The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Today, searching for a new job can fill up a work week’s worth of hours. Companies around the world expect a lot from their applicants: a polished resume at their fingertips, a reliable lineup of references ready to help, and an online presence that exudes expertise. From industry events to job recommendations, XING is a social networking site that connects professionals across Europe with opportunities to build a better working life.
The team behind the platform is spread across Europe. With central offices in Hamburg, XING is growing teams in Munich, Vienna, Porto, Barcelona, and Valencia. Distributed throughout these locations is an expanding engineering organization that’s putting an increasing emphasis on mobile experiences. Busy professionals need to connect on the go, after all.
Two engineering leaders behind the mobile infrastructure of XING’s apps are Senior Developer Jason Franklin and Alexander Greim, Director Engineering, Mobile and Web Frontends. Together, their teams take care of Android and iOS packaging and releasing—and all of the tooling and infrastructure XING needs to ship both web and mobile experiences.
After almost a decade at XING, Greim has witnessed the evolution of the company’s infrastructure, including early adoption of GitHub nearly 10 years ago. “Is there a life before GitHub?” he joked. “We started out with Subversion and Mercurial, then had a lot of long conversations about whether or not we should use Mercurial or switch to Git. In the end, we just chose Git, and it was great. With GitHub topping our list, we decided to adopt a forward-thinking way of building software instead of spending our resources on custom tooling.”
From the beginning, Greim was excited for his team to work together on the code in a social, collaborative environment. “Of course, we started with developers,” he explained. “Then the use of GitHub continued to expand throughout the organization until it was an essential piece of how we develop software—not just for code, but for collaboration and automation.”
As the team expands beyond the Hamburg offices, Franklin appreciates the reliability, flexibility, and context GitHub brings to a distributed work environment. He explained, “When I’m discussing work with remote developers, I can just send a GitHub link—and it really makes collaboration very easy.”
In recent years, Greim has also seen use cases extend beyond writing and collaborating on code. “It’s not just developers using it—there’s QA, of course, so testers and quality experts. Designers also utilize it heavily and engineering managers have been exploring it as well.” With tens of thousands of comments made across issues and pull requests, the conversations around code—and other work—are only picking up speed.
At XING, developers work across different release cycles. Many apps are released multiple times a day, while mobile apps stick to weekly or biweekly cadences. No matter how teams work, GitHub serves as a single platform for code and documentation reviews and knowledge sharing. Pull requests are the foundation for code review and release management, while GitHub Gists serve as a medium to take notes or share code snippets.
And with an ecosystem defined by more than 2,000 active hooks, XING is integrating with their tools and solutions, and exploring new apps and services that help teams work even better. For CI, they use Jenkins to report back CI status to GitHub across the company. They’re running regular code health checks to make sure it meets their standards for quality and security.
The result is a flexible, modern development culture based on autonomy and constructive feedback. Instead of opening JIRA tickets asking for help, the team is now building off of existing work. “The dialogue is different now,” observed Greim. “Overall, GitHub helps teams work together that wouldn’t have worked together before.”
And it allowed them to securely integrate third-party technologies, leverage open source projects, and find code within their organization and beyond. “The biggest advantage is that it makes code accessible across programming languages, across all platforms,” said Greim. “The technologies we’re using and contribute to grow on GitHub. If you’re working with open source projects, libraries, or frameworks, you have to use GitHub.”
As the team incorporates open source code into their own, they’ve also dedicated time to contributing back to and building on projects like Rabbit MQ, AMP, and Kubernetes. And teams are taking the opportunity to open source their work at github.com/XING, sharing it with the world. From hack projects to helpful gems, XING developers have shared about 200 projects so far.
Discoverability is not only key to DevOps at XING, but also to hiring, onboarding, and continued learning opportunities for developers. The majority of applicants already know GitHub, Greim noted, so profiles are available to browse and review. They’re also well prepared to work through end-to-end interview challenges in pull requests. Applicants’ code goes through a review process, just as it would if they were full-time employees. To streamline the application process for everyone, teams use the GitHub API to provide custom private coding challenges for applicants to work with.
“The technologies we’re using and contribute to grow on GitHub. If you’re working with open source projects, libraries, or frameworks, you have to use GitHub.”
As soon as developers start at XING, a single, searchable codebase allows new hires to ramp up quickly and become productive sooner. The team has set up asynchronous onboarding through GitHub, saving time and resources on workshops and other classes. Developers also use the platform as a learning resource for building software at the company. As Franklin explained, “There are solutions specific to XING that you won’t find on the internet.”
Even developers with several years at the company need refreshers or tutorials as they try out new roles and technologies. To help developers across the company find the information they need, Franklin and Greim credit GitHub in the making of comprehensive internal technical documentation. “Our documentation is close to the code,” explained Greim, “otherwise there is a constant risk that it runs out of sync. So it’s better to use GitHub Pages than Confluence.”
In particular, Franklin finds the text search useful for referencing the infrequent yet forgettable tasks developers are often responsible for. For these, “GitHub is my go-to place,” added Franklin. “There is stuff you do every few months and forget, like renewing push certificates or provisioning profiles for iOS. It’s great to be able to look it up and remember how it goes—these resources are super valuable.” Searching GitHub Pages also helps developers find code, email templates, and more.
After nearly a decade on GitHub, the platform has become a central point for communication, feedback, and learning. Greim believes XING’s engineering team may have grown around it. “Having GitHub has been critical,” he said, “It shaped the way we work at XING.“
Mario Ponce is a father, an immigrant, a builder, and a developer.
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