FreshBooks: TeamLead, Developers, QA, Designer, etc.

April 15, 2010

FreshBooks is hiring a boatload of positions including two enterprise developers, five software developers, a QA analyst, senior designer, web developer and more.  I’ve talked about the pros and cons of working at FreshBooks lots of times, so if you’re a new reader, do feel free to read over some of my past postings.

In this case, I think the sheer volume of open positions is also a strong positive.  Although I doubt the need to hire a lot of people would cause FreshBooks to hire people they don’t really want, it does mean that if you’re one of five worthy candidates, they could hire all of you, instead of just the one they like best, so it’s a good time to be interviewing at FreshBooks.

Although I’ve found FreshBooks an interesting company for longer than I’ve been doing Toronto Tech Jobs, in the last couple of years, FreshBooks has given me a couple of referral rewards, so you’re welcome to consider my opinion biased.


FreshBooks: Enterprise Developer & Bounty

March 24, 2010

First of all, congratulations to FreshBooks on another successful hire via Toronto Tech Jobs; I’m happy it worked out.

Secondly, I’m also happy that FreshBooks is again offering me the referral fee, and as I’ve said before, my current stance is that it’s ok for me to take them as long as I’m pretty clear on the fact that I’m doing so.  If anyone wants to start a dialogue on the subject, now’s your chance, I’m listening.

And, co-incidentally, I saw another FreshBooks job posting go by today, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and take a quick look at the posting.

FreshBooks is looking for an Enterprise Software Developer:

If building out super-reliable, high-performance applications in a disciplined, agile manner is what you love, drop us a line and let’s see if there’s a fit.

We NEED you to have:

* 5 years’ experience building enterprise-class applications
* 3 years’ experience working with ORMs and DAOs
* A demonstrable passion for unit testing, continuous integration and code coverage
* Communication skills like whoa

The Good
The usual for FreshBooks.  I like the company, they’ve got a good product, a clear profit model, a sizeable customer base who is generally pretty happy, an interesting company culture and some good people, some of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to help find homes there.  They’re a real product company with real customers, not a banking business, marketing company or insurance agency, which already sets them apart from a lot of the jobs in Toronto.  It’s a product that you can run out and try before you even interview, get a sense for what they do — that’s a great way to get a sense for whether or not it’s something you could be interested in building.  Some of the technologies they’re using appeal to me.

The Bad
Some of the technologies they’re using don’t immediately appeal to me.  Their largest codebase, last I heard, was PHP, and while I respect the fact that PHP powers much of the web (anyone heard of LAMP?), it’s not a language that makes me perk my ears up out of excitement.  I’m told that there are some challenges in the codebase, although I also believe that they’re on the path to something that I’d be happier with, and that they seem to know where they’re headed and why.  I don’t want to say too much more on the subject because I don’t know the extent to which the conversations I’ve had were in confidence.  For some of you, the location will be the strongest detractor, but i’ll come back to that.

What’s Missing
What’s the compensation like at FreshBooks for an Enterprise Software Developer?  Why the relatively new ‘enterprise’ tone in the posting?  What technologies will you be working with?  What’s the size and composition of the team, and where would you fit into that?  Do the languages and tools in use at FreshBooks really support refactoring in anything but the most basic of forms?

Your mileage may well vary when it comes to the technologies, but you’d definitely want to get the full story from them on what they’re using before making too many assumptions; it might appeal more than you think.  And my mileage definitely varies when it comes to the location.

The Location
Their location is off the beaten path for transit users up at Dufferin and Glencairn.  It’s about a 15 or 20 minute walk from Glencairn station, or you can take the Dufferin Bus up from Bloor.  If you’re coming in off the 401, it’s probably pretty reasonable, and there’s a fair number of food options in the area if you have a car.  The options are somewhat less exciting on foot, but there’s still food options and shopping around.  For some, this location is normal, possibly even better than some because you don’t have to fight your way to the core.  On the other hand, if you’re out in Pickering and you like to take the Go train, this is probably not something you’d even consider.  For me, the location takes just long enough to get to from my house that it would be a constant, if minor, irritation.  So in this case, your mileage really will vary.

And, in case you missed the first paragraph and any previous posts on the subject, you should know that FreshBooks has twice offered me a bounty for referrals, which I’ve accepted.  I don’t think that unduly biases me towards the company, but it’s important that I be clear about it.

