Geek of the Week: Sendi Widjaja, Avvo CTO

Sendi Widjaja, Avvo chief technology officer (Photo: Annie Laurie Malarkey)

Our latest Geek of the Week, Sendi Widjaja, is the CTO at lawyer and doctor ratings site Avvo. He has seen his share of fights in his day — from the streets of Jakarta to the battlefields of World of Warcraft. He’s survived them all, and he has some great stories to tell as a result. Continue reading for those, plus his other answers to our questionnaire.

Name: Sendi Widjaja

Job, hobby and/or other geeky pursuit: CTO at Avvo.com, and Geek Dad of 3 at home

Coolest thing about what you do: Probably the biggest thrill about my work at Avvo is that we are living up to the Star Trek mantra of “going where no man has gone before” (cue spacey music).  The idea of building a *consumer*-centric product in legal and now medical should not be revolutionary, but it is.  Professional services is just a backwater for pay-to-play models where consumers are fed to the highest-paying professionals rather than the *best* professionals.  We get emails all the time from people saying, “Thank you, you saved my life, etc.”  When I read these things, I can’t help but go, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

Craziest thing that’s ever happened to you: I was once stabbed in the shoulder during what I guess we would now call a gang fight.  I grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is a pretty crazy town.  One day after school, I unwittingly walked into two gangs squaring off.  All sorts of pushing and shoving ensued – I was just trying to protect myself – and before I knew it, I felt this incredibly sharp pain in my shoulder.  I had no time to respond; but, once I had escaped the melee, I realized that I had a fairly deep stab wound where I felt the pain.  Fortunately, I was able to get to the hospital and they sewed me up.  I don’t have any permanent damage, but it is still sore at times, mostly when Lord Voldemort is angry.

What does it mean to you to be a geek? For me to be a geek is to have relentless pursuit of knowledge and passion to tinker or solve hard problems. And, of course, most importantly be a sucker for cool new tech gadgets.

Geekiest thing you’ve accomplished, built or worn: I’ve always been an RTS gamer, but when World of Warcraft first came out few years back, I decided to give it a try. The game was fun at first, but I quickly grew tired of – or maybe I just didn’t have the time for – the endless hours of grinding to get gold/gear. So, together with a friend of mine, we hacked a pretty neat distributed AI bot to automatically control our characters and to work as a team fighting mobs in the area, etc.  We would just sit back and watch, or go do something else while our bots collected the booty.  I know hardcore MMORPG gamers will hate me for this (sorry guys!), but honestly, building that bot was more fun that actually playing.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life: Developers are often heads-down, living in the coding-moment. Because of this, we often miss important upcoming events :-). While this may sound simple, you can save yourself a whole lot of pain by scheduling a recurring reminder for all key important dates / events such as your anniversary, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, etc.

Mac, Windows or Linux? We use all three at Avvo, but I am a die-hard Windows fan. My first job out of college was to work on Windows NT 4.0 at Microsoft.

Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Sisko? Ugh, tough choice – I like Kirk but have deep respect for Picard.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time machine if I’m the only that has it, otherwise Transporter – it would save me a whole lot of commuting time.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Probably focus on the App market.  $1mm is not a lot of money if you are going to build a big, sophisticated business quickly.  I think the App market is a whole new frontier where you can still build cool things with little overhead.

I once waited in line for … I grew up in Indonesia.  I’ve waited in all sorts of lines – or at least the Indonesian-equivalent of a line.  Here it would look more like a rugby scrum.

Your geek role models: Any software geek that has broken the mold by thinking as much like a product/business person as a developer.  Bill Gates and Larry Page are two famous examples.  Not only did they have a great sense for software, they had a great sense for the business as a whole.  By marrying their business sense with their development skills, they built revolutions.  Any business-savvy developer can do the same.  Whether it is on a big or small scale – just do it.

Greatest Game In History: Starcraft. Best RTS game ever made bar none.

Best Gadget Ever: Sonos Music System. It totally changed how I experience music at home.

First computer: It’s a PC-XT compatible.

Current phone: iPhone.

Favorite app: Flipboard on iPad.

Favorite hangout: Home. I feel pretty lucky in that regard. I have a great wife and three beautiful children.

Favorite cause: CERDAS Foundation: This is a very important organization that hits close to home by providing scholarships to young children in Indonesia.

Most important technology of 2011: Security and privacy technology. With the explosion of social networking and cloud computing, our private data is now more susceptible to exposure and abuse than ever before. Sony’s recent large security breach is a prime example. It is critically important that we make significant improvement in this area now because the problem will only get worse over time.

Most important technology of 2015: Bio-Engineering. I have been fascinated with the latest advancement in bio-engineering especially areas where it can be used to grow sustainable energy sources. I hope in few years, we can start seeing real-world applications that use these set of technologies.

Words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Live Long and Prosper” – V

Sitewww.avvo.com, code.avvo.comTwitter@sendiwidjaja

Geek of the Week is a regular feature profiling the characters of the Pacific Northwest technology community. See the Geek of the Week archive for more.

Do you or someone you know deserve this distinguished honor? Email us at tips@geekwire.com.

[Geek of the Week photography by Annie Laurie Malarkey, annielaurie@geekwire.com]

  • http://erickennedy.org Eric Kennedy

    Wow, I thought Sendi was awesome yet I didn’t know the breadth of his talents and insights.  Great profile!