These 6 Chicago tech companies think they have the best developers in town

by Andreas Rekdal
May 18, 2016

Something we hear at Built In Chicago over and over again in our interviews is that Chicago is a hub for fantastic tech talent. Obviously!

We decided to dig deeper, asking the head honchos at some of Chicago's most successful tech companies what makes their developers so special.

Here's what they had to say:

 

 

Morningstar provides investors of every stripe with data on investment options including stocks, mutual funds, indexes, futures and commodities in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. The company also offers investment management services through a number of subsidiaries, who together have over $180 billion under advisement and management.

Why they have the best developers in town

“At Morningstar we have a strong entrepreneurial culture. High-performing smart creatives join our teams because they are attracted to our dynamic and constantly evolving environment,” said CEO Joe Mansueto. “Our developers thrive by bringing creativity and knowledge to our technologies and our approach to building software. Developers also join Morningstar because they believe in the company’s mission to help investors reach their financial goals.”

What challenges they’re addressing — and the technology they’re using to do so

In order to build software its users love, Morningstar stays on the leading edge of user experience and experimental user testing. They’re also migrating most of their products to a SaaS model, so they can iterate and bring new features into production more quickly.

The company’s developers draw on a number of open source and big data technologies, like Angular.JS, Ember.JS, Node.JS, Play, Kafka, Varnish, Hadoop and Spark. They also leverage cloud technology to create accessible, high-performance products.

 

 

 

Sprout Social is the maker of a social media management and analytics solution used brands like Adobe, Marvel, Google and Pivotal Labs. The company prides itself on its mission to facilitate communication between individuals and organizations all over the world.

Why they have the best developers in town

"Every day our engineers solve problems at a rare combination of breadth and depth,” said CTO and Co-founder Aaron Rankin. “We don't have the luxury of only handling technical scale or building a great user experience. Instead, our developers simultaneously solve both for our 16,000 diverse customers, from the basis of the broad and rapidly-evolving social media industry."

What challenges they’re addressing — and the technology they’re using to do so

With an explosive growth in incoming messages — its customers receive 400 percent more social messages today than they did last year — Sprout’s primary engineering challenge is scale. To that end, the company’s engineers build services in Python and Java, drawing on technologies like Cassandra, Redis, Hadoop and MySQL.

 

 

 

Raise is an online marketplace for unused gift cards. Through its site, consumers can buy gift cards to pay for the products they were planning to buy anyway, saving anywhere from one to 50 percent along the way.

Why they have the best developers in town

“Our engineers are writing code that is constantly being deployed. And they are pioneering the space by creating new standards and breaking down a lot of barriers. It's really exciting — it's motivating,” said VP of Technology Brent Walker. “We look for problem solvers and those wanting to solve new, interesting challenges each and every day."

What challenges they’re addressing — and the technology they’re using to do so

With apps on Android and iOS in addition to its browser-based marketplace, Raise’s engineering teams have plenty of technologies to dig their teeth into. Among them: Objective-C, Swift Kafka, Java, Python, SQL, NoSQL and AWS. “We invest heavily in our technology and look for those who want to help build and evolve the retail industry,” said Walker.

 

 

 

Enova provides online financial services to non-prime consumers and small businesses. The company determines creditworthiness based on advanced analytics and has provided more than $17 billion in loans and financing to four million customers around the world.

Why they have the best developers in town

“Our engineers are awesome because they are master inventors and builders,” said CTO John Higginson. “They create everything from high-performance decision engines and payment services to great consumer web experiences for our rapidly growing business.”

What challenges they’re addressing — and the technology they’re using to do so

“We’re big proponents of leveraging community-supported technology to create the software used to run Enova,” said Higginson, whose developers primarily write apps in Ruby and Go, and run their PostgreSQL database on a Debian server.

“We’re a ‘cloud first’ company, moving our new apps and products to AWS,” said Higginson. “And underlying all this is our drive to use code rather than manual processes to manage our environment. Chances are if we do a task frequently, someone is already writing a script or an app to handle it instead.”

 

 

 

Bounteous seeks to integrate design, engineering and digital marketing to create innovative digital products for its clients and leverage the power of technology to make the world a better place.

Why they have the best developers in town

“Our team brings great attitudes, adept problem-solving skills and a focus on user needs to solve our clients' problems,” said owner and CTO Phil Hollyer. “Bounteous engineers are user-centered, ask the right questions and solve the right problems.”

What challenges they’re addressing — and the technology they’re using to do so

“The development team is deeply experienced in a wide variety of technologies including Java, Ruby, Drupal, AEM, Magento, iOS, Android, Angular, Ember and React,” said Hollyer. “We work to solve a broad set of problems from complex eCommerce platform implementations and integrations to scalable service design to building multi-brand digital platforms.”

 

 

 

Eight Bit Studios builds mobile and web applications for Chicago brands ready to go big. As a dev shop, its key differentiator is its emphasis on the interdependence of UX, design and engineering.

Why they have the best developers in town

"Our development team is full of unicorns. Almost every member is enterprise-proficient in two out of the three of our core languages (Objective-C/Swift, Java/Android, Ruby on Rails), have serious backgrounds in design and a clutch eye for usability,” said UX/UI Principal John W Ostler. “We are fast, we are efficient, we are hungry to learn, helping to launch Chicago's best and brightest on the daily. I've been at a lot of places in town, and this group is seriously something special."

What challenges they’re addressing — and the technology they’re using to do so

“We work in Objective-C and Swift for iOS development, Java for Android development and Ruby on Rails and React and Angular,” said Ostler. “Our clients are bringing problems to our studio that have never been solved with technology before. It requires us to stay current and hungry to learn and solve for 'the new.' We leave the door open for our design and user experience teams to push the limits and are constantly making an evermore fluid and dynamic experience for users.”

 

 

Images via listed companies.

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