In Summary
If FreshBooks sounds like your kind of company, and you’ve got a background in enterprise software development, there may be a good match here.

Disclosure: FreshBooks Bounty

August 8, 2008

Well, if you’ve been following Toronto Tech Jobs for a while, you’ll know that I posted a job for an Agile Web Development Manager for FreshBooks and a reader applied and got the job.  As a result of that, FreshBooks offered me the bounty they had publicized for referrals.

I took some time to think about it.  Does accepting a bounty for a job I posted bias me, affect the way I deal with postings from that company or compromise my credibility?  Would it affect my ability to select job opportunities to post?  Would readers care?

In this particular case, does the bounty affect my opinion of FreshBooks?  Possibly, although I think the fact that FreshBooks offered me a bounty (that I didn’t demand, request, nor was motivated by) is probably more pleasing than the financial value (although certainly the latter has its moments).  I take this as a further sign that they’re a pretty interesting employer, that they’re interested in making good on their own choices even if it has some cost to them.  Even if it’s just enlightened self-interest, there are lots of companies that don’t seem to be able to muster that.

I also need to consider that what I’m offering here is as much opinion as it is anything else, and anyone who believe their opinions are free from bias is probably just fooling themselves.  That said, I’m wary of stepping onto the proverbial slippery slope.  So far there don’t seem to be an avalanche of potential employers beating down my door with offers of secret kickbacks for luring in unsuspecting developers, but it’s hard to know what the future holds.

I’ve decided for the time being that I’m okay with something that encourages me to put more effort into Toronto Technology Jobs.  Something that helps to offset the cost to my spare time.  I’m not always sure where Toronto Tech Jobs is likely to go, but finding ways to make it pay for itself (and the effort that goes into it) is something I’ll have to face sooner or later.  Accepting a bounty for a job that I’ve already posted and that someone has filled based on reading that posting seems fairly innocuous for now.

So — opinions?  I’m happy to hear feedback on this subject one way or the other, it’ll help to inform my decisions should this arise in the future.

FreshBooks: Software Developer

July 22, 2008

FreshBooks is looking for a Software Developer.  Normally, I’d segueway right into a description of the job here, but there’s a pleasing backstory here that’ll set up the rest of this post.  A few months ago, I wrote about the job of Agile Web Development Manager for FreshBooks, and Corey Reid saw that posting, responded, and got the job, which he seems to be enjoying.

Now that he/they are looking to grow the team by adding a Software Developer, he’s come full circle by letting me know there’s another job at FreshBooks open, if I’m interested in posting about it.  And, indeed, I am.  Partly because of the backstory: A toronto technology jobs reader gets one of the posted jobs, then comes back to suggest new postings for the new company.  But also, because I’m impressed by FreshBooks.

Here’s what they’re looking for:

We need fresh-thinking, disciplined developers who don’t sneer at scripting languages but also know their enterprise-level design. In return, we supply a stable, creative environment (want a Mac? got Ubuntu? No problem!) with a competitive compensation package, and the sort of collaboration that comes out of just wanting to get things done, not from the latest IEEE-mandated “best practice”.

[D]esigning and developing our popular online application and the tools we use to run our business behind the scenes — you should be able to figure out what that entails. You’ll learn hands-on about our industry and our customers, and you’ll be figuring out how to make them happy, and then going ahead and doing it.

  • 3 years’ experience building online applications
  • 2-3 years experience with object-oriented development
  • Serious SQL chops
  • Communication skills like whoa (you better be able to talk to customers on the phone (yes, we talk to our customers on the phone))

FreshBooks describes themselves this way:

Love the fast-paced and creative environment of a start-up, but could do without the stress and chaos?  FreshBooks has been around for more than five years now and has a fanatical fan base of over 400,000 people who use our groundbreaking Web 2.0 application.

Personally, I’ve used FreshBooks’ product, found it easy to use and more than capable for the simple tasks I threw at it.  I think they’ve done an excellent job getting potential customers in the door through the freemiuim model, and then potentially getting revenue as their little fish grow in the way they use the product.  I’m inclined to believe that if FreshBooks keeps at it, they’re almost certainly going places (although perhaps they’re already “getting places”, I can’t say.

