My beginning and journey so far with Eventifier

The beginning
——————-

“Yawn”.

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”

(Detour)

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.

Even Kiran had introduced me to Sameer from Next Big What. He recommended me to them as an excellent writer. Discussions were going on with them where they wanted me to complete a few tasks before they could take it forward. Since I expressed my interest, as delicately as possible, to write code, they gave me a data set, asked me to Visualize it using JavaScript and write a report on it. JavaScript! Visualizing data sets! I was doomed. For all the Data Visualization hacknights and JSFoo conference I organized and was a part of, I had never written or read a single line of JS.

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 Sudar!”

“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)

I called Jaseem then itself. He explained that there is this company called Eventifier being run by three friends.

“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”

“Cool”

“Okay, bye. Oh and how old are you?”

“Uh, 24. Why?”

“Nothing. Just wanted to know. I’ll send you an email”

“Alright. Bye”

“Bye”

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.

“Haris?”

“Yeah”

“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”

Me: “Cool”

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.

—————————————-

Comments from Twitter:

A year at Bangalore, a year with HasGeek.

“This is official huh?”, I asked.

“Yep. Hop in”, replied my brother as I got into his car.

This conversation happened a year ago. A year ago when a certain ambitious lad landed in the Silicon Valley of India. A lad who would skulk away from a conversation happening in English, a lad who had only seen two places outside of his state in his life. A lad who had not been on a flight since he started remembering things, a lad who knew only his brother’s home and the home bound bus boarding stop in Bangalore. A lad who was afraid of smartphones, who was allergic to social networking, who did not have a bank account and did not even know how to use an ATM.

Well, things definitely have changed. Yep, they really have.

Although October 8th, 2012 was my “Official” joining date at HasGeek, since my brother was coordinating volunteers for Droidcon India 2012, both of us decided to drop by CIS office in the afternoon on 7th itself to have a talk. Someone passed by us when we reached there on the bike and I was asked to go and meet him. Apparently, this was the jovial and cool Mr. Kracekumar whom I know so well today.

My first time at CIS. I had heard a lot about the place and I had pictured it to be a glass building with a huge lawn, fancy tables and chairs, with a lot of atmosphere. Suffice to say I was surprised when my brother walked me into a home.

We went up the stairs. And there they were! Among many others, two of my bosses. My mind’s fuse was blown.

“Oh my God, what are so many people doing here? And do they all speak in English? I can’t talk to all of them! I should have just come here tomorrow and met with Kiran and Zainab alone. Then at least I would be shown my desk to sit and work at so that I would not have to talk to too many people just yet. Hey, isn’t that Anu whom I met for last year’s Droidcon? And where is Sajjad? God, what should I do now? Since I don’t know the rest of them, maybe I should not care. I will just say Hi Kiran sir and Zainab ma’am. But is that what I should be calling them? Or should I just use their names? Gosh, Zainab looks different than the last time I met her and is this the office that I was dreaming about for so long? This is just a house, isn’t it? Maybe I have gotten something wrong here”

And thus went the thoughts. I don’t know if anyone there including Ashwan, Anu, Krace, Zainab, Kiran or my brother noticed how uncomfortable I was. I let the introductions be made and just shook hands saying “Hi”. I was asked to sit down while they discussed about the volunteer training and coordination.

My heart was beating fast. “Is this an interview? They told me not to bring my resume, so what are they going to ask me? And I have to speak in English!? Maybe my brother will talk to them and I can just get by with a couple of yes’s and no’s”

“Haris, would you like to come and sit over here?”. My heart burst. Well, not literally. It was none other than Mr. Kiran Jonnalagadda himself. There was a big chair on the other side of the table, which, I had made up my mind about, was for one of the bosses to sit on. It was this chair that was given to me. I felt totally out of place, uncomfortable and what not.

By this time Praseetha also reached the office. She was much more composed and I just could not understand what was wrong with me.

“So Haris”, said Zainab, pulling a chair and sitting next to me. “What are your expectations in working here?”

“Gulp”, I pulled myself together.

“I, ummm, I don’t exactly know how things are done here. But I can help you with whatever I can. Logistics, management, your blog and you can mentor me to learn how to write code”.

