Software Development
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Developer Kyle Stetz leaves Philly to join Slack in San Francisco

We did a live interview with Stetz in our public Slack channel. He talked about his favorite open source projects, the qualities he associates with Philadelphia and the one gripe he has about San Francisco.

Kyle Stetz was a developer at P'unk Ave and now works at Slack. (Courtesy photo)

Philadelphia taught Kyle Stetz about humility.

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Kyle Stetz (foreground) with his team at P’unk Ave. (Courtesy photo)


“Every professional experience I’ve had in Philly has taught me about honesty, humility, the importance of truly collaborating,” he wrote. “Those are qualities I associate with Philadelphia, whether you look at the art scene, the tech scene, whatever.”
Stetz, 26, hopes to bring those qualities to San Francisco, where he recently moved to join the buzzy, venture-backed chatroom startup Slack.
In Philly, Stetz lived and worked in South Philadelphia. At web dev firm P’unk Ave, he helped build client projects as well as Apostrophe, P’unk Ave’s open source content management system. He also started the Philly Web Audio Meetup this summer.
Stetz moved to the West Coast with his partner, fellow technologist Leslie Zacharkow. Read her Exit Interview here.
We hosted our first live exit interview with Stetz on Technical.ly’s public Slack last week. Get an invite here if you’re not already a member.


Find a lightly edited transcript of our conversation below.

###

Where you at right now? Describe your surroundings to us.

I am sitting in my new apartment, on my armchair — the sun hasn’t quite set yet. Things are still boxed up.

Kyle talks about how it wasn't too hard to find a place in San Francisco and his girlfriend, Leslie Zacharkow, says hi.
So you’re in SF, you left Philly and your job at P’unk Ave to join Slack, right? Tell us about that decision. Were you searching for a job out there?
I’ve wanted to try out the West Coast for a few years, and I knew if I hung around in the tech industry long enough an opportunity would present itself. This year felt like the right time to try something new professionally, so Leslie and I both started looking seriously at opportunities in SF.
I did not take the decision lightly — P’unk is an incredible place and taught me everything I know! One driver of the decision is that my experience working on P’unk’s Apostrophe CMS told me I was excited to work on a product.

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Kyle Stetz during his live exit interview on Technical.ly’s public Slack. (Photo by Leslie Zacharkow)


The idea of working on one evolving piece of software over the course of years, controlling its evolution and being open to moving it in new directions, is so exciting to me. SF happens to be the land of products!
P’unk has been on Slack for a long time, and we also use it at Grind Select (a record label I help run). I saw an opening for a Frontend Engineer at Slack and it sounded like exactly what I was looking for.
What did you work on at P’unk? Apostrophe but also client projects?
I worked on lots of client projects at P’unk, but I also invented a role as Product Manager of Apostrophe, since there was a need for it when I started.
I very loosely coordinated design and development efforts, and just made sure progress was being made on it. Most notably I helped organize a rewrite of… the whole thing! It’s not quite done yet but I’m sure you’ll here about it soon.
Can you talk a bit about the difference between working on client projects vs. working on a product? Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Does one appeal to you more than the other, and why?
"there's a process of 'living with it' that you don't get in client work."
And the scale to Slack must be exciting.
For sure.
"the playfulness in the product is something extraordinarily intentional"
Did you feel all like, intimidated about applying to jobs in SF? People talk about the Philly stigma or something like, thinking you’re not good enough to be elsewhere. I’ve never asked anyone that in an Exit Interview but I heard another reporter say that this week. About moving to NY. He didn’t think he could hack it there. So I was curious.
Absolutely. I have a pretty high degree of confidence in myself and my skills, but when you realize just _how many people_ are applying for every single position, it scares the heck out of you. I regularly saw open positions that had 100 applicants per week.
"Philly folk can hack it anywhere."
Did you think there was something in particular that would set you apart? (Feel free to HUMBLEBRAG rn) Or was it more just like a “let’s just try this” kinda thing?
I think as a web developer your open source profile is one of your greatest assets. I’ve put a lot of time into side projects, and I’ve been lucky to see some of them grow into amazing community-oriented efforts. That’s a dimension a lot of companies are screening for, so I leaned pretty heavily on my GitHub when applying to places.
I also learned some good lessons at P’unk about honesty and humility, so those probably helped a little 🙂
Tell us more about your side projects. What are some of the ones you’ve been proudest of during your time here?
The first open source project I took seriously was CLNDR, and it ended up filling a real need developers have. That was an incredible and confidence-building experience for me. And I still work on it! I just pushed a new version this morning.
I got very deep into the Web Audio API, and that has ended up being the subject of most of my exploration as a web developer. I started a project called Lissajous that focuses on performing music with code. It’s been a weird one to work on, but through it I’ve landed some pretty awesome speaking opportunities and become a part of the Web Audio community.
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Stetz gave a talk at the Web Audio Conference in Paris in January and performed a song using Javascript. (Courtesy photo)


