With Bitlab Studio’s doors open, I finally bid farewell to Akshara with a heavy heart…

The History

The last two times I quit my job, despite both the companies helping me grow and explore tremendously on a personal and career level, I had enough frustration built up over various reasons which served as a valid excuse for my decision. However this time, it is slightly different.

Ask me about my first job at HasGeek anytime, and I will tell you how I grew with them from a college graduate who was afraid to speak English, who was afraid to travel, to someone who could confidently strike up a conversation with any stranger; to a person who pursued his career interests; to a person who made his dream of flying in a plane come true.

Ask me about my second job at Eventifier anytime, and I will tell you how gracious they were to accept me into their company as their first employee despite me having almost 0 skills in industry level programming. I’ve written about it in detail already. The opportunity that they gave me changed my life, and I will be forever thankful to them.

However, what didn’t quite make it onto the blog during my days at Eventifier was the fact that I had my first ever international trip! And that too accompanied by giving my first ever talk at a conference! Which was at Singapore. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Life during the KLP years + one of the biggest failures in my life

I joined Akshara Foundation‘s Karnataka Learning Partnership (KLP) back in November 2014 with a 15-hr per week schedule. This was one month before my marriage when I need some financial fortification. While during the succeeding months the folks at Eventifier slowly began to realize that it was probably a bad idea to let one of their full time employee take up a part time gig on the side, at that time, they felt it best that I made that decision. Goes to show how understanding and empathetic the three of them were.

The engagement with KLP remained as it is until April 2016, when I quit Eventifier and moved over to KLP on a 4-day per week contract. It has been so until now. Oh, and during that April is when my ThinkPad saved me from lightning by taking the hit itself and led me to evolution:

The nature of work, while relaxed, was very result oriented and gratifying. Our entire work is open source as well. We had a completely remote team, which allowed me to move out of Bangalore. I never truly paid attention to setting up a proper office setup at home and spent most of my time typing away on the bed. Believe it or not, this was my posture every day for better part of the year:


See how happy I am!

My DjangoCon US trip and presentation happened in between this. I was doing a non-trivial amount of work with Django REST Framework which helped me come up with a presentation.

It was only after that conference that it hit me the lengths people would go to, to setup a proper working space at home. Even with that inspiration, this was as far as I got, and that too only for 2 – 3 hours a day:

The failure:

That happiness soon turned into one of my biggest failures in life. By October-ish, I started feeling slightly stagnant in terms of technology. Well, maybe not really. I guess I was just getting complacent. I kept an eye out for opportunities and ended up landing a part time gig with one of my programming heroes, Anand Chitipothu, to work along with him at Rorodata.

Mistake number 1: Taking up a 3-day per week part time gig while I already had a 4-day per week engagement with Akshara (even if the nature of work was just trivial maintenance at that point).

We got on fine at the beginning. I hadn’t even anticipated the trouble with time management. This ended up in me staying up till 2am or 3am in the mornings. My sleep cycle screwed up considerably.

Mistake number 2: Failing to realize quickly that the work pace and style at an NGO and at bootstrapping startup are completely different.

I was relaxed. I would sleep if I felt sleepy, I would goof off if I couldn’t concentrate, which all ended up in the work piling up from both the companies day after day. This started creating frustration for my colleagues as it was almost as if they couldn’t count on me to finish my job in time.

I remember arrogantly thinking the compliment that my first boss, Kiran, gave me while I was at HasGeek: “You’re good at getting shit done”.

Mistake number 3: I got extremely complacent. With that, even if I missed a day’s work, I would think “They aren’t going to fire me right? I am that good. Everyone is dying to hire me”.

With this attitude, lacking any proper working setup at home, a 7-day per week work schedule, on February 20th, Rorodata decided to terminate my contract. I wasn’t surprised as I remember telling my family that it wasn’t working out and probably I was going to get fired (although my ego never truly believed that).

However, during that week’s PyCon Pune, I had a long conversation with Nigel, who helped me figure out what all I needed to do to setup a proper work space at home.

