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I graduated from the University of Illinois and moved to Chicago shortly thereafter. I was in finance for a little bit, and I ended up co-founding a little startup with two of my friends through a happy coincidence. We worked at it for a year or so out of 1871 (a Chicago co-working space for entrepreneurs), had a handful of customers, it was great. From there, two of us left the startup to join Fooda in 2013. I joined as a junior developer. I think there were maybe four or five of us on the tech team and maybe 15 or 16 people at the company.
It was. We’re a lean startup, so it’s important to constantly prioritize and weigh projects against business goals. We were initially dabbling with a suite of menu management tools, but we decided to take a step back.
What we eventually built was the first version of SnapPea, a proprietary, back-office, technology suite that empowers our teams to do everything from client marketing to detailed accounting. We were writing .NET at the time, and we weren’t sure that was the right answer. Another Software Engineer and I spent a few days doing a skunkworks project to build it in Ruby. We brought it to the technology team and Orazio (Fooda’s CEO), and explained the benefits of Ruby on Rails. The brainstorm took about an hour and lead to a unanimous decision of building the next generation of Fooda technology on Rails. That’s when our tech stack really took off.
The new wave of technology that we’re installing excites me the most. We’re entering our fourth generation of our architecture, and the upgrade will give us a vehicle to fuel the next phase of growth that will support millions of users.
We’re scaling to the next 50 cities, and talking about what it would take to go international. Some of our current challenges include understand the new metrics—why did chicken sandwiches sell well on this rainy Tuesday back in August, but they didn’t sell well today? We’ll be able to answer those questions and provide better insights to our restaurants and better user experience for our diners.
Until now, we’ve been this secret tech company driven by sales, which has been great. It’s why the company has been so successful, we’re supported by an incredible sales team. This new version of SnapPea is going to allow us to build needle moving technology that will amplify their efforts and bring huge value to our business.
If I owned a company, I would want my employees to have an experience like the one I’ve had here at Fooda.
I came in as a junior looking to cut my teeth, excited about the entrepreneurial spirit that was here and I’ve slowly but steadily risen through the ranks. I’ve moved from junior engineer to senior engineer. I manage two teams, with onshore and offshore resources, to run four to five projects at a time.
I think about this a lot. There are many, but one of the big ones is that we move quickly and deliberately. Like most startups, it’s a very delicate balance when you should stick to the roadmap or pivot, and I think we do it very well—whether that’s hiring, updating an internal process, or deciding to buy or build new technology.
My parents run their own business and I tried my hand at a startup a year out of college, so I was kind of looking for something similar, because I love the challenges, autonomy, and excitement that comes with building a business. Coming from that entrepreneurial spirit, Fooda kind of checked all of those boxes right out of the gate as a startup with very big opportunity for growth. And throughout the years, there’s never been a dull moment. We focus on results, and that’s why I’ve been here for so long.
It’s rewarding because you can point to things you’ve gotten right at the individual level. You can go look at the gross food sales and say this is exactly the revenue driven by my project. An example is a voucher system I built—one of our accounts needed it for lunch in a few days, I worked to get it out the door. Since then that feature has sold over $100,000, it’s easy to see the impact.
From day one, a Fooda Software Engineer has opportunities for ownership. If you want to take on additional responsibility, it will be given to you and the team and your manager will work with you to ensure your success. Also, people see that their voice matters. Whether they’re fresh out of school, or they’ve helped build three companies, you can come in and make an impact. Fooda understands that the best ideas come from our employees and we build a safe environment where you can share and nurture your vision.
There’s a lot of autonomy on the team, and less structure than many other companies. We know what our projects should look like when they’re done, but how we get there is very much up to the small team that you’re working with. If you’re looking for a 9:00 to 5:00 kind of thing, Fooda might not be the best. We’re a small, tight-knit team with that startup “go get ’em” attitude. We are in massive growth mode. Shipping a great user experience and focusing on the results is what matters. That, and having a great time with your coworkers.