Neil Shah is a software engineer and systems architect based in San Francisco, CA.

Goodbye, brightwheel

Whenever we sent an offer to a prospective employee at brightwheel, we’d ask everyone at the company to send them an email. The point was to let our prospective employees know how excited we were that they received an offer, and how eager we were to have them join our team. Teammates who chose to join us, and even those that didn’t, all said that those emails  made them feel like they were joining a close knit group, where their contributions would be valued.

I’ve done some of the most valuable work of my career over the last four years. I’ve helped build an incredible team, worked on a transformative product, and helped scale a growing business. Given that my time at brightwheel started with an email that talked about all of the projects people were excited for me to work on, now that I’m leaving brightwheel it seems fitting to talk about all of the projects that I’m really proud of.

A History

I joined brightwheel back in April 2015. The company was ~4 employees back then, and was originally called Kidcasa.  The product was a prototype iOS app, with an infrastructure built on top of Parse (back before Parse was shuttered). The things that attracted me to brightwheel back then are the same things I value in the company now. The ability to impact a community of educators, a strong culture of ownership, and the opportunity to be part of a business from the ground up.

My Role

I joined brightwheel as lead software engineer, but the title didn’t mean much back then. We had two iOS engineers already, and had hired a few contractors to build out Android and some of the backend.  Guillaume, joined shortly after me, and he and I built out the Android and web apps while the iOS engineers built the iOS app. We had an aggressive schedule when I joined in April, and we hit it, when we launched our product to the public in June.

Over time, my role evolved into something that became more focused on architecture and infrastructure. I led efforts in infrastructure and site reliability, and was responsible for scaling our platform for back to school and other high traffic events. I was able to work on and execute a bunch of transformational projects including

  • Migrating off of Parse

  • Redesigning our Billing System

  • Architecting our Learning Platform

  • Migrating our Application Infrastructure to AWS.

In my experience, as an engineer, you’re lucky to work on and complete one project like this at any given company. To be able to work on and complete all four while building our engineering team, building a huge number of truly valuable features for our customers and building a solid business is very unique. I’m really proud of the work that we completed at brightwheel.

What’s Next?

I’m excited to take some time off. Startups are hard, not just for their founders, but also on early employees that have a vested interest in the company’s success. I want to take some of this time and refocus it on my family, my interests outside of tech, and also want to invest time in learning some new technologies that I didn’t have the opportunity to learn while building brightwheel. I’m honestly just looking forward to doing nothing for a bit, while I figure out what problem I want to work on next.

Let's fix equity compensation.

UPDATE - Q4 2018 Books I've Read