December 4, 2020

On Dec. 3, 1992, Neil Papworth, a former developer at Sema Group Telecoms, sent the first text message to Richard Jarvis at Vodafone. It read, “Merry Christmas.”

A pillar of modern communication, as we know it, was born. 

The simple holiday greeting may have been enough of an opener for Richard Jarvis to write back. However, in today’s landscape where brands and companies can now reach customers through SMS, a better marketing message (with an engaging call-to-action) is required to ensure customers text back.

Enter EZ Texting, a mobile marketing platform that allows businesses to personally connect with consumers. Using empirical data and marketing research to help generate effective and engaging messaging, EZ Texting promises a 98 percent open rate and 90 percent response rate, according to their website.  

 

ez texting
ez texting

Behind the platform that allows businesses to press ‘send’ efficiently is EZ Texting’s Co-Founder and CTO Vijesh Mehta and its engineering team, which has been in the process of modernizing its tech stack. 

“We realized there were some scaling concerns that we didn’t think were easily solvable. We felt like the right thing to do, rather than replicate or rebuild something, was utilize some stuff we already had and piggyback on that,” Mehta said.

Mehta said they use an API-based microservice because it creates isolation of different areas of the system. “It also really creates the idea of ownership and the ability for multiple teams to be able to work on something together,” Mehta said.

To make the whole of a sum greater than its parts requires first investing in great parts. Below, Mehta, Senior Manager of Agile Transformation Nicole Goodwill and Director of Product Engineering Adrian Rodriguez broke down how a streamlined — and fun — engineering culture helps support a growing team.

 

EZ Texting’s History

CallFire was co-founded by Mehta in 2006 and, after acquiring marketing platforms EZ Texting and FireText, the company rebranded under the EZ Texting name in 2018. 

 

EZ Texting has a history of mergers and acquisitions to become what it is today. How common is it for companies to operate on multiple tech stacks and is there an end goal of merging the two stacks?

Mehta: We’re actually in the middle of it now and expecting that conversion to be done by the beginning of next year. Once it’s over, it’ll have been a two-year process.

We realized after the acquisition of EZ Texting there were some scaling concerns that we didn’t think were easily solvable. We had already solved some of those problems in our Java side of our cloud telephone system. We felt like the right thing to do was, rather than replicate or rebuild something, utilize some stuff we already had and piggyback on that. 

When you think about building teams and building architecture, you get into a situation where you may start as a small group and it’s very easy to sync up every day and work on the codebase. When you start getting into larger groups, you start asking questions like, “How do I deal with this one technology stack with all these people?” and “How do I prevent them from stepping on each other’s toes or modifying things in the same areas?”
 

Scaling out an architecture means more than just a software system.” 


Scaling architecture means more than just a software system. First, I ask how I can make my team be the most effective in this architecture. One of the key reasons why we went toward API-based microservices is because it creates isolation of different areas of the system. It allows us to take a squad or a team, give them a mission and a goal, and apply it to that problem. They can work on some areas of the code without stepping on other people’s code. It also really creates the idea of ownership and the ability for multiple teams to be able to work on something together. It’s a really wonderful environment for us. It’s not just the technology we’re scaling — we’re also scaling the people. 

Rodriguez: After the acquisition of EZ Texting, we set out to create a unified kind of UI that would serve both brands and possibly many after that. After comparing contemporary frameworks, the team felt that they were fans of things that had a pretty tight framework with several different rules and a lot of things that came out of the box. Hence, we went with Angular. It helps that we tend to see that people with a Java background, or something similar, go toward Angular. It’s been a good choice for us.

 

GET TO KNOW: ADRIAN Rodriguez, DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT ENGINEERING

“I’ve been at EZ Texting for five years and lead the engineering teams that focus on mid-market and partnerships,” Rodriguez said. “I work on anything that delivers any customer-facing functionality.”

 

What are your projected trends for text marketing? How will your engineering team be a part of that?