I had no clue what “logistics” meant back then. The only thing I could say with confidence was that I could help them with their blog. I was wondering what kind of stories they would have me write.

“Do you know Inkscape?”, interrupted Kiran.

“Not really, no”, said I.

I remember him having a “Then you can’t help me much right now” look on his face. However, Zainab picked up the conversation.

“Well, here is how things are. Kiran needs a lot of documentation to be done. With the events and the code. However, we will need to sit and discuss about it. So we will get to that. But for now, since JSFoo and Droidcon are close by, there are a lot of tasks that needs to be done. I’ll brief you about it over email, alright?”

“Alright”, said I.

Once we were done there and about to leave, I felt incomplete about one thing. “Gosh, I did not ask about the office timings!”

“Zainab”, I called out. I guess I had made up my mind about ma’am and sir by then. She turned around. “Umm, so by what time should I reach office?”

She let out a hearty laugh.

“There is nothing like office timings. Frankly, I don’t think any of us are going to be here tomorrow. And I don’t mind wherever you work from as long as you get things done.”

I was baffled. Thoughts rushed in. “No office timing? What am I supposed to do? Where is my seat? No cubicle? So how do I talk with all of you?”

She was gone by then. My brother and I went back to his home.

Thus it started.

It has been a nice ride all along.

I should say that Bangalore is an awesome place in terms of finding and meeting people. It is a networking person’s dream come true. The fact that educated people from various parts of the country have accumulated in a certain place gives a platform for people with niche interests to easily find and meetup with each other. In my case, it was writing.

I went to my first ever writing workshop which was hosted by Gaurav and Nisha, both former Tehelka writers. It was brought to my attention by Ashwan, someone whom I have been terribly missing. I’ve already written about my team here, and he is one of them. It is nice to think of those days where he would sit with google maps on the wide screen monitor and would walk me through the entire world, sharing stories and histories related to many a place.

I have  had my fair share of experience planning and organizing events while being at HasGeek. One of the things that I have realized is that the amount of ground work and grunt work that goes into producing the kind of events that HasGeek does, no matter how excellent and smooth it looks to participants attending, is tremendous. To keep up the spirit for that kind of work during each and every event is just amazing. I guess my colleagues are made of sterner stuff. All of them.

Kiran had always been this person with a strong and silent personality. Quite frankly, someone whom I was afraid of to talk to and be heard from. During the very rare occasions when he would say “Good job”, the feeling of happiness was so strong that I would text my brother at the very instant saying, “Kiran said I did a good job!”.

I still remember the first time my throat going dry when Kiran talked to me about how it was completely wrong dealing with people in a fire and forget manner. I am not sure if I was able to understand and implement that lesson during my time at HasGeek, but I guess I have done a not too bad job at it. I hope so.

In contrast, Zainab was this lady with a cheerful and open character that you could, without thinking twice, share whatever you had on your mind with. I am not sure how I would have made it through the first couple of months if she had not patiently sat and listened to what all I had in my mind. Sometimes even taking the time to go out for a chai to talk things over. Impressive how she could find time for all that despite being overburdened with work.

I am not sure career wise how much the work I was doing has helped me. All the people whom I have talked to has told me that at some point in my life, I will look back and realize how much valuable the things are that I have done. I guess I haven’t reached so far down the road yet in order to look back and feel like that. At least, not yet.

However, life wise, it has been just amazing. How much I have learnt and experienced! Starting from eating food stuff, fruits and vegetables that I had never eaten in my life before to travelling around India all the way from South to the North. I mean, trekking and working on the Himalayas? How often do you get to do that? Apart from Triund, Mcleod, Dharamsala, Delhi, Mumbai, Hampi, Pune (my first flight), Goa (my first scooter ride) and of course, exploring Bangalore.

All through these journeys as well as through my entire one year, I have to say that Kiran is the most selfless man I have ever seen. Making sure we know what he knows all along the way. For all the whining that I have done saying that I have never had a good mentor in my life, I would be lying if I said I did not find Kiran to be a really good one.

I hope to document these travels at some point. I have already written about my volunteer management experience during The Fifth Elephant over here.

This post would not be complete without mentioning the rest of the people in our team.

