Welcome to our AlumNY Spotlight blog series! This winter, we’re be profiling some hackNY AlumNY who have continued to do great things at the startup where they spent their hackNY Fellowship summer. In our last post, Lisa Luo (hackNY ’14) told us all about her experience building an Android team at Kickstarter – check it out.
In this post we interview Evan Casey (Class of 2014), who interned at Tapad on the Data Team. In Evan’s words, “Tapad is a marketing technology company that uses algorithms to analyze internet and device data and predict whether two or more devices are owned by the same person.” You may have heard about Tapad recently – the innovative startup is being acquired by Telenor, a multinational telecom company. Evan learned a lot as a hackNY Fellow and helped contribute a major feature to his team’s product. After his hackNY summer ended, Evan was offered a full time job on the Platform team. Eun Woo Song, Director of Engineering at Tapad, says, “Not only does Evan have a great personality and work ethic but his educational background, big data skill set and deep understanding of computer science principles make him a great addition to the team.”
What are you up to at Tapad these days?
I am currently a software engineer on the Platform team, working on data infrastructure. Usually this involves writing batch ETL jobs in MapReduce to import and export data out of various databases we use (Aerospike, Elasticsearch, Vertica), working on our Kafka based data ingest stack, and building new infrastructure to power data applications for our vertical teams.
Recently, I’ve been hacking a lot on Spark and Impala as part of a project to prototype our next-gen analytics stack. It’s been a ton of fun working with Spark in particular, since it’s right at the tipping point of mass adoption and the project is progressing insanely fast. In the past, I built our forecasting delivery prediction engine on top of ElasticSearch which our sales and account teams use to forecast ad campaign delivery.
What did you work on when you were a hackNY Fellow there?
As an intern, I joined the Data team at Tapad and helped ship the first version of Audience Amplify, a new file format for our cross device data that is centered around audiences instead of clusters of device/cookie ids. Audience Amplify turned out to be a huge success, and it was really fun to be a part of a product that grew from idea to generating millions in yearly revenue. I learned a ton about Scala, building data pipelines, and working on an Agile team.
What was your favorite part of being a hackNY Fellow?
It’s hard to pick one specific thing, but the community is by far the best part of HackNY. I met some of my best friends in NYC through HackNY. During the fellowship, if I had an idea of something I wanted to hack on, I could find someone to work with on it pretty much whenever. I loved that. The collective knowledge of 30+ HackNY fellows in one dorm is truly immense. I learned a ton of things outside my specific areas of focus just by talking to other fellows.
The speaker series was also awesome. In specific, I loved hearing the talks from the Branch founders (Hursh and Cemre), Samantha John of Hopscotch, and the Codeacademy founders (Ryan and Zach). I left the fellowship basically just super inspired from hearing their stories.
How has your company grown or changed since your hackNY summer?
Tapad has doubled in headcount since I joined, so there’s been a lot of change organizationally. With that amount of growth, more structure and internal processes have been added to keep everything running smoothly. In February of 2016 we were acquired by Telenor. It’s an exciting feeling to be acquired and I think the entire team feels really proud of what we built.
What did you learn as a hackNY Fellow, and what have you learned since then?
Tapad’s backend systems are written entirely in Scala, so I had to ramp up pretty quickly on Scala and functional programming as an intern. We use the Twitter libraries (Scalding, Algebird) extensively for writing MapReduce jobs which use a bunch of concepts from category theory and abstract algebra. The relationship between monoids and monads and large scale data analytics is really interesting and it’s a cool example of bringing highly theoretical ideas into core production systems. After HackNY, I started working on some of the larger, low latency, high QPS systems at Tapad. By necessity, I picked up some dev ops skills and learned a lot about verifying correctness through testing and monitoring.
What do you enjoy doing away from the keyboard?
Skateboarding, music, film photography, travel.
Despite the harsh winter weather in NYC, I’ve been getting a few sessions here and there at the new Nike skatepark in Williamsburg. In the summer I usually skate LES a lot. I recently got an old school Canon AE-1 camera so I’ve been having fun shooting around the city and when I’m traveling. Music-wise I’ve been listening to a lot of psych/indie rock and electronic lately. Older stuff like Radiohead and newer stuff like Jamie xx.
Do you have any advice for the hackers who want to apply to be hackNY Fellows?
Make lots of side projects and submit a portfolio! Work on stuff outside of class and find other people to hack on stuff with. More than anything, HackNY is looking for people who love to build.