The Good
First and foremost, I think FreshBooks is an interesting company that stands a reasonable chance at success.  And, although I’ve only had a few conversations with him, Corey Reid seems like a nice enough guy, with a sense of humor, but also an earnestness about making a difference.

Secondly, because their application is public and easy to access, you can try the thing out before you apply for the job.  That’s rare, in Toronto.  Using it and building it are different, but it’s nice to get some sense of what you might be working on.

The Bad
Well, it’s a startup, so even with reasonable funding, there’s a question as to the compensation.  Although “competitive compensation package” implies it might not be awful, that also doesn’t mean it’s good.  They’re not looking for tons of experience, so that might be another cue with respect to the salary.  You’ll have to talk to them to sort this out.

And, despite some gentle prodding from me, there are still things I don’t know about the job, some of which might matter to you.  For instance, there’s limited references to specific technology.  Last I heard, this was a PHP shop, but there have been occasional Ruby references, so it’s hard to feel like I’ve got a concrete story to tell you in that regard.  The role, company and work seem to get reasonable descriptions.

The location‘s probably good for some, bad for others.  At roughly Glencairn and Dufferin, I’m inclined to say that it’s not ideal for a TTC commute.  If you’re not already midtown, uptown, or in the burbs, that location’s probably both inconvenient and lacking in the little touches that a great neighbourhood can offer.  That said, if you’re vehicle-commuting, or not too far away from that location already, it might be a good fit.  Besides, in your lunch hours, you can do some shopping for design stuff on Castlefield and deals up on Cartwright and Orfus.

Working in a startup’s not for everyone.  If you’re hoping for the kind of environment where you can spend a week surfing Slashdot before someone notices you’re done the last thing they asked you to do, you want to work for a bank, not FreshBooks.  I’m not going to go on and on about the differences between a startup job and an enterprise job, but they exist, and there are both good and bad sides to the coin.

In Summary
If this sounds good to you, and the location works, then I’d be happy to recommend you drop them a line.  I’ll let Cory Reid know when this post comes up, so if you have questions you want to fire off here, feel free to post a comment, and I’ll see if I can get him to respond.

FreshBooks: Agile Web Development Manager

April 13, 2008

FreshBooks, a local web startup for invoicing, is looking for an Agile Web Development Manager:

The Good
It’s a local startup. Their product (a slick, yet simple invoicing system) is easy to use, seems to have built up a community, and has a lot of potential to expand. There’s a lot of promise in all of that. They seem to use agile methods to aim for high-quality, frequently-shipped software in Ruby on Rails. By aiming to do more with less, it feels like the kind of company that will pay attention to principles like YAGNI, and ‘the simplest solution that will work’ rather than building up a large and unwieldy team to develop features that nobody really wants.

The role seems to be a rolled-up combination of agile coach, product manager and development manager. In a large organization, I’m not sure I’d agree that this is a perfect combination, as there may be some conflicts of interest, but for a startup, it’s probably a necessary kind of role-compression. As long as they find the right candidate, it should be doable. It is, at least, senior, and a chance to shape a startup development team.

The Bad
Many people would probably consider their location out-of-the-way. It’s basically at Glencairn and Dufferin. While this isn’t horrifically far off the subway line, it’s pretty far Northwest for people in downtown or midtown, and even those in uptown locations that aren’t easily on the University/Spadina subway line might be less than enthused. I don’t know the area, so I can’t speak to it. If you’re near the University/Spadina line, particularly north of Bloor, or north of Glencairn, even, it might even be a good location.

They don’t talk about the work much — so unless you’ve used FreshBooks before, you may have no idea what the work actually is. Even having used their software, the posting doesn’t make it clear that you’re going to be working on their invoicing product.

There’s no talk of compensation, and although they’re four years old, they still seem to feel as if they’re in startup mode, so it’s not clear that compensation will be a strong point. Worth probing further.

Your mileage may vary on the location; if you’re northwest yourself, this might appeal. Some people aren’t looking for a startup atmosphere, although I prefer that atmosphere myself.

In Summary
Frankly, if you can stomach the location and you’d like to be managing an agile team in Ruby, this sounds pretty good. This is tempting to me, and I really don’t like their location. I’m assuming someone in the Northwest will be all over this. Do find out about compensation before you get too deep, and feel free to report back for the rest of us. 😉