Jamna, who joined us around January. She and I were the ones who actually worked as a team most of the time since both of us were involved in handling the workshops at HasGeek. A lady who transformed from her shy self to one who does public speaking, organizes and manages geeks as well as takes up initiative to bring order to the whatever chaos she finds around her, within a span of less than a year. Both if us have learnt a lot form each other and I must say I’m truly inspired by her sheer amount of sincerity and dedication.

Supreeth, the quick witted, well traveled young man who always had a joke or story up his sleeve. I haven’t found anyone as skillful as him when it came to getting through to a person. He would be able to find some anecdote or experience that the other person would be interested in and then, he starts weaving his web. One who is well read as well, he has always been there to correct my English whenever I have made a dumb mistake or been there to help whenever I have been at a loss for words.

Nimisha, the illustrator who joined us from the North East. A very cheerful character who just love pets, of all kinds. Rabbits, cats, dogs and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found a baby dinosaur in her home! A really good company whenever you feel like talking to, always ready for some fun, a die hard coffee addict, you can behold her drawing skills if you visit the HasGeek event websites and Flickr photo streams since Fifth Elephant 2013.

I have to mention Mitesh and Devi as well. However, they have been involved in the tech side of things mostly. Working remotely or from the Microsoft Accelerator. That reminds me, towards the last few months, we had three offices! One at CIS, one at the bakery, which we shared with the amazing team of TripThirsty comprising of Sundar, Kingsley, Sandeep and Anenth, and the wonderful (and extremely mouth watering) cup cake factory of BiteMe run by Kingsley and his wife Divya, and last but not the least, one office at the Microsoft Accelerator

If I were to write down the names of people whom I have come to know and love over the past year, that is going to be pretty long list. I will refrain from doing that and just say that I will keep in touch with all of you because I want to.

I have moved on now. With valuable lessons learned and interesting observations. I work at Eventifier now along with three awesome guys namely Jazeel, Nazim and Saud. I was a geek herder. Now I call myself the Python tamer. Things are looking bright.

Here is to the future!

The Fifth Elephant – Bonds made.

My 9th month working at HasGeek. Being away from actually writing something non-trivial has taken its toll. However, the time I had in managing a part of one of the biggest HasGeek conferences, the Fifth Elephant, deserves a blog post.

The main reason why I am writing this post is because of the wonderful time I had in working together with the volunteers who came forward to help us and make the event a memorable one. My involvement in organizing the event was pretty much zero. I kind of felt bad not being able to understand and take over anything from Zainab while she was managing the speakers, sponsorship, ticket sales, marketing and a million other things including inventory for the event. Even though I was neither experienced nor comfortable, I did help her with talking to the workshop instructors to get their installation instructions ready as well as with managing the volunteers.

It all started when I received the following mail from Iliyas on June 19th.

Greetings !

Fifth Elephant is coming soon 😉

As you know I’m an active participant and volunteer in many FOSS conferences in India. I would like to contribute my best to this event as well.
 
Please do guide me for the point of contact / organizer.
 

Thanks.

For some reason, I knew that this responsibility was going to be on my shoulders and I am only too glad now that it was.

Once I received that mail, I talked to Zainab about it and she told me to round up the usual suspects. Well, no, not the group manipulated by Kevin Spacey. But a bunch of wonderful people who are always there to help out us at a HasGeek event. They’ve been supporting us even way before I joined the team.

Without delay, I wrote to all of them and narrowed down their availability based on their commitments and other responsibilities. Among the usual suspects who came this time were:

Anand. The force behind PyCon India for this and the past year. A passionate programmer and a hardcore Python expert. Sit through one of his Python trainings and you will come out mind blown with the realization of how much more there is to learn.

Haseeb. The young lad hailing from Gulbarga. Passionate about open source & free software, he is an active contributor to Mozilla’s Urdu translation. His contributions have not gone unnoticed and as such, has been invited to the US for this year’s Mozilla summit.

Anenth. The cool and simple fellow with a thing for Android. One among the founders of ideophone, he is someone whom I hope to get to know better in the coming days. Especially since we share the same office space now.