I had a new monitor, cleaned up and made an office room, bought an office chair and everything setup. That’s when I had to leave Rorodata.

Life goes on…

That was a blow, a very severe one, to my ego. I never quite came to terms with it really. It hurt bad. Real bad. I realized I sucked big time. Almost twice a week for the next 3-4 months after that, I would sulk away into a corner brooding about the opportunity that I had completely destroyed. It was a dream job, and I just… sigh…

Even though that nagged me all the time, I still had to keep up my work at KLP. The notion of being fired and unemployment scared me. I got my shit together and concentrated on work like never before. I learned my lesson.

The last few months

We had our yearly meeting during March 15th. The fact that everyone involved, at the core, worked to create meaning for Children’s education, and was not working for profit or make a huge exit, gave the work culture an interesting atmosphere.

The slack conversations and personal chats almost revolved around personal and practical problems in the society rather than the next coolest thing happening in the tech world.

The main difference I felt was not having that feeling of “your boss is good and friendly, but at the end of the day wants you to work really hard so she/he can make huge lump of money sometime down the line”. That wasn’t there. At all.

Work hard so that we can bring about sustainable change which will impact children’s education. If you couldn’t connect with that, you won’t be able to work long at this place.

It was relaxing, it was fun, and most importantly it was extremely gratifying. As I used to say, “Now I can show my Mom and Dad what I am really doing with my skills!”.

The last few months had been tremendous. We were evolving. From Karnataka Learning Partnership, we were growing into India Learning Partnership. A huge database unification process along with introducing a data scientist into the team has stirred the organization in quite an exciting path.

Oh, and also I got a chance to attend and speak at DjangoCon Europe.

I was researching on managing multi-state data with a single Django app and allowing organizational access one fine day when….

Enter Bitlab Studio!

Remember me mentioning my first ever international trip and conference talk? Well, the organizer of PyCon Singapore that year was Mr. Martin Brochhaus. I follow him on Twitter. Games, bitcoins and Singapore+Python is what I usually see from him. On June 8th, I simply, just like that, decided to DM him about what the scene in Singapore is and if there would be any opportunity there for a Django guy like me.

We had a brief chat where he talked about the state of tech and what people usually made around those parts. We ended the chat by him telling that he would keep an eye out for me and asking me to send him a resume, if I had one.

22 days passed by before I remembered that I hadn’t sent him my Resume. On June 30th, I sent it to him, he said he’d talk to his team and get back to me. I was like “wut”.

We did a video call two days after, everyone got to know each other and they asked me to jump in! By the coincidence of coincidences, it was exactly during those few months that they were pondering to hire a new employee.

The now and the future

Like I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, that last two times I quit, I had enough frustration built up. However in July, with a heavy heart, I told the KLP team about my opportunity at Bitlab studio.

As much they were worried about letting me go, they understood that this was an offer I couldn’t refuse and a good opportunity for my career growth. They allowed me to work for 3 hrs a day for the last two months with Bitlab, which I did.

Marvelous Martin (founder), Tremendous Tobi (Co-founder) and Delightful Dan (first employee) are extremely cool cats to work with. (* cough * * cough *… edited to avert waterboarding threats). The fact that Martin mentored both of them to a large extent reflects in their conversations with me. They know that I need time to get accustomed and to grow. Patiently explaining frontend technology to a 3-year experienced backend dev like me takes extreme restraint – and they have that.

So yeah, there it is! They are happy with my work over the last two months and now I am a Bitlab Studio employee! It is a completely remote gig with a yearly retreat. I am learning, working and getting trained on ReactJS already while I continue to help them develop and maintain a client’s infrastructure.

Super excited and super happy about this opportunity. I realize my drawbacks, things that I need to work on improving and to keep myself motivated for a remote working engagement now. While I hope, pray and work towards making this the best that it can be, the cracks are already beginning to show. 😛

I wish my teammates at KLP the best. They definitely have an exciting path ahead, both impact and technology wise. I am sure they will scale out and realize the dream of an India Learning Partnership in the near future.

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