Alum Adds Surveyor-Tracking Functionality to SolarCity App

Alum Pieter de Jong started a job at the solar energy company SolarCity in June 2014, shortly after completing Hack Reactor’s apprenticeship program. As solar power steadily grows in popularity, SolarCity is working to improve the user experience by adding features to the company’s customer-facing app, MySolarCity. De Jong built a new feature, called “Time Of Arrival” in the app that allows customers to track technicians as they drive toward the customer’s house.

The first step in the process of acquiring solar panels from SolarCity is a consultation with a surveyor at one’s home, but traffic and other factors can make it difficult for the technician to provide a precise time of arrival. Customers are often stuck at their homes, unable to leave in case they miss the surveyor. The Time of Arrival feature built by de Jong solves this issue.

“The app sends you a text message as soon as the surveyor is on the way, he explains. “You also get a link that will take you to a map page with an icon of your house and an icon of the surveyor. You can track the surveyor in real time.”

The Washington Post recently wrote about SolarCity’s app in a story about improving the user experience for solar customers.

Alum Pieter de Jong built a surveyor-tracking feature into Solar City's customer app.

To build out this function, de Jong integrated real-time GPS data into a maps-based user interface to provide a seamless customer experience. The project employed fullstack Web technologies including JavaScript, C#, HTML and CSS.

“The goal is to provide a customer with a valuable service, so you have to think about the entire customer experience holistically,” de Jong notes. “There’s the actual code, but also what information you present to the user and how; and finally, analyzing whether and how customers are using the app.”

The Time Of Arrival feature is one of many offered by the MySolarCity app, which also allows the customer to track their home energy usage, and has various social functions.

While working on the surveyor tracking function, de Jong had to adjust as the parameters of the assignment shifted.

“It’s important to be able to adapt to requirements that may evolve over time, whether in terms of user experience, visual design or underlying data. That process of iterating and improving is exciting.”

Skills and techniques learned at Hack Reactor were crucial to de Jong in making the tracking ability functional and enjoyable to use.

“Hack Reactor taught me how to interact with the DOM and APIs on the web. I learned about working with client-side and server-side code. I also learned meta-engineering skills about how to think about products that will interact with customers. It’s not enough for the code to work, it has to be a pleasurable experience on their end.”

Though he graduated a year and a half ago, de Jong has stayed connected to the school through our alumni network.

“It’s been great to see the alumni network grow since I finished Hack Reactor. Because there are so many alumni with very diverse interests, it’s always possible to find others with shared interests to work on a project or discuss an interesting technology, whether it be the newest Web framework, drones, Bitcoin, Virtual Reality… It helps that there are constantly events being organized to help alumni connect and stay appraised of the latest technologies or career paths.”

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