I was quite irritated being disturbed from my peaceful sleep by my phone ringing. With sleepy eyes, I looked at its screen. It said:
“Jaseem Abid calling…”
“Oh man, not now.”, I thought. Not because of any personal reasons, but just because I was craving for that deep sleep and my mind working was the last thing I wanted at that point. I put it to silent, ignored the call and peacefully went back to sleep.
When I woke up after an hour or so, I found a message that Jaseem had left.
“Hey, there are these guys looking for a Python dev. Wanted to talk to you about it”
This happened sometime in September 2013, while I had already submitted my resignation at HasGeek. I had talked to other folks and was looking around quite desperately to find another job. There were a handful of people whom I talked to before I made the decision to resign. If not for the support offered by people like Arpan & Vamsee, I would have probably gone into a state of depression. They were kind enough to let me learn from them by staying with them in case I wanted to polish up my programming skills. Sajjad was another person who gave me hope by introducing me to Gautam and considering my engagement with Akshara Foundation. That, however, had been on hold since they were trying to figure out a road map for the next year and said they would need at least a month before letting me know.
However, if not then, when I was going to learn programming? I intended to give it my best shot. I had not quit HasGeek then. I was a full time employee. Hence, I had to do this task in the midst of all the emails and organizational activities. I had one week time. At the end of piling up all the tutorials, copy-pasting code, trial and error fixes, I finally managed to do a really, extremely crude bar graph visualization of the data set. No one would be able to understand the joy that I felt at being able to do that. Also, since I had finished this by the evening of the day on which I was supposed to submit it, I had to finish writing the report in an hour, which I did. I think it was a sad piece of work and that they were not quite amused. Suffice to say, there were no further interactions.
You can find the code as well as the report here: https://github.com/harisibrahimkv/d3_viz
The situation was really quite dire. I had no industry skills in terms of programming apart from the few incomplete pet projects I tried to do during my time with HasGeek. Since my job was mostly related to organizing, emails, community management, etc, I never could find an uninterrupted stretch of time to dedicate to learn writing code. After all, I do realize that managing humans is far more rewarding and complicated than managing code.
You must be thinking how I found the courage to actually submit my resignation without having another job or the necessary skills to attain one. Well, I guess many people do it and it is not so much of a big deal. Let me tell you though, it was and still is a really big deal for me. Anyway, there was a person behind me finding courage to take the step forward.
(Following is one day before I submitted my resignation)
Sudar Muthu is a loving Husband, a caring Father and a passionate programmer. Even though I had heard his talks before at HasGeek events, we got to know each other better when I approached him for doing a hands-on public workshop on “Processing Data using Pig”. We used to keep in touch after that and we met each other again at PyCon India 2013, which happened at the very end of August. That was my first ever PyCon and I was glad I attended it. I was catching up with friends over breakfast. I could relax and take my time to do it since I was not a volunteer (although I ended up pushing boxes, selling T-shirts and packing participant kits).
In the midst of breakfast, Sudar walked past me. I called out to him.
“Hey Haris, how is it going? It has been a while.”
“Not bad. My first PyCon. You have a talk today, don’t you? Looking forward to that. Feels glorious not being responsible for anything that is happening around me for a change”, I added with a chuckle.
We chit chatted for a while. At some point, the conversation shifted in the direction of me explaining that I was in a troublesome situation where I wanted to shift to a programming career and I could not leave my current job unless I found another job, which was quite impossible in the current state of affairs. He had just one question to ask.
“Do you need to have a job?”
That caught me off-guard.
“W-What?”, I asked, stuttering.
“Are you in a situation where you need to have a job? Where people are depending on you or you have big loan to repay or something?”
“Uh, no. Not really….”
“If you really believe that you are not doing the right thing, then this is the time to make the difference. Before financial aspects become a responsibility and burden. Take some time off and make *absolutely* sure that you make the most out of it. Otherwise it will be an even worse situation”
I could only look at him with wide open eyes. I would not say I was in a shock, but it was something quite close. I could feel my brain rewiring, dropping certain assumptions, bringing up new plans, constructing alternate routes, opening up new doors, and a little devil at the corner who would damn my soul if I were to fail myself in taking and executing the right choice. All happened in a split second.
