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The Real Truth of working in a StartUp: An interview with a Lead React.JS Developer

Posted on 16/10/2015 by


On a daily basis, I regularly see blogs being posted of why candidates should join a StartUp as opposed to a larger company. So to really find out the truth I went and met with Stuart Kelly the Lead Client-side Developer at Mainframe.

Anthony: Hey Stuart, thanks for taking the time to meet today to give your insight into a StartUp, so how long have you been with the guys at Mainframe?

Stuart: So I joined just over 2 and half months ago and I’ve not regretted it one bit it’s very different to previous companies!

A: So what exactly is it Mainframe are doing?

S: There’s a lot of different ways that I could describe it but we are currently building a new paradigm for internal communication, a product that offers more context than email and is much more defined than chat applications

A: How would you say Mainframe differs from your previous role at Onefinestay

S: So when I first joined Onefinestay it was still a StartUp, it was a great 4 years with them to see the company grow to the successful organisation it now is. I worked hard there and progressed up to a Senior Management Role heading up the whole of the Frontend Team. Senior Management is completely different I spent a lot of time doing your typical management tasks (code reviews etc.). The biggest difference now is that there are a lot less overheads therefore giving me the opportunity to do a lot more hands-on coding. I get the opportunity to have a real impact on technical decisions as we are so early stage (what technologies we should use and how we should be building out the product)

A: I see so very different to what you had come from, what about from a tech perspective what are you using to build the product.

S: So, on the server-side we are using Erlang with the Phoenix Framework. We chose Erlang as numerous communication platforms are built in Erlang primarily because it handles concurrency very well. For the desktop application, we decided to write it in Javascript and package it cross-platform using Electron. We decided to use React.JS as a framework, I’ve been using it for a while now and it just feels right! We also use Flux we originally started with Marty.JS but we have recently moved across to Redux. Redux is quite different to Marty but even the Marty creators themselves are moving across to Redux. By packaging everything with Electron we can have an application running that doesn’t need a browser. Being a GitHub product there is a lot of support allowing for easily integrating native updates and notifications. We are of course as well building out native mobile applications in Swift/ObjectiveC for iOS and Java for Android.

A: So everyone (recruiter/candidate/clients) knows that the JS market it BONKERS at the moment and I’m sure you weren’t short of opportunities presented to you, so why did you chose Mainframe?

S: Honestly to briefly summarise they are new, very ambitious and the work is challenging. After 4 years of Onefinestay maintaining an e-commerce platform I wanted to work on a product I could see myself using. Main reason being I am only ever going to critique it more as a product if I am using it, not only that it’s great to be passionate about improving and wanting the business to truly succeed. It’s been a rollercoaster 2 months, but we managed to go from scratch to a product being used by the team in one month.

Don’t get me wrong though we regularly face challenges. We all want to be moving faster than we are, as a small team we need to ensure that all teams can keep in sync across mobile (iOS and Android), Server-side (Erlang) and Client-side (Yours truly). Choosing software to use can have a huge impact on the business and you need to ensure that you make the right choices and the value your choices can add to the product, but if you make the wrong decision you need to quickly realise and amend this.

A: So why would you recommend to anybody to join an early stage StartUp?

S: Honestly there are so many reasons, you truly do have the opportunity to get involved in every single aspect, from product decisions, tech decisions and even something as little as interviews, it allows you to influence the culture of the environment. You really can build/make the place whatever you want. There are loads of other little sociable benefits as well we regularly do team lunches, team drinks, go karting, rock climbing and finally not forgetting Mario Kart tournaments!

A: Sounds like you’re living the dream! What can we expect to see from Mainframe then moving forward?

S: There is a lot of internal doctoring going on at the moment, but the main focus is to get ourselves ready for private, beta stage. All I can say is watch this space!

A: Sounds like this could be the next big thing? All I want to say is thanks for your time today and your insights into the wonderful world of StartUps and Mainframe.

S: We’ll see! No worries speak soon


Well, there you go everyone, straight from Stuart himself.

That’s really opened my eyes to the Tech StartUp world, but I would keen to hear other stories from other startups to see if anyone can relate.