As a technology-based platform, Hiveclass is invested in finding leaders that can take an idea and turn it into something meaningful that the world can enjoy from anywhere with internet access. So it may be safe to say that one of those masterminds would undoubtedly be a “techie.” Zach Payton, the Lead Engineer at Hiveclass, however, is not your average computer guy. Aside from a witty sense of humor, he’s the one that makes the magic happen on and off the screen. In other words, Zach brings Hiveclass to you wherever you are! 

HIVECLASS (HC): Hi Zach – welcome! We all get to experience your talents via our technology, but today we get to share your more human side. “The guy behind the screen,” as we like to call you. But before we take a deeper dive, what exactly is the Lead Engineer at Hiveclass responsible for, in a nutshell?

Zach Peyton (ZP): Hi all. I really appreciate the opportunity to give some insight into what I do. In essence, I wear a few hats – namely the following four:

  • Server Administrator: I ensure that the website is up, secure, and scalable so we can handle any amount of traffic. This involves an understanding of the Linux operating system, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and some long term planning.
  • Lead Developer: I turn  requests and ideas from others on the team into usable tools using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Now that we have another developer on the team (Mark), I’m able to delegate some of those requests to him. We then merge our work and deploy the changes to the live website.
  • Business Analyst: Some requests by team members are not immediately clear, so there is an iterative process of clarifying what the specific needs are and finding the best technical solution. Typically, at larger companies this is another role entirely, but  Business Analysts usually also have a technical background (which is where I find myself). Another example of this crossover is my mother, who started as a developer working on punch cards in the early 80s. She then spent 40 years working for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, some of that time as a  Business Analyst.
  • Scalability Guru: Rather than waiting for all requests to come to me from others, I proactively and holistically examine how Hiveclass operates and  identify solutions for bottlenecks and manual labor in existing workflows.  I ask the hard questions as an added bonus because in reality it will also save me from more headaches down the line. At the end of the day, change is good.

HC: Your responsibilities are an interesting intersection of technical ability, creativity, and problem solving – what drives your passion for this field of work?

ZP: My drive comes from my general interest in how the internet works and building things with it that people benefit from.

I initially started programming as a senior in high school because my father’s website was being developed and I had an opportunity to see all of the code and make basic changes to it. This was an ideal scenario for me to explore the code without the pressure of an academic schedule. A few years later I did attend college for two semesters but decided to try and learn the rest on my own.

The internet at that time was very different. No YouTube, or Stack overflow. Google was useful in some cases but the main resources were books and connecting with developers I knew personally.

HC: What is something interesting or surprising about coding & technology that most people wouldn’t know?

ZP: I am 20 years into my career in technology but I probably know 10% of everything there is to know about the web. The vastness of everything that makes up our digital world and how quickly it changes is a testament to how we stand on the shoulders of the people who built the foundations of everything that we have today.

HC: What inspired you to join the Hiveclass team? What are you most excited about?  

ZP: After many years of coding I decided to start a business called Better Access, in which we specialize in making sure that websites are accessible to people with disabilities. My main client during the pandemic was the New York Public Library who takes accessibility very seriously. In the spring of 2022, the NYPL asked me to audit Hiveclass for accessibility. That led to my connection with Joe Titus, one of the Founders of Hiveclass, because, not only did we have similar clients, but we have an appreciation for entrepreneurship and start-ups.

HC: Building something out of nothing is a common theme across the company –  From all the projects you’ve worked on to date, what are you most proud of?

ZP: Before I started at Hiveclass, the course material was hosted on an external platform which resulted in many inefficiencies, such as storage of our data and content in multiple places. In a few weeks, I built our own scalable learning platform. This change resulted in a number of improvements: our hosting cost is now nearly free at this stage, we have everything in one place, and we are now NIST compliant (a major boost in security).

HC: As Hiveclass grows & evolves, it’s inevitable that the platform will also change. Is there anything interesting that you are working on now to evolve the workflow at Hiveclass? Are there any fun updates that you can give us a sneak peek of? How does the team determine what new features or options will be made available to clients & their users?

ZP: As I mentioned earlier, I like to anticipate where issues will arise and provide a solution before it’s necessary. The process of populating content to the platform is pretty extensive and our Video Production team has been using a few external services during the editing, revision, and approval process. I’m working on something that will make it possible for all videos to be uploaded to the website throughout the production process, so the video files will start and end in the same place. This means we won’t need to upload and download the same large files multiple times anymore and we have more clarity as to what status a video is in.

HC:  What is your favorite thing about working at Hiveclass?

ZP: I have enjoyed getting to know everyone on the team. We all work so hard and at this stage everyone makes a lasting impact. I like start-ups and small teams for this very reason.

HC: I couldn’t agree more! Any final thoughts before we sign off with a huge thank you for being a part of our dedicated (and fun) team?

ZP: Happy to help.

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