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Meet the Digitalians: Brian Staruk

By Janeiro Digital | February 19, 2016

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In this installment of the Meet The Digitalians Series, I sit down with Brian Staruk, one of our front end developers who has colorful taste for both music and beer, and some great insights into working for a startup. Despite multiple attempts, I cannot get the nickname “Starstruck” to catch on.  Nevertheless, we all think he’s a rockstar here at Janeiro Digital.

KM: In simple terms, what do you do?
BS: I populate the internet. When you fire up your computer and open up your web browser, what you see was either made by me or someone who does the same thing as me.

KM: In less simple terms, what do you do?
BS: I’m more of a UI architect. So we’re actually building the buttons you’re pressing and the things you’re seeing, more so than the engine that’s running in the back.

KM: Are you artistic?
BS: Not really.

KM: Do you wish you were?
BS: Not really

KM: K. good talk.
BS: [hearty laugh]. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a more logical than creative person. I’m lefty brained.

KM: What do you like to do?
BS: Like most programmers I play a lot of video games. I make beer. I love listening to music.

KM: Have you ever made beer while listening to music and playing video games?
BS: Never.

KM: We should find some way to get that done. What kind of music do you like?
BS: I like to listen to really fast punchy music when i’m working. Or hardcore screaming.

KM: Ah, yes, as we sometimes hear through your headphones.
BS: Haha yea. I like hard electronic music. Not big into dubstep but i do like some hard hitting hip hop, like Killer Mike. I pretty much always have a pair of headphones on.

KM: What do you like most about your role?
BS: I like the front end because it has the most instant gratification. You can sit down and build something from soup to nuts in a day or two, as opposed to a backend project that could take months? The front end is also more dynamic. A website you make today will look dated in a year. Back end languages are so complex that it’s very difficult to make a new system or service. Back end work tends to require more time and heavy thinking.

KM: Is there anything you do enjoy thinking heavily about?
BS: No. I don’t enjoy thinking heavily. I’m a very simple and transparent person. Or I try to be anyways…

KM: Do you think that plays into your style as a dev?
BS: Definitely. There’s a quote I love by Leonardo DaVinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. When you’re building web pages, flat and simple is the way to go. It’s about where to put things rather than putting in everything you can.

KM: What do you like most about JD?
BS: I love working for Janeiro because it’s almost like an open source project, where you’ve got a bunch of people from different backgrounds, and they’re all free to contribute how they want or how they’re used to. You make your own path, but it’s a very open and transparent environment. So you can see what everyone else is working on. But also, because of that, everything you do is important because everyone can see it.
I’d also say that this type of environment attracts a certain type of person. I think we hire extremely well. I’ve never worked on a team where everyone is so awesome.

KM: How did you get into development?
BS: When I was a kid, I played a game called Neopets. You’d have to style your shop and guild page with code. I was having a hard time making money in that game so I learned HTML and CSS. After that, I was designing shop front and making money from it. I did that for a year. After school and on weekends.

KM: Wait in real life?
BS: No, on Neopets.
Then I got really into Weezer. I built a Weezer fan site, with tour dates and lyrics. They only had like one or two albums at the time. So it was basically just like “Hi. My name’s Brian. I’m 10. I like Weezer.” Then during middle and high school school I was getting paid to make websites for local businesses. People kept encouraging me and I kept getting opportunities. So it just kind of just clicked and I kept doing it.

KM: Tell me more about this Bonnaroo technology hiatus.
BS: When I say I disconnect from technology, it’s more than just disconnect. When you’re on the internet it’s easy to forget the you’re actually talking to real people. People say mean things to each other. people aren’t necessarily bad, it’s just an easier platform to say mean things, so you see more of it. So it’s not just me not using my phone, it’s thousands of other people not using their phones either. I’ve never experienced such a positive community or crowd. I’ve never seen one bad thing happen at Bonnaroo.

KM: Words of advice for working in a startup?
BS: If you don’t actually spend the time and put in the work to make yourself valuable, you’re not going to feel like you deserve much. And if you don’t feel like you deserve much, that’s exactly what you’ll get. So my advice is keep the fire going. Stay passionate. Continue growing. Be adaptive.

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