Left: When 15-years-old Felix Krause stated in front of the Google headquarters in Mountain View: “I want to work here one day!” A mere seven years later, in 2017, his wish came true Credit: Felix Krause

“Publish your cool ideas!”

At the age of 21, he emigrated from Austria to the USA, with the technology giant Twitter hav- ing just bought his start-up Fastlane.

Interview: Sandra Bak

At the age of 21, he emigrated from Austria to the USA, with the technolo- gy giant Twitter having just bought his start-up Fastlane. Today, this 24- year-old works as a software developer for Google and is living his dream. In this interview, Felix Krause talks about his beginnings, the myth of Sili- con Valley and why he thinks there is no substitute for personal network- ing.

Sandra: You will be in Vienna as a keynote speaker at this year’s WeAre- Devs Congress. What are you going to be talking about?

Felix: The title of my lecture is “Trusting SDKs”. Developers use re- usable code components (frameworks) to develop software. In principle, that is a good thing – but it is not without its risks. I’ll be talking about the damage that hackers can cause. Many people think, how bad can it really be? But numerous events from the past show that it can be very bad in- deed. At the WeAreDevelopers Congress, I will use iPhone apps to show how a large number of iPhone apps and iPhones can be “attacked”.

Sandra: At the tender age of 21, you emigrated from Austria to the USA when Twitter bought your start-up Fastlane. What made the software de- veloper tool you had created so interesting for a tech giant like Twitter?

Felix: The start-up Fastlane that I had developed makes it possible to submit iOS and Android apps to their respective stores automatically – and that has already saved many millions of working hours for developers all over the world. Twitter had a development division called “Fabric” – a platform that provided new tools for developers to build new apps. Fast- lane was a perfect fit for them. The Fabric division was sold to Google in January of last year – and I moved over with it. Now I work there full-time in the field of open source tooling for mobile app developers.

Sandra: A photo on your Facebook page shows you as a 15-year-old in front of the Google headquarters in Mountain View. At the time, you stated “I want to work here one day!” A mere seven years later, in 2017, your wish came true and you started working at Google. How did that happen? And what was it like at the beginning?

Felix: I come from a small town close to Baden near Vienna. I attended the Higher Technical Training and Research Institute (HTL) in Wiener Neustadt and later studied in England. Fastlane was created as part of my bachelor’s thesis. It was an open source software project, which meant that the public had access to it. And although I had built the tool on my own, I had help from the community; with other developers working on technically improving the tool via the Internet. And it’s true – when I was 15, I went to the west coast of America on a family vacation and, among other things, we visited Google’s headquarters. I decided then and there that one day I would work there. It all worked out, which of course makes me very happy.

Sandra: To get to Silicon Valley is the ultimate dream for many develop- ers. And you’ve done it. What is the vibe like there? And does Google pro- vide you with the perfect work environment?

Felix: It is interesting – since I’ve started working in Silicon Valley my- self, my opinion about its special vibe has undergone a slight change. Most people believe that everybody there handles enormous volumes of work, that they work extremely hard and extremely long hours – but that is not always the case. I also initially thought that the very best people work there and only there. And that, too, is a fallacy. Of course there are world-class engineers in Silicon Valley, but even in Europe – and especial- ly in Austria – we have incredibly good people. At the moment I live and work in New York because I really appreciate the change of scenery. The really positive thing about working for Google is that as a software devel- oper, you have a lot of freedom. We do not get assignments, we get goals and we work towards one vision as a team. To me personally, this is of the utmost importance – that I can work independently. Our working hours are not strictly timed and our place of work is not strictly defined. There is no need for me to explain myself when, for example, I work from Austria for two weeks, like I am doing now before the WeAreDevelopers Congress.

Sandra: On your blog there is a photo that shows your life in two suitcas- es and a backpack. Your home seems to be everywhere in the world. Do you still feel connected to your native Austria? And how do you find the right work-life balance?

Felix: I’ve traveled a lot for work in recent years and found myself sel- dom at home in my apartment, which gave rise to the idea of experiment- ing with a minimalist lifestyle. The experiment has now been running for 130 days already; I have also been writing about it in my blog at https://krausefx.com. This year I would like to do a little less traveling so that I have more time to explore my current place of residence, New York. I spend two months of the year in Austria, mostly over Christmas and in summer. I call my friends or family every day, for example while I am out for a walk. My work-life balance is good – also because I can work relative- ly independent of location and time, and because I enjoy working. In addi- tion to my job, I also blog, do sports and take advantage of the huge amount of free time activities in New York or the cities I find myself in. By the way, anyone who wants to know where I am currently can just click on this link: https://whereisfelix.today.

Sandra: Do you have any advice for young developers who want to follow a path similar to yours?

Felix: I would advise all young developers to finish and publish what they are working on. There are many cool ideas out there – but if no-one sees them, no-one can appreciate them or learn from them. For example, I blog or tweet about new things. Published successes also help a lot in job applications, for the simple reason that you already have something to show. One important message I want to share with other young develop- ers is that they should not believe that everything is perfect in Silicon Val- ley. I would even go so far as to say that some things work better in Aus- tria.

Sandra: Why are international congresses, like WeAreDevelopers, that bring together developers from all over the world, so important and in- spiring?

Felix: The most important thing for me is that you can interact person- ally with other speakers and participants, right there and in real life. The talks or contents can also be viewed online, but there is no substitute for experiencing it in person. To me, the WeAreDevelopers Congress also has another great bonus, which is that everybody from the Austrian developer scene, from which I learned a lot in the early years, is there. That is really exciting for me!

Everything I own

in one picture.

Travelling a lot led Felix Krause to experimenting with a mini- malist lifestyle. Credit: Felix Krause