All posts by Elana Krasner

Everyone’s career journey, especially in software development is different. These days, you don’t necessarily need a masters, or even a 4-year degree in computer science to get into technology. As new tools emerge — seemingly a new one every few weeks or month — the most important thing is your willingness to learn and take on new challenges in this evergreen industry.

Rona Kilmer, director of engineering at Kenzan will be joining General Assembly in Denver on January 29 to moderate a panel on careers in web development. But before she does that, our People and Culture team sat down with Rona to learn about her career evolution in hopes that it will inspire many more to embark on a career in development.

RSVP for General Assembly’s “Career Conversations: Web Development”

If you’re interested in learning more about career opportunties at Kenzan, visit our Connect site.

How did you get into computer science/development?
During my senior year of high school I found out I could leave early if I took some classes at a nearby community college. I, like many at that age, was so over the whole high school thing (insert eyeroll). So I thought why not get a jump on college courses? I was really into art all through school and there was a multimedia class that grabbed my attention. In that class I learned how to use software like Adobe Premier and Macromedia Director. I saw the merging of art with technology and loved it.

That’s how I decided on my major in college, Media Arts and Design. It was a nice blend of graphic design and computer science. At the time, I didn’t know that I wanted to be a developer. My studies started with design and “dev” with GUIs like Netscape Composer and Dreamweaver. It wasn’t long before I realized the limitations of those tools and started looking behind the curtain at the code. That’s when I really started to get engaged. I loved the challenge of it.

My first job out of school was as a web designer for a small company in Arlington, Virginia. My very first project was to build out a small website for Exxon Mobil. I nearly had a heart attack when I got the assignment. I was just out of school and building a site for a huge corporation! To make it even more challenging, I had to use software I wasn’t familiar with, Adobe GoLive. It was even worse at generating HTML than Dreamweaver so I was forced to learn more and more code.

How did you get into leadership roles?
Over the years, I often found myself leading projects in both official and unofficial capacities. At one point I had to make a decision on where my career would go. At the time I was a designer, developer, and a team lead. I couldn’t take on all three roles effectively. I decided to stick with development and leadership. I was always a natural leader so I couldn’t walk away from that and I loved the challenge of development so I put the design role on a shelf. Occasionally, I get the opportunity to do design work and I always love it when I do but leading technical teams is where I belong.

At Kenzan I started as a technical architect which is a development team lead. I then moved up to the director position. Though I come from a front-end background, I now manage both front-end and back-end teams. I’m not in the code nearly as much anymore but I love seeing what our teams produce and helping them do it. As a director, I think my experience with the full spectrum of development has been invaluable. The UI/UX principles I learned as a designer still help inform the decisions I make today and my time spent as a front-end developer helps inform how we design APIs for our microservices today.

What kind of projects do you work on at Kenzan?
Large scale corporate microservices mostly. As far as technologies go, we use Kubernetes for deploying and managing our containerized services. We use Java and Node on the back-end. Front-end is typically React but we also use Angular. We work with Drupal and WordPress on a few projects but usually only in a headless fashion (we don’t use their theming engines).

What’s been your favorite project? Why?
We are currently building a tech radar and badge board as an internal project. It’s helping to drive how we make technology decisions on our projects. It is also a really cool tool for ensuring our teams are always in the know on where our technology stack is headed and how to get up to speed on the latest.

What tools and tech are you excited about right now?
There is so much happening right now to get excited about. I think everyone should be paying attention to IoT (Internet of Things), machine learning, and voice technologies (Alexa skills, etc). I find blockchain and it’s uses outside of cryptocurrency very interesting as well. Progressive web apps where you optimize your app for offline use is a biggie and I’m also seeing GraphQL pop up more and more. I haven’t used it yet but I can see it being very useful.

What qualities do you think make you a good Director of Engineering?
Ultimately, you have to get stuff done. So it’s important to be able to make decisions and keep people moving. You have to shield your teams from the political cruft that sometimes leaks into projects. You also have to be okay not knowing all the nitty gritty details about things. You have to know what questions to ask and who to ask and then you need to act on that information. Lastly and probably most importantly, you have to have empathy. You cannot effectively lead teams of humans if you don’t have it.

Follow up: How do you manage shielding people while still allowing them to see big picture?
It’s totally fine to share information about what’s going on. I certainly don’t want to paint a rosy picture if things are not rosy. But you can’t let fear creep in. It is not a good way to motivate. I want my teams to be aware of what’s going on but to know and trust that we (leadership) are dealing with it. For the most part, that’s all it takes.

