Inside Evernote: Kevin Fahy

Posted by on 19 Jun 2014

Posted by on 19 Jun 2014

What is your role on the Web team?

I am a developer. At Evernote, this means that you’re either writing code, bouncing ideas off of fellow developers, writing ideas on the walls, discussing requirements with PMs and designers, or figuring out what you broke with QA’s help. But most of the time you are writing code with minimal distractions. The few meetings we have are always useful to us. In our weekly sprint planning meeting, for example, our product manager makes sure that you’re taking on interesting projects that you genuinely want to work on – you never feel like just another resource here.

 What product(s) do you work on?

Evernote developer Kevin Fahy

Evernote developer Kevin Fahy

On the web team you often write code that users can find in multiple products. For example, if a user wants to upgrade to premium, then some of our apps display a webview that the web team implements and styles. And of course, all of our apps communicate with our cloud API, ultimately calling backend code that we develop and maintain. You can be as full stack as you like in the web team, and you get the chance to write code that’s used in many products. Personally, I spend most of my time developing our web application, where we implement new features, optimize the caching layer, and style visual components, among other things.

 Can you describe a few of the Evernote features you are working on now and/or you have helped build in the past?

 The cool thing about Evernote is that you get to code a lot of new features. In the web team, we push a new release every week, which usually contains new features. I’ve had the good fortune of being a part of some interesting ones. I implemented reminders in our web app in a team of three – we implemented everything in two fun weeks. While not a feature per se, I’ve been refactoring our web app’s caching layer recently – it’s always satisfying to push a big commit and then observe that the system runs a bit more efficiently, or at least no worse than before! Even my first project at Evernote turned out well: the web app’s image gallery (though a lot of credit goes to our designers – they make extremely well-designed mockups and are very easy to work with).

 What is your biggest challenge at present?

 Developing at Evernote is very fast-paced – you try to write good code for new features as fast as you can, while also fixing the most important bugs in your backlog and refactoring older code. We have a lot of freedom in what we choose to code everyday, and so prioritizing properly is very difficult.

 What is the most satisfying part of your job?

 Knowing that, every week, you are changing something about how a hundred million people use Evernote is exciting, even a bit scary sometimes. But the most satisfying part is that the code you push is ultimately yours – seeing your decisions and design choices live on production gives you a weekly shot of pride.

 What is your background?

 Evernote is my first full-time job out of school. I’ve been here for almost two years now, but even after my first few months I had felt like I learned a year’s worth of skills. Prior to Evernote, I had spent too much time in school pursuing an undergraduate computing science degree, but I had the opportunity to try out product management and development as an intern at a couple of great companies.

 Who has been your biggest mentor?

 There are many people at Evernote whom I look up to and have learned from, but it’s hard to label one person as a mentor. This is because of the flat structure at Evernote – as a developer, nobody stands over you and tells you what to do; instead, it is easy for you to simply turn around and ask somebody for advice. In the same way you take ownership over your projects at Evernote, you take ownership over your own learning. From interns all the way up to our CTO, I’ve learned something from everyone.

 What’s your favorite Evernote feature?

 OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a killer feature for me. If I take a picture or scan a document, I can trust that it’ll always be searchable by its textual contents. This, combined with the web clipper, makes it easy for me to save everything that is important to me, no matter whether it’s physical or digital.

 How do you use Evernote?

 One of the coolest things about our product is that we support many different use cases. Even internally, we don’t all use Evernote the same. Personally, I cram as much stuff as I can into my account, e.g. pictures of receipts, scanned documents, random incoherent notes, more coherent but private journal entries, custom memes (created with Skitch!). I have many notebooks and tags that I apply to “important” notes, but a fair number of my notes get added to my default, unsorted “Heap” notebook. Even though I have a grand plan to someday organize all the notes in this notebook, Evernote’s search and “related notes” features make it easy to find these unorganized notes.

 If you could only use 3 adjectives to describe Evernote’s culture what would they be?

 Inspirational – you can listen to our CEO’s vision in weekly all-hands meetings, see beautiful mockups that our designers create, review elegant code that solves hard problems – there are many sources of inspiration at Evernote.

 Fast – without good documentation, you start forgetting about how your own code works pretty quickly because you write so much of it! New features, a backlog of bugs, TODOs and FIXMEs you want to get around to… there’s always something that you want to code.

 Empowering – you are always just a few keystrokes away from changing the way a hundred million people use Evernote.

 What is the best part about working for Evernote?

 As a developer, it feels like a startup because your team is small, you make many decisions behind the code that gets pushed to production, and you naturally take a lot of ownership over your work. But at the same time, we have a CEO with an awesome vision, and the resources to quickly make it a reality. We have fantastic PMs and designers who put new features in a really good state before we start talking about them as developers. We have a heroic ops team that makes it so that developers hardly ever worry about anything besides code. And we have a thorough QA team that will always find your bugs. The best part for me is having all of these resources at my disposal, while still feeling that I can hack away at interesting problems with a bunch of friends.

 Why did you choose to work at Evernote?

 I was first attracted by Evernote’s mission and business model – there’s a level of honesty about the way Evernote treats users’ data, and they are transparent about how they collect money from users. The company was also a good size for me – after experiences with larger companies in internships, I had really wanted to try working at a startup.

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2 Comments RSS

  • “…the web app’s image gallery”…
    Are we speaking layman’s language here?… in other words, does/ did the web app have a photo gallery-type feature?

    • Alexei Rodriguez

      The web app does indeed have a photo gallery feature! If you have a note with images, then this [image gallery icon|] will appear in the top-right corner, which will let you navigate through your note’s images in a full screen view.

      We haven’t yet added this image gallery feature to the beta version of the , but we’ll add it soon!