Working To Streamline Authentication in Online Marketplaces

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As more people embrace work-from-home and stay-at-home life, eCommerce companies continue to be the ones reaping the benefits. One of those companies is The RealReal, a consignment giant with a focus on bringing luxury brands to everyone. Josh Schlanger, the Head of DevOps and Product Support at The RealReal, joined IT Visionaries to discuss how eCommerce sites operate, how The RealReal is working to sift out fake products, and why he thinks jobs will make a more permanent shift toward remote work moving forward.

Key Discussion Points

    • Real or fake? Historically, the authentication of consigned products has mostly been done by humans. That’s changing, and Josh explains exactly how.
    • To go remote, or not to go remote. Until COVID-19 hit, The RealReal managed a hybrid model of part-remote, part-in-office. Josh shares the pros and cons of that model, and his recommendations to managers. (Pro tip: Don’t forget to set personal and professional boundaries.)
    • Is your infrastructure ready to weather the storm? The RealReal operates exclusively on the cloud, infrastructure that Josh and his engineering team are constantly improving. He touches on some of the things your systems should be prepared to handle, including why it’s so important to have a team able to make short-notice pivots.

For a more in-depth look at this episode, continue below.

The goal for Josh Schlanger was always to find a pathway he could follow that would allow him to change the world. Two degrees later, followed by a twenty-year run in the DevOps and IT industry, Schlanger believes he has found that opportunity. Schlanger joined The RealReal in January as the head of their DevOps and Product Support team.

On a recent episode of IT Visionaries, Schlanger discusses why he believes the work his team is doing is helping to change the world. He also dove into why authenticity is quietly becoming more technology-based, and how the work-from-home orders impacted his team.

The RealReal is an online and retail marketplace for authenticated luxury consignment. Based on the circular economy, The RealReal sells consigned clothing, fine jewelry, watches, fine art, and home decor.

Like any consignment store, one of the largest issues surrounding the retail giant remains authenticity, something which Schlanger and his team are working to address.

“We tend to deal in luxury items,” Schlanger said. “We do end up with a lot of fakes. So we do a lot of work around authenticity to ensure that we can say, ‘Hey, this product really is what it is.’” 

So, what is some of the work is his team is doing to prevent fake merchandise from hitting the digital shelves? According to Schlanger, software is the answer.

“We do track when we get fake goods and we track it through a number of different mechanisms,” he said. “Today it’s mostly driven by humans. We are looking at ways to do that a little bit more with software.”

With The RealReal operating exclusively in the cloud, another major concern Schlanger constantly works to rectify is how his team manages scale. As an eCommerce company, there is always something to prepare for from an infrastructure perspective.

“We need to prepare and always think about the holidays that will be coming up at the end of the year and what we are doing to make sure that we can minimize any impact to the infrastructure,” he said. “We live in this new world right now where everybody’s working from home. So how do we continue to ensure that consigners can co-sign and buyers can buy? [It comes down to] working with the engineering teams to pivot and deliver.”

To combat this issue, Schlanger made a diligent effort to ensure his team was not strictly limited to talent based in the Bay Area. Instead, he elected to pursue a hybrid model by employing both local and satellite employees. But even though it’s a model that works for his team, he’s cautioned that it shouldn’t be duplicated by everyone.

“I’ve managed remote teams in the past, so it’s not a huge challenge for me,” he said. “Best practices revolve around regular communication. The caveat is you have to schedule time to walk away. So as we work more remotely, you have to also remember to take time for yourself and make sure that you do step away. Otherwise, you could be in front of your computer for eight hours and never walk away. That’s fine if you’re into that, but you’ll get burnt out.” 

To hear more from this episode, and about some of the challenges Schlanger and the team at The RealReal are working to solve, listen in to the full episode on IT Visionaries.

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