Aug 31 2022
Transformation Series

Transformation Series: Billy Zajac

Billy is non-binary and uses the pronouns xe/xem/xyr

Billy’s tech journey began in xyr hometown of Buffalo, New York. As xe puts it, xe was always “destined to be a nerd” (in the best way possible, of course). While other kids got Ataris and various video games as gifts, Billy got a TI-99 4a computer that xe had to type in programs from magazines to play. For college, Billy wanted to get as far away as possible while still paying in-state tuition, so xe attended SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island and majored in Math.

Xyr first job out of college was network and desktop support at the Stony Brook University hospital. After a long year there, Billy made xyr way to the New York Stock Exchange as a UNIX Systems Administrator. This was xyr first real tech job and where xe started to train in management, having been immediately put into a management fast-track. At NYSE, Billy helped prep NYSE to handle their first billion-transaction day while also working on testing the HPUX systems with Tandem mainframe backends in preparation for Y2K. Some people laughed at how Y2K was no big deal, however they may not know that many people worked for years to make it no big deal.

In 1999, Billy moved to San Diego and joined a startup which was like Spotify before Spotify. It was a short-lived success since the courts forced them to shut down citing it was against the law to make a database of copyrighted songs for commercial use. A couple years later, however, when a certain fruit-logoed company came around, all that changed. After some  time spent consulting and starting various businesses, Billy’s partner at the time was hoping for more stability with their new children, so Billy landed at Disney where xe stayed for about a decade. 

At Disney, Billy dabbled in innovation and worked mainly with APIs where xe and one other engineer made a proxy at that all the APIs went behind. That proxy secured and handled trillions of requests to hundreds of APIs with a tiny hardware footprint while adding on average less than 2ms of latency. One of Billy’s favorite things about working at Disney was the creativity in the tech there and being able to work with the Imagineering R&D folk. Billy worked at a couple more companies before finding VideoAmp including WarnerBros as the Director of Emerging Technology where xe got to look years into the future to predict how tech would evolve and how it would affect the world and culture. Right before joining VideoAmp, xe was the CTO of SafeAccess, a startup that created the framework for companies to make their own covid wellness check apps.

In June of 2021, a friend from Disney reached out to Billy and recommended VideoAmp suggesting it would be a good fit culturally and it as it turns out, they were right. Now Billy is the VP of Identity and Viewership at VideoAmp. Identity, xe explains, is how we correlate people to the media they consume on and across digital streaming platforms as well as on linear broadcast platforms. The viewership teams primarily perform data engineering focused on ingesting, cleaning, enriching, and commingling the data from our linear data sources as well as the required metadata sources.

When asked if xe always wanted to work in tech, Billy replied that xe wasn’t sure what xe imagined but that xe was always interested in making the world a better place. Billy has been drawn to organizations focused on fun and entertainment and looks for this when looking at any role or company. Xe is drawn to people and teams first and foremost and absolutely loves the teams at VideoAmp. Xe inherited the current team and considers xyrself so lucky to work with such amazing and impressive people. The biggest thing for Billy is that at VideoAmp, xe feels heard and that xyr opinion makes a difference: “I feel I can influence the culture meaningfully at startups. I try to bring humanity, fun, understanding, and openness (especially to change) everywhere I go. I ask those around me to question not just technology, but everything.”