Sweetwater largely builds its tech in-house, a process Johnson describes as a Catch-22. “When you build everything yourself, you can have anything you want. When you can have anything you want, you start to think differently [and] only accept building things yourself because nothing's really good enough.”
(It does partner with vendors for some services, such as Fastly for its content distribution network on its website, 4D for its CRM, and Google for on-premise containerization products.)
The company spent about a year building the new warehouse from the ground up, and moved in February with the goal of testing systems through the summer in order to be ready for the all-important fourth quarter.
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Enter COVID-19, stay-at-home orders and a massive amount of bored customers, and the team found itself at its most vulnerable tech moment during Black Friday-level order volume. Although it had the inventory to meet the unprecedented demand — having ordered in advance to fill the new DC — fulfilling orders with remote and partially remote teams served as a stress test like none other. With many of his employees socially distancing at home, Surack and his family spent six weeks helping pack boxes.
From a testing perspective, the environment ended up being a bit of a blessing in disguise, allowing the team to immediately discover issues that would have taken a month to uncover earlier. Breaking down barriers between teams, however, proved to be one of the biggest challenges.