We chatted for a while more regarding this. However, my innards were bursting with a sense of anxiety and excitement.
“This is it. I am going to do it”
On September 2nd, I submitted my resignation.
(Coming back to where we left off)
“They are not hardcore techies, but are really nice guys. I am planning to work with them for a month and see if we can continue the engagement. I’ll whatsapp you Jazeel’s number. He is the CEO of the company.”
This is back when I had whatsapp and the Nexus4, courtsey of HasGeek. He went on for a while longer talking about the company. He ‘whatsapped’ me Jazeel’s number.
Quite frankly, I was not amused. Due to my extreme ego of thinking I was destined to be the greatest person in the world, I thought, “Well, yet another startup somewhere. The Akshara one looks more promising. And oh! These people are building a product having something to do with social networking!”
Whatever is the opposite of fanboy-ism, I used to be that when it came to social networking sites. I never had any proper justification for my thoughts I guess.
I tucked the idea away in a corner of my mind and moved forward. October came and whatever I explained in terms of Akshara and Next Big What happened then. I was at home for a week during October for Eid. One of the days, while I was watching some movie on my laptop at around 8’o’clock in the morning, my phone rang. It was an unknown number. I attended the call.
“Hi, is this Haris?”
“Yeah, this is Haris”
“Oh hey, I am Jazeel. Jaseem must have spoken to you about me. I am calling from Eventifier”
“Ah yes! I remember. I am so sorry. The days have been too busy that I forgot to call you”
“Its alright. He said you were looking to move out and find another job. How are you placed now?”
“Well, I am talking with a few people, but nothing confirmed yet”
“Yeah, the thing is, we are also looking to hire a Python developer. We just moved to Bangalore a couple of month’s back and are planning on expanding”
Jazeel went on to explaining what Eventifier does.
“Also, we got funded by Accel. So, would you like to meet and talk sometime soon?”
“Ehm well, you should know about my Python development experience as well. I don’t have any experience writing production code. I have used it for my projects at college as well as to do some pet projects which you can find on my Github profile. I guess that is about it”
“Oh cool. Let’s talk about it. Are you in Bangalore now?”
“Uh no, I am at home in Kerala. I’ll be back on Wednesday. Maybe we can meet Thursday early morning? Say, around 9?”
“Sounds good. I’ll just confirm with the rest of my team and let you know over email”
“Okay, bye. Oh and how old are you?”
“Uh, 24. Why?”
“Nothing. Just wanted to know. I’ll send you an email”
On Thursday morning, standing in front of the Accel partners office, I just cut my call telling Jazeel I had arrived. After a few minutes, someone tapped on my shoulders. I turned around and saw this handsome looking young man with a slightly golden colored beard and hair, standing behind me with a smile.
“Hey, nice to meet you. I’m Jazeel. Let’s go in.”
We shook hands and he led me in. I had to sign in my name in the visitor’s register, after which we went to one of the meeting rooms. He asked me to wait while he fetched someone else whose name I did not quite catch. At the moment, tension started creeping up my spine. I thought to myself,
“What the hell am I doing here? I haven’t even prepared for an interview! Heck, I should have at least read something up about their company. Oh my God…”
My thoughts were cut short by Jazeel entering the room along with the “someone else”.
J: “Hey Haris, meet Saud. He is the Chief Designer of Eventifier”
I was a bit amused. The CEO was as old as me and now he brings in another 25 year old saying he is the chief designer! “Gosh, this must be like an army of Ershads!”, I thought. Ershad is a friend who dropped out of college during his second year. A genius hardcore programmer and a Free Software enthusiast. He used to be the winner of all tech competitions around Kerala.
S: “Hi. How are you doing?”
Me: “I am fine, thank you. How about you?”
S: “Good, good.”
J: “Yeah so… Nazim will be here in a bit. He is the CTO”
Augh! What am I going to tell him, what am I going to tell him! Technology scared me.
Me: “Ah okay. Well, maybe to begin with you could elaborate a bit on what we discussed that day? I mean, about how you guys founded the company and what it is about?”
