Kiva is going mobile!
Meet the mobile app developers of the Kiva office in Portland. Android developer Brian Plummer, senior iOS and Android developer Zachary Heusinkveld, Android engineer Morgan Lutz and lead mobile software engineer Eric Jensen are making magic happen for Kiva’s brand new mobile app, rolling out next spring.
Interview conducted by Casey Miller and photographed by Claire Primack.
What are some challenges that you have faced this year while working on Kiva’s app?
ZH: This is a much smaller organization than I think a lot of us are used to. Not having five teams to check in with is really great because you can get things done a lot faster -- but also not having five teams to rely on kind of slows things down too.
BP: One of our bigger challenges is user engagement. How we've been solving it is going over designs to talk about internally as a team and trying to figure out what we’d want as lenders. Some of us are really hardcore users, like Eric for example. He's been able to use that approach to help us answer some of these questions. When we initially pushed the app, it was about how well users interact, then how well we drive engagement.
Tell me some stories about your time at Kiva! Proudest moments, funny moments, challenges.
EJ: One of my personal happiest moments when I initially joined Kiva was just an affirmation of just how well-known Kiva is. With brand recognition, so many people came out of the woodwork on LinkedIn and people I haven't talked in years. Like “Oh my God, you're working for Kiva?! I've heard about them and I've been on the platform. That's really awesome.” And it's just a really great feeling, really knowing that we are making something important.
ML: I was doing some recruiting at Google I/O and I ran into multiple Googlers who were like “Oh yeah, I love Kiva. I'm already on the platform.” A couple of people asked me if I could do some beta testing, so that was awesome.
ZH: One of the things that I really enjoy is because we're in the Portland office, we got to go to both winter parties, in San Francisco and here. At the winter party here, we had a treasure hunt. And I made the signature cocktail, a Commodore 64. Then we went down to San Francisco and we met the other people that we had only seen on Zoom [video chat]. Everybody that works in the San Francisco office is really cool to hang out with.
You all have different strengths and weaknesses as engineers and developers. Who would you say you go to with different issues?
*entire team points to Eric*
ML: Let’s just turn this interview into an “Eric compliments” session!
ZH: Eric is good at design, code... I mean he’s not good, he’s great at these things. He’s always available to listen and help out and just goes the extra mile, all the time, constantly.
ML: We had to give a presentation to Neville, our CEO, and Zach and Eric found out the day before at 4:00 p.m. Then the next day, they had this beautiful presentation that looked like it took several days. It was really just overnight.
Alright, some more casual questions! What's your favorite Portland lunch spot by the office?
ML: Los Gorditos. They have breakfast burritos all day long!
EJ: A staple for me is World Foods.
ZH: I like Prasad in the Yoga Studio. That place is really nice.
BP: And I’m just in town from New York, so… wherever we go for lunch!
What's your favorite part of working in Kiva’s WeWork office space in Portland?
ML: I was downstairs on the first floor and I ran into someone I haven't seen in four years who also works in this office now! I worked for them during my internship, so it was awesome to catch up and be like, “well here I am now, four years later!” So we're going to catch up later this week!
ZH: I went to a local meetup and one of the people at the meetup saw me here and then LinkedIn requested me. Now we’re connected! It’s just really cool to be in a collaborative space, connected to other people.
EJ: The office itself is nice, but I really like the common areas. You have so much floor space if you want some individual time.
Last question! What’s the best part of working at Kiva?
ZH: The best part for me is this team. Secondly, all of the people that I've met so far.
EJ: The mission is really easy to get behind. I think it makes sense to everyone that you explain it to and everyone here seems to be on board with the mission. Everyone is working towards the same thing.
ML: Those are both really good answers. I'm not sure how to follow up on those. But an additional thing that I'm excited about is being able to work on our brand new product. There aren’t very many opportunities to start something brand new, especially when it’s a product to help people, so that’s really great.
BP: To augment what Eric said, the feeling of the mission matters. People want to be here. It's almost like the difference between high school and college; you know people are at college because they want to be there. You know the people working at Kiva are passionate and want to be here.