2017 is fast drawing to a close. Holiday schedules, long-planned vacations, family gatherings and slower days. There is just something in the air this time of the year, prodding you to reminisce. Keeping with tradition, here is a post to mark the end of another trip around the Sun.
So gather around, time for some old fashioned introspection over the year that was.
Less writing, more speaking?
Let’s start with the elephant in the room — compared to 20 posts in 2016, we published just 8 this year. Let’s just say that we tried to make up for it by playing a more active part in the developer community around Bangalore.
We have had numerous members sharing their experiences at tech conferences this year. Whether be it in maintaining databases, tackling complex AI problems or simply professing about new developments, we found that each opportunity helped spark meaningful conversations with the community at large.
I’ll leave some links to videos of our talks below. If you are interested in how our teams work and the challenges they tackle, be sure to check them out.
- Adventures in Postgres Management
- Machine learning: from practice to production
- 5 Lessons I’ve Learned Tackling Product Matching for E-Commerce
- Hitchhikers’ guide to Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)
- Running Deep Learning Models on Mobile with optimized speed
Coding, for a cause
Following our tradition of supporting open-source projects, we had our biggest-ever participation in Hacktoberfest this year.
The pull-crew, comprising of Abishek Bhat, Arpit Agarwal, Parin, VJ, Vedhavyas Singareddi and I managed to put together a whole slew of contributions across different domains, from distributed filesystems, to natural language processing, to cuckoo-filters (yes, I checked, they are a real thing).
Given how heavily we lean on open technologies to power our systems, it was a meaningful experience for us to give back to the community, whose shoulders we stand on.
New faces, a lot of them
We have a had a lot of talented folk join us this year. Starting with Parin and Arpit Agarwal, both initially joining us in generalist positions. Over time, they have found their calling in different aspects and now play crucial parts in specific roles (specialization being a recurring theme this year).
Close behind are our new line of specialists, Nikunj Shukla, Vedhavyas Singareddi, VJ and Naveen. Whether in working in infrastructure, distributed crawling, product databases or machine learning, each of them have grown to take substantial responsibility over specific aspects. Looking back, it is now impossible to imagine how things had operated prior (with only leaky abstractions and fuzzy directives).
Of-course, mentions need to go out to Shiva and Yashaswini, even if not part of the core development team, both have come to play crucial roles in shaping our roadmap.
Organizational structure, as a good thing
This year probably marks an inflection point in the growth of our teams. After having the old guard spread thin across every possible operation, it is good to now see specialists fill crucial voids. With well defined mandates, they offer significant value in roles, which might have previously been shortchanged or just plainly ignored.
Apart from recruiting T-shaped employees, it is also important to provide the support structure for them to thrive in. Focussed teams and clear targets, while maintaining open-communication and cross-team collaboration— goals we are proud of aiming for. I won’t lie to you and claim that we have this part nailed down — but nevertheless we hope to get there, iteratively, probably asymptotically.
Uncomfortable targets, or you’ll never know
It is far too easy to fall prey to impostor syndrome. Personally, I have seen a number of good developers second-guess themselves and doubt their own abilities. Without corrective measures, you might end up with an entire team, unsure of its abilities, resigned to mediocrity.
One, probably bitter, cure, is to periodically throw down the gauntlet and just be willing to go thermonuclear war on hard problems. After challenging teams with, what we considered, impossible goals, we are frequently surprised at just how badly we underestimated our teams. By providing the right empowerment, it is incredible to see how groups and individuals really step up and surmount previously impossible tasks.
Additionally, the techniques to grow from 5 to 25 employees, are probably not useful when scaling to a 100. Pushing teams out of their comfort zones from time-to-time, is crucial to identify existing shortcomings and avenues for meaningful expansion.
Onwards, with hope!
Going into the next year, one obvious aim is to log more words in the publication here. However, hopefully, buried under those words, are also meaningful stories, interesting anecdotes, software engineering ideas, team progressions, and the journey through it all.
So, here’s to 2018 and all the adventures it may bring!