Kenna

Technology Solutions.

CO-OP Work term from Summer 2019 to Fall 2019

introduction


During my first two work terms, I was hired as a Web Application Developer at a company called Kenna. I began my work term in May 2019 and ended in late December 2019 (a total of 8 months). This report will give you an overview of my time at Kenna, including my goals for the term, my overall takeaway and my general experience working at such a fast-paced, innovative company in my first CO-OP term.


about kenna


Kenna Technology Solutions/Kenna Communications LP (stylized and more commonly known as kenna) are a full services marketing and technology solutions company, which, specializes in customer relationship management.They aim to help provide businesses develop an effective, unified and elegant customer experience through a wide variety of dynamic marketing and technology-based solutions (e.g custom websites, sales/data management systems, brochures, graphic design services etc..).

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The Kenna Logo

Kenna has been around since the 80’s first being founded in 1985 and is owned by New York based MDC Holdings. However, despite being owned by another company based in the United States, Kenna very much feels like a small start-up, providing its employees (called Kennadians) with a fun filled, relaxed atmosphere chalked full of benefits, events and overall interesting to do alongside their work.

One of Kenna’s largest clients is BASF Canada, the Canadian branch of the German chemical giant and its projects are the ones that I most closely worked with. Kenna currently develops a whole slew of specialized tools and provides a lot of additional services for them, including, but not limited to being in charge of developing their Canadian customer facing websites. BASF is one of the world’s largest chemical goods company, earning an excess of €62 Billion of revenue globally in 2018.


job description


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(From left), me, Prisha Rathi,
Stephen Hwang, Thomas Arsenault and
Aurtheysh Amaranath
all failing to do a "boomerang".

At Kenna, I was hired as a Web Application Developer, which is a position that mainly focused on helping design and develop various web experiences on both the frontend (HTML, JS, CSS) and the backend (JS, mySQL). I was able to get a taste of everything at my time at Kenna, I was initially doing exclusively frontend development on some of their legacy systems/websites, however, I was quickly transitioned away from that task to be inducted into a brand-new project that Kenna was undertaking at the time. This project was centered on using React, Node and mySQL as opposed to their legacy systems, not to mention that this technology stack was completely new to the company at the time. As such, since I was one of the few with limited experience in both React and Node, I was put in-charge of setting up and creating the first parts of the app so that the project could be somewhat up and running before other developers joined in (many of whom had never used React or Node before). This was a nerve-wracking task at first as I didn’t know much about the technologies myself, however, it was super rewarding once I had completed the initial set up and I really appreciated the fact that my manager trusted me enough to put me on such a monumental task.


This was a big theme at Kenna, treating CO-OPs as if they were just regular full-time developers and giving them tasks that they would give other developers in the company, essentially, not treating them as second class citizens. Another great example comes from my final project at the company, an internal app that was developed for BSAF, I was one of 3 developers involved in its development, and as such, a number of my suggestions about design, UI elements, background processes, etc. were all applied to the project and my manager respected and took all my suggestions, critiques and ideas for the project seriously, deeply involving me in the project and with the meetings/business decisions that took place around it.

Most of what I learned at Kenna wasn’t something school had prepared me much for, I had learned a bit of NodeJS from CIS*2750, but mostly, everything else was stuff I had to pick up on my own time or at the company itself (ReactJS, mySQL, working with other developers/people, voicing my ideas, etc..), however, I’m glad that I was somewhat underprepared for these challenges, as it made the work term all the more rewarding.



goals


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A couple of the CO-OPs working

I had set a handful of goals and learning outcomes for myself over the past 8 months, many of which revolved around technical literacy. Things like learning and getting familiar with various languages like JavaScript, mySQL or learning new development technologies like ReactJS, NodeJS, however, a sizable amount of them were focused on people/interpersonal skills. These included various soft skills that I found lacking within myself; communication with others about my ideas, communicating technical ideas to non-technical people, my ability to work in many different and diverse teams, etc...

Here are a couple of the goals I'm most proud of below:





  • COMMUNICATING - Integrative Communication - Improve my self-confidence when bringing forward and presenting new ideas or voicing my concerns about projects I'm involved in.
    I found that before my work term I was quite shy and protective of my ideas, since, personally I never felt as though they were good enough for other people to see and critique, a sort of an imposter syndrome. I knew I had to change that since I would be working in an environment where I would be in constant conversations with my fellow workmates and providing improvements and ideas would just be part of my job. As such I made it my mission to try and voice at least 2-3 new ideas and improvements on each project I was working on and I’m glad to say, through my time at Kenna, I was successful in this task and a couple of my ideas actually made it into production with the support of my co-workers! I definitely am more confident in my ideas now.

