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Meet the Team
Founder / CEO / Den-Mother
Pooja Sankar
Pooja (Nath) Sankar is the founder and CEO of Piazza. She was born in India, lived in North America for 10 years, then moved back to rural India where she lived a traditional life -- one which did not involve socializing with boys. Then she arrived at IIT to study computer science and found that almost everyone else was a boy. The genesis for Piazza and Pooja's passion for social learning came from her desire for a safe space for collaboration with her classmates. Fortunately, she learned how to study with others and went on to graduate from IIT, gain a master's from UMD, and work at Oracle, Kosmix, and Facebook. Pooja started Piazza while studying for her MBA at Stanford, where she failed a class in entrepreneurship because she was too busy running the business.
Olympian Engineer
Renars Gailis
Renars Gailis is the mad genius behind the Piazza backend, but he wasn't the sort of guy who needed a lot of help in his college courses. In fact, while representing his native Latvia and winning a silver medal in the International Olympiad in Informatics, he finished his degree in three years rather than four. This confused American graduate schools, where he was initially rejected because he didn't have a four-year degree. Once we got over that and let him in the country, Renars honed his professional skills at Bluecoat, Ooyala, and Palo Alto Networks. When he's not working on Piazza, he's biking and thinking about quantum physics, probably simultaneously.
Eagle Scout
Nick LaVassar
Nick LaVassar works in engineering and user operations at Piazza, but no handful of words can adequately describe what he does. Except maybe these two: Eagle Scout. Nick came to Piazza as a user. He was one of the top contributors to Stanford's CS 193P class, and during this class he became passionate about the opportunities for learning offered by social and mobile platforms. A University of Washington grad and former Stanford electrical engineering PhD student and inveterate fixer, Nick once spent 28 hours alone in the Australian desert fixing an engineering experiment with nothing but a Leatherman and a soldering iron. Knowing Nick, it's probably still working.
Bollywood Designer
Sunthar Premakumar
Front-end stalwart Sunthar Premakumar grew up in Sri Lanka where he first became interested in design via a course in Photoshop. Determined to get off the island and see the world, Sunthar became an internationally competitive chess player who gained instant credibility when he defeated an Australian master who'd accidentally forfeited a rook. Always one to take advantage of an opportunity, Sunthar later saw the need for a fusion of Hindi music and R&B, and his Stanford a capella group gained enough of a following that they toured India -- with groupies. When he's not rocking the front end, singing, or dancing, Sunthar dabbles in photography, videography, and robotics.
Swiss Army Knife
Josh Green
Josh Green works in business operations at Piazza, but has been an entrepreneur since the age of seven, when he started his first business selling puppies. From there, Josh never stopped learning and growing, wheeling and dealing - through multiple businesses and a degree from Miami University in Ohio. During his senior year, he was awarded "Student Entrepreneur of the Year," which encouraged him to move to sunny California to live the start-up dream. Since 2009, he has been running a college-based startup called Virtual Chapter. When Josh isn't in the office, he loves playing and watching virtually every sport known to man (including sport video games). In fact, he once beat the #2 world ranked player in FIFA on Xbox Live.
The Wyz Kid
Zach Wyzgoski
Engineer Zach Wyzgoski became intrigued by computers in high school when his instructor taught the class the for loop but told them they would need to memorize it since they wouldn't be able to understand how it worked. Undeterred, Zach went on to major in CS at Princeton while also earning a certificate in Linguistics and playing varsity soccer. In his junior year his team won the Ivy League championship and went undefeated in the league for the first time in the school's history. Zach first encountered Piazza in a computer networks class, where he was smitten when one student posted a joke and another followed up with "ack ack ack." When he's not coding -- and sometimes when he is -- Zach loves to sing.
Jill of all trades
Molly Johnson
Molly works in user operations - and a little bit of everything else at Piazza. A Cornell grad, she majored in English while taking as many different subjects as she could. Soon after graduating she fell in love with Piazza, and two days after interviewing bought a one-way ticket from Boston to Palo Alto to learn the ways of a tech company. Always in search of adventure, she once decided to work in Australia for a summer - doing social media advertising and using her off hours for skydiving over and scuba diving under the Great Barrier Reef. In her spare time, Molly enjoys getting lost on long runs and reading any book she can get her hands on.
(Aero)dynamic Engineer
Ajay Varia
Ajay deals with all things engineering at Piazza. A CS major at the University of Waterloo, he spent most of his days and nights in the computer lab to escape the cold. His love of computers developed from an early age, when he got a Vic 20 and a pile of software cartridges. He first began coding when boredom in a high school class prompted him to write his own Tetris video game in C-code. Before Piazza, Ajay was Director of Engineering at MedHelp and Development Manager at Symantec and IMlogic. When asked what superpower he dreamed of having, he says "writing in perfect code."
Chuck Norris of Ops
Scott Brenstuhl
Scott Brenstuhl works in user operations at Piazza, but that only skims the surface. Scott is really a behind the scenes "ninja" (black belt included) where he ensures everything ranging from our users to the Piazza team runs smoothly. A Miami University grad with a degree in Finance, Scott has a very unconventional obsession with fancy spreadsheets. However when Scott isn't crunching numbers in Excel, you can usually find him reading autobiographies, sipping a neat scotch, or hitting the slopes on his snowboard. Although Scott appears "old" on the exterior with his fountain pens, fine watches, and bow ties, Scott is actually a selfless adventurer. In fact, he once rode a bike with his fraternity brothers from San Francisco to Washington D.C. to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities.
Up and coder
Holly French
Holly French is a Southern California native, but her interest in computers began along the Oregon Trail - the computer game, that is. She fortunately avoided all cholera outbreaks and survived every ferry trip, allowing her to continue on to study at Carleton College where she discovered her love of computer science. Don't let her 4'11" stature fool you: Holly's past experience includes living in Budapest, Hungary, where she interned at Prezi, a position she landed after impressing the staff at their annual hack-a-thon. Her hidden talents include piano and playing bridge.
Prince Tilliam
David Tilley
David Tilley is a visual designer/creative marketer who loves to create new things. While attending school at Trinity in Chicago, he won both of the school's advertising and logo design contests and knew he had found his place. He spent a few years in the midwest, growing a co-working space and working to build branding for both large and small companies, but felt the mother ship calling him to California, and straight to Piazza. David is an outgoing person, and enjoys everything from acting in his improv group to teaching crowds to dance the Thriller. When he's not working he's visiting new places with his wife, running, and doodling.
Hip Hoperator
Tony Luckett
Tony works in marketing operations at Piazza and grew up in Queens, NYC where he developed his love for international cuisine, hip hop and science. He abandoned his city roots to study mechanical engineering and sculpture at Dartmouth, subsequently putting his critical and creative thinking skills to the test in the field of education - first in the Marshall Islands, then in Boston. It was during this time, he learned the powerful importance of connecting with people. While completing his MBA at Stanford, he was exposed to design thinking methodologies which helped frame his approach to building empathy. His vices include Kung-Fu movies, ice cream, pranks and bad jokes.
Office Pup
Franklin
Franklin is the smallest member of the Piazza team weighing in at 12 pounds. What he lacks in technical skills he makes up for in keeping our floors crumb free, getting people outdoors, and keeping our team smiling. He may be a miniature dachshund but he's got a huge personality. Dogs are proven to reduce office stress and Franklin makes our space feel like home. If you see him walking the Palo Alto streets be sure to give him a friendly scratch and compliment his outfit.