Case Study, Ecommerce, Fintech, UI/UX Design, Web App
PeopleJoy: Helping Students Pay Back Loan Debt
PeopleJoy Web App
PeopleJoy is on a mission to solve the Student Loan debt problem that affects a considerable portion of the U.S population. The main product by PeopleJoy helps employers provide student loan repayment assistance to their employees, but the vision of the company’s founder goes far beyond that: he wants to help anyone with student loan debt repay their loans. While an existing PeopleJoy platform had previously been built by their team, the product nevertheless faced multiple issues, and was no longer available to employers – with much of the work being done manually using spreadsheets. On the flip side, PeopleJoy’s flagship product, the one that would help anyone with their student debt (the aforementioned dream of the company’s founder) had yet to be engaged for development.
2018 – present
- Technology Stack
HTML5, CSS3, React, Amazon S3, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon RDS, Amazon Elastic Load Balancer, Amazon EC2, MongoDB Atlas, Lob API, Plaid API, Python, Slack API
Our first task upon engaging PeopleJoy’s vision was to analyze and understand their business model to find the fastest way of automating (at least in part) the monthly payments that were being sent to employees, which at the time required them to go through countless spreadsheets and to send checks manually. We started by analyzing their existing code base and the source code of the set of tools they had built. In doing so, we found that PeopleJoy had once relied on a Slack bot written in Python which allowed users to send payments simply by issuing a couple of commands over a given Slack channel.
Within a couple of weeks Topflight had deployed and fixed all the issues associated with the Slack bot, with users immediately being able to start sending payments, and ultimately reducing PeopleJoy’s overall workload just by typing a few simple commands in Slack.
Even though Topflight’s fix for the payments bot solved a part of the problem, PeopleJoy’s primary issues still remained, namely, their process still involved a lot of manual processing and auditing, and was relying heavily on spreadsheets.
In responding to this issue, Topflight worked directly with the CEO of the company, as well as their Director of Operations, to better understand PeopleJoy’s existing business model and requirements. After conducting an investigation into these functions, we then conducted a thorough code review of their existing code base, determining that the effort and cost required to make that code viable would be substantially higher than it would be to instead build a new platform from scratch that would take into consideration the new dynamics and requirements of the model.
We therefore architected a platform that would be built using React, NodeJs, Express, and MySQL, and which would be deployed in AWS. The platform itself would use the Lob.com API to issue checks automatically, and the Plaid API to monitor the status of the checks issued. In less than a month after our initial exploration, we deployed the platform into production and migrated all the spreadsheets into the new platform – with the platform we automated accomplishing 95% of the work – while also putting in place safeguards that would have been impossible with the previous process.
Using the newly developed platform, PeopleJoy employees went from issuing hundreds of checks, updating countless spreadsheets, and sending an equivalent number of email notifications manually, to simply checking sent email notifications to confirm that given information is correct, and in some cases when the platform cannot send the payments automatically, to just pressing a button.
Once the payments were automated and handled by the platform we built, Topflight initiated the development of a dashboard that would give employers visibility over the benefits they were providing to their employees. We used a similar stack for the development of this platform, and it allowed PeopleJoy to provide a tool to its customers that gives them the power to monitor and audit the benefits they provide.
The final piece of the puzzle was to create a web app that would help employees visualize the benefits they are receiving, as well as give them a way to update their loans information. We had it built shortly after the employers’ dashboard, and it is currently being deployed into production.
Results and Future Development
By automating PeopleJoy’s core product and service, Topflight not only helped to considerably reduce their overall cost, but also to provide a tool that is both automatable and scalable, and which lets PeopleJoy focus on growth as opposed to spending critical time on operational measures. At the same time, Topflight was given an opportunity to work with a team changing the face of student loans – the holy grail of development opportunities, if you will.
ED, the Student Loans Analysis Tool
The total student loan debt in the U.S. amounts to trillions of dollars, and it has become an increasingly complicated problem to solve due to a lack of information, and the complexity of the processes involved in finding the best government-funded repayment and forgiveness programs. The dream of PeopleJoy’s founder was to have a tool where anyone with student loan debt could enter their loans information, and in seconds have access to a list of the best available debt repayment alternatives, strategies, and options.
The first challenge we had to overcome in delivering this product was to understand how student loans work; what programs are offered by the federal government; and what the terms and conditions of each of them are. Among other things, we had to study and understand:
- Types of Student Loans: We quickly learned that even though most Student Loans come from the federal government, that they are not the same – with over 20 different types and combinations of federal student loans.
- Types and Requirements for Student Loan Repayment Programs: The federal government offers multiple ways to pay back student loans, though each one comes with its own set of rules, terms, and conditions.
- Types and Requirements for Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs: The federal government and some state governments offer different loan forgiveness programs for those that qualify.
Logic, Algorithms, and Test Implementation
Once we gathered all relevant information and gained a good understanding of the problem of student loans repayment, our challenge was then to write an algorithm that would analyze the student loans of any given person and find the best option available for that person to either reduce their monthly payments considerably, or even have their entire student loan debt forgiven.
For this algorithm to be effective, we had to calculate all possible variations, as well as the exact estimations of payments and interest, among other complex mathematical formulas. Once these algorithms and formulas were implemented, we then spent a considerable amount of time writing unit tests to better guarantee that our algorithms and estimations were accurate and were indeed providing the best alternatives for users.
User Interface Development and Cooperation with the Lehigh University
With the algorithm in place, we initiated the implementation of a User Interface using mockups that PeopleJoy had previously designed, and then adapted them to accomplish the desired result. As part of this development phase, we cooperated with a team of students from the Lehigh University who, under our guidance, assisted and worked alongside our team in the research and development of the tool’s User Interface.
Within a few months of starting our engagement with PeopleJoy, we were not only able to relaunch and automate their core product, but we were also finally able to deliver on the longtime dream of its founder and CEO; that is, an automated and simplistic tool that provides unbiased analyses of student loans, as well as repayment strategies and options to any person currently holding student loan debt. The tool is currently in Beta, and is being tested with multiple groups of potential users, while also being used by PeopleJoy as part of their pitch to investors in raising funds for the next phases of their product.
We continue working with PeopleJoy to refine and improve ED, with our goal set at fully launching the platform into production within the next couple of months. We are also initiating the development of their in-house student loans analysis tool, which will allow student loan coaches to provide accurate assessments and analyses of users who opt to receive a personalized and interactive service from PeopleJoy.