  • PROFESSIONAL & ETHICAL BEHAVIOUR – Teamwork - Work in many teams to improve collaborative and teamwork skills required for large scale software development with aim on improving my ability to effectively communicate when talking about my code/thought processes while developing it.
    This was another area in which I was severely lacking, since I had never worked in a large-scale software development company before, I was almost completely unfamiliar with how to work with other developers. Similar to my other goal, I had trouble communicating and talking with other developers about my work and my code since I was so used to working by myself, and as such, I set out to improve myself in this respect. I was able to work in 3 separate teams, all working on their own individual projects within the company. Working with a wide variety of developers on different projects, I found, with some time, it was much easier to communicate my code as my communications skills strengthened through my tenure with each team and project. Through my weekly check-ins with my manager and consonantly talking to my co-workers, I was able to ensure that I was working collaboratively and effectively within each team and confirm my progress was indeed how I viewed it.

  • LITERACY - Technological Literacy - Become very confident with CSS and SCSS, learning and mastering concepts within it, including CSS Vectoring, pseudo-classes, pseudo-elements, data types, and at-rules. Additionally, I would like to specifically get better at CSS Grids and other Layouts, like Flex.
    This goal centered on learning and mastering a technology I was already somewhat familiar with but wanted to improve. My skills in CSS were very limited before coming to Kenna, but since working there and becoming one of the frontend leads on a project I was working on and handling most, if not all CSS related tickets, I became an expert in fixing CSS problems and finding solutions to various issues with good understanding of how CSS operates on various browsers. This skill is by far one of the most transferable I have; CSS is one of the backbones on the web alongside HTML and CSS.

  • PERSONAL LEARNING GOAL - Learn emerging web technologies/JavaScript libraries, in particular, ReactJS. With the end goal of making a full stack React/Node app from scratch, with multiple components with no help by the end of the term.
    I’m very glad to say that this was very successful! I was put onto a project where I was assigned to set up a working React App from scratch for an upcoming website the company was going to develop. I was terrified initially, especially since I would have little help from my team as a lot of them were new to the technology themselves at the time and learning alongside me. Due to that, I took a headfirst dive into React and Node. I quickly got very comfortable with them, and by the end of the term, I was able to build my very own react app by myself, with in-depth knowledge of React, it's lifecycle and its methodologies. This skill is one that I know for a fact, a very greatly transferable one a lot of companies and websites are now using this technology for building their newest products.
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My Desk At Kenna

This position was my first time working as a full time developer with other developers, account managers and supporting business people, quite essentially, it was my first time experience as a developer on a on a "actual" team, and as such, it was particularly important for me to be able to be able to communicate with all these different groups of people, let my ideas be heard and feel confident in these ideas, additionally, as a dev, I wanted to get better at languages like JavaScript, SQL, CSS and understand frameworks ReactJS and NodeJS as these frameworks and languages are the underlying backbone of most, if not all web development.

These newly developed skills are all transferable to my next work term as things like, communicating with others concisely/clearly, alongside with bringing up and proposing ideas are universal aspects of any job, meaning these soft skills will transfer very easily. Additionally, the technical knowledge I gained through my work experience in React, JS, CSS, Node, mySQL, all are as equally transferable in most, if not all development positions I am happy to report I was successful in completing all of my goals that I set out to do over these 8 months with the help and support of my managers and co-workers!


conclusion / review of my overall workterm


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The development CO-OPs at Kenna's annual holiday party

Working at Kenna for the past 8 months is absolutely one of the most rewarding things I’ve done so far in my university career, and I have nothing but praises for the company and the people I worked with. I was able to learn so many new technologies and was able to develop many soft skills, many of which I would never have been able to fully realize without being in such an open, collaborative and supportive work environment.


Being able to explore many different facets of Web Development was super important to me and I was able to openly achieve that at Kenna, additionally, the skills I learned at Kenna are all transferable to many different kinds of jobs and sectors within Computer Science and I am enterally grateful to Kenna, and all its people for the opportunity. This was the best first work term experience anyone could ever ask for and I am indebted to the University of Guelph CO-OP program for allowing me to have such an opportunity.


acknowledgements


I would like to acknowledge, and thank Gurneet Saggu and Andrew McCallum for supporting me and encouraging me to complete my learning outcomes/goals while at Kenna freely and openly, and for being such supportive managers, always available and open to talk. I would also especially like to thank Prisha Rathi , Sonia Singh, Syed Hussain , Stephen Hwang, Thomas Arsenault and Aurtheysh Amaranath along side all the other wonderful people and CO-OPs I had the pleasure of working with over the 8 months! You guys are all great!