A Conversation with Kevin Goldsmith, Avvo CTO

Kevin Goldsmith cuts an unassuming figure, despite being the Chief Technology Officer at Avvo and the former VP of Engineering at Spotify. Ask anyone at Avvo: he is perhaps one the most calm and approachable executives in all of Seattle. What you’ll also learn about Kevin pretty quickly is that he is a vocal advocate for diversity in tech, and helped bring the Washington Technology Industry Association’s apprenticeship program, called Apprenti, to Avvo. And he’s passionate about photography.

We caught up with Kevin and asked him a few questions about working at a smaller tech company and what he likes about Seattle. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: You came to Avvo from Spotify. How does a smaller, private company differ from an international, public company?

A: It’s much nicer to have the whole company in one building instead of spread out over dozens of countries! I also am much happier having my team be on separate floors instead of in different cities (and continents).

Q: Has anything about Avvo pleasantly surprised you since your arrival?

A: I love how teams support each other and work together. The culture is great and is getting even better every day.

Q: What do you like about Seattle? And what do you not like so much?

A: I’ve lived in Seattle since 1994, with just a 3-year sojourn to Sweden. I love the natural beauty and easy access to nature. I like the pace of life here. I miss the Sonics. I used to go to a dozen games a year.

Q: You’re known as an Agile evangelist. What’s one simple way that anyone can incorporate the methodology into their work?

A: The simplest thing you can do to incorporate agile ideas into your life is to periodically take stock of how you do things and say “is this the best way to do this, or is there something I could change that would make it better?” Never accept that things must be the way that they are.

Q: In your experience, what makes a good manager?

A: The two things I look for in any employee, but especially managers, are empathy and pragmatism. If you can’t understand how your actions affect those around you or understand someone else’s perspective, you will always let down the people who work for you. If you can’t be flexible to the situation, it will be hard to deal with the unexpected.

Q: What was the first video game you ever played? 

A: Either Pong or Space Invaders. It was back in the stone ages. The controller was a rock.

Q: Where is your favorite place to vacation?

A: Cap Ferrat, France. You have the Cote D’Azur; you have Proveńce, Italy nearby. It’s quiet and beautiful, but you can do a lot within a day’s drive.



Q: What is your favorite children’s book? 

A: Rosie Revere, Engineer – I read it to my daughter whenever she would let me. I liked it a lot more than she did.

Q: What makes you feel Zen?

A: I like taking long walks. Especially in new cities. I will spend an entire day walking in whatever direction seems the most interesting, getting lost, and trying to discover the real character of a place.