Author Archives: Bryan Chagoly

About Bryan Chagoly

Bryan Chagoly is VP of Engineering at Bazaarvoice.

The one thing you need that will make you and your team successful

Over the last 20 years of my career, I have worked with a lot of different people and lot of different teams. Some were very successful, and some were not. I am always trying to understand what makes successful people tick, and what I can do differently to be more successful.

Your Energy

The one thing that I have found that consistently is the determining factor as to whether a person or team will be successful is their energy. Energy takes a lot of different forms and states. There is high energy and low energy, positive energy and negative energy. Everything in the universe is energy. Everything has a force and a pull and a gravity. Every person has an energy. Some people call it a “spark”, or “Spirit”, or “vibration”. If you pay close enough attention, you can see it, and sometimes you can even feel it. Have you ever walked into a room where a group of people had been discussing something serious, and you can feel the negative energy in the room. Have you ever worked with a very successful charismatic leader who just seemed to attract winners? Why is that? What is that?

The most successful people and teams that I have encountered or had the privilege to work with have very positive and high energy. Everyone on the team is excited and passionate to be working there. They love what they do, they love working with the people on their team, they know they are going to win, they know they are making a positive difference in the world, and they have fun winning.

That kind of positive high energy feeds and builds on itself. The more positive high energy people you get together, the better the team will be. It’s like waves in an ocean oscillating at the same frequency. They multiply the goodness. These are the people who see the future, and the solutions and the answers and choose not to focus on the past or the problems.

How does your energy affect others around you? How does other’s energy affect you? How does your boss’s energy affect you?

Emotional Contagion

The opposite of positive high energy, is negative low energy. It manifests itself in people who fixate on the past and the problems. They are the people who think that it can’t be done. They are the “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work” people. They are the naysayers. They typically start all new requests for change with “No!”. They are always bickering or blaming others or finger pointing or micromanaging.

There are many possible reasons for a person’s negativity. It could be their FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) about the situation. It could be their fear of failure, or their fear of embarrassment, or their fear of looking stupid in front of their peers, or their insecurity in their position.

The truth is that your emotional state is affected by those around you. Just like positive energy builds on itself, so does negative energy. It’s like a rotten apple, or a cancer. It grows and infects others who are near it. I have seen one negative energy person bring down an entire team.

And as with any cancer, it has to be cut out quickly. It’s easy to say, but hard to do. I have seen too many good managers who I respected wait way too long letting a negative energy person fester in the team.

It’s Up to You

The reality is that you have the power to choose how you exert your own energy. You have the power to choose who you want to work with. Not everyone is positive high energy all the time. We all have our good days and bad days, but you can choose to be passionate and excited and have a high positive energy, or you can be the opposite.

So how can you get started growing your positive high energy?

  • Acknowledge that we aren’t perfect, but we can try to make things better.
  • Ignore the naysayers
  • Don’t fixate on what other people think (or what you think they think about you)
  • Do what you think is right
  • Stay in the present, and dream of the future. You can’t live in the past.
  • Acknowledge it, learn from it, and move on
  • Imagine an amazing future. What would that look like? Feel like?
  • Exercise and eat healthy
  • Use positive words. Say Thank You.
  • Smile and laugh
  • Play games and have fun.

Next Up

Tell me what part of our story you want to hear next. How do you build a team and culture that enables you to execute on your vision? Follow me on twitter @bchagoly and @bazaarvoicedev to be the first to read new related posts and to join the conversation.

Why we do weekly demos

If you are part of an agile, or lean, or kanban development team, you probably do or have done demos at one point. Some people call them “end of sprint” demos. Some people call them “stakeholder” demos. We are pretty informal and irreverent about it at Bazaarvoice, and we just call them “demos” because giving them too formal of a name, or process will defeat the purpose. Demos are an amazingly valuable part of the development process, and I highly recommend that your team start doing them weekly.

Why not to do demos

There are a lot of reasons why not to do demos. If you are doing demos because of any (or all) of these reasons, you are probably doing it wrong. (Oh, did I mention that this is my personal opinionated viewpoint?)

  • We are forced to do demos so that management can keep an eye on us.
  • We do demos so management can make sure that each person is actually doing work.
  • We do polished demos for our sales and marketing team and they have to be perfect.
  • I don’t really know why we do demos, but my boss told me to, so I just show up.

Prep Work

Before you can do effective demos that help accelerate your development, your delivery, your quality and your culture, you need to set the stage for success. So how do you do that?

