The People of Botpress is a series where we highlight our people and the great work they do by talking about life at Botpress.
In this edition of The People of Botpress, we interview our Head of Engineering, François-Xavier Darveau!
Give us an introduction! Who are you? What do you do at Botpress? Favorite Code Editor? Windows, Linux or Mac? Dark theme or Light theme? Favorite hobby?
I’m Frank, or F, or François-Xavier. I’m the head of engineering and I’ve been here almost since our inception. My favourite code editor is VS Code. I’m a light theme fan. I know it’s weird for a developer but I’m an old man now. White theme all the way! I use Mac or Linux. I actually really dislike the Windows paths system, the backslashes are simply bugging me. My favourite hobby is everything related to extreme sports. Things like rock climbing, scuba diving, skydiving, snowboarding and all the stuff you can do with nature where you get crazy. That’s what I do.
What does a regular day at Botpress look like for you?
It has changed over time. Back in the day, it was essentially coding, reading documentation, and coding some more. Now I’m hiring, maintaining a world-class talented team, and prioritizing everything that goes in our product along with the product team. I make sure the code is up to par with our standards. I also make sure the team is doing well and will keep doing well, no matter what. And, I try to sneak in a bunch of features here and there.
Essentially, my job is to make sure our engineering team ships high quality software with great velocity while keeping room for innovation.
Tell me about your background in engineering.
I got interested in tech when I was very young. Although I wasn’t planning to become an engineer at all, I always wanted to build wonderful things that would change the world. Programming happened to be the best way for me to do that. So, I ended up learning programming when I was young by doing some dreamweaver websites. Then, I put that aside and went into video editing and event planning. That was a bit too easy, so I ended up wanting to change the world by using my brain. I went back to programming and took it more seriously about 11 or 12 years ago. That’s when I went to Laval University where I completed my computer science studies. I also majored in artificial intelligence at LIU in Sweden, and came back to Canada. I started a bunch of startups—failed, learned, and created open source projects. Now I’m at Botpress.
What attracted you to Botpress?
Sylvain, our CEO, is a good friend of mine. We met in college where we did a bunch of hacks and crushed some hackathons together. We had a lot of fun! Then we split apart and he started this crazy open source chatbot project and I started my own startup. I eventually sold my startup. At the same time, Botpress was getting more traction. So, he called me and said: “Hey Frank, I think I need you. We’re trying to create a scalable company out of Botpress and I’d like to have you on board.”
That and the fact that I hated the current state of chatbots was why I joined. I think Botpress can change that—The best way to change things is to join a startup that is one of the pioneers of an industry, chatbots in our case. That’s what brought me here and I’m still here 4 years later!
What’s your favourite thing about Botpress?
That's a tough one. What I really like, and this will never change, is that we’re developer focused. Botpress is mainly open-source and a developer tool. We always kept that in mind and we will always keep that in mind. We put the developer experience at the center of everything that we do.
What’s your favourite project that you’ve worked on at Botpress?
My favourite project is the initial Natural Language Understanding (NLU). I was brought here to build an NLU engine that works on-premise in low resource environments with very low latency. A big part of it is still running today!
It’s my favourite project because it combines a few things. NLU, which is a very abstract concept that allows human natural language to communicate with machines, was a nice challenge for me because, in terms of AI, I come from an image processing background. Also, transforming natural language processing and exposing the output to a developer through simple APIs is transformative. We abstract very complex stuff in 2 simple functions and output a very easy-to-use data structure. It got me to be a little creative and I like that. It was a nice challenge in terms of complexity and creativity.
What makes Botpress different as a company?
We can answer this in many ways, but I think the talent density at Botpress is what makes us very different. The collective IQ is very high. When you join, you know you’re going to step up your game with anything that you will do whether you’re in marketing, customer success, or engineering.
Something else that is very interesting is that we're from the small Nordic town of Quebec City. There aren’t that many startups here and that gives a nice tweak to everything. We have a core team in Quebec City but we are all also spread around the world. Having that multicultural atmosphere in the team, and being founded in a small city in Canada is a very unique combination.
Why should a developer choose to come and work at Botpress?
We have incredible talent. Jumping in, you will be challenged by the team and you will learn a lot. We have very interesting and engaging projects. Moreover, as an open-source developer, we are one of the only startups that pays you to produce open-source code which is very appealing. That’s at the heart of our DNA. If you come here, expect to push open-source code for the most part of the day. You will also be interacting with a community of thousands of users who are also passionate about open-source and chatbots.
In terms of tech at Botpress, there is a position for everyone. Whether you want to process millions of messages per minute, there’s a place for you here. Whether you are a cloud engineer and manage distributed infrastructure on multi-cloud environments, there’s a place for you here too. Whether you are an experienced front-end engineer that likes to design very snappy UI, we have a position for you too. Whether you are a natural language or machine learning artist, we have plenty of cool tasks for you as well. The sky's the limit to learn and uplevel your skills.
Why should a developer choose to create their chatbots with Botpress?
Botpress is created for people who want to future proof their chatbots. You can trust that the team here at Botpress will keep up with the NLU advancements to build tools for your chatbot that work now, tomorrow, in three years, and in ten years. Natural Language Understanding research will get to a human level that’s for sure. Botpress is there to make it easy for any developer.
If you want your chatbot to be easy to build and easy to maintain, with a high level of flexibility that will continue to work forever, then you should choose Botpress as a tool for sure.
How do you think Botpress and its technology will impact people's lives?
In 5 to 10 years, we will have human-level natural language understanding capabilities available out there. Given that, chatbots will become ubiquitous. That’s for sure. People are going to interact with chatbots for day-to-day tasks such as scheduling events on their calendar, requesting refunds, transferring money, reserving a table at a restaurant, and even speaking with fictional characters in gaming environments. All of that will not only be doable on an app but will also be doable on natural interfaces that will all be powered by NLU. Botpress is the only tool for developers to build professional chatbots powered by NLU.
Given that chatbots are going to become ubiquitous and that Botpress is the only tool that gives you the professional powers to build human-level understanding, we can conclude that Botpress is going to impact the world dramatically because it’s going to power most chatbots across the globe. Today we have seen our impact with companies that are leading the way of digital experiences. It would not be an overstatement to say that in five to ten years most of the people on this planet will have interacted with a chatbot that is powered by Botpress.
Thank you so much for being our The People of Botpress employee highlight this week! Do you have any final words for the readers?
Final words? I have many. If you want to join a team that is smart, forward-looking, and that wants to change the world positively, then you need to join Botpress today.
Chatbots are going to become ubiquitous no matter what. So, better jump on the ship and join us on that wonderful journey whether you’re a chatbot developer, an API developer, or anyone looking to have a positive impact in this world.
We look forward to seeing where the future takes you and the engineering team at Botpress!
You can find François-Xavier Darveau on LinkedIn.
What is Botpress? Learn more here.
Get a demo here.
Read our last episode of The People of Botpress with Nadine Ungerer, Head of Customer Success