How many of you believe you would be in the same phase of life and be what you are today inspite of all the big and important decisions and events till now that have happened going the other way around?
My journey started a decade ago, but back then I never imagined I would love doing what I do today. At every stage in the past 10 years, I made different choices as I strongly believe not following the herd.
When I freshly graduated from college with a CS degree ?, I was very enthusiastic. It was also a very rough time for software engineers which was as The Great Recession. If you were lucky enough to be ignorant or you were just some kid in school playing video games, then you can read more about it here. Now that I look back, from that time till today, and when I connect the dots which were not “just another day” but very big decisions for me then together they finally put me in a phase that I always wanted to be in or did it? To give you a better perspective I will tell you my Dots story. Yes, there are quite a few dots!
Dot 1?—?July 2009
Fortunately or unfortunately I was offered a job at MNC company a year before I graduated. And after I graduated because of the recession, I wasn’t called on to take the job that I had been offered when I was in college. So like every other person I started to look for a new job. Startups were not a thing back then, but I had always some ideas going in my mind. In Hyderabad, back in those days around 2009, Uber was just getting started, Buses was the most common / cheapest mode of transportation from one place to another ?. Being the capital of the then Andhra Pradesh, dubbed “Hitech City”, it was teeming with young unemployed graduates, coming from all corners of the state.
Around this time I had my first problem and the need to built something to solve that. I used to face a big problem every day of remembering the route numbers on the buses and to which place they can take you. There was no option for bus routes in google maps or some app like city mapper.
I thought if I can just make a simple website, where you just give your destination, it would show all the routes and their bus numbers and plot the route on the map. I knew PHP that picked up when I did my final year project. I tried to build a website using google maps and the data I collected manually, but somehow I couldn’t finish it. This was my first failed microstartup so to speak ?. I lacked the skills and knowledge and most importantly the confidence to build what I like. I failed but the spark to create something that I like started growing.
Dot 2?—?November 2009
I was unemployed and so were most of my friends. I knew the recession would pass and I would be called for my high paying MNC job offer and it was just a matter of time (give or take a year). I also knew there was no point in going with the herd for finding a job till then by going through all job posting on forums etc. So what I did instead was is to search for local small?—?software?—?service based companies around my city on Google maps. Yes! ? you heard that right, on google maps. Then I got a link to their website from google maps (many didn’t have). Then I went to all those websites and got emails from their contact us pages. I compiled a very simple cover letter email (i didn’t know what it was called till 2011) and sent it them one by one.
Out of some 120+ emails, I got 5–6 replies ?, attended few and got into a small but good consulting company. I feel, until today, that was one of my toughest and longest (all most all day) interview of all time. I joined as a PHP developer but after a week I was asked to learn around, this was around October mont of 2009. This was one of the very significant things that happened. I slowly learned the “skill” needed to build things that I like and enjoy. I was very much in love with Android ?, you know how programmers are, right? In the company, there was “do what you like” Saturdays. I thought of an idea of a File Manager for Android. Slowly become good in Android development, made three apps and trained two people all in this short span. After 4 months, I was called for my MNC job offer. I thought it could land me in a better position and so I took the job.
Dot 3?—?March 2011
So my day job was at a fancy Consulting company where I was writing code in X++ (closed source language! )for Microsoft Dynamics 360 as a vendor. Around this time started embracing open source and despising closed source languages.
For the next two years, I slowly but steadily started working on the file manager, the idea that I got when I was in my previous job. I wanted to make what was missing in android, AnExplorer ?which was better in design and could show folder sizes! And this was first fully completed and successful microstartup and my being building something I wanted for the first time. This was where I actually learned building software on my own from ideating to designing to coding ????. I released it and it had a good traction for the next few months. I also released an Ad-Free version after 6 months. Things you love, you should constantly keep working on them, only then you would see results. For me it took two years, for some, it might take 2 months, the real point is consistently and constantly working on what you like with conviction. I really enjoyed this journey and what I had accomplished. My love for android grew a lot in those 3 years at the consulting company. So on a bright sunny day, I finally resigned from my job as a “Systems Analyst” and started looking to work as an Android Developer. This decision propelled me from a mundane small cog wheel in a mega-company to a daily driver in a promising startup.
I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference?—?Robert Frost
Dot 4?—?March 2013
Till then I never gave an interview for an Android developer and rightly so because I never worked as an Android Developer professionally. All I knew and had learned over the past 3 years was online and open source projects. As my own contribution, I even open sourced AnExplorer. After a few trails and misses, I finally joined a small startup called Practo, which was into healthcare. There were two engineers before I joined. I was not sure how I would perform as i didn’t have professional experience but within a year, I was promoted as a Team Lead and as the company grew, I was promoted to Engineering Manager in 6 months. I was handling the entire mobile experience of the company from Engineering POV.
All the while, I was always throwing ideas and suggestions to Product Managers, winning Hackathons where I would ideate, design and build small and useful apps. This really fast-tracked my skills, confidence in me and my ability as a software engineer. Then something changed. The startup i was working in was in sort of a crisis and it had repeatedly failed to hire a PM for driving the mobile-first strategy ? of the company. After those many failed attempts, I was approached to take the mantle of a PM and transition from Engineering to Product. To be frank, I was very apprehensive and a tad bit scared but what I always loved more than anything was a challenge. So I said Yes. This was another significant decision, from being on top of my professional career in engineering to starting a new career in Product management. But it again made all the difference. You have to make the bold choice now and then.
Dot 5?—?August 2015
For the next 3 years, my stint as a PM, I learned and mastered product management, designing user experiences and business aspect of products. I launched a new product in my company and grew it to scale in a year.
During this time, I helped one of friend Shirish startup Gotogether, which was into carpooling intercity travelers. I spent around 4 months and coded when I was free. It didn’t work out.
After that, I started working on another startup idea with my friend Amit Chhajer. The idea was to make boring food menu’s into a smart menu on mobile. Our approach to the problem was not the best and it didn’t work as well. I believe the idea is still relevant. What I realized over the course of time from few failures that startups are not really my thing. You have to keep learning from your mistakes and failures and not lose hope just because you didn’t see any results immediately.
Dot 6?—?July 2017
Around this time a good friend of mine Ateev introduced me to Bitcoin. I was very fascinated by cryptocurrency and started investing in small amounts. Everything worked out fine the first week, as I was new to everything, but then in the second week, I started to realize there were so many issues. It wasn’t easy to trade or even manage cryptocurrency. So I took the matter into my own hands and decided to build an app for myself.
I took a week holiday, sat at home coding nonstop, and released the MVP after seven days. I know how it sounds, but I used boilerplate code right from my open-source project AnExplorer, which made it easy. I wanted to build every feature at once, but my product-manager intuition kicked in and I cut down the features to the top three that I thought would be the most important (and without which the app would be useless).
Along the way, I realized that I was not the only person who had been facing such problems, and I decided to publish it on the Google Play Store. I started sharing ACrypto within my company, and it was an instant hit. This helped me to realize the potential of it.
It was peaceful-high-salaried job vs roller coaster ride. As a lover of adventure, I chose my long time calling. I quit my job and decided to work on my project full time. I haven’t looked back since then. It’s been growing exponentially ever since and have I became a full-time indie hacker. This, in short, was my 10-year journey from a wannabe to a successful indie hacker. Its been a year after I went full indie and I still can’t believe I made this so far ?.