Jazeel and Saud together explained their adventure. That story is already told and hence I won’t go over it. Towards the end of it, the door opened again. A simple looking cool person with long hair and an almost-French beard entered.
J: “Meet Nazim”.
Me: “Oh hey, I’m Haris”
N: “Yeah hi, I’m Nazim”.
He had a really soft voice.
Me: “Well, as I was telling Jazeel, you guys should know I don’t have any experience writing production code. Only a few pet projects and a handful of tutorials is what I’ve got. Apart from attending and organizing the best workshops on Python and Git, I’ve never actually quite gotten down to using them.”
There was laughter around the room.
Me: “What do you guys use and what sort of a workflow do you have?”
I could not believe how humble the three of them were. Very down to Earth, soft spoken and very gentle. I have met a lot of people during my HasGeek days and I must say almost every one of them had one point or the other where they would try to sell themselves showcasing their talent or skill and asserting they are good at it. Nothing of the sort came from these three. As far as I am concerned, after having accomplished so much and establishing a company, if you can be so humble, that is quite an asset.
N: “Yeah so… We use Django and Python. And we have made a git repository on Github where we push the code. We pull from there onto the server and deploy it”
Me: “Uh okay. Um, is that it?”
N: “Yeah, that is pretty much it”
J: “We’ll get Ajay, our adviser, to meet you now”
With that, the three of them went out. I sat there for a while. Ajay came in and asked me about my previous job and a few metrics related to it. It was a short conversation. After that he went out. Jazeel and Saud came in.
J: “Yeah, we are happy to have you onboard. Ajay also felt you would be a good fit”
Wow. That was fast. Was it that they did not hear what I said about not having any experience or whether they chose to simply ignore it? Whatever it was, I thought getting to be in the company of these people would be an unmatched asset. I had almost made up my mind.
J: “So what do you feel?”
Me: “From what you have told me, I’m interested in going forward as well. But you should know that I won’t be able to contribute to your code from day one onwards. Maybe you can send me a small task that I could work on in order to get acquainted with the technology?”
J: “Sounds like a good idea. I’ll tell Nazim to get in touch with you regarding that”
We discussed the joining date, which would be on November 11th, a Monday, since I was leaving HasGeek on October 31st and would be at home for a few days after that. We decided on a salary as well, after which we parted.
I was leaving for Goa that day along with Kiran and Zainab to attend NitroDroid. I remember calling my Mom and Dad while I stood waiting to embark on the KSRTC bus to Goa and telling them I had made up my mind to join Eventifier.
On Octoer 31st evening, I was sitting with mixed feelings. I tweeted out this the day before: https://twitter.com/harisibrahimkv/status/395799344231616512. I believe those emotions are better kept inside of me and hence I shall refrain from writing them. Around 5, I packed my bags and got out. My eyes watered slightly.
The Journey so far
I have never pulled an all-nighter in my life. Until the day came where I had to finish Nazim’s task. I finished them on the 9th of November at 6:00AM, having sat through the entire night. No coffee, no energy drinks. Just working.
On Monday morning, at around 9:00AM, I tweeted this and got out. Full of excitement, I reached there only to find Jaseem there. He waved to me from the great glass building and asked me to come in. I obliged and went in, thus starting my first day with Eventifier!
PS: Meanwhile in the Founders’ home.
“Nazim, Nazim! Wake up! Haris has tweeted! I think he is already there.”, Jazeel was frantically trying to wake Nazim and Saud up, having himself only woken up at about 9:45AM.
“Wha, what?”, Nazim stuttered, waking up lazily and rubbing his eyes. “Oh! We have to go now.”
They had hired their first employee.
Bryan Adam’s “Summer of 69” is one of my favorite songs of all time. There is one line in that song which says, “Those were the best days of my life”. That is exactly what I have to say regarding the past 6 months. On different levels, it has worked out really great.