Where did you learn your skills?
I am surrounded by incredibly smart people that I get to learn from everyday. That is definitely my number one source. I also read a lot. We have a book club at Kenzan and we just finished reading Clean Code. That is great book every developer should read. I follow very smart people on Twitter and Medium. If I want to get my hands dirty, I’ll start with a tutorial on Pluralsight (or similar) and just dive in. Conferences are also a great way to learn about the cool things people are doing with technology. I went to AWS Re:Invent this year and learned a ton.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don’t be afraid of failure. Failing isn’t always a bad thing as long as you learn something from it. Push past your comfort zone. Make the leap. Try something new. You might succeed, you might not. But the one guarantee is that you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Want to work with people like Rona? We’re hiring! 

What do you do when your monthly meetup attendance — usually around 20-30 people — all of a sudden jumps up to 100? Well, first you order a few more pizzas and a lot more beers. Then, you recruit a bunch of employees for some manual labor, start pushing desks out of the way, scramble for chairs, and hopefully end up with something like this:

That was the scene at Kenzan’s office in Rhode Island last week, and despite some last minute logistical hurdles, we couldn’t have been happier to see lots of new and familiar faces at our meetup. It’s a testament to the growing tech community in Providence, and we’re excited to be a part of it. As it continues to grow, Kenzan will also continue to be a resource for those looking to learn new skills and get hands-on with emerging technologies. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of what we learned during last week’s presentation.

Thursday night’s topic was on serverless architecture, and was presented by Marie Schmidt, a Kenzan developer based out of our Denver office.

Serverless is a popular topic right now, and for good reason. Serverless technology makes it easy to spin up a web API or event based computing tasks, with minimal server interaction and low cost. It allows developers to focus on writing code, while handing server management and provisioning to 3rd parties. At Kenzan, we have found serverless functions and APIs to be a growing part of our modern architecture and we wanted to share these findings with the community.

During our serverless hack night, we discussed the pros and cons of serverless functions, and what we’ve found to be their best applications. We then looked at the architecture of a serverless API built with AWS and demo’d a simple example: creating an API with two serverless methods called by an API gateway. We believe attendees learned some key applications of serverless technology, and a basic implementation knowledge using AWS services. View the presentation slides here and follow along with the demo on your own!

See below some resources we’ve found useful when diving in to serverless.

Building an Alexa Skill

AWS Developer Introduction to AWS Lambda (paid resource)

Using the Serverless Framework with Node.js on AWS (paid resource)

Lambda Deep Dive (Paid resource)


Kenzan hosts monthly tech meetups, and for the very first time, we’re opening up the floor to presentations from the community for our December 7th meetup.  We’re looking for technical presentations in one of these categories: Progressive Webs Apps, Machine Learning, Native App Development and DevOps. If you’ve got an idea that doesn’t fit into those areas, we want to see that too.

Submit your idea by November 20th!

The front-end development landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years. The release of the latest EMCAScript specification in 2015 brought a new sense of maturity to JavaScript. It also introduced two key features: modules and classes. This has led to a proliferation of tools, libraries, and frameworks that have accelerated the development of front-end applications. But with so many great choices, how do you decide what’s best for your application and team?

In Kenzan’s latest series for, we set out to answer that question. We examine in depth how a stack focusing on Yarn for package management, webpack for application bundling, and TypeScript for writing application source code can give developers and organizations the building blocks to write more maintainable and better optimized applications.

For the next few weeks, will be rolling out the five-part series on their blog. The first part, posted today, gives you a short history lesson on JavaScript and delves into the core philosophies of front-end development. Throughout the rest of the series, you’ll learn more about the main components of our modern day front-end development stack. We’ll finish up with a case study of a working hello-world application that shows all the elements of the stack in action. By the end, we hope you’ll be able to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your own infrastructure.

Part 1: A Modern Front End Development Stack 
Part 2: Untangling Package Management in JavaScript Applications
Part 3: Faster Tied Together: Bundling Your App with webpack
Part 4: TypeScript: Our Type of JavaScript
Part 5: All Stacked Up: A Case Study

As with everything at Kenzan, this project wouldn’t have come to fruition without our incredibly talented team:

Co-writers and development

  • Marie Schmidt
    Front-End Developer
    Untangling Package Management in JavaScript Applications
  • Chris Pruyne
    Front-End Developer
    TypeScript: Our Type of JavaScript
  • Chris Joslyn
    Technical Architect
    Faster Tied Together: Bundling Your App with webpack


  • Paul Barry
  • Carlos Hernandez

Tech Writers

  • Ryan Daugherty
  • Mark Anthony


  • Owen Buckley
  • Nick Wester
Read the first part of our series on Set Up a CI/CD Pipeline with Kubernetes.

