7CTOs Profile: Joel Faul & NoteVault

We return today to our profiles of a 7CTOs member and his company. Today’s essay is by JOEL FAUL, Senior Vice President of Engineering for NoteVault.

Thank you for reading about NoteVault! NoteVault provides mobile voice-driven  reporting solutions for construction, architectural and engineering teams. We help them communicate and collaborate on projects, keeping everyone on track and on budget.

Notevault does this through voice notes, transcribed by real human beings. We saw the challenges for the construction industry in auto-transcription -- obscure industry terms and acronyms, on-site noise that can make speech difficult to parse -- and brought the human element into play. Some of our transcriptionists are bilingual, and we do translation transcription as well.

The verbal notes are transcribed and compiled into a daily report that is shared with all of the stakeholders on a construction project so everyone is on the same page. Usually what’s actually being recorded is the project’s status, broken into different categories that are set specifically for a project or an entire organization. Notes can involve progress, status, safety, received deliveries, and so on. Like any kind of report, it includes positive notes about progress being made and notes about problems or challenges facing the project. It’s important to make sure every report is one of quality, because the daily report is how our customers see us.

I joined the company, which is based in the Sorrento Valley area (Qualcomm-land, and not far from where our 7CTOs group meets), last November. I was tracked down by a headhunter, and recruited out of a firm in Rancho Bernardo.

I’m responsible for all of the software development at NoteVault. What I do day-to-day is a challenging question to answer, because it can be constantly changing. I’m typically keeping pulse on a half dozen projects being worked on by a dozen engineers. I also work closely with our product team in establishing product requirements and am part of the executive team that steers the company. There’s much more to reporting than transcribing notes so there is always lot of work to do providing new features on our web portal and updating multiple apps that we offer our customers.

Before NoteVault, typically a construction superintendent would walk a job site and jot down some notes on paper. Then he would have to carve out some time at the end of the day to write up his daily report based on the things jotted down and what he remembers. This would result in him having to spend a lot of time writing up reports after a full day on site, or those reports would contain only a bare minimum of information - sometimes both. But speaking notes extemporaneously as he walks a job site allows the super to contribute a lot of important detail and do it in a lot less time than the old way. Stakeholders get a quality report and supers don’t have to take a lot of time to produce it.

Besides progress, reports keep track of labor, material, equipment, change orders, as well as how many hours have been put in on a project and where the project stands in terms of progress. Meanwhile, NoteVault is also automatically capturing weather, temperature, winds, precipitation, and other elements that might affect progress. There’s often a significant reward or penalty for being early or late on a project. When those are determined to be in the control of the contractor, It can mean a lot of money for a business! If a project is delayed because of rain, it’s important that they have the recording of the weather to show that a delay was not in their control.

We’ve also partnered with another company called Sensera, which sets up cameras on-site that automatically take photos to chronicle development of the project -- the photos are automatically added to the report.

Our Notes app is designed so a user doesn’t have to be in an area that has cell service to to record notes and take photos This is a big deal for some remote construction projects.

Most of our customers are in North America, though we have a few projects internationally, in the Middle East particularly. All of our transcribers are US based.

Personally, I live in Vista, which makes it a bit of a hike to Sorrento Valley. I often try to leave the house by 6am to beat the traffic. Usually going home I end up with a fair amount of traffic no matter when I leave. I end up listening to a lot of Audiobooks in the car. Even if there’s traffic, an audiobook will make traffic a lot less annoying. One of my favorites I listened to recently is, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. I have a long list to recommend if you’re interested. Presently I’m listening to “Celebration of Discipline.” I just started it, but it seems to be a solid read.

I’m married and have three daughters, the youngest is in college. I like to run. That’s the thing I try to fit in somewhere in my schedule every other day or so. I will often stop somewhere along the coast on my way home and go for a run, if i don’t get a chance to run in the morning.

In our spare time, my wife and I are involved in a couple different ways to promote awareness of human trafficking in Southern California. My wife is doing a hike this week to raise awareness and funds for the rescue and restoration of victims of human trafficking. The hike is organized by the organization Freedom Challenge; “Your challenge: Their freedom,” is their slogan. A book that helped me get a grasp of the human trafficking situation in the US is,  “Renting Lacy” by Linda Smith and Cindy Coloma. I highly recommend it, but be warned: this is not a light read. It will give you a better idea of the scourge of human trafficking. It’s a lot worse than most people are aware. (I have this one in audio and print form).

I’m glad to be a member of 7CTOs because I think it’s important to connect with people at a level deeper than the superficial that usually happens with networking groups. Having a small group to connect with helps me do that. I’m also glad for this opportunity to introduce myself and NoteVault, and invite anyone who reads this to introduce him or herself at our next meeting or via email. Thank you for reading!