Foursquare’s Chief Engineer @HarryH Tells All on the Internet

HarryH is his less hirsute days

If you want things done right, sometimes you have to do them yourself. Yes, Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, and the public face of the company, wrote the original code that powered the service when it debuted at SXSW in March of 2009. But when Foursquare’s first hire, Harry Heymann, arrived at the company, he didn’t waste any time.

“I didn’t write the original version of the Foursquare code that went live with launch in March ’09. Dennis did that and it was in somewhat poorly written PHP (Dens will be the first to tell you that programming isn’t his strong suit),” Mr. Heymann wrote on Reddit’s IAmA this afternoon. “After Dennis and Naveen started the company in 2009 I was their first hire. I started by re-writing the entire server as fast as I could.”

Since this is Foursquare, a company who’s mission is to inspire users to get away from their computers and out adventuring in the real world, coding is on a strict schedule. “We deploy 4 times a week: Monday – Thursday,” writes Mr. Heymann. “No deploy (generally) on Friday because it’s our highest traffic day and it’s also nice to have things settled a bit before the wkd when folks are less available in case of a problem.”

Remember, this from a man whose motto is “I turn beer into software”, although as he explains, connecting with merchants is part of what Foursquare needs to do. “About half the time Dens is at a bar he’s actually working/having a meeting.”

Mr. Heymann dips briefly into his personal history–Best friend’s dad taught me to code (he was an AP CS teacher) when I was little. Undergrad at CMU. Microsoft (hated it), startup you haven’t hear of, Google. Met Dennis through mutual friends. Worked together for a while when he was @ Google on dodgeball— before talking about how managing a team of thirty at a company now valued at $600 million has changed his life.

“Worst thing is that Foursquare has invaded my life 24-7. I never stop thinking about it ever. Not being able to turn that off sucks sometimes. Also the pressure to meet our potential is pretty big. Scary sometimes. Don’t want to screw it up. I really miss coding. I like to think I was pretty good at it, and I’m not sure yet about management. But I try to look at it as a new challenge.  I read a lot about management and get a lot of advice from mentors (quick shout out to Ben Horowitz who is my savior) and just generally try to work really hard to do the best I can.”

Foursquare’s Chief Engineer @HarryH Tells All on the Internet