At Bazaarvoice, we believe in hiring smart, passionate owners that we can trust to do the right thing for the company, for our customers, and most importantly for our consumers. If everyone is bought into the vision and mission that you are all working to accomplish together, and if everyone is engaged and proactively helping to find creative solutions to those problems, then it is a lot easier to have productive weekly demos. You want to have an environment where everyone can speak without judgment, and where they know that their random idea will be heard and appreciated and not shot down. If everyone is coming from this place of openness, transparency and trust, then you can get some great demos.


We believe that demos are part of the creative, collaborative and iterative process of developing amazing software solutions. The point of the demo is it be a time when everyone on the team (and stakeholders) can get together and celebrate incremental progress. It’s a way to bring out all the current work out into the light and to discuss it. What’s good, what still needs work, what did we learn, what do we need to change, and how could we make it even better. It lets us course correct earlier before we fly into the mountain. And It gives others awareness of what’s going on and brings the “aha” moments.

It’s about learning, and questioning, and celebrating. Everyone who demos gets applause. All work that gets done is important and should be celebrated. All work and everyone means Engineers, QA, UX, Product Managers, Marketing, Documentation, Sales, Management, and anyone who completed something that helped move the cause forward.


I like to do demos at 4pm on Fridays. Ouch right?! Well that’s kind of the point. Doesn’t everyone just want to check out early for the weekend? Nope… Well let’s hope not. If people are leaving early and complaining, then pause and go back and re-read the “Prep Work” section.

We actually use that time because it’s the end of the week. It gives us the most time during the week to get things done, and it gives us free space after the meeting if we need to run long for a brainstorming session or to discuss things more deeply. We have 14 engineers/UX/QA on our team, and we schedule demos for 30 minutes. If we finish early, or not, we usually stick around for beers and games anyway until 6-7pm because we just like hanging out with each other. Imagine that.

So isn’t that great? You get to hang out with your friends, show off your accomplishments, and leave work for the week feeling pride in what was accomplished both personally and by the entire team. You are hopefully excited about the future, and probably brainstorming new ideas over the weekend from what you learned from the demos.


We do planning for our week on Monday mornings. That part is important too and it’s the ying to the demo’s yang. People get into the office on Monday morning and are fresh and ready to go and hungry to know what they can pick up next, so it’s the perfect time to set the stage for the week. What are our top priorities for the week? What do we absolutely have to get done by the end of the week (aka by demos on Friday afternoon)?

Planning is a great venue to ensure everyone is in sync with the vision and Product priorities. Product shares upcoming business epics, UX walks us through new mockups and user findings, Engineering discusses new platform capabilities that we should consider, and QA reminds us of areas we need to harder. It helps form this continuous cycle of planning and validation. It’s a bit odd, because we are very Kanban and flow oriented, but we have found that having some timeboxes around planning and demo’ing gives the team a sense of closure and accomplishment. It’s important to occasionally step back and assess the progress. We have found this sets a really good and sustainable cadence for a productive team.

Next Up

Tell me what part of our story you want to hear next. How do you build a team and culture that enables you to execute on your vision? Follow me on twitter @bchagoly and @bazaarvoicedev to be the first to read new related posts and to join the conversation.

BV I/O: Imagination unlocked

What do you get when you lock 100+ engineers, product managers, designers and other techies in a building for 2 days and ask them to come up with new and creative ways to “unlock the power of our data”? Well, I could tell you, but then I would have to… yeah that’s top secret awesome product roadmap stuff now. (and even redacted)


As an extension to our BV.IO internal tech conference that I recently blogged about, we held an engineering wide Hackathon for everyone in our technical community to go nuts with our data and try to come up with some of the next big ideas for Bazaarvoice. We had over 100 folks participate, form teams of 3, and after 2 days, we had 31 really cool prototypes that they demo’d to the entire company. It was such a great experience to see so many smart and passionate people singularly focused on innovation and building some cool new ideas and value for Bazaarvoice. Here is a quick summary of how things went down:

Tuesday = BV.IO tech conference & speakers, present Hackathon ideas
Wednesday = Form teams & brainstorm
Thursday = Hackathon & XBOX Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tourney
Friday = Pancake breakfast, Hackathon, Demos, Prizes
Saturday = Sleep

We started the hackathon as a continuation of the BV.IO event at the Alamo Drafthouse, where we had anyone with a proposal come on stage and try and sell the idea. Think about it like trying to sell your idea to a group of engineers to come work with you on your startup idea. After we heard all the interesting ideas, everyone went off and self formed teams, and started brainstorming.


