From Developer to Entrepreneur to Tech Exec: An Interview with Eric Amodio

In this special GitKon 2022 session, Senior Editor at Appfire, Kerry O’Shea Gorgone sits down with GitLens Creator and GitKraken CTO, Eric Amodio to hear about his journey from a solo developer to an entrepreneur building an open source product, and now to an executive on the team at GitKraken. 

Eric is an entrepreneur, innovator, architect, and full stack engineer, the creator of GitLens and CTO of GitKraken, previously holding engineering leadership roles on the VS Code team at Microsoft and CodeStream. 

Eric’s Early Coding Years

Growing up, Eric loved legos, and actually credits his passion for software to the tinkering he did as a young child. 

Eric’s dad was a programmer that worked on PCs, and Eric loved watching him work, even as a five-year-old. His dad mainly worked on a text-based terminal on a PC, but his family also had one of the “new Macs,” and Eric enjoyed playing with its icons and visual capabilities. 

As software tools got more advanced, Eric was introduced to Microsoft’s Visual Basic, and it changed the game for him. He felt that for the first time he could build things out in his head and actually create them. From there, Eric was hooked and made the move from hardware to software. 

Making a Career from a Passion

It was in college that Eric decided he wanted to switch from building CPUs to building software, and he saw early success creating several small apps that quickly grew in popularity.  At the time, there wasn’t really a place to share code openly, but Eric was able to foster his passion for creating software tools. 

When Eric first started coding, tools were at the forefront, but then sort of faded away. Then VS Code came out, and  Eric completely fell in love; it reinvigorated his passion for development tools. Eric especially enjoyed the open source nature of VS Code and the ability to “hack” on top of the tool. 

Eric then had the opportunity to join the VS Code team as a Microsoft employee, where he worked for several years. 

Enter GitLens for VS Code

In Eric’s words, GitLens started out twofold: 1) he wanted to play with the newly introduced VS Code extension model, and 2) he wanted to explore TypeScript, which was a new technology at the time. GitLens presented the opportunity to do both. 

CodeLens existed and provided information about a code change’s author in Git, so Eric thought he could replicate this in VS Code, and he was right. He ultimately wanted to provide a better understanding for him and his team about what was going on inside Git without leaving VS Code. 

Having passion for building tools and having passion for things that made his own life easier, Eric was dedicated to making GitLens the best tool it could be, and continued to build on its success. 

Eric says he knew GitLens had “made it” when GitLens was mentioned in multiple Microsoft keynotes, and when he started seeing memes dedicated to the tool on Twitter, with developers humorously posting about the Git blame feature alerting them to their own mistakes. 

Cartoon with text "Now well see who wrote this terrible code"

How GitLens Achieved Success

Eric credits the popularity of GitLens to a few factors. The tool was early in the space, but more than that, once a user installs GitLens, they receive immediate, “passive value,” meaning they don’t have to do anything to obtain valuable information that helps them understand the code they’re looking at. From there, users can ease into using more and more of the product.

A movement in the developer space and in VS Code is having these really small tools that do one thing, and you have to combine multiple tools together to create a cohesive experience. Eric wanted to go the opposite route for GitLens, which meant making the tool more robust by introducing paid GitLens+ features.  But Eric didn’t want to affect the performance for any users who didn’t need to use these collaboration tools, so made these features optional. 

What’s Next for GitLens

Eric has a vision for building the tool to better tackle the “Git parts”; make Git more accessible and continue its mission of “supercharging Git.” There’s a lot more the tool can do to increase the power of working with Git, while also adding simplicity to developers’ workflows. 

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