About Me

This is the About page where I’m suppose to give you a bulleted list of GitHub repos, degrees and accomplishments that validate my existence on this planet… I’ve never been good at that. My LinkedIn page is a constant struggled for me to word things the right way.

Instead, maybe I’ll tell a story.

My name is Riyad Kalla – I’ve spent my life in technology and my career in software development & engineering leadership.

I don’t know why I got so hooked on technology, but I was all-in by 12 and running my own 2-node BBS (56k US Robotics modems for those that remember the stone age of the internet) with subscribers and everything.

I also owe my passion for technology to video games – I loved them from the word ‘Go’. I want to thank my dad for early on saying I could have any games / game systems as long as I figured out how to sell what I had to make money to pay for the next one.

The intersection of my passions with making money was truly a light-bulb moment of: “I LOVE THIS”.

From 7th to 12th grade I had my own side business servicing and selling computers / small networks – I really enjoyed that. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit. Not in the “I want to be a VC in the bay area!” way, but in the “I want to grow something from a tiny seed!” kind of way.

From there I went into Community College courses on C/C++ while wrapping up high school and then a Computer Science degree from the University of Arizona where I fell in love with the initial release of Java.

The next 10 years was a blur of Java server side (Servlets, EJB, JSF, etc.) and client side (AWT/Swing) with 15 or so Open Source projects.

I couldn’t stop coding – I loved it. 12 hours a day and double-digit opensource projects of coding was a total dream.

All the problem solving of how to make things go faster or be uncrashable / automatic recovery were obsessions to me. Reading the JVM specification to understand what my enhanced-for-loops were turning into so I could make them faster and use less memory was the name of the game.

Somewhere along the way my passion for tech and people gave me opportunities to grow into engineering leadership.

It started small (a few people on a team) and as it does, grew in bigger teams and more responsibility. This was when decisions I was being asked to make really started to impact and effect P/L, future revenue, etc.

I couldn’t get enough of it – being dialed into the community, giving webinars, presentations at conferences (JavaONE, EclipseCon) and talking to our biggest customers to bring the bugs and feature requests back into our roadmap was A BLAST.

All the work we did was so directly purposeful and tied back to the customer mission.

Overlapping with this time, I created a small blogging network of Tech (Break it Down Blog), Humor and Politics blogs and had a staff of 5 writers working with me.

I dabbled in YouTube videos back then as well for some game reviews – it was fun, but ultimately too slow going and I wasn’t terribly good at it.

These were the early days of blogging when sites likes TechCrunch were coming up and we were all competing for the same eyeballs, but I grew that site to 1 million/unique visitors a month and I’m pretty proud of that.

After that I spent 2 years on a mini-sabbatical to decompress and get back to my tech roots. During that time I became obsessed with cloud technologies – AWS was just starting to blow up and these were new days ahead of us.

During that time I had one of the most active posting accounts on the AWS Support forums – both learning and helping people out.

I found myself particularly passionate around CDN/global-scaleout w/ low latency type problems the most interesting.

From there, I was fortunate enough to interviewed by an amazing team at PayPal that asked me to join as a manager. So I spent 7 years at PayPal growing from a manager with a few teams to a 120-person organization. I couldn’t be more thankful for that journey or the people I got to do it with – that was such an incredibly fun adventure.

Every moment of every day I tried to leave a path of happy, passionate people who knew the mission we were on, knew their part in it and felt cared for behind me.

One of the most wonderful moments of my personal and professional life was receiving a 30-page, hand written “We Will Miss You!” book, signed by everyone in the organization across all the global locations – letters of thanks, letters of regret, letters of next steps… all these people that I had grown to know and genuinely feel like were all part of a big family, saying wonderful things.

That meant more to me than they will ever know.

After PayPal I took another mini-sabbatical and came home for a year or so. This time around, I was completely captured by blockchain technology AND the micro-incentives model that it creates.

The whole ecosystem of blockchain-based technologies and crypto-coins/tokens will change the world and I am incredibly energized by that.

During my mini-sabbatical I was approached by the United States Digital Services (USDS) and asked about doing a 2-year tour there.

I was hesitant at first, it wasn’t really the plan to get back to work anytime soon, but after meeting with 4 or 5 of the other USDS folks and understanding what Matt (yes, that Matt) was really doing with the organization – I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. Only 2% of applicants make it in and so far it’s been a BLAST.

My tour lasted 8 months and during that time I got to be part of the team that implemented the federal pipeline of real-time data coming both from the field (Covid Testing) as well as through care facilities utilizing the big-2 hospital systems (Epic and Cerner we had multiple meetings with talking about the API changes to integrate their field installs with the new federal real-time system).

This was all built using Palantir’s Foundry system – the pipelines were massive and we had transforms running directly from intake into all major departments and even generated the daily report that went to he president.

Right around the time we wrapped Phase 1 of the project, I got a call from an executive I’d worked under at PayPal who was now the CTO of Prosper and he asked me to join and help rebuild the Engineering organization.

I forged some great relationships with the team at Prosper as we all worked together to mature the Engineering organization and take the Tech to the next level.

About a year and a half into that journey, I got called by my old EVP from PayPal, who had since retired, but mentioned that one of his old SVP’s had joined Early Warning as the new CTO and suggested “we should talk to each other”.

I reached out, we spoke and I agreed to join as Head of Engineering.

For the first year and a half at EWS, I had the pleasure of managing both the Decision Intelligence and Zelle (yes, that Zelle) Engineering pillars – the first year was spent intensely on getting the right people in the right places to mature how we operated. This included a lot of organizational changes as we restructured quite a bit.

In Early 2024 I was presented the opportunity to take the reigns at Paze and get it ready for it’s GA Launch in the summer and beyond; this was an incredible chance to effectively launch “mini-PayPal” backed by all the biggest banks in the US and scale to almost all banked Americans Day 1.

I knew in my bones how to knock this role out of the park having done so many product launches in Credit at PayPal both with and without global partners – I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on this and do it right.

I have had an absolute blast at EWS since I joined – I do everything in my power to leave a wake of strong teams, great culture and better relationships behind me and I am proud to say I’ve done that so far.

I am excited when I think about the future and feel fortunate every day when I wake up for what I’ve been able to accomplish.