Jesse Cravens

Building Modern Web Applications and Teams that Deliver

FITC Toronto 2015 and Joining InVision

Jesse Cravens FITC 2014

In April, I had a chance to attend and speak at FITC 2015 in Toronto. This was an important talk for me as I was just three days into a new job, leaving the pond at frog design, to join my first startup, InVision. That was not an easy decision for me, in that I loved working for frog. My work at frog was the first time I had been giving the freedom to ‘focus’ in the workplace.

The culture at frog is certainly not for everyone, but for me, someone who has always been comfortable with creating my own path, it was in many ways ‘carte blanche’. The catch at frog is that, by design, you won’t be given much direction; you are expected to create and drive the direction. When I joined frog, my goals were to speak and write as much as I could while I focused on producing as high a volume of quality technical deliverables as I could for our clients. And in almost every case, while leading ‘greenfield’ projects for fortune 200 companies, I was able to stop and start over on each project building upon the momentum and experience of the previous endeavor. All of that real world learning fueled my writing and speaking. It was exhausting, in the good kind of way.

Jesse Cravens FITC 2014

This was a very different model than building software within an enterprise, maintaining and/or augmenting legacy systems, or having frameworks and tools prescribed to you by the weight of enterprise processes and architectural directives. This was exciting because, as I said before, the freedom fueled growth, the healthy, self-directed type of growth.

So why did I leave? Another opportunity was presented to me that sparked a deep curiosity because in some ways the problem set was the antithesis of my work at frog, a product suite and engineering team that was being challenged to scale to millions of users. I knew that their challenge would help me grow too, and fill in even more gaps.

Now, production applications weren’t new to me when I joined InVision, but in some ways startup culture and the smaller engineering team was. While in some of my previous roles, I would be responsible for a small sliver of a very large pie, here my slice would be much larger, and the red tape would be few and far between. I could recommend an approach, build it, and deploy it within three days as compared to three months or sometimes even three years.

Another interesting pivot for me was to completely walk away from the Ember community, and dive into Angular and React/Flux, as if I was disgruntled with Ember or something. On the contrary, my first 3-4 months at InVision, I spent my time retro fitting the existing application with tooling that ember-cli provides out of the box. And, as Ember 2.0 is released, my appreciation for the work that community is doing is even greater than it was before. For now, I watch from afar, as I’m not actively developing an Ember app. On the contrary, I am much closer to the Angular and React communities than I was before, which makes for a nice trade off.

I have to say that working at InVision has been an amazing experience. We are a 100% remote team using the latest and greatest of tooling to keep up with each other and our software. Our software continues to evolve as does our DevOps automation, deployment models, code quality and our architecture. Not only that, we have been working night and day to build our teams with the best and brightest talent we can find. The company has tripled in the 6 months since I have been here. It has been an amazing whirlwind of growth.

I am currently focusing on leading the Application Core team. This was the challenge I was looking for in that I needed to learn the breadth of the product suite’s codebase before I could formalize a plan for evolving the architecture for scaling, addressing performance issues and technical debt, and improving developer workflow and code hygiene. Our application core team is now around 10 engineers and testers, and we begin to see the fruits of our labor. We are still growing and searching for great talent, feel free to reach out if you are interested.