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Whether fresh out of the college or a few years into the tech world, we have all had a sleepless night or two, thinking of that perfect 'dream job'. Some developers aspire to work in the plush offices of a technology behemoth, complete with annual incentives and personal sleep pods. They yearn to wear its legacy on their sleeves and be part of a sprawling network that brings the next big technology to life. And then there's the other kind. Those that belong to the league of programmers who go into a tizzy at the prospect of breathing the energy-infused air of a startup and working alongside a close-knit and agile team. Long work days and late nights, sweat and tears (did we hear 'countless slices of pizza and beer'?) are small matters to them in comparison to the rich experiences that they will gain. After all, not many get the opportunity to disrupt the old and directly shape new technology that transforms the way we live.
From Microsoft, Redmond to PriceBaba, Mumbai
Bhumil Haria, a Senior Software Engineer today, has been on both sides in his career. After graduation, he landed an enviable opportunity to work at Microsoft Redmond. It was during this stint that he picked up core competencies and best practices that would come handy when he pursued bigger adventures. He was always curious about the ‘startup life’ and in his own words - there was only one way to find out! Not only did he move over from a corporate job to a startup, he also moved from the US to India for the new experience. When Bhumil knocked on the doors of PriceBaba.com, it’s co-founder Annkur Agarwal found in him, the best fit for the team. In retrospect, Annkur says that he had absolutely no second thoughts about hiring Bhumil. He had made an extremely positive impression by being a thinker and operating as an entrepreneur, rather than just another developer who follows instructions.
Today, Bhumil is one of PriceBaba.com’s finest developers and loves that his typical day at work is filled with exciting new problems to solve. Along with his team, Bhumil helps serve a monthly user base of 4.5-5 million. Maintaining accurate pricing is crucial to retaining customers’ trust as is handling the infrastructure that holds it up. His advice to other programmers toying with the idea of joining a startup is simple: be circumspect about your decision.. It isn’t wise to join a startup just because the premise ‘sounds very cool’. Read about the startup community thoroughly to understand its nuances. It often bodes well if you have a few years of corporate exposure underneath your belt before you go the startup route.
There's a startup for you, if you're the right kind of developer
After lying in the doldrums during the economic downturn, tech hiring is climbing the charts once again - thanks to a burgeoning ecosystem of startups teeming with potential and promise. MeritTrac estimates that around 3 lakh jobs would be created in India by startups alone by 2020. What does this mean for you, you ask? Startups want you as much as you want them. However, their shoe-string budgets and fleeting timelines are a constant reminder that not every developer is cut out for the challenge - even if you are a genius hacker with impeccable coding hygiene. From my interactions with entrepreneurs from all walks of life, I have come to realize that this is a given. They're looking to be surprised by something above and beyond it.
In a technical sense, the age-old, myopic definition of a coder has evolved. On top of basic knowledge in programming, here's what entrepreneurs (both technical and non-technical ones) wish they could tell you:
- Specialization: Be an expert in your chunk of the stack and have enough knowledge of the rest, to steward your team with confidence.
- Product mindset: According to Annkur, you must be able to think how the product will work in the hands of an end-user.
- Cost-consciousness: Be frugal while making decisions on behalf of the organization. Raghavendra Badaskar, co-founder of Made For Me says, “programmers need to optimize their work on the infrastructure at hand, assuming a tight budget (unless told otherwise).”
- Proactiveness: Grab opportunities to learn and grow yourself without hand-holding.
- Clear communication: Be clear and concise in your communication, especially with non-technical entrepreneurs in the company as it is crucial to the best possible design of the product.
- Positive attitude: Put ego aside and embrace change. Even Bhumil believes it is his good attitude and willingness to adapt to the team even in the face of adversities that got noticed by his employers when he interviewed at PriceBaba.com.
If you happened to check off all the boxes, it's high time to run that last lap and get noticed by potential hirers.
Offer them a peek into your dynamic personality as opposed to just your prowess in executing a piece of great code. Write a blog. Perhaps leave insightful comments on the articles they write (like this one, for instance). Make all your projects Open Source and pay it forward! You will find that your dream job at a startup is not out of your reach after all. It's right there, waiting for you - just outside your comfort zone.
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