Abhinav Saxena bio photo

Abhinav Saxena

a body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment's life - that is me

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Github Flickr

Ten years ago, on this day, I started working at my first job. I was in Bangalore for six months already and had interned at LG before. I still remember the day I joined, and what I wore that day - a blue shirt, which as a ritual, I wore on first days for next couple of jobs as well. Because of a certain confusion, HR department and my manager didn’t know that I was joining that day and hence no computer and seat was arranged for me. I spent whole day exploring FreeBSD for the very first time on a temporary desktop.

Overtime, I got to know my colleagues and Yahoo! better. Yahoo! felt very different as a company. There were a lot of talented and creative engineers around, and it was overwhelming. And I believe, being overwhelmed was the right state to be in. Over a course of two years, I learnt a lot of new things, some very obvious and some very different.

I spent some time reading a lot of good quality code written by one of my team members, Ajay. And within six months, I was copying his style. I learnt how to write production grade code, how to handle 1B+ user records and a fair amount of internal technologies. If you are a Yahoo, you would remember udb - a multi-region, NoSQL DB, even before the term NoSQL was invented, repl - data stream APIs, yinst - best package manager I know of, ypan - Yahoo’s Perl library collection, yroot - docker like containers, yjoin - my most favorite technology using which I wrote a flat file based database, yfreebsd, yapache, yphp and many others. Hadoop was just starting to come out. In terms of software infrastructure, Yahoo! was ahead by miles when compared to the rest of the world.

After a few months of joining, my manager, Mahesh started asking me to reply to the emails sent by US team on a regular basis. For initial few months, I felt uncomfortable doing this, but eventually I learnt and started enjoying it. Only after that I understood what Mahesh had done for me. He not only made me comfortable in formal dialogue via emails, he also made everyone in the US team know about me. I was not an anonymous software engineer in another continent anymore. Now, when I mentor people, I try to do something similar whenever possible.

I gained a lot of confidence at Yahoo! and that confidence prompted me to take the next step, trying my hand at starting a new company. However, I realized, I had a lot of learn, and therefore I joined Ahmedabad based NirmaLabs for six months grooming programme. It was an eye-opener and I learnt about design, product, marketing, sales and finance. I also met one of the smartest people I have ever met - Dr. Madhu Mehta. Although I rarely get to talk to him these days, but I still consider him as one of my mentors. I admire him ardently for his clarity in thought and speech, and his determination to support and mentor budding entrepreneurs. By late 2007, Google had released Android framework, Apple had released iPhone. It was challenging but exciting time. However, in retrospect, I don’t think I worked hard enough executing my startup idea, and gave up too quickly because of external and personal reasons.

Economy was moving into recession, and I freelanced for a while, before joining ShipX. ShipX holds a special place in my professional journey, for not only I picked up whole set of new technologies, I also learnt about logistics, supply-chain domains and how business is done in India. We did a lot of iterations, added numerous new features, and got paying customers. I understood how real world processes and flows are modeled into software flows. Though times were tough and I worked some months without salary, but I gained a lot of skills and knowledge from Venky, Yegnesh, Maxin, Laxman and especially Amar, who treated me like his family member.

I eventually left ShipX after working there for close to two and a half years - longest I have worked in any company. It was a very hard decision. I joined a games startup called PlayUp - they were just starting their social gaming vertical, I joined the engineering team and worked on a couple of interesting games. I started as an individual contributor, but in between started leading a team of talented engineers. We not only delivered products on time, we wrote good quality code with right set of engineering practices. It is here, where I developed a lot of platform microservices (I didn’t know the term then) and assembelled them to create scalable backend. We also started to work on single page apps using frameworks like backbone.js - learnt a lot, discovered hidden leader inside me. I must thank CTO, Kangesh, for convincing me to lead the team.

I was itching to do a startup again, and left PlayUp just after a year. Idea we started working on was brilliant and ahead of its time. We built a fantastic product in a short span of six months, but alas, we could not continue because of unavoidable circumstances.

I was about to get married, and yet again, I was without a job. Shikhi had just told about the wedding in her office, and her company, in response of her brilliant work, as an exception, had given her an opportunity to work from Gurgaon office. Now I needed a job badly in Gurgaon and after a few tensed weeks, I found one - at hike messenger. Most I liked about hike was it’s engineering driven culture, which was and still is an exception in Gurgaon. I restarted again as an individual contributor, and in past two years, have worked at a critical juncture of hike’s growth.

I have worked in small companies and I have worked for large companies, but for the very first time in my life, I am working for a company which is transforming itself from a small one to large. It’s tough, chaotic, but very satisfying. Hike is poised to win in this market, and I would like to believe, in however small way, I am contributing to it’s success.

Rare and lucky are those, who know very early on, exactly where they will end up. I don’t know what future holds for me. I am reminded of an incident, when in year 2000, I went to a cyber-cafe for the very first time with a friend. He wanted to check his email, and I saw Yahoo! webpage. He entered his username and while entering password, he asked me to look away. Though I understood immediately that he is entering something which is private and required to see his email, but when I sneaked through, I could not understand why he would keep six asterisks (*) as password - I didn’t know then that webpages don’t show passwords on screen. Nor I knew that I would work for this funnily named company in the near future. Similarly, in my whole school life, I didn’t know that there existed a place called Pilani and I would end up studying there.

If you ask me whether I have achieved all I wanted to achieve in ten years, answer is no. I have failed miserably and not just once, but multiple times. At the same time, most of the things that I have learnt, I could have not learnt without failing. My bucketlist is full of tens of items, and I understand that however hard I may try, I can never anticipate what I would end up doing in future. However, I pray that I keep learning and keep trying. And, that I start feeling overwhelmed again.