Sidharth. Genius. Well nothing more is to be said about him. Still, it would be worthwhile to mention about his extraordinary skill of remaining calm in any given occasion and facing it with a cool head. Lately, it seems that he has been having visions of the dark side. May God protect him.

Vamsee. This name always brings back a lot of good memories. Especially from the good old days back when I volunteered for Droidcon 2011. Those were one among the best couple of days in my life in more than a few ways. Anyway, this Rails dude is one among the coolest and most reliable people whom I have ever met. I was only too glad to see him at the event.

Sandeep. One of the founders of ideophone along with Anenth, he has been there supporting HasGeek since a long time. A mallu brother, if I may say so, he is one another person whom I am looking forward to get to know better in the coming days.

Jitendra. An artistic interface Engineer. A gamer by heart, he feels that HasGeek is one of the best reasons why you should consider staying at Bangalore. Passionate about trying out new stuff and as such, always a learner.

Well, that covers the usual suspects. Now for the ones who came forward willingly to help in spite of it being their first time as well as them being busy with myriad of things ranging from interviews, to night duties to daily office hours to commitments at their homes. In no particular order:

Iliyas. As I had already mentioned in the beginning of this post, he was the one who set the universe in motion. He had been volunteering for events and organizing meetups for the sake of communities since he was 16. He believes that is the best way in which he can contribute back to open source. One of the most wanted figures during the conference, he picked up the ContactPoint app in no time from Mitesh and helped to get it up and running all over the venue. In fact, almost all the first time volunteers came to know about the event through him. Without doubt, if it was not for him, we would have had a hard time getting volunteers.

Anusha. The beautiful young lady who was only too nervous to volunteer. Sister of one among the usual suspects, Ashwin. This time, he wanted to attend the talks as a participant and hence, could not volunteer. However, he made sure that his spot was not left vacant and he convinced her to come forth to volunteer. Even though extremely doubtful of herself at the beginning, it was amazing how she came out of her comfort zone to handle her tasks flawlessly. Hope she had a wonderful time at the event as well.

Abhijith. One of the most reliable and pleasant personalities that I have ever met. He was dedicated to make the event run smoothly as much as us and was someone who took the tension off my head with his presence in an auditorium. He had his interviews in between the event and I pray that he got through. A mathematician at heart, I hope I can get his help to learn a lot over the coming days.

Ali. The cool one whose presence was felt almost everywhere during the event. He reminded me of myself when I volunteered the first time as he had just completed his 3rd year exams. Enthusiastic about technology, he made the most out the event by handling registrations to mic to camera as well as by paying heed to the talks that he found to be of interest to him.

Vinay. It was admirable how he found the time to come forward and help us despite running his own firm. More than once in between the conference, he had to run outside to meet clients, seal deals and hurry back in ensuring that his duties were taken care of. I wish him all the success with his venture and may his willingness to help amidst his busy life be rewarded in plenty.

Ralph. A jolly, energetic and enthusiastic person who impressed us all with the amount of dedication he showed towards his duties. What was special about him was the fact that he learned from each context he was in and shared his learnings with us without any shyness. He possessed one of those rare qualities which was more than just doing his best at what he was doing, to improvise and act based on his observations. Hope his family was not too hard on him for taking a three-day volunteering sprint. He he.

Niraj. The pleasant young chap who walks around with a smile on his face all the time. Someone who became an expert camera man within a day, he spreads joy to the ones around him with his quick witted jokes as well as his sudden burst of words. He certainly has learned from his uncle Vijay and is one nice guy to be with.

Basavaraj & Rajshekar. I would say these two were godsend. When I had a couple of volunteer withdrawals towards the event, I was sort of feeling a bit tensed until these two came forward to help. Friends of Charitra, who had to unfortunately go back to his hometown due to the sudden announcement of his project demo. I could not get enough time to know both of these young lads well enough. But I will make sure that I do. Raj had his interview for a job on the second day of the event. Here is wishing him all the best and hope he gets through.

Sagar. Although his plan was to volunteer just for helping out Edouard during his MongoDB workshop, he decided to stay back and help us out as much as he can. This young man was present everywhere amusing us with his charming personality as well as insights. A lad with lot of potential, I hope that he chases his dreams. Let’s see what stirs up after he watches ‘office space’ which I recommended for him.

