Dec 24: Working at FastMail

Company

This blog post is part of the FastMail 2014 Advent Calendar.

The previous post on 23nd December was the open protocol, JMAP. And this is the end!

Technical level: low

FastMail has been around for 15 years now, via a short detour as part of Opera Software and then back to being our own company again.

Some History

I was hired in 2004 as the fourth member of a small technical team in Melbourne. Rob M was living overseas at the time, so I worked with Jeremy (one of the original founders, he's moved on to other things now) and Richard. We had no office, but I would catch the train and tram to Port Melbourne and work with Jeremy in his lounge room.

After working for a big corporate where (no joke) I couldn't have a server to do my work for the 6 months I was seconded to New Jersey, because they needed longer than that to plan things, and where I only managed to wrangle a desktop computer to make into a server because my laptop had been purchased in Australia and wasn't in their database... it was a breath of fresh air to be asked to specify the laptop that I wanted and have it delivered and waiting for me when I started.

Jeremy also had another company, and we moved in with them when they got some space of their own. We shared a house in Port Melbourne where we set up desks in the bedrooms, and then later a proper office in Melbourne CBD until they were sold in 2008. We moved to a serviced office on the 50th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Melbourne. The view was fantastic, though my ears always popped in the elevator! Jeremy stayed with ODG, so it was just the three of us working together.

After the sale to Opera, we doubled the size of the team and took a larger office on the same floor. I was lucky enough to get a transfer to head office in Norway in 2011-2012, and while I was away the team in Australia grew further and moved to our current office on William St in the Melbourne CBD (interestingly, our datacentre in New York is also on a William St — it hasn't caused any misdirected mail yet). We have a great office of our own now, with plenty of space.

Office environment

We work in rooms with 2-4 people, with doors that can be closed (though they usually aren't) and a boardroom that's big enough for the entire team to get together for our weekly status meeting. If anyone is remote (working from home, travelling, etc) they join via video conference. We've been using AppearIn from our friends at Telenor.

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We have a huge open breakout area with couches, table tennis table and kitchen.

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The nice thing about working on computers on the other side of the world is that it really doesn't matter where you are. We don't treat the office network specially, everybody's laptop makes its own VPN connection anyway - so we can do our work anywhere. Most of the team have children, and many of us work from home one or two days per week.

When we are in the office together, we frequently gather around whiteboards to nut out ideas. The great thing about smartphones is that everyone has a camera, so we all take a photo of the end result and keep it with us as we go back to our individual tasks.

A Small Business

The great thing about FastMail is that it's a blend of startup and small business. We have the best bits of startup culture -- flexible working hours, free coffee, snacks and drinks in the fridge, table tennis table, cake on Fridays (often shared with our friends at ODG, we still stay in touch). This is matched with the best bits of a profitable company — consistent revenue, existing infrastructure, decent salaries, and people who understand the business side of things as well as the tech.

My first question when I interviewed with FastMail was "do you have someone who knows how to run a business", because I worked for a dotcom that went bankrupt due to poor business planning. I didn't want to live through that mess again. FastMail has had steady growth every year for the last 15 years, thanks to our fantastic users who appreciate our product and stay with us.

Jobs at FastMail

As with any business, if the right person appears, sometimes you adjust things to create a role for them. Our tasks aren't that fixed, we split the work between us to get the required jobs done.

Having said that, we have two specific positions opening up in our Melbourne, Australia office for early 2015:

These two people will be working on both our FastMail product and building the reference open-source implementations for JMAP.

If you have the skills we need, and the right to work in Australia (sorry, we can't help with visas or sponsorships), then drop us a line at jobs@fastmail.com.

Thanks!

Thank you to everyone who has been following this series, reading what we write. More than anything, people want to know they are bringing value to others. One of the best things about working at FastMail is that code we write is out there making people's lives better almost immediately — that's a great feeling. The positive feedback we've been receiving has made all the effort worthwhile, even last-minute scramble to get posts finished on the weekends!

Extra special thanks to all our customers. It's your ongoing support that allows us to continue our passion of building email, calendar and contacts done right.

Wishing everybody a happy and safe holiday season.