On Thursday, we kicked off the Hackathon, and it was eerily quiet in engineering. Everyone split off into small teams and was heads down coding or held up in a breakout room whiteboarding designs. We had tons of food and snacks brought in for breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep everyone energized, and by the end of the day everyone had made some amazing progress and were ready to blow off some steam…and by “blow off”, I mean blow up, and by “steam”, I mean COD:BO2.


We set up 8 portable flat screen monitors and 8 Xbox 360s, and we got our game on. It was so simple and so much fun, I don’t know why we hadn’t done this earlier. It was a huge hit, and we are thinking about how we can keep that set up all the time. Everyone self rated their skill level, and we balanced teams for a round robin Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tournament.


Friday morning, all the managers got together to show our appreciation for the team with pancakes and bacon. I really think there is no better way to show your appreciation than with bacon.


“That’s way too much bacon”‘, said no one ever…

Coding continued throughout the day, and at 3pm it was pencils down, and time for demos. The company filled the All Hands, and it was rapid fire through 31 demos.



We even had a really slick Google Glass hackathon project.We even had a really slick Google Glass hackathon project.

The energy was awesome, the ideas were awesome, and the conversations it inspired across the entire company was awesome. After all the teams had demo’d, the company voted, and winners across several categories were selected. We had a few cool prizes for the winners like iPad Minis, Parrot Drones, Rokus, cash money and of course totally custom Lego trophies.


If you haven’t done a full on Hackathon at your company in a while, I highly recommend it. Every time we do it here, I am amazed by the creativity, the innovative ideas and solutions that are created in such a small time. And the ripple effect that happens from that continues for months as the business internalizes the ideas and roadmaps and direction start to change based on those ideas. The key is to not let the ideas die on the vine. Champion them, advocate them, and push them forward, and you too can change the world one authentic conversation at a time.

IMG_7962a_cto_approved-smThis hackathon is CTO approved.

BV I/O: Unlocking the power of our data

At Bazaarvoice, we strongly believe that our people are our most important asset. We hire extremely smart and passionate people, let them loose on complex problems, and watch all the amazing things they create. We had another opportunity to see that innovation engine in full effect last week at our internal technical conference and 2 day hackathon.

Every year we hold an internal technical conference for our engineers and technical community. If you are lucky enough to have been at Bazaarvoice, you remember our conference last year called BV.JS which was all about front end UI and javascript, and in years’ past we did Science Fairs. Last year at BV.JS we were focused on redesigning our consumer facing ratings and reviews product (Conversations) so we gathered some amazing javascript gurus such as Paul Irish (@paul_irish), Rebecca Murphey (@rmurphey), Andrew Dupont (@andrewdupont), Alex Sexton (@SlexAxton) and Garann Means (@garannm) to school us on all the latest in javascript.

This year our event was called BV.IO and we are focused on “unlocking the power of our data”, so we asked some great minds in big data analytics and data visualization to come inspire our engineering team.

The event kicked off with a day at the Alamo Drafthouse. Bazaarvoice is powered by tacos, so of course there were tons of breakfast tacos to get us ready for a fun filled day of learning and mind opening presentations, and a colorful pants competition, but I digress and will get to that in a minute.

First up was Adrian Cockcroft (‪@adrianco‬), cloud architect from Netflix. We are big fans of Netflix’s architecture and we use and have added to several of their open source packages. Some of the projects we use are Curator, Priam and Astyanax. Adrian gave us an update on some of the new advancements in Netflix’s architecture and scale as well as details on their new open source projects. Netflix is also running an open source competition called NetflixOSS and they have some cool prizes for the best contributions to their projects. The competition is open until September 15, 2013, so get coding.

Jason Baldridge (‪@jasonbaldridge‬), Ph.D. and associate professor in Computational Linguistics at the University of Texas, presented on scaling models for text analysis. He shared some really interesting insights into things that can be done with geotagged, temporal, and toponym data. Nick Bailey (‪@nickmbailey‬), an engineer at DataStax, presented on Cassandra best practices, new features, and some interesting real world use cases. And Peter Wong (‪@pwang‬), Co-founder and President of Continuum Analytics, gave a really entertaining talk about planning and architecting for big data as well as some interesting python packages for data analysis and visualization.

Ok, and now back to the most important aspect of the day, the Colorful Pants Competition. Qingqing, one of our amazing directors of engineering, organized this hilarious competition. Can you guess who was the winner?

We really enjoyed all the speakers, and we know that you will too, so we will be sharing their presentations on this blog in the coming days and weeks.

Check back regularly for the videos.