A Developer’s Story – Ashok Mandal

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Next in our Dev Stories series is Ashok Mandal, who is a Software Engineer at Razorpay. Ashok is a gold Geektrust member, which means his coding skills are pretty solid. How he got to be so good at it, we find out in the interview.

How did you learn programming and what about it gives you a kick?

In my 2nd year in college, We did a Grid Solver Robot project in Embedded C. It was one of the problem statements from IIT Bombay TechFest. Me and my friends took the challenge and built the robot and wrote the code in 2 weeks. This experience sparked a fire in me. I wanted to do more.

I started learning on my own – first frontend and then jumping into backend. By 3rd year summer vacation, I had learnt HTML, CSS and all about web pages in depth. I started creating blazing fast web pages. This landed me an internship at a company called ‘Artist at Work Productions’, where I built a social media content curation tool using Nodejs and Expressjs. I got to work with cutting-edge technologies at that time like Node, Angularjs, and Mongo.

In my 4th year, I got an opportunity to do a 1 year full time internship. This meant skipping classes and appearing for the exam later, and I had to opt out of campus placement. I took that risk and went for the internship. Going outside of college and getting real-world learning exposed me to the real market early.

What I love about coding is that I can build the whole world on this small computer and solve big problems. Code does exactly what you ask it to do.

What technologies do you like and dislike?

I am quite tech and language agnostic. What I’m particular about is how interesting the problem is. Adapting to constant change and applying my knowledge and learning the right way to find the right solution is what is important to me.

Most interesting tech challenges you’ve faced?

A problem called live log monitoring. During an interview, I got asked to solve a  problem i.e. stream a log file to a webpage, live. I couldn’t use the Linux command to build the solution as there were a lot of edge cases to take care of, like ‘watch the file’, ‘read changes’ and then ‘send to the web page’. Simple yet sophisticated problem to solve.

Advice to younger self

Competitive programming is a must-have experience. I heard about it in my 4th year of college, by which time I had started working. But I immediately went into it as much as I could, and also managed to qualify the first round Google Code Jam 2016. This is something people should take part in right from year 1 of college to open up their minds.

Experience with the Geektrust coding challenges

Geektrust’s ‘Family’ problem helped me understand OOPS better. Usually, in coding tests, they test one scenario or it’s a boiled-down problem where there is no bigger picture. Geektrust does a whole lot of thought process testing through the problems – the task is to model a solution that’s readable, extensible, etc. There are several job sites and coding sites but here, real people are evaluating people’s code. And giving you specific tips at a foundations level. Strengthening my OOPs skills helped me get through a lot of interviews.

Startups or MNCs

Yes to startups. However, startups are not always like “we build something today and it scales up fast tomorrow”. In fact, there is a lower likelihood of things getting to a point of scaling up as fast as you would like. If it’s a company with good foundations, leadership, product, etc.you’ll get there eventually. But it’s a process of learning, building, deploying and repeating the process.

This is not something you can learn online or at a regular software company. You can learn this only on the job, in a startup, and you often need to get your hands dirty.

It helps if you work at a giant company and get exposure to big projects first. If you work at e.g., Youtube, you already experience things getting done at scale, and see that part of engineering. It certainly adds to what you bring to the startup’s table, but you can’t expect to do that kind of work overnight at a startup. Good things take time.

Working at a startup also gave me that business perspective to the work I do, by giving me the big picture experience and approach to work.

Thoughts about the Indian tech industry

I think successful startups are making India proud. Expanding is very difficult for bootstrapped companies but when you get to it, it’s a great feeling not just for the people at the company but for the industry as a whole.

Besides coding

I’m a big fan of the stand-up comedy scene in India, binge watching stand-ups on YouTube is my favourite pastime. I also love to create fun projects in my free time or freelance helping startups or non-techies.

That sounds rather like what he does at work too but hey, isn’t that great? Loving what you do, doing what you love.. Ashok is all fired up to solve the big problems of the world. If you are too, let us know what problems/domains you’d like to work on via comments or write to hello@geektrust.in. If you liked this story, do comment or share and help us spread the word.

About Geektrust Dev Stories 

Geektrust is a platform for technologists to find interesting opportunities and shape the future of tech. We meet inspiring people and companies in our work, and we see some great code written by our users. So we started the Dev Stories series, to bring stories of different developers to the world. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as we love writing them.

If you’re passionate about programming, sign up and get started.

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