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Meet the Trulian: Chris Vensko

A Series to Connect You to the Trulians Behind the Magic

This Meet the Trulian features Chris Vensko, senior director of engineering at Trulia. Chris began his career as an analyst in the military before transitioning into engineering and joining Trulia in 2013. Read on to learn more about him.

What’s your role at Trulia?
I am a senior director of engineering, leading Trulia’s Growth and Engagement development teams. These teams drive potential homebuyers, renters, and sellers to Trulia and help them find a place they will love to live through personalized recommendations, listing alerts, and push notifications, in addition to connecting them with real estate professionals.

In my current position as a senior director, I spend most of my time communicating with my team, peers, manager, and other stakeholders throughout the company. I have dedicated time to meet with individual team members through one-on-ones and small group sessions. These one-on-ones are where I learn the most about my team, the business, and, even, myself, as we talk about everything from code to interpersonal communication styles to our professional and personal life goals.

What inspired you to get into your role?
My journey to Trulia was not a direct path. I started my professional career as an analyst in the military. During my time in the military, I had the opportunity to receive formal leadership training, witness the positive impact of quality leadership, and was fortunate enough to practice the art of leadership firsthand. Through leading teams ranging from three to over thirty people, I built a leadership foundation focused on people first, and I learned valuable techniques for communicating and motivating teams.

Software engineering was just a personal hobby until I found that I could be more effective in my role as an analyst by writing code to automate routine tasks. As I got more comfortable writing, managing, and deploying code, the applications I wrote became more complex and supported a wider audience. When I left the military, I contracted with the Department of Defense writing analytic software, and my hobby had finally turned into a career. Eventually, I was able to take advantage of the leadership training and practice I had accrued while in the military and took over a team of software engineers comprised of members of the military, the government, and various contracting companies. The more time I spent managing software engineers, the more I realized that my role was all about supporting people.

I joined Trulia over four years ago as an engineering lead, managing a team of four engineers focused on building features that brought real estate professionals to Trulia. I continued to take on increased responsibilities and eventually took on a director of engineering position on our Premier Agent team. Last year, I was offered the opportunity to transition back to Trulia and take on my current role.

What was your dream job growing up and why?
When I was little, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I spent a lot of time at airshows with my family in San Diego, and I thought it would be such a rush to have that much freedom and power at my fingertips. As I grew up, I held on to my dream of flying, and even though life pushed me in different directions, I started working on my private pilot’s license last year and recently completed my first solo flight–yep, I was the only one in the plane.

What’s your proudest accomplishment and why?
I am extremely proud of the family my wife and I have built. We started dating in junior high, and despite all of the challenges we’ve faced, we have stayed together and are still best friends to this day. We got married before moving to our new home base in Hawaii. While in Hawaii, I volunteered for a deployment overseas as part of a small team. It was during this time that I was awarded the Bronze Star for my actions in combat. To this day, I cherish the camaraderie of being part of a small team with high impact. Though extremely intense, my time in combat was the most challenging and rewarding part of my life so far.

As my contract with the military came to an end, my wife and I decided to separate from the military and focus on building our family. We now have three wonderful children, and I get to see life through their eyes. They see so much potential in everything, like close friendships with people they meet, and creations they can build out of items in our recycling bin. There is an entire world of possibilities ahead of them, and I feel so lucky to be part of it.

If you could have drinks with one tech luminary – dead or alive – who would it be and why? And, what would your first question be?
I would definitely want to hang out with Steve Jobs. From my perspective, he always fought for what he believed in, even when it cost him his job. I would start by asking him why he ultimately went back to Apple. Steve Jobs was clearly successful outside of Apple, and I’m curious what brought him back. Did he want to finish something that he started? Did he want to prove something?

What’s the one gadget or personal tech item you cannot live without and why?
Am I limited to just one? In all seriousness, I could live without all of them. We have a cabin in a remote part of Montana that has been passed down through several generations. We try to make it up there as a family every summer to get away and spend quality time as a family. With no electricity, running water, or cell phone reception, we’ve found that we enjoy every day more and spend a lot more time being present together. Taking this time as a family provides us with a healthy break from the hustle and connectedness of the Bay Area.

If you could master one talent or skill that you don’t have now what would it be and why?
I would love to learn how to play the acoustic guitar so that I could bust it out by the campfire and play whatever song is in my head. Music has a way of changing the mood and bringing people together. My kids recently received musical instruments as gifts, and watching them learn to play has been extremely rewarding.

If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
Mind reading. Not in a creepy way, though. I have found that once I truly understand someone else’s perspective, my relationship with them improves, and we can align on a common vision. Ultimately, I want to help people discover opportunities for growth and realize their dreams.

If you could time travel, would you go into the future or past and why?
It would be interesting to go back in time to compare how history depicts things versus how they really were. However, if I had to choose, I would go into the future to see what we are capable of creating. I am amazed and fascinated by human innovation, and I would love to see where it takes us. I hope that in the near future, we understand much more about our species, our society, and the world around us, and that life is better in the future than it is today. Technology has completely changed how we live, even in the past few years, so I can’t even begin to imagine how much life will change in our lifetime given the current pace of innovation.