First of all, establishing a routine. I was adamant about establishing a work life balance. Although a few people advised me against doing that during the early days of joining a company, I did not pay heed to it. I should say it has worked out quite well. From day 1, I would wake up at 6, finish off my chores and prayers, bath and leave to office around 7:30. Breakfast would be from the Madhurai Idly Shop near my office. I reach my desk by 8:15 – 8:30. I check my mails and Twitter for half an hour and then jump into work. Usually it is even earlier. Since the office is a shared space, two other companies use the space as well. However, none of the employees come in before 11 or so. Hence, I get a lot of peaceful time to work. I would leave back for home latest by 4:30PM every day. This way, I avoid the rush hour traffic both in the morning and in the evening. Weekends – absolutely no work. Even if I laze out completely, I used to refrain from work. This was not the best of things to do, and I am rectifying it slowly. I was more than glad that the company allowed me to maintain this.
I took up cycling. A gazillion thanks to Sam Kocsis for letting me have his bike, a Bergamont Vitox 6.2, while he was going back to the US. It has been a tremendous experience the last 6 months cycling wherever I go. The concept of having to wait for transport has become so alien! The best part is, the grey areas of traffic where a cyclist can easily find his way through traffic. However, I must say most of the motor vehicle drivers are inconsiderate towards cyclists. They blow their horn and give looks that says, “Why the hell are you even on the road butt head?”. Anyway, I am enjoying the ride.
Cooking was another interesting practice I started. It is amazing how the human mind and body works once you decide on doing something. It adapts pretty well and delivers. Although not a master chef, I can make decent food for myself hence eating home cooked food and bringing the cost down as well.
All this would not have had its fun if my work did not go well along with it. I was amazed at how pleasantly all three welcomed me into their team like a family. At times when I get excited about something that I am working on, I stay back late and feel lazy to cycle back home. During those days, all of us go back together to their home, which is close by to the office and I spend the night there. We kick up a ruckus now and then with the football they have in their home. However, lately, Nazim skilfully bent the ball to go and hit the mirror hanging on the wall just above the basin. Suffice to say, they are ‘mirrorless’ now.
I started learning Django. The craft of software production, at least to get things done, was not so hard as I had thought it to be. I started delivering within two weeks. From then on, things moved forward with quite a pace. Exploring different ways of doing things, looking into cleaning up code, a couple of rewrites, etc.
The most interesting part is working with Nazim. Being the CTO, he is the one who wrote the entire code base single handed. Jazeel was on Marketing and Sales while Saud was on Design and Administration. Hence, for a person with 3 years of hands-on experience with Django, he has always let me do my stuff. Elaborating on that, whenever I am building something, I would discuss now and then about it with him. The funny thing is, he would know that the implementation would have a bug if done that way. However, he would never say that up front. He would let me do it. I would happily do it, test it on local or staging and it would fail. I try to isolate the bug and ask advice on what might have gone wrong. He would sit back on his chair, legs crossed and say,
“I am not sure, maybe something went wrong with <that particular part of the code>?”
Guess what? That would be the exact part of the code which would be causing the bug. As such, my respect for him has continuously grown.
I believe I am off to a good start on my plans to get into teaching. The learning experience has been amazing although I myself think I have not worked hard enough. Well, it has only been 6 months and I believe there is a lot to come.
Saud is the one who comes earliest to office among the three. Around 10:30 to 11:00AM. A pleasant soul to talk with. He always inquires about how life is, about family and in general whip up a sweet conversation. Someone to whom you could open up to completely and he will sit and listen patiently until it is over. Now that Praseetha has joined us, he has the job of being a mentor as well.
Jazeel, being the face of the company, is the cool dude around. Lately he has switched over the US timings since all his calls with clients are during the night. He usually comes to office around 3PM or so and starts his day then. He has his own strong opinions on matters which he is not even in the slightest sense afraid to shout out. Conversations with him leads to insightful discussions. I guess getting through to the customers is the greatest skill that a sales ops should possess.
Oh, and at times, we go around working from different places as well, like the Ants Cafe and Mr. Beans It has been amazing so far and I pray that it continues to be so. Our team goes strong with 6 including me, Jazeel, Nazim, Saud, Nawaz, who is a sales ops and Praseetha, whom I have written about aplenty before.
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