Being a Chief Technology Officer: What It Means To Me

Wendell Hicken, Chief Technology Officer, CTO, YP, technology, data, team
Posted by: Wendell Hicken – Chief Technology Officer

I often get asked what I do for a living. When I say I’m the Chief Technology Officer at YP, people tend to be a bit surprised or slightly befuddled. I don’t blame them. Technology isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you hearYellow Pages” thrown around in conversation. Though, like any business that’s been around for more than 100 years, YP has continued to evolve, adapting to the new challenges and opportunities facing local businesses. So it’s not a surprise that technology is now at the very core of how we do business today.

YP generates more than $1 billion in digital revenue alone. The products and services driving most of that revenue are built at our offices in San Francisco and Glendale. Just 10 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, YP’s Tech Headquarters in Glendale houses an impressive team of nearly 1,000 engineers and technical leaders skilled in Java, Scala, Node.js, Ruby, SQL and more. In fact, more than 50% of our engineers have previously worked for tech giants Google, Yahoo, or Facebook. What brings such a strong technical team here to YP? The chance to work on difficult and interesting problems, to build world-class technologies, and to create marketing solutions that help local businesses and communities grow.

In 2014, YP started developing a new platform to provide our sales and support organization of nearly 4,000 strong with an intuitive, comprehensive, and streamlined way to manage all YP products for our nearly half a million customers. This new platform has made it possible for us to create new best business practices that yield both sales productivity and selling effectiveness. Our Marketing organization has  benefitted from this new platform as well, now having a more turn-key solution to more effectively manage go-to-market initiatives in real-time (like flexible product and packaging creation, flexible offer and pricing management, and so on). Without a dedicated technology team firmly in place, building a sophisticated platform like this – and at such an impressive scale – would almost be impossible.

But the YP technology story doesn’t end there. We also know “big data” well – and manage massive amounts of it: from search queries for 60 million visitors a month (to and the YP app) to information related to over 23 million local business listings across 4,600 categories. To do this, we rely on the power of close to 1,000 data storage servers powered by Hadoop and HBase technologies. In fact, as an early adopter of both technologies, we’ve invested heavily since 2010 in the people and expertise to maintain them.

Last year, we also kicked off the YP Elastic Computing Project, leveraging both the Mesos framework and Docker technology to manage our very complex systems. Given our early adopter status for technologies like these and the speed at which the tech ecosystem is growing and evolving, we’ve learned first-hand that the enterprise-level support required to maintain such technologies does not yet exist. So we’ve taken a lead in pushing this forward by contributing changes back to the community. Working closely with Mesos and Docker, we’ll be in a strong position to deploy most of our ad products and services with greater speed and reliability while simultaneously leveraging our hardware resources in a more efficient way.

Finally, I’m pleased to share that we’ve relaunched the YP Technology Blog, featuring posts from team members across our Technology, Product ,and Consumer organizations. Be sure to check out our most recent post highlighting the YP Elastic Computing Project to see what we’ve accomplished since we first kicked off that initiative last year.

I’m excited to be a part of the future of YP, helping to build and evolve one of the best technology organizations in the industry. No doubt about it, it’s a great time to be a part of the YP tech team. Want to join us? Check out our open positions today.


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