Sunday, March 29, 2015

Traits of a S/w engineer

“You have to be good at logic and math”. This was a common phrase I used to hear during my college days in order to get hired in any of the S/w companies and to be a successful S/w engineer. I don’t deny the fact about good logical thinking being an essential skill, but there is more to it than only logic

One fine day [Jul 2002], when I came to work at Tantra, I was told that I might be deputed to a different organization to work on a project. During that week, Mahesh [owner of Tantra] and myself went to Knoxware’s office at Indiranagar. It was a fairly big office but I could see only handful of people working there. I was told by Mahesh that there would be an interview and only if I clear the interview there would be deputation. I was seated in the lobby area while Mahesh was having a conversation with Santosh Kejriwal [owner of Knox]. Later I was called to meet with Santosh for a brief chat and this was to be followed by a technical discussion with Satish Bhat

I did have the privilege to work with brilliant people while at Knoxware. The experiences and knowledge I had gained by working with them had been truly invaluable. Among the many important things that I learnt there, few that stands out would be commitment, temperament, communication, articulation, honesty, integrity. These are not in any order of importance, but 2 more traits would have to be added, programming and logical thinking. Probably these would occupy middle to last positions. From being a person who used to hear about math and logic as primary qualities for a S/w engineer, I discovered that these are “also” traits that an engineer has to possess

Satish Bhat had been an integral part of Knox and a very good friend of Santosh. He was the brain behind the technical architecture of the project I was supposed to work on. The first impression about Satish was that of a person who could articulate things extremely well and who made complicated stuff look easy. He was a master at various technologies and had great learning abilities. Working with him was like getting a master’s degree every day and on new things. Even though I had worked with him only for 3 months, the learning I’ve had was immense and they are staying with me even today and probably for ever after. It has been more than 13 years since I have met/worked with Satish. I hope our paths cross in the future as well

The technical interview at Knox was a brief one and focused on OOPs and C++. It was my first meeting with Satish and my first technical interview as well. It was a fairly nervous moment and Satish recognized that instantly. He made me feel comfortable and then started to probe me on C++. I was not very good at that technology and Satish got a feel of that instantly. I felt happy and embarrassed at the same time. Happy as I did not have to answer any more questions on C++ and embarrassed as I was not sure about the outcome of the interview. The discussion then focused on work I had done at Tantra and I was able to answer them pretty well

After about 20 mins of discussion, we went to meet Santosh. Mahesh had been seated with Santosh as well. To my astonishment, Satish accepted my candidature. He mentioned that though I’m weak at C++, he liked the way I looked at things and put them to work. I could barely understand what he had meant by that. But then, job was accomplished

When I look back at this moment today, I’m able to put the things into perspective and recognize why I was selected in the interview. The interview focused on many things apart from technology and that is where I believe the selection was made

It was very hard work during my tenure at Knox. Even though we were only 3 engineers and 1 architect working on the project, Satish provided mentorship to all of us and stood behind like a rock during times of crisis. It is another matter that due to the strict timelines, every day was a crisis

I used to see a gentleman who occasionally [couple of times a week and usually for about an hr’s time] used to visit Knox’s office and meet with Santosh and Satish. Later I realized that the gentleman was Harsha Kollaramajalu and happened to be the Chief Technology Officer [CTO] of Knox. My other friends at Knox told me that Harsha is the mentor/guide for Satish and is a technologist par excellence. Well, I could not imagine how would it like to be working with Harsha. Little did I realize that in the very near future, I would be working with him directly

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Moment of reckoning

I had come back from office at around 6:00 PM and it had been a rainy day. Office work was very hectic and often schedule used to be very irregular, like going to office post lunch and returning back early next day. This had been the norm for almost 2 months. We were working on a peer to peer file sharing system and which rivaled Napster. Work was very interesting and involved lots of learning

Santosh had been heading Knoxware and he came across as a very astute businessman. His communication and articulation style were very impressive. He was a very practical person and knew very well on how to get the things done

It was my first encounter with enterprise level product development. Technologies used were C++ and wxWindows. This was Linux equivalent of MFC but provided cross platform compatibility. There was no machine generated code, but we had to write the framework code as well. For a person who was used to MFC, this provided a platform to write all the code and learn in great depth on how the framework behaves

Project had been in a very critical phase and there was immense pressure on the team members to deliver faster than expected

I received a call on that rainy day from Santosh right after I reached home. I had not been well and hence had come home early. But circumstances were such that I had to get back to office at the earliest and told Santosh I’ll be there in some time. Right after that I received calls from the PJM and the Tech lead and they were telling me not to come. But I decided against it. It was raining heavily so I had to stop mid-way near Richmond circle. I called up Santosh and told him that it would take some more time for me to come

I reached office at around 9:00 PM and fully drenched. I could see a sense of gratitude and relief in the eyes of Santosh. I could not step into the office lest the floor would get wet. He immediately took me to his house and gave a pair of fresh clothes. We came back to office and started the marathon work session. Every person would have a moment of reckoning and I think this was mine. I’m not sure till date whether he valued me so much, but I believe this moment turned it around

I went back to my parent organization after the completion of my tenure at Knoxware. We met again after a month or so during the house warming ceremony of Harsha. This was in 2002. Since then we have not met in person. Whenever I go to US I make it a point to call him or when he is India, we speak over phone. Our friendship has grown over the years and we remain good friends till date even though it has been more than 13 years since we have met