Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Big Leap

Exactly an year ago on this day I quit my job  in an MNC and decided to join a small company that was yet to make its presence felt in the industry. It was a big decision to take with a lot of If's and But's and now one year later I feel it was a right move.

Quitting your first job is tough when you have been there for almost 4 years. So many people to leave behind - the friends you started your career with, the team that mentored you and helped you reach where you are today and the colleagues that covered up for you when you pretended to be sick. It all started when the big companies had a round of layoffs in early 2014. I also a wrote a post back then (to quit or not to quit) for a website based on the what I heard from other people from the industry and here I will try to give my point of view.

As a fresher, I was inducted into a team that did loads of work and was short on resources. There was a lot to learn and in these 4 years I reached a point where any task assigned to me looked less challenging. Also looking back at my career, I was basically doing the same tasks that I started out as a fresher and that made me feel insecure. Most companies were involved in cost cutting and were giving preference to cheap resource over experience. I   learnt everything I could from this team and  was so comfortable that I felt that I will end up being lazy and if there comes a time then I will not be able to start afresh. I took it up with my manager but despite his efforts I didn't actually get what I was looking for.

It was time to introspect. I also updated my LinkedIn profile and to my surprise I got a call from this company that no one had heard of. It was a storage startup based out of Canada and were hiring their first set of engineers in India. "Call from a startup" was enough to get me excited. On the day of face to face interview, I was called  into a shared office space  on MG Road and the interview was in the company office that basically was 2 tables and 4 chairs. With an open mind I gave the interview and one fine Tuesday I got a call that they would like to make an offer and wanted to meet me in their office. That is when it hit me that I will have to quit a company that is well established with all facilities  and join a company that works out of a room smaller than the smallest of the conference rooms in my existing office. It clearly was a risk to take but I was in a stage where I could afford to take the risk if the situation demanded it. I told them that I would meet them on Friday to discuss the offer as it was a busy week for me. The idea was to assess the pros and cons of the company before having an offer on the table. Sometimes when money is out of the picture you are able to think a lot clearer.

First let me write about the pros of moving to this new role. I had worked in a small component of a very large product and this new company that I was planning to join was building something similar from scratch and it meant I could work on all components from its initial version and as the company grows I would get an opportunity to play a bigger role. Secondly I wanted to work on the emerging technologies and it seemed to be a right place to go to. The number of engineers working in the storage domain is comparatively less and I could do a real contribution with the expertise I gained over the years.

As for the cons, the major one was the risk factor. It was a startup based out of Canada and at that point of time I had no clue about their vision for India office. I was used to doing things that I was told to and the new role would require me to take up things on my own and do them which meant always being on my toes. Work life balance could mess up big time. Lot of unlearning was required for me to start fresh and if worse was to happen then I would have to do it all over again. The biggest concern was that it took 4 years for my folks in native to remember the name of my existing company and don’t know how many more years it will take for them to remember this name (just kidding).

Fast forward 2 months of my notice period and it was this very day - June 6th 2014, my last working day. This was when I remembered the tv show white collar where they used small shared office spaces to con people and once they were done the places didn't exist anymore. So my only prayer over the weekend was for the office to be there when I report to work on Monday and guess what, the office was there. They had moved to a bigger room with 4 tables and 5 chairs. They had to get me an extra chair as I was the 6th person to join the India office.

From that day until today it has been a journey to cherish. We moved from a 4 seater room to a proper office that could  seat 20 people. We had a lab in the office and it was fun to rack and cable the equipment ourselves without having some lab admin do it for us.  The version 1 of the product was just announced when I joined and we only had 3 POCs happening with no actual sales (or sales team). 1 year later we have over 20 happy customers with 2 product offerings and I exactly know my contribution for that to happen. As a QA engineer I know that if I overlook something then it is going directly to the customer; so the responsibility and accountability that I have here has been a motivating factor. Our team in Bangalore had people who worked in various companies and we had a ton of experience between us. We often debated for hours as to what process we should be following  and what is the best way to do the things we are supposed to do. I had a say in everything related to work which was something I had missed earlier and it felt good. It truly felt like I mattered to the team and the company.

We recently received a series C funding of $30 million and also entered into the All Flash Array segment which gives me an opportunity to work on the latest technology in the market. It is also going to be a never ending learning opportunity. I would love to write more about the company and what we do in a separate post sometime in the future (considering the rate at which I am blogging it would probably be on this day next year :P)

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