A Programmer With Many Hats – Working at zyBooks

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Ryan Renno

Software Engineer   ___________________________________________________________________________________ My journey to zyBooks started with one person: my graduate advisor at UCR, Frank Vahid. Frank had been one of my undergraduate professors, and I had been particularly struck by his unique philosophy towards teaching. I knew I wanted to work with Frank during my graduate studies because of this, because I agreed — the best way to learn anything, really, is to do it. Try it out. Practice. Tinker. As an aspiring programmer, this was music to my ears. It was during this time that Frank began to articulate an idea that would eventually lead to zyBooks. The concept was simple:

Make better textbooks.

Admittedly, as a programmer, this idea at first struck me as rather odd. Textbooks? How…dusty. But, the more I thought about it, the more the concept made sense. Over the past several decades, technological innovations had skyrocketed in number and scope; yet, the basic textbooks and accompanying educational paradigms had remained stagnant. Even so-called “online textbooks” were basically just digital copies of static prints. So, why not use these technological tools to make not only better textbooks, but better educational systems — ones that are interactive, engaging, accessible, and affordable?

I started at zyBooks (then Zyante) in the summer of 2012, tasked with adding further functionality to our then fledgling content delivery system. We built it from the ground up, designed to be fully immersive, streamlined, and content focused. Looking back, it’s both awesome and humbling to see where we started, how far we have come, and how much further we still have to go. Working at zyBooks has been a phenomenal experience, starting with the overwhelming feedback we get from students and professors. It really brings out a sense of pride to hear about the impact our work has made on someone’s learning experience. And, anecdotes aside, the data is what really shows how our model can make a difference. Another great thing about working at zyBooks stems from the fact that we are a start-up of like-minded, talented people with a vision for transforming education. Since starting, I’ve had the opportunity to wear several different hats, which has allowed me to step outside my programmer’s bubble and into experiences I never would have sought out on my own. From business developer to media designer, and even to sales rep, I’ve been able to expand my skill set through these experiences and gain a better understanding of our business as a whole. My time spent working in different areas of the company has greatly helped me to learn and grow as a young professional. But I think by far my favorite thing about zyBooks as a place to work has been the level of dedication and camaraderie shown by every member of our team. When we work long days and even some weekends, it is so inspirational to see everyone as dedicated as I am to the shared goal in turning all that you see (and don’t see) on zyBooks.com into reality. Gearing up for a new school term is always when we are busiest. From sales and orientation, to content releases and zyBook creation, it’s all hands on deck. But this is when you really see our team shine. Very rarely do I hear “can’t”, “won’t”, or “no”. Everyone is always ready to offer up a solution or put in the time to make our goal happen. We’re a team. Up for the challenge, with passion and enthusiasm for what we do. All in all, it’s been fantastic to see how the zyBooks philosophy always put the students and instructors first, and to experience on a daily basis what it takes to make that happen. zyBooks truly is a great place to work. Visit www.zybooks.com to create a free test account.

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