Meet the Team: Ben Gracewood – Product Development Manager


It was a real coup for Vend when we brought Ben Gracewood onto the team. Not only is he the only hire we’ve had who’s new job has started a trending Twitter topic, he’s also a prolific programmer, technology blogger, and a really nice dude with an infectious passion for development. Ben is making sure our development methods are up to best practice, so we continue to deliver features which our retailers love to use.

What do you do at Vend?

I’m the Product Development Manager – I make sure our developers are producing the amazing code that makes Vend such an awesome product.

So what do developers need to write awesome code?

Developers need two things: purpose and flow.

Purpose comes from knowing that you’re building something that impacts thousands of users around the world in a positive way. Working for a company that you love is also the purpose, and Vend gives developers both.

We ensure flow by making sure developers have everything they need to be in the zone. Coding is fundamentally a creative process, so if our developers need to have a big monitor, or sometimes need to take a break to play the occasional game of Call of Duty to get in the right headspace, then I’ll make sure that happens.

Why did you choose to work at Vend?

I was at a fork in my career, I needed to decide between doubling down on Microsoft technology or diving into a more traditional web/cloud startup stack. I’ve always dabbled in LAMP, and it’s cool to really be immersed in it. Besides, Vend is the best opportunity for someone looking to work at a web startup in New Zealand today.

Of course, I was also attracted by the massive opportunity. Vend is going places and it’s awesome to be in on the ground floor.

In your former life you were a Microsoft technology man, through and through. What attracts you to the frameworks we use at Vend?

True, I earned my keep using Microsoft technology, but I’m a polyglot when it comes to technology – especially development platforms. My early career was 100% Linux, my personal web server is all LAMP, and the latest Codemania site is Node.js. If you’re pigeon-holed on one platform, I’d recommend spreading your wings ASAP!

I love that Vend is on the cutting edge of HTML5 technology especially with its offline capabilities. We have a good ethos here where we don’t just use a technology because it’s fashionable – it has to be right for us and our customers.

Cost is also a big factor. When you’re coding in PHP, HTML and JavaScript you can do most things using free or cheap software. What we’re not spending on paying for tools, we’re spending on upskilling our devs and making our code awesome.

And finally, what advice would you give young developers looking to get into the industry?

JavaScript, CSS and HTML run the web, so these are pretty much essential skills to have. We use PHP for our backend, so if you’re looking to work at Vend that’s useful 😉

I’d also recommend learning native mobile programming languages. Native Android and native iOS, because we haven’t quite reached the perfect nirvana with HTML5 apps (but we’re getting there).

But the best advice I can give is this: just build stuff.

About Sim Ahmed

Sim was a writer and technology journalist in a former life, before coming on board at Vend to help us communicate with our amazing community of retailers, partners and developers. Feel free to get in touch with Sim on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.