Peter Vahaviolos is the Chief Technology Officer at Drive Yello. From his thoughts on Australia’s tech scene to his spirit animal, here are some answers from the man behind the code.
Where are you from?
I was born here in Sydney. My heritage is Greek. My mom was born here, my dad was born overseas. I actually lived in Greece for three years when I was young.
What’s your job at Yello?
I’m new to the startup world and I’ve been at Yello for two months. My job is quite mixed. There’s an element of team management, project management and of course there’s coding. In a start up it’s a very hands-on role. At a big company, where you’d maybe have 40 developers, the CTO wouldn’t code. You would primarily focus on strategy, leadership and tasks such as architecture and road mapping. It’s not just knowing where the product will be tomorrow, it’s building the right foundations for future development. Often developers just worry about building the features, but I have to take a high-level view of the whole thing and actually keep an eye on what we plan on building and what business goals we need to achieve. It’s also working with Steve and the founders, managing their expectations. I try to prioritize business and commercial requirements and filter that back down to the team. It’s not purely tech, you have to look at the big picture.
What are your thoughts on the tech industry in Sydney?
I think it’s rapidly evolving, which is a good thing. It was a bit stagnate for a while behind the U.S., although there’s been moments. Google Maps was invented by Aussies here in Australia. Atlassian is an Australian company that just went public in the States. It’s not all bad, we are evolving. I think it’s always been a little bit behind the US but we are now starting to build our ecosystem. More entrepreneurs are taking the plunge and starting their own start-ups. As far as developing new technologies, coding, languages and frameworks, I think we’re pretty innovative. Large companies such as Apple and Amazon are starting to pay more attention us down here and run events, so I think that’s a step in the right direction. It’s exciting, it’s growing but I think it’s still got a way to go. We’ll watch with anticipation.
What’s your favorite thing about working for Yello?
My favorite thing is that it’s small enough – this might sound cliche – that you can actually make a difference in what it becomes. Influencing how the product is built, how the team grows, the kind of people that are hired – everything. Everything is a bit of a clean slate, even though the product is live, the roadmap is full and there’s still a lot to do. The people here, even though it’s a small team, are all pretty fun, committed, great people. It’s always good to work with people when everyone’s got a shared vision. I get to work with new, cutting-edge technologies because it’s not a legacy or a really old, massive company where you can’t change anything. We can turn around tomorrow and say, “You know what, let’s change how we do this.” And we can. Every tech person wants that at some point in their career.
What was the first computer language you learned?
HTML and CSS
What’s your favorite pizza topping?
One of my favorite pizza toppings is just cheese pizza. I love cheese pizza. It’s boring, but it’s so nice. And pepperoni. Pepperoni’s good too.
If you could drive anything to work, what would it be?
A tank? No, just kidding. Probably a motorbike. It’s fun and you get around the traffic, so why not?
What is your spirit animal?
Android or Apple?
What technology do you hope we’ll have in 20 years that we don’t have now?
It kind of exists, but definitely a more seamless way to control screens and devices without touching them. Like Minority Report where they move their hands and something goes from a screen to a tablet. I’m probably dreaming a little bit, but that would be good.
What’s your superhero name?
This is the nerd question. Interesting. I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies. I really like this one in X Men called Nighthawk. That’s a really cool name. I can’t think of one that doesn’t exist, there are a million superheroes. Nighthawk it is.
What’s your favorite piece of technology or gadget?
I’m not really into smartwatches or any of that sort of stuff. I love TVs even though they’ve been around for a hundred years. When I say TV though, I mean the new 4K Quantum Dot. Super nerdy. It’s a new way of building TVs.