kelly norton

+ engineering

Kelly is a mix of engineer and designer. He loves actually building things and enjoys working along that messy boundary where humans and technology meet. His academic and work experience ranges from network hardware to graphic design. He has founded two technology companies, worked as an engineer at Google and studied design under John Maeda at the MIT Media Lab.
Mailchimp (2015-)

Principal Software Engineer

Mailchimp’s first remote engineer. One of Mailchimp’s first Principal Engineers. Kelly had two overarching goals at Mailchimp. The first was to contribute to the customer experience of an amazing product. The second was to foster a first class engineering organization. One the first goal, Mailchimp expanded from a champion in the email marketing space to what is effectively an online marketing cockpit for small and medium sized businesses. On the second goal, the engineering organization grew from a few dozen engineers releasing code every couple of weeks to a few hundred engineers releasing code hundreds of times a day. The progress on both goals was a team effort, of course, but Kelly remains proud of his level of contribution. He is especially proud to continue a pattern of building tools that support the cultural changes you wish to see. Like many Principal Engineers, he divided his time between adivsing others and building core libraries and tools that were used broadly within engineering. (Google Cloud, PHP, Go, MySQL, gRPC, React, and much more)

Etsy (2014-2015)

Senior Staff Software Engineer

Senior member of Etsy's Search Experience team, responsible for buyer search, discovery and exploration in all of Etsy's platforms. He was instramental in the creation of Ety's exploratory search experience and also wrote and maintained the new search activities in the Etsy Android app. He helped establish the Architectural Review Working Group which created a scalable means of evolving Etsy's technical infrastructure through equal parts of consensus building and guidance. Focused considerably on scaling and growing a healthy engineering culture. (Information Retrieval, Machine Learning, Solr, Java, PHP, Go, Scalding, Android)
Open Source Work:

  • Hound – Lightning fast code searching made easy
FullStory/Monetology (2012-2014)

Data Engineer/Contract

Implemented a number of “big data” projects for email service, MailChimp. This included frontend and backend work for both a “discover similar” membership graph search (billions of memberships) and membership segmentation based on spherical kmeans. (Go, LevelDB, C++, PostgreSQL, PHP, R)


Co-founded with Joel Webber, Bruce Johnson and Scott Voigt. FullStory lets you easily record, replay, search, and analyze each user's actual experience in your product. As is the expectation with startups, Kelly was involved with every facet of the product development, from frontend and backend implementation to ops and infrastructure. (Java, Go, TypeScript, AWS, Chrome Extensions).
Some open source bits from his time there:

  • underpants – an OAuth proxy for protecting internal sites
  • pork – a web stack with development tooling built in
  • base62 – a stream-based base62 encoder
  • sjcl.jsx – a partial port of the sjcl crypto library to JSX
  • focused – a chrome extension for avoiding distractions
Google (2006–2012)


Became a committer in 2009. Kelly started his work building performance tools and their associated infrastructure in the web renderer. The results of that work can be seen in Chrome's Developer Tools and in several Chrome extensions. Later, he established and led a team at Google to push WebKit's SVG implementation forward.


Led a small team with the goal of bringing a new set of low-level primitives to the web platform. He was involved in the very early stages of the “dart platform” and worked on a variety of projects to support its initial public launch. The most visible of which was which made it possible to try the language and libraries in a browser.


Found ways around the strict compartmentalization of a large organization. Kelly designed a number of user interfaces within Google and continued to do independent design work. Pictured below is a poster for John Maeda's farewell talk at the MIT Media Lab.

Speed Tracer

Dreamed up, designed and led the development of Speed Tracer, an open-source performance tool that guides developers in building responsive web UIs. It was initially conceived as a cross browser tool and both the Chrome & IE7 versions were used heavily within Google. The Chrome version released publicly in 2010 and, despite being unmaintained, still has about 130k 7-day actives.


Represented Google publicly through a number of speaking opportunities. He covered topics from usability and web app performance to specific uses of Google Web Toolkit. Viewers have suggested that he sounds like the lead singer for They Might Be Giants. Judge for yourself as some of his talks are available online:

Google Web Toolkit

Worked on pretty much every part of the product at some point. Kelly was a very early member of the GWT team and served as Tech Lead on more than one occassion. His contributions include the first debugger (“Hosted Mode”) for Mac, the plugin-based degugger (”Dev Mode”), and the low-level Elemental library to name a few. He “embedded” with a number of major projects at Google using GWT, including AdWords and Wave. In 2010, he won an OC Award (the second highest award for innovation at Google) for his performance work with AdWords.

MIT Media Lab (2004–2006)

Open Studio

Worked on everything: the design, the rails-based frontend, the java-based creative tools, the postgres-based data layer. Wrote a load-balancd cloud renderer that was responsible for rasterizing every document that displayed on the site. Openstudio was an experiment in creativity, collaboration & virtual economics created by the Physical Language Workshop. Participants used simple, enjoyable tools to create artwork in their public gallery that could be traded, cloned and mutated.

Data Vizualization

Has a passion for presenting complex data such that people are able to easily understand and act on it. Kelly's interest in data visualization began when he was asked to write software to help computer engineering students understand processes like division in hardware. It has been a consistent theme in his work ever since.

Digital Art & Design

Is driven by making beautiful things that entertain people. Digital interactive art, poster & print design, user interface design are all areas where Kelly has done creative work. He had the privilege of working with John Maeda at the MIT Media Lab where his tendency to ignore the differences between design & engineering was reinforced. John also made him design things to be printed on paper, which was rewarding and stressful.

Connexxia (2000–2004)


Co-founded with friends Shawn Coyne and Peter Flur. Connexxia's primary product, AdmissionsGenie, helped colleges and universities more effectively recruit students by connecting them to real people through the web. It showed consistent, good results and hosted the admissions sites for a number of schools, including some big names like Duke University, Emory University and Georgia Tech. Connexxia later expanded its products to cover university alumni and some specialized business recruiting. Connexxia was acquired by Internet marketing firm James Tower. Later, James Tower decided to focus the entire company on the higher education market and rebranded themselves Blue Hue Education. AdmissionsGenie is still the name of their premier product. Kelly was actually targeted by his own recruiting tool when he neared graduation at MIT.


Received a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1997. Kelly began doing graduate research in the area of intelligent network infrastructure but ultimately left grad school to join a series of early startups. He spent the "Dot Com Boom" building complex web sites for clients with equally complex business plans. Before all of that, Kelly grew up in rural South Georgia where there was plenty of room to dream.