For one day every quarter, routine is upended at HomeAdvisor and ideas are given free rein. Engineers can toy with new technologies, pursue pet projects and, at the end of the day, deliver on their wildest innovations.
The winners of this day — called “FedEx Friday” due to the one-day delivery of ideas — often get to see their projects made into new products and features. The event not only encourages cross-departmental collaboration but also allows engineers to stay current on the latest tech.
We sat down with three engineers from the team who dish about how they’re helping HomeAdvisor grow — and pushing the tech boundaries in the process.
EMPLOYEES: 3,900 globally (1,700 local)
WHAT THEY DO: HomeAdvisor provides a digital platform and mobile app that connects homeowners to home service professionals for their home repair and maintenance needs.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Golden
GRAND PRIZE: HomeAdvisor holds frequent contests and giveaway drawings for employees. Prizes have ranged from restaurant gift cards to Hamilton tickets when the show came to Denver.
MEET THE TEAM: HomeAdvisor’s sales team talked to us about how they support each other — and local businesses in the process. Read more here.
Christine Kennedy, Android Developer
Christine Kennedy is an Android developer for HomeAdvisor’s consumer app. Her goal is to make HomeAdvisor the most used entry point for consumers to find home improvement professionals.
BEYOND WORK: Christine is a lifelong violinist and aspiring guitarist.
Tell us about HomeAdvisor’s innovation days. What does that involve?
Every quarter we have FedEx Friday, during which we spend the day working on our own projects and then demoing them. It’s called FedEx because we start Thursday afternoon, and then deliver overnight.
HomeAdvisor provides breakfast, lunch and snacks so we can concentrate completely on our projects. Some people use the time to try out new languages or technologies and some develop ideas they have for internal tools or new product features. There’s a lot of cross-collaboration to carry out those ideas. We all vote on the ideas we like best, and then they are placed in production. We all look forward to the day because we receive company support to turn our “what-ifs” into reality.
Since HomeAdvisor is growing and improving the product so quickly, there’s always something new and fun to work on.”
What part of your job do you find the most meaningful?
Like most developers, my favorite part of the job is developing new features. Since HomeAdvisor is growing and improving the product so quickly, there’s always something new and fun to work on.
I use the app as a homeowner, so I appreciate how well-designed our new features are and how useful they will be. I was actually excited when my sink started leaking and I got to use our new “Same Day Service” feature to find a plumber. It’s rewarding to know that thousands of people see the work I’ve done and have a better experience because of it.
How does HomeAdvisor keep things fun in the office?
HomeAdvisor is generous with their contests and giveaways. I won one of the best prizes when Hamilton came to Denver. I was unable to buy lottery tickets to the show, but somehow HomeAdvisor had scored two tickets to give away. There was a grand production the morning of the drawing — our HR manager came in full colonial costume complete with waistcoat and wig.
He pulled out a slip of paper in a drawing read my name. I started screaming and jumping — I couldn’t believe I had won. I’ve also won another giveaway on Cinco de Mayo for a $100 gift card to Denver restaurant Los Chingones, and my husband — who also works at HomeAdvisor — won $200 in a homebrew contest.
Kevin Wynn, Front End Developer
Kevin Wynn works to improve the process homeowners use to submit a service request through HomeAdvisor and get matched with a professional.
BEYOND WORK: Kevin enjoys woodworking, which helps him find patience in his day-to-day life.
What was your onboarding experience like?
The onboarding experience was daunting at first. We have a large app and use our own framework, so there’s a learning curve. While it may take a few days before you’re able to write code, you get to see how everything comes together and gain a foundational understanding of all the microservices we use, how the app is built and how we’re deploying it for development testing.
As far as getting up to speed with the company and the people, the onboarding was fantastic. On my first day, the team took me to what’s now become my favorite lunch spot. In the office, there’s a pool table and ping pong. It’s a great way to meet everyone and get to know people outside of your team.
When we have new projects come down the line, we’re able to push the boundaries and experiment with new technologies.”
How does HomeAdvisor compare to your previous work experiences?
I’ve worked at some smaller design and development agencies, as well as some startups that went from a handful of people to hundreds. While people crave working at startups because they get to use the new hot tech at the time, that wasn’t my experience. I was stuck working on frameworks built in the early 2000s in my old job.
At HomeAdvisor, I work on very modern stuff. When we have new projects come down the line, we’re able to push the boundaries and experiment with new technologies.
What is the company’s approach to training engineers?
HomeAdvisor encourages continual learning, which is a necessity in this line of work as new frameworks and technologies are developed nearly every day. When I joined HomeAdvisor, I sat down with the other front-end developers to go over how the app is built and runs as well as our coding practices. It was a lot to take in, but I thrive in that type of situation.
Zack Tracy, Senior Java Developer
Zack Tracy is the primary back-end developer on his team. His goal is to become a subject matter expert who can continue to help troubleshoot production issues for his team.
BEYOND WORK: Zack loves to travel. He and his wife recently returned from a two-week honeymoon in Eastern Africa, and have traveled to almost 40 countries together.
How would you describe your team’s culture?
We’re easy to work with and happy to help out other teams. When another team ran into an issue with one of their services, our developers were able to help them track down the source of the problem fix it. Then our QA helped them with testing so that we could get the fix through to production as quickly as possible. It was a good example of all of us dropping what we were working on to help out with a big issue.
Tell us about your tech stack.
The tech stack I work the most with is a microservice architecture written in Java and built on Spring Boot. We use microservices to separate ownership of responsibilities into related areas. By separating out functionality, each microservice is able to stay relatively small, lightweight and self-contained. Spring Boot makes them quick to start up.
Our stack is part of what made working at HomeAdvisor attractive to me.”
How does your stack help you accomplish your goals?
Our stack is part of what made working at HomeAdvisor attractive to me. Java and Spring are widely-used in the industry, and the movement toward a microservice-based architecture is also popular. I wanted to be able to work in a place that would expose me to these things not only for the experience but because I’m able to see the results of my code in production.
Since each microservice is specialized, small changes can make a large difference. Our microservice architecture makes it easier for me to gain a better understanding of how other services at HomeAdvisor work. Since the functionality is more isolated, it’s easier to follow the workflows of various parts of our site.