Zero to One!
My last semester in college, like most engineering students in India, was a roller-coaster ride — brimming with the fear of the unknown, excitement for the new world lying ahead, the stress of getting placed at a company of my choice and happiness of the upcoming independence that life was going to offer.
Throughout college, I was fortunate enough to be a part of Nova Semita, a fellowship running in parallel helping students hone their talent in developing the web. Through our continuous discourses over there, I got introduced to the exciting world of startups, their impact, their super friendly culture, and since then have always wanted to be a part of one!
Because hey, who likes to be a small fish in a big pond when you can be the big fish in a smaller one?
In the midst of all this dilemma about going for campus placements or applying for startups, Raj, my mentor from Nova Semita introduced me to Aditi, one of the co-founders of Locale.ai.
She instantly got on a call with me to explain what they were trying to build and hoping to achieve. She spoke about how Locale started with a personal problem and why the world needs a new tool for dealing with geospatial data. Her passion was, to say the least infectious, which made me want to contribute to building Locale too!
In case you want to delve further, you can check these out:
The next step of the interview process consisted of solving a practical, real-life problem statement. But, the thing that stood out to me about this task was the freedom to be creative with designing the solution.
Solving the problem invited me to think thoroughly about building systems at scale and at the same time, learning more about the geospatial ecosystem. After a series of challenging technical interviews and an interview about myself, my dreams, aspirations, and life experiences (aka culture interview), I got in! Yay!
I was so psyched that I could hardly study for my exams. Until the time I joined, I was kept updated about their progress and small wins and I couldn’t really wait to get started out!
One to Infinity!
Fast forward to my day of joining, I found myself sitting across the founders (Aditi and Rishabh) getting breakfast and hearing the stories of why they started, their little traditions and all the expectations from me. They tried their best to make me feel comfortable in this new, fast-paced city of Bangalore, so different from my quaint hometown, Goa.
From there on, to my surprise, we left for our weekly sprint review and planning meet-up. I thought to myself “Working on a Sunday, these guys must be crazy.” Well, they were not, they were absolutely nuts about what they were building, as I was about to discover in the coming weeks!
That evening was intense. I got bombarded in the meeting room with all the details about everything they were working on that could fit in the window of a couple of hours. Reluctantly, I gave a suggestion about improving the UX flow and it was received amazingly well!
That very moment I realized that I had made the right choice ditching an MNC and going above and beyond to get started with my career in a startup.
While an MNC may seem to provide the illusion of stability in terms of career, joining a startup is another ball game on its own. It actually pushes you to be a better version of yourself, to redefine your boundaries and doing it over and over again.
As the first task, I contributed to building an authentication and authorization system. This was a component that every user whoever interacts with anything we have built would encounter. Being an intern, I did not expect that on the first day. #EarlyStageStartupLife
Not just that, over time, I got to learn about infrastructure provisioning and scaling for a service that would go on to receive 10 million requests on its first day in operation. That and the people around me taught not just how to write for scale, but also how to write services that are extensible and can handle errors gracefully.
If engineering was one side of the spectrum I was involved in, the other side was about talking to users, validating ideas and making tough decisions and technical trade-offs.
One thing I absolutely loved working with the Locale team was how often everyone solicits feedback. The attitude is that we all are learning along the way and it’s our responsibility to help each other grow and improve. There is tremendous room to experiment, try out novel things, make mistakes and fail.
This shows right from the first day when Aditi asked me about how we could make the interview process better for people joining in after me — to Musthaq, our front end engineer asking my feedback on the design and UI (despite me being such a newbie to design) and Rishabh asking me feedback on our authorization system and the cloud deployment. I also enjoyed giving “my” inputs on the overall direction the company plans to forge.
Locale’s not only about owning and getting shit done, directly making an impact but also about having fun while doing so. My fondest memories are from the time when we finished shipping things at three in the night!
To know more about how (and why) we are building a tech and design first culture at Locale, check this out:
Infinity and Beyond!
Working in an early-stage startup commands a different kind of lifestyle and obviously, not suited for everyone. With the long hours that it entails, it often becomes overwhelming. However, once you get into it, it becomes an addiction of sorts.
Most of the time, the thing that would be going on in my mind would be- “How do I solve this bug?” or “How to deploy so as to handle auto-scaling?” or “How do we best prepare ourselves for the launch?”
When I compare my past two months with what some of my friends’ experience in an MNC was, I can totally say that I have come a long way!
The comparatively “riskier” decision has enabled me to learn a great deal about working with all kinds of people, building from scratch, how businesses are run and I’ve been thinking about starting up my own venture as well.
All these attributes of working in an early-stage startup have made me more confident in venturing out on my own in the construction space. I was fortunate to absorb those important, little pointers that are often overlooked.
For instance, how to get your product out to customers even before you start building, how not be attached and defensive about your ideas until you validate them fully, how to start thinking about your “moat” to keep your company ahead of its competitors. Some of these things we have already started implementing bit by bit back in Goa.
I believe, if you surround yourself with brilliant and passionate people around you, you will be surprised as to the number of things you pick up from them unconsciously every day.
After an exciting two months in Bangalore, I guess what I am taking back with me is a bit of everyone — Musthaq’s eye for design, Rishabh’s incredible product skills, Aditi’s raw energy, and Sudhanshu’s extensive infrastructure knowledge.
If you are looking for something challenging, pleasantly full of surprises, and do not mind the late hours mixed with a bit of chaos and uncertainty, take up that internship and first job at a startup, or even better here at Locale! We are trying to build one of the best engineering teams the world has ever seen to solve these complex problems at scale.
College placements come in quite easily. Getting into startups will require you to go out of your comfort zone, get intellectually challenged and prove yourself, over and over again.
As they always say, “it’s gonna be really hard and will require a lot of effort but it would be worth it.”
To the next crazy thing upcoming in life. Until then, cheers!
To apply at Locale, check out the job openings here. If you are interested to learn about the culture, both the good and the bad, check out Anubhav's story as well: