Meet the Team: Leo Zhang on Exciting Challenges and Hummus

September 18, 2020

Who are you?

Hi! I’m Leo. I was born in China and received my education there. I started my career with Microsoft Asia as a data visualization researcher. Then I joined Baidu to focus on web development. Working at giant corporations gave me the opportunity to see specific challenges at scale.

That being said, I was always inspired by the amazing job startups do to turn ideas into products quickly. From there, I joined AppAnnie, learned a lot of hands-on skills, and transitioned to a team lead.

So what brought me to Vancouver? My wife suffered from a skin problem while living in Beijing but the interesting thing is she got much better when we travelled to Vancouver, Canada. This brought me a crazy idea to move to Vancouver. 

In 2014, nearly a year after, I landed in Canada and became an Axiom over at Axiom Zen. Looking back today, this was an incredible life-changing decision for me. At AxiomZen I worked on a product called ZenHub for 4 years. I still love the idea - it makes project management easier and helps developers be more productive. We scaled the product from scratch to a point that is trusted by many of the world’s leading 500 Fortune organizations and I became CTO.

In 2018, Dapper Labs spun out of Axiom Zen and I officially joined Dapper Labs to help scale the blockchain product. It's been great working here and working on new challenges.

What lured you into the world of blockchain?

In 2014, after seeing the fluctuations in Bitcoin’s price, the team at Axiom Zen got the idea of trading Bitcoin in real-time. We brought this idea to the Money2020 hackathon and built a prototype called bitbuybit. However, it wasn’t until I read the Bitcoin paper that I truly understood the problems blockchain is trying to solve. The idea of decentralization and cryptography were inspiring, but what a waste of environmental resources! Is it possible to solve the consensus problem at scale without compromising the environment? I didn't have an answer just yet, but it drove me to dive deeper into the world of blockchain.

How did you get hooked on Flow?

Having the experience of building CryptoKitties and Cheese Wizards, it has been amazing to see the decentralization and composition it allows. However, the question keeps coming back, is there a scalable blockchain infrastructure that can support more applications? There are still a lot of exciting challenges to be solved and thus I decided to join Flow to work on them.

At Flow, I focused on the Byzantine fault tolerant consensus algorithm. It's based on the latest research - Hotstuff, a proof of stake based algorithm. I also worked on other parts of the architecture.

What should I read next?

There are two technical books that I’ve read many times and inspire me each time I read them: 

  • Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Abelson, Sussman, and Sussman
  • Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann

Best dip?

Hummus! Creamy smooth hummus from the Middle East has been my favorite appetizer/dip since I moved to Canada. It has become one of the most common dishes at home and I’ve learned to make the food that I love.

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