What’s an eight letter word that starts with K and is the name of a powerful container orchestration tool?

If you just shouted out Kubernetes (or if you were curious about the answer), then you’re ready to tackle the Kenzan Kr8sswordz Puzzle.

The Kr8sswords Puzzle is a crossword puzzle app that runs in pods on Kubernetes. It takes advantage of a full CI/CD pipeline in Jenkins that also runs in a pod, automating the entire build-and-deploy process. And it includes a bunch of other cool components that we don’t want to spoil for you because it’s much more fun to boot up the app yourself and see the different pieces in action. (Okay, here’s a hint: React frontend, Etcd caching, and MongoDB persistence.)

Kenzan designed the app as a four part blog series that is launching on today. Part 1 kicks things off by walking you through setting up a local Kubernetes development environment. Each weekly blog post will add components to show the Kr8sswordz Puzzle in action, how to spin up many pod instances for a load test, and how you can easily incorporate Kubernetes into a CI/CD pipeline.

The Kr8sswords Puzzle app was a lot of fun to pull together. We hope you have just as much fun  building it out as the blog series goes on.

Kenzan is a family, and we would like to give a shout out to the many folks that made the app and blog series possible:

Chad Moon, Platform Engineer
Sean Korten, Platform Lead Engineer
Evan Yeager, Technical Architect
Geiser Menoia, Back End Developer
Justin Tomlinson, Director of Engineering
Marie Schmidt, Front End Developer
Scott Pullano, Director of Engineering
Rona Kilmer, Director of Engineering

Tech Writers
Ryan Daugherty
Mark Anthony

Oscar Santamaria
Matthew Gardner
Ben Sawyer
PJ Pannoni
Robin Morrison
Matt Poirier

Elana Krasner
Nick Wester
Craig Martin

Download our guide to continuous delivery with Spinnaker and Kubernetes.

The path to digital transformation is one that many companies, regardless of industry, are taking in order to bring products and services to market faster. As part of this transformation from traditional enterprise to modern software company, the role of IT is now a core part of business strategy with the responsibility of delivering software to users faster, safer and more efficiently.

Over the past few years, technology has evolved to enable this kind of delivery. The practice of continuous delivery has emerged as a way to enhance the ability of technical teams to deploy software to the end user faster, safer and more efficiently. Kenzan has paired two tools, Netflix’s Spinnaker as the preferred continuous delivery framework and Google’s Kubernetes as the preferred container management platform, in order to provide a continuous delivery solution that can support any enterprise that is pursuing digital transformation. 

Download our guide to continuous delivery

JavaScript still reigns as king for many developers. In Stack Overflow’s recent survey of 64,000 developers across the globe, JavaScript came out on top for the fifth year in a row as the most common programming language.

But with so many tools, libraries and frameworks in the Javascript ecosystem, how does a developer make sense of it all?

Kenzan’s director of engineering, Owen Buckley, shared his insight into the world of JavaScript during one of Kenzan’s latest tech meetups in Providence, Rhode Island. Owen cover’s some important aspects including language & specification, libraries & frameworks, and development & tooling.

If you didn’t get a chance to hear it live, check out the recording below:

Visit our meetup page to RSVP for Kenzan’s next meetup! 

Just a few weeks ago, ahead of their Spring One Conference, Pivotal launched the Partner Ready Program, designed to help businesses accelerate their digital transformation into the cloud. Kenzan is proud to have been named as an Advanced Partner in support of the Pivotal Cloud Foundry. As partners, some of our developers were given access to a deep well of knowledge around the cloud foundry as they work to understand all its capabilities.

Nicholas Eden-Walker, a Technical Architect based in our Rhode Island office was part of Pivotal’s partner immersion training where he learned what you can do with the enterprise-grade cloud foundry.

Lucky for us, he shared a little bit of what he learned in one of Kenzan’s weekly lunch & learns. We’re paying it forward by sharing his presentation below:


As we enter a new era in the Internet of Things, millions of devices are sending out streams of data. Analyzing this data can be a huge undertaking, but by combining AWS services, one can create a scalable dashboard. 

We hosted another Lunch and Learn a few weeks ago, where Nicholas Sledgianowski and Charles Palczak gave an overview and demo, which you can find below. 

In order to create innovative, scalable and intelligent solutions for our clients, Kenzan believes that continued development is crucial. Learning from fellow Kenzanites is just way that our employees gain new skills, so each week we host a lunch and learn, for employees across all four of our offices to join in. 

Stay tuned for more videos from our Lunch & Learns.