Get to know a Buildertrend employee: Rich Kalasky
Seven years ago, Rich Kalasky never thought he’d be where he’s at now.
As director of architecture for Buildertrend, Rich helps steer direction on development of the world’s No. 1 construction project management software. Buildertrend is making a big impact on the industry – improving profits, efficiency and communication for more than 1 million pros. Many of those major wins are due to the decisions made by Rich, his team and the larger Engineering team.
Settling for good enough is never good enough at Buildertrend. We’re always looking to improve our product through updates and new features – but that doesn’t just happen. It’s people like Rich who are behind it all.
Rich’s work is a testament to what’s possible in the construction industry – and, more specifically, what’s possible at Buildertrend. He began his career here in 2013 as a mid-level developer and quickly progressed through a variety of senior developer and architect positions until becoming director last year.
Since he has held such a myriad of positions during his tenure, we thought there would be nobody better to tell us what it’s like on the front lines developing our platform. Read on to learn how he helped tackle the most complex product project in Buildertrend history, what a day in the life of a tech architect looks like and the story of jacket now missing for six years.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up at Buildertrend?
I have lived in Omaha 90% of my life, but I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a computer science degree. Before Buildertrend, I worked at Epic Systems in Madison, Wis. and Don’t Panic Labs in Lincoln. Buying a house in Omaha resulted in a job search to avoid commuting to Lincoln and that’s when I found Buildertrend. My wife and I (and two kiddos) are still living in that house, slowly but steadily renovating.
Q: What’s a typical day as director of architecture look like for you?
My role is a hybrid of people management, technical leadership and product steering. I try to keep myself and my team active at all levels of the business. We work not only with business leaders determining company strategy, but also the teams implementing those strategies. I like to say we “ride the elevator” from the board room to the engine room, connecting the dots and communicating along the way. Given that, each day can be wildly different. For me, there are usually quite a few meetings that vary from high-level organizational strategy all the way down to specific bug recreation and fix discussions.
My focus so far this year has been on the 2021 strategy for the Architecture team. We’re working to get ahead of the rest of the Engineering team and align our technology vision with the goals of the rest of the company. Developing deeper relationships with our business and product counterparts will be crucial to these strategies.
Q: What are some of your most memorable Buildertrend moments?
An impromptu disaster recovery session a few years back sticks out. Our hosting provider went down, which meant that Buildertrend was down. A small group in Engineering worked late into the night to migrate our site to servers within the office. After hours of work – and a few shots of Fireball – we had the site “working”. Things were still sketchy for a day or so after that, but everything turned out alright. We actually ended up hiring someone who worked for the hosting provider – Hi, Terry Davis! – and this event was a catalyst to move our hosting over to Google Cloud.
Outside of work, each holiday party has been unique and is a great chance to see how the company has grown. My first holiday party was in a single room with about 50 people. Contrast that with 2019 where we sprawled out across the entire Buildertrend office with more than 500.
P.S. I’m still looking for my suit jacket from the 2015 party if anyone has leads.
Q: What are some of the big projects you’ve helped tackle?
In terms of customer-facing projects, I led development on Messages, Proposals and Estimates. These last few years, React has been a big focus for me and my team. Seeing the migration run full scale last year was a thing of beauty.
The React conversion is the largest, most complex software project Buildertrend has ever taken on. Even though a lot of the migration has been invisible to our customers, there is so much going on behind the scenes. If you want a construction analogy, it’s kind of like replacing galvanized plumbing with copper. You can’t really see it, but it’s more reliable and required for a modern home. Just like plumbing in a home, the more important stuff for our customers will be the features we build on top of this new technology.
I’ve tried to help wherever I could during this project: selling the idea to the company, assisting with education of our team, creating project plans, code reviews, etc. However, most of the credit for getting this project done goes to the people on the Product and Engineering teams.
Q: How do you hope our product develops in the coming years?
I see our product developing in a number of ways over the next few years:
- Improving user friendliness. Buildertrend is a large platform with a lot of features, so it can be intimidating. When we talk about what we can do post-React, making it more user friendly is the easy answer. We will be able to make our platform feel more like a modern web application and make it more approachable for both new and existing customers.
- Extending our reach. We already have partnerships that enable online payments, risk insurance and financing. This trend will continue with more and deeper integrations, providing more options to our customers across all aspects of a build.
- Evolving with the industry. The construction industry, like all others, is modernizing and adopting technology faster than ever before. Buildertrend needs to be on that front line, helping our customers automate tedious processes and reduce waste. I can’t say specifically what this will mean for our platform, but my team is building flexibility into our software to support whatever comes next.
Q: Finally, what makes Buildertrend a unique place to work?
The Bobs* have created a unique environment where people are free to be creative and make an impact. Their willingness and desire to stay engaged day-to-day has maintained that environment. It has driven our growth, and it’s especially unique as it has happened in Omaha. Growing up here, that’s a special story to me. Is there another company like this? Not sure, but I’m very proud to work at this one.
*Editor’s note: The Bobs is how Buildertrend refers to its three co-founders and co-CEOs.
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