back faster. eBay, for example, is managing payments now, and so when it comes to managing payments and money, you have to be able to detect and resolve issues quickly. We couldn’t fly blind.”
The conversation was technical, but some things that jumped out: previously, Shoup and Weinberg’s areas worked independently. (“There was a tension between the product side of the organization and the platform and infrastructure side of the organization. What we’re doing is breaking it down.”)
They’ve since broken down barriers and work together closely. The pair speak to each other daily.
In addition, the pair do “weekly deep dives with the teams, where we coach them. We push them. We find additional bottlenecks. We really just work closely to help them find issues.”
And Shoup and Weinberg said they conduct monthly operating reviews that executive leadership sees – this keeps them up to date and engaged. That’s important because, “it’s not a short-term program. It’s something that needs investment nurturing for the long term. Keeping them up to date really helps with that.”
In fact, they said they’re getting a lot of support from eBay CEO Jamie Iannone, who highlights their efforts at the all-hands meetings and executive meetings. “He keeps talking about how it’s the most important initiative at the company,… I love the fact that our executive team is seeing the value of this work and wanting to invest even more in it going forward.”
By the way, if the name Randy Shoup sounds familiar to some readers, it’s because he helped build eBay’s Cassini search engine years ago.
Execution has always been eBay’s greatest weakness – it’s easy to come up with innovative ideas, harder to put them into practice. 2018 was a particularly difficult year for sellers in terms of technical issues, which former eBay CEO Devin Wenig and two of his top lieutenants acknowledged in surprisingly frank interviews.
Is the current CEO on the right track, despite some skepticism we’ve read of his “tech-led reimagination” of eBay? If there are techies among you who can glean anything else from last week’s presentation by Shoup and Weinberg (found on Infoq.com), feel free to share your thoughts.