Mehta: With COVID-19, we’ve seen a significant rise in people texting businesses to ask about their policies, pick-up goods, etc. What we want to do as a company is gear our clients’ messages so that they are effective for the receiving customer. We want to make sure the customer is receiving notifications or promotions they actually want.   

One of the key areas we focus on is making sure message quality is extremely high. Another area of focus is conversations, and so we’re adding that piece into our software. Our software now allows businesses to text from their landlines. A business can take a phone number that they’ve had since the 1970s and enable it for text.
 

One of the key areas we focus on is making sure message quality is extremely high.


We also want to help businesses create a feedback loop with customers. To generate responses, businesses need to engage their customers in a proactive way. We use gathered data to help them with verbiage to evoke customer response, which leads to better sales and better business performance. Our texting tool is a really good way of dealing with compliance and making sure that customers who don’t want to receive text messages can opt out.

 

GET TO KNOW: VIJESH MEHTA, CO-FOUNDER AND CTO

“I’ve been here since the beginning of the company,” Mehta said. “I’ve navigated different stages of growth, including finding product-market fit and scaling the product-market fit, which is where we’re at now. We’ve grown our team to 73 engineers. It’s been a great ride for me.”

 

How do you use data to help your customers become better marketers?

Mehta: First, we looked at all the different messages and reply rates and opt-out rates and all the different data analysis that we had available. We identified, based on any particular industry and use case, which messages were the most effective. From there, we realized that certain words are way more effective than others. For example, if you send a link to somebody via text and you say the word “click,” the chances of them clicking that link goes up through the roof.  

To help our customers, we show them examples of great messages that have been used by other people in the industry. They can then use those templates for their messages and reduce opt-out rates and increase a quicker response.

 

Get to Know: Nicole Goodwill, Senior Manager of Agile Transformation

“I look after the Agile chapter,” Goodwill said. “I jump from squad to squad and make sure that we are effectively executing best practices, and then focus on continuous improvement.”

 

Nicole, you’ve been at EZ Texting for only a couple of months. What are your impressions of the engineering culture? 

Goodwill: I first noticed that leadership is very present. I come from a global organization so I love the fact here that if I want to go speak to Vijesh, I can easily do so. During onboarding, we had conversations with our CEO. We have a very open-door policy. 

Also, we’re very open in our team meetings — we make sure that everyone can speak candidly and encourage listening as well. We make sure that collaboration is strong. We want new ideas and we want to experiment so that we can continue to grow. We’re always looking for better ways to do things.

 

 

From a C-suite level, what does an effective engineering culture look like to you?

Mehta: It’s important that we use empirical data to plan. We try not to just arbitrarily create deadlines, which puts unnecessary pressure on people.

We follow the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts idea that you leave something better than you found it. We make sure to do that with our code. There’s no such thing as an unexplained phenomenon, we believe in finding the real root cause of things. I think that that proactive mindset is definitely a big part of our culture as well, and what we’re looking for, especially as we’re hiring.

 

EZ Texting’s Tech Stack

  • Platform/Microservices: Java, Spring Boot, Spring WebFlux, Angular.
  • Databases: HBase, MySQL, Postgres, Elasticsearch, Apache Spark, CloudSQL, BigQuery.
  • Serverless technologies: Google Cloud Functions, AWS Lambdas, Cloud Pub/Sub.

 

What traits are you looking for as you grow your team?

Goodwill: During my interview process, one of my first questions was to define what “embrace change” meant to me. Embracing change means having a growth mindset. For my team, I look for anyone that’s self-motivated, which is one of the Agile principles. I think relationships are a big focus here at EZ Texting. To sustain that, we’re looking for people that are going to fit with our culture and fit with the people that we have here. 

One of my jobs during hiring is making sure that our squads remain balanced. When any new people come into a squad, we want to make sure that they’re going to bring their own ideas, but also retain the balance so that we can continue to grow in the right direction.

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