The project I’m most proud of, and the one I put all of my time into, however, is Grind Select, a record label I helped form with my buddies Corey Regensburg and Jeremy Garber. We started it in February of last year in order to release Corey’s music (under the name Moon Bounce), and it has grown into something pretty amazing.
Oh awesome, is that a non-tech side project? Or do you do tech stuff for the label?
Grind Select is a record label in the traditional sense, but my contribution is all in the tech realm. We decided early on that we wanted to do something unique with each release. I pitched the idea of doing interactive web experiences that complemented the music, so that’s what we’ve been exploring.
In June we released an EP by two artists, Parks Burton and Kazimier, and I built this very wacky thing.
flora

Leslie Zacharkow and Kyle Stetz putting together our Flora Catalogus installation at Data Garden’s Switched On Garden 002. (Courtesy photo)


Just last week we released a song by a band called All Boy/All Girl, and I put this together to complement it.
Thankfully it’s not a project that required me to be in Philly, so I get to keep doing what I’m doing out here!
You started the Web Audio Meetup here, is there a web audio scene out there?
Ugh, I feel so bad about this. I still haven’t sent a message out to the Meetup group that I left! I should do that before this article goes live 🙂
I haven’t gotten a chance to go to too many meetups yet, but from what I’ve seen there are some that focus on programming and music. No straight Web Audio meetups though — I will start one just as soon as I meet some willing participants.
"What are you gonna miss most about Philly?" "THE FOOD"
Specifics?
I am vegan and absolutely love Philly’s acceptance of veganism. So the thing about Philly vegan food is that it doesn’t cater to the healthy crowd — places like Royal Tavern and Blackbird have awesome greasy junk food.
There is _nothing like that_ in SF. I’ve been complaining to my new coworkers about it.
I already miss the neighborhood feel that Philly has. It’ll be a long time before I start running into familiar faces every time I go outside.
So would there have been anything that could have kept you here? A product company with scale? Or was it more that you wanted to try the West Coast?
I grew up in New Jersey and came to Philly for college, so I’ve been hanging out in the same 70-mile radius for a long time. The idea of having a totally different experience — even if it is a bad one that makes me want to go back — has always been appealing.
climbing kyle stetz

Climbing on Kelly Drive. (Courtesy photo)


Philly has it all and SF will in no way be a replacement. But MAYBE if Philly was situated next to a large mountain I would have stayed. Very excited to explore nature in California.
Any advice you wanna share? Something you learned while you were here in Philly that you’re taking over there?
I was fortunate to have an incredible education (industrial design at UArts) that taught me the importance of contributing something back to the world. Every professional experience I’ve had in Philly has taught me about honesty, humility, the importance of truly collaborating. Those are qualities I associate with Philadelphia, whether you look at the art scene, the tech scene, whatever. I’m bringing those lessons to a city that isn’t necessarily known for its humility, so hopefully that is worth something!

Companies: P’unk Ave

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