Zubair. My roommate. One of the best friends I have ever had. An open source lover at heart and a passionate learner of every day things. He observes, takes input from all that is around him, improvises, concludes and executes the best possible course of action. Even though a bit reluctant to come over, he was only too glad that he came over in the end.

There were others as well who came forward but just could not make it due to their commitments and responsibilities. Charitra, as I mentioned earlier. Rinku, who offered to help even though she had bought a ticket. Pradeep, who had a lot of last minute work popping up. Vinayak, who was there for the first day and then couldn’t make it due to work. Asif, who fell sick. Here is wishing him a speedy recovery.

That sums up all who came forward to help. I haven’t got the photos from the event yet, but I will post them here as soon as they are up.

I am not sure whether I was a good task master. Whether I gave them the chance to feel what I felt back in Droidcon 2011. I hope I did. And I really hope that they had an amazing time and finds it in their heart to take initiative and volunteer for a lot of events.

Of course, this post won’t be complete without mentioning the amazing HasGeek team of Kiran, Zainab, Krace, Supreeth, Radha, Nimisha, Kingsly, Gaurav, Jamna, Praseetha, Mitesh and Devi, who gave more than 100% for the success of the event. But they deserve a post for just themselves.

Here is to the future! May the bonds that were made last long and strong.

Learned Web2.0 the hard way.

So, Kiran decided that he wanted to make “funnel” (http://funnel.hasgeek.com/) as a separate application so that people could use it for their own events and stuff. After all of us at HasGeek had a face to face discussion regarding the matter, we reached the point where we had to think of a new domain name for the app. The discussion was left off at there, only to be reinitialized again on the IRC last Friday night.

People jumped in and started suggesting names – funnelit, thefunnel, heyhofunnel and funnelwhatnot. The list went on and on and on. It is hard to contain one’s temptation in such a situation and yours truly had his own share of contributions to make. Well, until what happened next.

Yours truly is “kaakku” on IRC and he came up with a brilliant name. See what followed:

* chandan_kumar (~chandan@112.79.36.144) has joined #hasgeek
<kaakku> Funneller.com?
<jace> fnlr?
<anandology> funnelr.com is web2.0
<jace> funnelr?
* tazz (~gaurav@115.114.59.182) has joined #hasgeek
<anandology> 🙂
<jace> yeah, we’re not 2.0

There you go! Kaakku was sitting there in front of his computer thinking what the heck was going on with all the sudden web2.0 references and the misspelled rip off of his brilliant suggestion. He did feel something fishy going on, which took his thoughts to the man, the machine, street hawk. Err.. I don’t where that came in from all of a sudden, but what I meant is that I went to Mr. Jonnalagadda, and expressed my state of ignorance in front of him, only to be faced with a roar of laughter from him as well as the King, Krace!

Ha! Laugh or no laughs, I was not going to go until I got my answer. I was there on a mission, a mission from God. Or, Whatever..

So Kiran decided it was worthwhile to take a few minutes off his coding spree and explain to a certain geek herder what Web2.0 was all about.

Well, it seems Tim O’Reilly coined this term, Web2.0, meaning that web had evolved into its next phase from what it was with just the static pages hosted on a lot of computers. (Man, I just have to say this. Oh really!) Anyway, this thing caught on and people started coming up with all-things-2.0.

Kaakku found the story really amusing and funny. However, he thought, “Yes, that is a really amusing story, but what the heck does that have to do with me suggesting ‘funneler’?” He thought that through his mouth, which carried it to Kiran.

Kiran continued with the story. Somewhere around 2005 or so, a certain photo sharing site was born, or rather, was built by a certain excited group of people who always would shout out with joy. They came up with the idea of the site and a perfect name for it too. However, unlike human names, you were not allowed to have more than one website with the same name. These guys thought hard and long and finally came up with a solution, a solution that made Mr. Kaakku embarrassed on a certain Friday night on a certain IRC channel.

The guys omitted the ‘e’ from ‘flicker’!

Just as the Web2.0 revolution, the idea of ‘omission’ caught on which led to a wildfire of startups and projects all having misspelled names, omitted letters and what not.

