As an engineer Favreau prioritizes usability, that is, easily accessible content, whether he’s creating a city directory for BRC or Udacity's website. Favreau explains that the city directory in BRC is set up like the white pages, where burners enter in their own information, so that they can be in contact with others throughout the week. Swift usability of the city directory is a high priority for Favreau and the other two engineers. In conversation with Favreau, he discussed other similarities between his project for BRC and the work he does here at Udacity.
When describing the hardware setup for the city directory, Favreau conjures an image straight out of Mad Max; a post-apocalyptic world where burners arrive out of the dust to a centralized group of computers – no doubt stacked haphazardly on top of each other, chords awry – to register themselves, their camps, and their events.
“At Burning Man, on the playa, the machines are just pieced together – junk computers that run on really bad hardware – because nothing that lasts more than a week. ”
Similarly, working on Udacity’s website Favreau says usability is key: “You have to make it run on anybody’s hardware, anywhere in the world. It might be San Francisco or it might be a town in Hungary. You want to have it be as simple and direct to use as possible.”
Working at Udacity is giving Favreau the community he needs to successfully reach his goals. Not only is Favreau working to make web pages usable for anyone, anywhere, but he continues to use engineering as a means to make a difference in the world.
Before joining Udacity, Favreau was a motor and drives systems specialist, working with tiny motors and gears for insulin pumps. Both the medical industry and Udacity aim to improve people’s lives in one way or another, so Favreau’s transition from the medical devices industry into the education sector was not too far-fetched. He says of his career change: “I wanted to keep using engineering for something that I feel is adding value to the world.”
Favreau, along with the entire Udacity team, is working tirelessly to change the face of education. At the tail end of our most recent launch, he and the engineering team experienced a treacherous 48-hour period of little to no sleep in order to finish processing grades for CS101 and CS373 finals, as well as get all of the new classes and the new site features running in good time. In particular, Favreau was responsible for implementing the new look of the site that is cleaner and easier to navigate, as well as lending a hand in the trial runs for CS101 and CS373 without deadlines, and the addition of profile and transcript pages.
Engineers are notorious for enduring hours upon hours of programming work. When asked what keeps him going, Favreau says, “I am an espresso kind of gentleman and it is also the people. It definitely helps to have a team of people who are working as hard as you are during the final push. I have to say, I have a lot of fun. I was totally beat by the end and absolutely jazzed about what we had accomplished.”
Favreau shared some of his glamor shots from the marathon weekend as he worked to "re-skin" the Udacity site before launch:
And I couldn't resist asking one of our video editors to make these into a short movie:
Favreau's personal and professional trajectory serves as an example of the talented, multi-faceted and innovative Udacity team. Additionally, it speaks to the community-oriented nature between employees. His involvement also goes to show how YOU might be able to use what you learn in Udacity classes to contribute to the world. As Favreau says himself, “Everyone has the capacity to learn and do what we are putting out there.”