July 27, 2016
Runkeeper's Engineers Go the Distance

With a user base of 45M, Runkeeper continues to revolutionize the lives of runners around the world. Over the last eight years, they've cultivated a large and loyal following. Runkeeper delivers encouragement, guidance and motivation to its users. Their “Everyone. Every Run.” tagline represents the company's commitment to helping people become passionate, life-long runners. 

​Runkeeper paved the way for fitness tracking apps. They've built an API that allows any health monitoring device to integrate with its app. It's the one stop shop for all of your other apps that track sleep, calories, glucose levels, heart rate and more.

I recently caught up with Mike Oliver, Vice President of Product Engineering at Runkeeper. He gave me the run down on what their engineering team is up to! 

Runkeeper is hiring! Check out its BIZZpage

JG: Congratulations on your recent acquisition by ASICS Corporation! What does this mean for Runkeeper and the engineering team?

Mike Oliver: Thanks! The acquisition by ASICS is a tremendous opportunity for our engineering team to continue growing. In our conversations with ASICS, they continually recognized the successes we’ve had: our engineering process, the talent on our team, and our ability to train and groom new talented engineers.

ASICS wants us to keep building on these successes, simply at a much broader scale. This means new projects, more technical challenges, a larger team, new leadership opportunities, and a whole lot more. It’s really an exciting time around here!

JG: Runkeeper was one of the first apps in the Apple app store. You originally joined the company as a Lead iOS Engineer. Can you talk about how the product has evolved throughout the years?

MO: One of the best things about working at Runkeeper is being on the leading edge of mobile consumer technology.  Our product was available on day one of the App Store, and it has evolved with the technology: we were a launch partner with the Pebble Smartwatch; we were there for day one on Apple Watch, Android Wear, HealthKit, Google Fit… and the list goes on. We’re committed to staying on the forefront of health and fitness technology, and with the major mobile ecosystems now focusing there as well, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be at Runkeeper!

JG: Can you share some of the biggest lessons you have learned while scaling engineering at Runkeeper to support over 50M users in over 180 countries?

MO: I think the most important thing is to have a process that embraces flexibility. Whether it’s a new device release, a change in the competitive landscape, or a unique partnership opportunity, there’s always something unexpected that comes up. It’s critical to the success of the company to be able to pivot and embrace these changes.   

We’ve also learned to adjust our process for each platform to capitalize on its strengths. On Android, for example, all our releases use the staged rollout capabilities to ensure a release is high quality before all our users get it. We also do more regular releases on Android, as we can push releases out much faster (though Apple is improving). As Apple and Google release new tech at WWDC and I/O, we’re not just looking for new features to build that our users will love, we’re also looking for new features to add to improve our release process.

JG: What is the technical stack that the engineering team is working on at Runkeeper and what are some of the cool/interesting problems that they are solving?

MO: The engineering stack at Runkeeper is wide ranging - and we ask our engineers to be knowledgeable of most, if not all of it. Our backend code is Java based (with a bit of Scala). It’s been recently migrated into AWS where it communicates with RDS, Redshift, Lambda and whatever other great new AWS tools we can get our hands on. The mobile apps are each written natively: Java on Android with touches of RXJava, and primarily Objective-C on iOS, but we are actively writing new code in Swift.  

The Swift transition is one of the most interesting challenges to happen in the industry for some time. We have a brand new language created by one of the biggest players in mobile, and our team has a unique opportunity to get involved at the ground level.  

​JG: What’s unique about the engineering team’s culture?

MO: At most mobile companies, engineers are hired as strictly single platform: maybe you’re a Senior Android Engineer or you only work on the server component. We believe that’s an anti-pattern; engineers on our team are expected to work across components on whatever the most critical project is at the time. This is good for the company and good for individual engineers. Engineers are constantly learning and experiencing new technologies, and as a company we can pivot more easily to important projects regardless of the technology.  

Of course, every engineer is encouraged to “find a home,” or establish deep expertise in an area of the stack that they’re most passionate about. It’s that balance of deep expertise and flexibility that allows us to achieve high quality regardless of the project we take on.

JG: Can you highlight some of your engineering team? 

​MO: The opportunity to work on a consumer mobile app has attracted an immense amount of talent to this team. We’ve had engineers present at local meetups, speak at larger conferences, and even be involved in a few programming books on mobile industry topics.  

Danielle Cohen really exemplifies the engineering culture here, and has contributed across almost every technical component and function we have: client and server, mobile and web, Engineer and Technical Product Manager. She’s also super fun to work with and she keeps design on their toes by including pictures of cats as placeholders. Danielle was recently featured by recruitHer, and shocker: her profile
picture is her with a few cats!

​Phil Connaughton, our Director of Engineering, has become a ​ real expert and leader within the team. ​His expertise is getting wider exposure, and he was recently asked to present at MBLTDev in Moscow on how we handle GPS. You can watch his presentation here.  

JG: Runkeeper is hiring for multiple positions within engineering. Can you share some of the details on a couple of the roles?

MO: We’re growing incredibly quickly right now, which means there’s a lot of opportunity across the board. We’re hiring for software engineers and QA on both our Consumer Apps and eCommerce teams. In particular, we’re looking for someone with deep Android experience to help amplify the entire team’s Android skills. This is a great opportunity for someone with a few years of Android experience that also wants to mentor other engineers on Android best practices.  As a technology and primarily mobile company, we rely heavily on engineers to advocate for the tech their closest to.  This position has a unique opportunity to work closely with Google, attend Google I/O and other major conferences, and come to the table here with ideas on how to implement the latest and greatest technology our users have come to expect.  

I’d also like to highlight that for most of our product engineering positions, mobile experience is a plus but not a requirement. We’ve been doing mobile here since long before most people had experience with it, and we know what it takes for engineers to succeed. If you’re a strong engineer with solid coding principles and a real passion for mobility, but you don’t know how to break into iPhone or Android, we want to talk to you! 

​​JG: Who is the fastest runner on the engineering team?

MO: Yikes, I could get in trouble for how I answer this! There’s definitely a lot of speed on the team. Some are super-fast sprinters, others are really impressive marathoners. I’ll at least cop to this – whoever the fastest runner is, it’s definitely not me! I always say there are two kinds of runners – those who eat to run and those who run to eat. I am squarely in the second category. I’m less worried about my speed and more thinking about earning an extra snack or drink after my run.



Jill Gregoriou is the Customer Success Specialist at VentureFizz. Follow her on Twitter: @JillGregoriou