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Software Engineer Chris Dzoba: Making Your CreativeLive Experience Reliable, Fast

by Topher Kelly
CreativeLive Staff Profiles

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Nodejs? Dust? Backbone? Bootstrap? Let’s be honest, my grip on the intricate details of CreativeLive’s engineering department is non-existent. What I do know is this: they are building one of the fastest, most impressive media websites to date.

This talented, diverse team makes sure our content has a home it can be proud of and a reliable platform where our community can interact and grow. One of the engineers working hard on things I do not fully understand is Chris Dzoba, a highly recruited young talent from Tobacco Road.

What do you do at creativeLIVE?

I’m a software engineer. For the non-technical crowd: I’m part of the Core & Growth team which focuses on making the site faster and more reliable for users. We also work on improving the existing pages so more people like them. For the technical crowd: I’m part of a team which primarily uses Nodejs, Dust, Backbone, Bootstrap, and MongoDB to transition the site away from the existing Drupal codebase.

What inspired you to go into engineering?

My earliest memory of being interested in computers is when I was in elementary school and I could instruct my parents on how to do things with the computer. I really enjoyed knowing things they didn’t and being able to help them.

As I got older, I ran an internet forum focused on creating software to cheat at video games. At that point, I was hooked.

Why is your job hard/fun/rewarding?

The folks I work with are really amazing. There are so many areas and specialties to know in software engineering. Each engineer on this team has a unique strength which the rest of the team can learn from.

The other thing I like is how many people my work reaches. I like to see the analytics and think “Wow, a half a million people have seen this thing I made.” That’s really cool to me.

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The engineering department turns into team Dusty Handlebars during “Movember” to help raise awareness for prostate cancer.

What did you study in school?

As an undergrad I studied Computer Science with minors in Mathematics, Cognitive Science, and Linguistics. In grad school I got a masters in Computer Science.

What was your first job and where else did you work before cL?

My first job was working at a snack bar on a golf course. My first software job was as a front end engineer at Lulu.com. I’ve also worked at Lulu.TV, IBM, and NetApp.

Do you have creative hobbies?

Before I moved to San Francisco I took singing lessons… I should probably start those again!

Who or what inspires you in your creative endeavors?

The desire to know things is probably what inspires me most. My great grandfather became a painter late in his life, and he really liked it. I think he missed out on many years of enjoyment by not having tried it earlier, so I like to try as many things as possible to get a sense of what I like, and also to learn what that thing is like. Singing is very different than software engineering, and I enjoy understanding how each one works because they’re so different.

Who is your favorite creativeLIVE teacher and why?

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I use Noah Kagan’s Overcome Fear To Get What You Want course as my demo page for new features. I like that the course graphic has a guy who has overcome his fear and is reaching for the thing he wants: a taco.

If you were a creativeLIVE instructor, what would you teach?

The thing I’d be most valuable as a teacher for would probably be philosophy, so perhaps some sort of motivational speaking 🙂

Another topic that would be cool is a class on Overtone – it allows you to create music via coding.

What’s the strangest/most awesome thing you’ve ever done in a job?

In my job at Lulu, my 4-person team built large structures on top of our cubicles. Annie, a co-worker of mine, and I had a structure which resembled a Shinto Temple. It had stained wood and blankets hanging as the roof. It was stunning, even if it was probably against fire code.

Where do you see education going in the future?

I think education will become more specialized, earlier in life. It’s unfortunate that we have to make choices about our education at an age young enough that we can’t really understand the consequences. However, college and corporate world are extremely competitive so kids who have 6 months or a year edge over their peers are more likely to go farther. Traditional schools can’t keep up, so of course online education will fill that gap.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Debate! Most of my family members seem up for a long form discussion on just about anything. It inevitably leads to disagreement, and subsequently a back and forth of presentation of facts until we’re either worn out or we feel that we’ve really gotten to the bottom of an issue.

Most life-changing (non-creativeLIVE) class you’ve ever taken?

CSC 333 – Grammars, Automata, and Computability. It was an awesome course that was basically an intersection of computer science, mathematics, physics, and cognitive science. The course gave me, and continues to give me, quite a lot to think about.

What do you do with cLers outside the office?

Often times we’ll get a Chicken Tikka Masala Burrito at Curry Up Now, and wander over to Boba Guys for some dessert. This past weekend a couple of us played bocce in Golden Gate Park and enjoyed some top-shelf margaritas. We do a lot of talking; mainly coming up with crazy ideas, griping about things, or figuring out life. It’s awesome.

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Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.