In Memory of Zigzag Chen

Many of you may have already heard about the tragic swimming accident that took our friend and colleague Zigzag’s life last week. We want to take this moment to tell the community about what a wonderful person he was and express how much we will miss our teammate.

Zigzag was an exceptional person. He had many passions, but most notable, Zig had a thirst for knowledge, one that eventually led him out of the Java world and into the Ruby community where he quickly made himself at home. After teaching himself Ruby and Ruby on Rails, he didn’t hesitate to start giving back to the community. He began by blogging about Ruby, creating small open source applications that he put up on github, and contributing to open source software projects that he believed in, like Sonar and Redmine.

“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people
who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Zigzag was one of those people who had “come alive.” He was passionate in his ideals and lived by them. Zig was courageously outspoken against the “Great Firewall of China”; his belief in free access to information drove his enthusiasm to be part of a strong, open source community. He was the kind of programmer that relied on the wisdom and knowledge of his community and was always eager to give back.

Zig’s death has been a painful loss for all of us at Intridea, and especially to those that knew him best:

I?m having a lot of difficulty writing about this, because it’s difficult to accept that he’s gone. It can be complicated working as a team of distributed developers in the U.S. But add thousands of miles of oceans between us, combined with the cultural differences between Americans and Chinese, and it can make building a coherent team difficult. It was initially intimidating for all of us when Zig came onto our team.

But Zig was woven into our team just as easily as the rest of the members. His highpitched, staccato laugh kept the mood light even while he was constantly pushing us to move through our workload and keeping us on task. I guess that?s probably because Zig stayed up until midnight for our meetings, every day of the week. He never complained, and never expected anyone else to do it – he just did it. But I can?t blame him for keeping us focused when the meetings got a bit silly.

Zig loved software, and he loved working on a team. I know that because when we did code reviews, he started pushing me for more. He was trying to improve and develop his own talent. He very clearly loved his job and the act of learning – who else would bug me to give him more code reviews at 1 in the morning?

He was funny too. He had more personality than the rest of us. He was 25% of our team and made up well over 25% of our team’s personality. Having Zig taken from us is very difficult. And he always looked forward to being outside – every Monday he would announce “it was great weekend.”

It’s hard to capture his essence in words. But I know that I’ll miss him. I already do.

Flip Sasser, Senior Engineer

Working alongside Zig on a team, I had the pleasure of interacting with Zig every day. Two of us worked on East Coast time, one of us on West Coast time. And Zig? Well Zig was in Guangdong, China. 12-15 hours ahead of everyone else. We found out how considerate and dedicated he was when he immediately volunteered to join our daily “standups” at midnight (only much later did we find out he preferred to do work in the morning). He never complained, was always supportive and good-natured, and early became an anchor that kept us on track throughout the project. I would often check in with Zig on Campfire late at night to see how he was doing, and he would always wish me “a happy sleep and happy dreams.” It was only natural, coming from such a happy person; I wish the same to him now.

Patti Chan, Interaction Designer

When I interviewed Zigzag for a position at Intridea, I appreciated his passion for work and also his contributions to the community. I like any guy who works for fun and is eager to contribute so much of himself to make the community better. After the interview, there were no other thoughts in my mind except, “He’s the one; the exact person that Intridea is looking for!” I’m very sad about Zigzag. We miss him.

Dingding Ye, Software Architect

Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting Zigzag in person; but he still felt like a brother to me. His charisma, kindness, and generosity will never be forgotten. Zigzag will always remain in my memory as an excellent person with exceedingly great character.”

Jonathan Nelson, Product Manager

We’ll hold Zig close to our hearts, and commemorate him as we continually find new ways to give back to our community in his name. We also express our deepest sympathy to Zig’s family and his friends. We have lost a bright and generous soul, and we are reminded of how fleeting and precious life is.

May Zig find peace.