Life at ForAllSecure: James Kessler, Staff Software Engineer

April 14, 2023
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“Life at ForAllSecure” is a Q&A series dedicated to our growing company.

For this month’s profile, we talked with James Kessler, Staff Software Engineer, who joined the company in April, 2022 and is based out of Calgary, Alberta.


1. What did your career path look like before you came to work here?

I got my BS from the University of Calgary in 2003. Then I worked in junior to senior engineer roles at a few different companies, including an oil and gas software company and a grocery startup. I became principal engineer at AutoStore, then left that job to come work at ForAllSecure last year.

So, before this, I was working in warehouse logistics, building software for people working in warehouses and interacting with shipping robotics. It was very different from this. One of the clients had a warehouse where they were shipping chips and pop to convenience stores. So I was building that software where orders would go in, and then they would be pulling it out of this giant robotic grid of bins. So very different from this.

I've always wanted to work on tools for other developers. That's something I've never done before this job. I've written oil and gas software tools for oil and gas accountants. But I'm not an oil and gas accountant. This is the first time I've worked on software for other software developers. It feels really empowering—I have the customer perspective, because I’ve been on that side. Now I can put that to use.


2. What is your typical day like at ForAllSecure?

We usually have a team meeting in the morning, then we break off into focusing on our work. 

I help the team triage and scope issues—either from our backlog, or requests that have come from our customers. So, we look at those, and I help anybody who needs it. If it’s in my area of expertise, then I'm jumping on calls and helping other people work through stuff.


3. What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on at ForAllSecure?

I really liked redesigning the Mayhem for API frontend and polishing that product. I think the user experience for that turned out really awesome. So, I was happy to work on that and kind of take it from design to completion. 


4. What have been your toughest challenges at work?

We were working on a feature a while ago to expand supported API types. During that project, I was learning the fuzzer engine and how the fuzzer engine works—how it tries to find and reproduce vulnerabilities and report issues that can be replayed by the user.

That was definitely the biggest challenge. It's very complicated software. I haven't worked on fuzzers before, so it was a good chance to grow and learn.


5. When you are at work, how do you motivate yourself or what helps you focus?

I really like building a product that I'm proud to show off to people and that gives a superior user experience. That's what motivates me—just building a better product, something people love to use. Sometimes there's tools that you love, that you go back to, and that never let you down. That's what I want to build.


6. How have you grown professionally while working at ForAllSecure?

I've learned a lot about fuzzing and API testing for sure. Those are things that I didn't pay too much attention to in any of my previous roles. I would say I've grown the most there. 

A secondary thing has been learning the programming language Rust. I think that’s one of the languages people most want to learn. 


7. What has your experience been with our company culture?‍‍

We're open to experimenting and having those either succeed or fail. Also, to my previous point, we're product-driven from the ground up. Everyone on the team really wants to build the best possible product. That’s one of the things that sets our team and company apart in my opinion.

And we kind of have all of the pieces at the bottom level. Since we’re a team of developers, we can easily understand the business needs that our products are designed to meet. 


8. What advice can you offer to someone looking to get into a role like yours?

I would say that they should read lots, especially stuff that they don't agree with. I have a reading list of three books:

So, I would say to read those books. There's a lot of hyped-up processes, I think, and these books kind of cut through that hype to deliver something real, and it's good advice to follow. 


9. Tell us about yourself outside of work. What are your hobbies?

I play around with my synthesizers. I have a Cobalt 8, Deluge, and Make Noise 0-Coast. I sometimes stream on twitch or record a track.

I take my kids to all their activities. That's mostly what I do—I don't know if that's a hobby. 

I'm a big history nerd, so I listen to tons of history podcasts while I walk, and I walk a lot. Since Covid, I'm addicted to walking. 


10. What is something you’ve learned in the previous month, whether connected to your role at ForAllSecure or not?

I’ve learned a lot about the Revolutions of 1848. It's pretty cool. Nobody really learns about 1848, but it kind of set up the modern world, left the absolute monarchies in the past, and at least put the idea of constitutional governments in everybody's head.

It was a big year. Nothing actually happened though. Like, no revolution actually succeeded. They all failed. 


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