Vincent Chu

B.Sc. '06

SFU computing science graduate Vincent Chu (’06) is a senior software developer with Visier Workforce Analytics. An SFU Summit Entrance Scholarship winner, Chu was also the recipient of several awards while at SFU, including the prestigious Governor General’s Silver Medal awarded to the most outstanding graduating student in any faculty.

We caught up with Chu to ask him about his career trajectory, and glean some tips for current students hoping to follow a similar path.

 

Please tell us about your current job. What are you working on specifically?

I'm a senior software developer, working on cloud-based analytic and planning products in the HR domain. I use Scala at the backend for complex analytic calculations, and Play and JavaScript to build engaging workflows on the front end side. Visier is a small but rapidly growing company with many co-op students from SFU. For my role, I'm particularly excited about the leadership opportunity available to make a positive difference in the technical area.  

Where were you working before?

Before Visier, I worked for Apple on the iWork for iCloud project, an office suite targeted at home and small business users that includes Keynote, Pages and Numbers. Prior to that, I worked with the EA Sports FIFA soccer game team. There’s lots of running animation in football software, and the footwork has to be realistic. The challenge was generating realistic animations with memory constraints.  

What is your favourite thing about being a software developer?

I gain a lot of pleasure from creating things and I like writing code to sharpen my skills. My favourite part of writing code is solving problems and the satisfaction of finding a solution. As a developer, you’re often presented with problems that don’t have an obvious solution and you have to think through the process to determine the best way to do it using your technical training and available resources.

Did you always dream of being a software developer?

Yes, definitely! I’ve wanted to work with software since I was in Grade 7. Of course, the technology landscape was very different then. My dad also worked with computers, so I used them when I was six or seven years old – even before Windows 3.1x was launched.  I had the opportunity to use the machine to program simple stuff. I was amazed that you could ask the machine to do whatever you wanted – even a hard computation.

How did SFU’s computing science program help prepare you for your future career?

The computing science program is very flexible, so students can learn about lots of different areas in computing science. It’s also very theoretical, which was beneficial for interviews. Software industry interviews are very thorough and often include theoretical and math questions – you get tested on things you study in class. I also did five co-op terms, which really helped me decide what kind of environment I wanted to work in. Interestingly, Visier, the company I now work for, was founded by leaders from SAP, Business Objects and Crystal Decisions. A few people I work closely with now, I actually knew from my co-op more than a decade ago back at Crystal Decisions, and the head of development and the CTO both thought I looked familiar when we first reconnected.

What advice do you have for current students who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Think about your passions in tech and then back it up with your own projects, like open source and hobby projects. My passions have shifted over time: recently I’ve done personal projects in web and robotics – there are tons of resources and open source projects on the web. Having a strong theoretical background helps in interviews and helps you come up with new ideas. To be successful, I think computing science students need to have the ability to think clearly and of course, endless curiosity.