Meet the people behind the product: Betsy Kao

October 26, 2021

Meet Betsy, a senior software engineer on our Engineering team in San Francisco.

Meet Betsy, a senior software engineer on our Engineering team in San Francisco. Betsy tells us about building analytics products for creators, how the team evaluates using new technology in architecture decisions, and designing games with her friend outside of work.

Tell me about your journey that landed you at Patreon.

I’ve known about Patreon for a while because I have a ton of creator friends who use our platform as their primary source of income. I remember at my last job a friend asked, “what’s the ideal company you’d go to next?” My response was actually Patreon because I knew that I wanted to work on something that people around the world get real value from.

What kind of art are your friends making?

A lot of my friends are in the comics and fine-arts-related spaces. For them, Patreon is a safe space with their fans to get feedback and test out early concepts before they release work out to the public. I loved hearing about how Patreon is this special space for their communities and thinking about how my work would make that experience even better.

What excited you about the team and ultimately got you to join?

When I was interviewing with the team, I learned a lot about how lively the culture is and how creative, excellent, inclusive, and friendly fellow Patronauts are. This really checked all the boxes for me.

At Patreon we love creators and admire their grit, creative process, and connection with their audiences. How does creativity show up in your work at Patreon?

A lot of my teammates are creative people themselves. This means that when we build solutions for creators, we’re often putting ourselves in their shoes and thinking about the common needs across different types of creators. 

We have to figure out how to build solutions that work for many different types of creators. We end up using the knowledge of different creator communities across the engineering and product team so that we find a solution that’s really robust but flexible. This means what we build has to work for a huge diversity of creators, whether they’re illustrators, podcasters, video creators, journalists or gamers.

What types of people are you working with?

Because I’m an engineer working directly on improving the product, I work very closely with product managers and designers. But one of the things that’s so unique and special about Patreon is that I also collaborate with people across the organization to get input, advice, and ideas about how to help creators. I’ve been talking a lot recently with our Creator Success and Community Happiness teams. They provide a ton of feedback about our solutions, and we end up collaborating very closely to understand how specific solutions might work or not work for creators they talk to every day.

"Creators care so much about the value that they’re delivering to their community on Patreon and the time they’re able to spend on their art. They’re coming from a place of authentic need to connect more deeply with their biggest fans."

What kind of things are you learning in your role?

We’re currently revamping our creator analytics which is a very data-heavy engineering project. I’ve worked on analytics platforms before, but I’ve never built one from the ground up. There are a ton of technical design considerations and product questions we’re answering in rethinking analytics.

One of the most exciting parts of this project is that we’re able to bring fresh eyes to the technologies we’re using for the overall engineering design and architecture. We’re constantly evaluating state of the art technologies and those evaluations have been inspiring, as they’ve pushed us to make sure what we’re building is truly the best of what’s out there.

What’s been surprising you lately about the work, creators, patrons, or the creator economy more generally?

I’m frequently surprised by the variety and diversity of creators on the platform. Because of this diversity, creators can really get creative with our tools and products to suit their needs. This poses super interesting challenges for us because we’re not building for a one-size-fits all user.

We need to adapt our product to the immense scale and diversity of the creator economy.

What’s different about building for creators?

Before Patreon, I was primarily building enterprise technology. It’s so different to build for creators. Many companies don’t care as much about usability — they have fixed and set standards about how they ship things. For us, usability is a core element of our designs. 

The other difference is that feature requests from creators come with a high amount of care. Creators care so much about the value that they’re delivering to their community on Patreon and the time they’re able to spend on their art. They’re coming from a place of authentic need to connect more deeply with their biggest fans.

In the feature releases I’ve been a part of, my team has gotten feedback from creators that the new part of our product is enabling them to make more stuff, connect more deeply with their fans, or have time back to dream about their next creative endeavor. That’s a super meaningful impact to have versus the impact I felt I was having in enterprise businesses. 

What would you say to a future teammate considering joining Patreon?

The work is challenging but extremely rewarding. If you love creators, it’s so fulfilling to know that what you’re building will directly improve their lives.

Outside of work, how do you spend your time?

I’ve been learning piano again which has been so fun. I learned piano when I was very young but was never very serious about it. Recently I’ve been picking up songs and following whatever types of music I’m interested it. I also have an engineering side project that I’ve been running with my friend for a few years. We’re doing story-based game design —  she’s the writer and artist and I’m programming the games

Favorite creator on Patreon? Favorite creator not yet on Patreon? 

I love Juniper Foxx, which is an animal sanctuary account that shares amazing content with their members. 

In terms of creators not yet on Patreon, I’m really interested in seeing more creators around the world begin to use Patreon. A lot of my friends in Taiwan are artists but they’re using other platforms. So I’m excited for the work we’re doing around internationalization with currencies, languages, and localization that’s making it way easier for creators in other countries to use the platform.