Guru Khalsa
Guru Khalsa is passionate about solving problems using technology. He loves learning, refactoring, and making customers happy. And surfing. He is a founder and engineer at Zoomforth

Who am I?

I was born and raised in San Francisco. After attending UCLA and graduating in 2010, it was an easy decision to move back to SF. In addition to rejoining a fantastic city with many close friends, San Francisco was the ideal place to begin my career. I had developed a passion for building software, and had experienced success with a few sites I had made. I had a lot to learn, and I was excited to tap into the city's technological zeitgeist.

I've been building and improving software since then, and I feel extremely lucky that there are good professional opportunities for me to do what I like to do. I enjoy my work, and find meaning in working with code. It's fun! I get to make a living by crafting systems that interact with the complexity of the modern world. It demands a sense of curiosity and vision, and provides a sense of accomplishment at nearly every level: from the simple pieces like getting a part of the code to work all the way up to the completion of a major project. And I get to work with brilliant people along the way. I think that's really cool.

From a more personal perspective, I'll have to explain a bit about my deep and growing love affair with the ocean -- surfing in particular. I love surfing. Surfing has elements of challenge, adventure, meditation, excitement, comfort and fun. But beyond that it nourishes me with an almost spiritual sense of meaning and deep engagement with the world. There are a lot of other activities I enjoy -- kiteboarding, rock climbing, reading books, playing guitar, playing games with friends -- the list goes on. There are many wonderful activities, and I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to engage in them. But somehow surfing stands alone in what it means to me and what I truly love.

What do I work on?

There is a thrill to learning more and improving at one's craft, and with software that thrill can be accessed on almost any project. Most of the "hard" skills I have developed have been gained from building the front-ends and back-ends of web applications, and I enjoy using and sharpening those skills. In my role as co-founder of Zoomforth, I've had to go beyond my confort zone and tackle many aspects of building a company beyond just building a web application. I have come to appreciate that many of the most important problems in software are not about technical challenges, but about people. There's a joy to being deeply wrapped in a coding problem for a particular feature, but I try not to lose sight of the reality that software is always about people.

Let me emphasize: Software is about people. It's built for people, by people, and people are often driven by desire, fear, joy, pain, and other emotions. Thus, I strive to empathize with my team and my users, and to remember that software is not about the computer, but about us. The people who will use it. The people who build it. The people who will get value from it. I feel particularly strongly about the importance of people within an engineering team. I believe that the culture of an engineering team is the foundation of a company's empathy for their customers, and that it drives the quality of the product as well as the company's ability to adapt to change. The culture that is generated by the team, either accidentally or with intention, can make the difference between joy and misery for everyone involved.

Some of the people I most appreciate are the creators and maintainers of the software tools I use. I am particularly fond of technology whose basic usage is not complex, but which can enable the developer to explicitly address complicated problems. Many tools strive for an easy interface but in so doing they can obscure the complexities of the problem. Tools that I feel allow me to handle escalating levels of complexity include React, Python, Vagrant and Packer, Elastic Search, MySQL and a cornucopia of other excellent libraries, products, and tools. Building software is an exercise in standing on the shoulders of giants.

Why do I have an Indian name?

If you don't yet know me, you may be curious about my name.

My full name is Guru Bakshish Singh Khalsa. I'm not Indian, so what happened? Luckily, it wasn't an accidental name tag switch at the hospital as a baby. My parents converted to Sikhism, and I was raised as a Sikh -- and was given a Sikh name. Although I no longer follow all of the disciplines of the religion, such as wearing a turban and eating vegetarian, I am deeply thankful for the values and culture that guided my upbringing.

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