“Ah! Here we are!”, thought Kaakku, feeling enlightened and less stupid, having learned Web2.0 and spelling mistakes the hard way.

But come on guys! I suggested “funneler”! Who the heck took out the el’s and eeeeeee’s!

Lesson learned: When someone mentions Web2.0, they are making fun of you. Lol!

 

Perseverance, sacrifice and friendship.

Life has changed for me and suddenly I have this feeling that I’m at the driver seat. Till now I was just a passenger and the paths were already laid out. I just had to go with the flow and I was sure to reach where I was heading. However, today it is not like that anymore. There is no “system” that I can just blindly follow. I have to think, figure out what I am doing and what I should be doing.

It feels good.

One of the things that I have missed is writing. The frequency at which I blog has come down considerably. I used to think that I wold naturally find time for it. I understand it is not so. Keeping things in perspective and finding time for what you want to do is becoming a more and more challenging task with each passing day. Time is flowing by and unless I act quick, things might reach a point where the currents would be too strong to swim back.

I find myself in the company of a man who has a vision. The yearning to bring about a change in the way things are. A strong and silent man who does not even show any signs of the slightest of frustrations on his face. I find myself in the company of a man who follows his dream of bringing together a community. I’m still ignorant of how all it came to be. But what I am sure of is that he is not alone.

I see a woman who loves her husband dearly. A woman who sacrifices her time and her career just to see her husband succeed. From many have I heard how lovely it was to behold such a relationship among all the hurried life in the city. She is always in search of what her place in such a surrounding is. Her thoughts go far beyond the pleasant smile that she wears all the time on her face. Her thoughts go here.

A motherly figure to all of us, I see a woman who strives to teach her two little children the ways of life. A kind hearted and empathetic person whom you could turn to whenever you feel life is too much to take. She will bring you back to reality, advising you for the best.

Three brothers. One who has traveled around the world much. Biology is at his heart, knowledge he has of almost everything, enthusiastic he is about tech and more than everything, cool he is! Whatever problem pops up somewhere, let it be tech, life, logistics, inventory, people, everyone’s first option would be to turn to him and the wonderful thing is, he always has an answer, and that too, a really sensible one.

One who loves mother Earth. His love for her reflects in his ways with the ones around him. A cute brother, always watching out for you, ready to help you at any moment. People like him increases your trust in humanity. You start to understand what it is like to be there for someone when you are with him. Relations, what ties the whole world together, he holds each and everyone he has, close to his heart.

One who loves to be one among us. His tech thoughts as well as jovial nature deep behind all the well kept. cool looking hair, beard and mustache, he is always ready for a laugh whatever mind boggling thing was up. Always ready to lend a hand, he hates bugs. Both in software and in real life. He exterminates both of them quite skilfully.

Last but not the least, imagineer. The silent, creative girl who works magic out of her fingers. Designs and art are her mastery and she conjures them up from thin air. Extremely quick in picking things up, a guaranteed wonderful designer who is soon to be famous. She is blooming to one beautiful flower from the cute bud that she was.

Kiran, Zainab, Radha, Ashwan, Sajjad, Krace and Praseetha, respectfully. HasGeek. Oh, and yours truly too.

It was amazing to see the dedication and sincerity with which everyone performed their roles last month over the two huge events. Perseverance, I saw in all of them. Mentally taxed, physically tired, ill, none of them were ready to quit and take a rest. There were things that needed to be done and they knew they were the ones who had to do it. There were no backseats. Working late into 3am, they sat and slept when everything was finally set. I realized that there was more to life than just watching out for yourself.

Sacrifice. That is how you work as a team. One for all and all for one. You are there for him and he is there for you. That is how it works. Of course you can call in sick and go lie down. But that was not a decision any of them were ready to make. They stuck together and pulled through. Many had lost track of time and many were taken ill. They got over it, and they did it.

However, all this comes with a price. All of these has a side effect. A beautiful one at that too. The bonds that were made. Small jokes in between rush hours, little chats over dinner and tea, they found themselves amongst a group of people who had something in common. They all wanted to make this happen. And they did.

I never expected to be a part of something this diverse. I still wonder where I am going to fit in. Hey, but what’s the rush? Life has just started for me and I want to make this happen as much as all of them.