May 2, 2018

Engineering Spotlight: Notarize

Let’s face it, getting a document officially notarized is a bit of a chore. Sometimes there isn’t an office nearby or sometimes it can take a few days for the official to look over and sign the document.

Steff Kelsey
Steff Kelsey, Director of Engineering at Notarize

Notarize is making this ongoing problem a thing of the past with their online notary platform where users can get their legal papers officialized online.

Notarize’s platform is something that is needed for consumers, businesses, and lawyers. The company must have top-notch engineers working on this innovative and complex problem.

Steff Kelsey, the company’s Director of Engineering, recently spoke with us about the engineering team. Kelsey shared what kinds of technology the team uses and also went into detail about the four pillars that make up the team’s culture.

Also, Notarize is hiring! Check out its BIZZpage for all the company’s openings!

Quick Hit Details

  • Year Founded: 2015
  • Number of employees: 75 (65 in Boston)
  • Number of engineers: 40
  •  Industry: Legal tech

Notarize Logo

Can you share a summary of what Notarize does?

We make it easier for people to execute the most important transactions of their lives. Anyone who has ever gone through the hassle of trying to get a legal document notarized understands the problem we’re trying to solve, and the value of being able to get something notarized anywhere in the world, 24/7, all from your phone or computer.

What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?

Our current web stack includes Rails 5, React, and GraphQL. We’re using Swift for our iOS app, and our Android app is written from scratch in Kotlin. Overall, we consider ourselves to be platform agnostic. Our tech is certain to evolve and change as we grow as an organization, so a fundamental desire to learn and grow as an engineer is more important than deep familiarity with any single part of our current stack.

What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team is tackling?

We’re extending the functionality of our products and their reliability to serve our customers, which include some of the largest lenders and financial institutions in the country. We have worked hard after launching our Android app to get to feature parity across all of our platforms. Now, we’re looking to push mobile forward and cement our position as a leader in the space.

A specific project that uses some newer technology is a document classification initiative. We’re using machine learning to determine what type of document a user has uploaded so we can guide them through the process with much less friction and also alert them if they’re trying to do something that is not allowed by law to be notarized online.

We also have some upcoming work that utilizes computer vision. Part of our security protocol involves users snapping pictures of their photo IDs so we can put them through credential analysis. Not all cameras are created equal; webcams, in particular, can have trouble focusing correctly when a user is holding up an ID for a close-up. We’ll be using some fun math to detect the quality of the photo, so we can alert the user to do a re-take before sending it off for more detailed analysis. And once you crack open computer vision libraries, you’ve opened up the door to all kinds of other fun projects.

Notarize Team Photo

Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities?  For example - skunk work projects, open-source projects?

Many people working on open-source (our modest open-source portal is on GitHub). We use quite a bit of open-source software and you can find our PRs or comments on issues spread out over GitHub and StackOverflow. It’s an initiative we’re looking forward to grow over time!

What is the culture like at Notarize for the engineering team?

There are four main pillars of our engineering culture.

Learn it: Notarize has a strong focus on mentorship, with regular 1:1s, reviews, and check-ins to ensure that you are learning & growing as an engineer. Your manager will help you set personal goals, support your learning, and track your progress against those goals, to encourage you in the growth of your career, wherever it may take you.

Communicate it: You'll be part of a small, cross-functional team (no silos) with a highly collaborative process that values thoughtful communication, not just with other engineers but with all parts of the organization.

Ship it: We have a great cadence for releasing software immediately. We ship code once a week with some nightly builds (both web & mobile), with a focus on small features & improvements (no monster merges).

Fix it: We’re a small startup with big plans, and there’s so much to do. Whether it’s an antiquated legal process, an edge-case user interaction, a quirky piece of code, or a desk that hasn’t been put together yet, we show up every day with the goal of digging in and leaving something better than we found it.

What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?

A pair programming session and a system design conversation. Our process is very hands-on and very light. No whiteboard pseudo-code, no brain teasers, we just put you in the types of interactions you’ll have every day as part of our engineering team.

Are you involved in any local tech organizations or Meetups?

We love Railsbridge--we helped sponsor their most recent event and one of our engineers volunteered to teach. Having a diverse engineering team is non-negotiable for us; my mom was a software developer and I grew up hearing horror stories about her experiences as a woman in tech. Our vision is for Notarize to be an inclusive place where people of all backgrounds feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued.

Rapid Fire Q&A

What’s on tap?

Nitro cold brew

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Yes. Great.

iPhone or Android?

We are happy supporters and users of both! :D

Coffee - hot or iced?

Our office is located between a Dunkin and a Starbucks so we can’t imagine ever having to choose.

Favorite employee perk?

A flexible work from home policy!

What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture?

Notary Publix! (it’s on YouTube)

What music is playing in your office?

SMOOTH JAZZ 24/7. Our property managers pipe it into the hallways & bathrooms and it’s weirdly hypnotizing. But when we’re hanging out, whoever can get the Sonos to connect gets to choose.

View from your office:

Notarize View from the Office

Cleanest/Messiest desk:

Team Profiles

Michael Lee, CTO

Michael Lee, CTO of Notarize

Omar Inam, Senior Engineer

Omar Inam, Senior Engineer at Notarize

Holly Fletcher, Software Engineer

Holly Fletcher, Notarize

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of Notarize.

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