Software Developers Journey Podcast

#239 Abhimanyu Saxena from novice CS undergrad to entrepreneur


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Abhimanyu Saxena 0:00
The hardest part is getting started. And the hack to that is pretty simple. Just get started, do not try to find the best thing you could do. You know, the fact is that you don't like see, you know, open source. And the reason why the word community is used so often in the open source world is that it's truly a community. Everyone is welcome. You know, like, just anything, find whatever little thing that you think would be better. It could be something as simple as a spelling mistake in the documentation. It could be something as simple as maybe, you know, just just improving the documentation a little bit more, it's fine if you do not understand a huge codebase on day zero. But if you just keep reading, you know, like, just keep reading, keep using it just keep saying, you know, it could be just a better variable name for a piece of code, right? That is absolutely. All right. You do not have to start with you know, one big fancy patch to the most, you know, most problematic bug in the system, because no, you can't do that. Right? Just start.

Tim Bourguignon 1:07
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast, bringing you the making up stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building. On this episode 239 I receive hobby Manju Saksena. The menus intrapreneurial journey started early in his career. After a successful exit, he worked as a software engineer in New York and experienced firsthand, see or use scarcity of skilled tech talents that brought him to co founding interview bits and scalar. I'm sure we are going to talk about these two companies who are versed in technical recruitment and career acceleration. Man, you welcome the attorney.

Abhimanyu Saxena 1:52
I guess so much, Tim, for hosting me on your podcast.

Tim Bourguignon 1:55
But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew, and help me spend more time on finding a nominal of guests then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info, and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. It's my pleasure, it's been a long time in the making. And I'm really thrilled that it's finally happening. So many. As you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like, imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your journey.

Abhimanyu Saxena 2:51
Very interesting. That takes me down the memory lane. And one very, very interesting fact that, so I joined an undergraduate University for a degree in computer science. And until I joined that place, I had never used a computer in my life. So when I got inside the university, and there are you know, like this Unix shell, that I have to, you know, write code on. And I used to type on the keyboard with a single hand as a single finger, I'll find where the keyboard is because I had never typed on a keyboard before. Alright, so So my first year into the university is when I kind of touched the computer and a keyboard for the first time. But it has been a fascinating journey so far, you know, my I was lucky enough to be building some of the highest scale ecommerce websites in the world building building very large online education platforms. And, and it's fascinating that until my adulthood, almost 18 years, I had never touched a computer. And then I was able to, you know, pick up I think a descendant of a junior myself.

Tim Bourguignon 4:00
This is insane. I have to roll back a little bit. What pushed you to enroll into this Computer Science University and not having touched a computer in the first place?

Abhimanyu Saxena 4:09
All right. I think that's pretty interesting as well. So to be very candid. When I had finished school, I had no idea you know what computer science is about? You know what, what any other, like, I knew that I loved tinkering with things. I loved building stuff. So I knew that I do want to do something in STEM, you know, like, Engineering Technology, or science is something that that attracted me. But but I didn't have a lot of clarity about that exactly is it? Should I become an electronics engineer? Should I become a computer scientist? Or should I become a mechanical engineer or automobile engineer, right? I had no idea. Now, one thing however, that helped me make the decision to join a computer science course was that I loved math. I knew that you know, I enjoy solving abstract mathematical problems. And someone I knew Back then they told me that you know, if math is what you love, probably computer science might be an interesting field for you to explore. And I just took a leap of faith with that, to be candid, it might have very well end up ended up being a very bad career choice. But just equipped with that advice that if you love math, you might enjoy computer science. That is what pushed me to join a computer science program.

Tim Bourguignon 5:25
Okay, so what I'm hearing is you knew you were going into some kind of sciency direction, just not exactly which one and then leap of faith, computer science, and it worked out right away. Question mark.

Abhimanyu Saxena 5:39
That's right. Yes. Yes. Probably.

Tim Bourguignon 5:43
It was love at first sight. I mean,

Abhimanyu Saxena 5:46
that's true. That's true. And you know, as it goes with love at first sight that either it can go terribly amazing, or it can go terribly wrong. I think I was fortunate enough that that it ended up better on the bedside for me.

Tim Bourguignon 6:00
When did you realize that it's indeed going on the positive end?

Abhimanyu Saxena 6:05
Yeah. So the initial about six month into this, you know, computer science program, it was a hell for me, you know, like, I really felt that, you know, I made the wrong choice. Because imagine being someone who typed on a keyboard with a single index finger. And being demanded, being surrounded by geeks who have been tinkering with Unix shell for five, six years. And then being challenged with, you know, solving hard computer science problems, you know, writing data structures and algorithms. And then having to being forced to use all the Unix at your institute, it was pretty hard for me. So initial initial three to six months, I had multiple moments of questioning myself, that is this really right place for me. But then an interesting thing happened. I was very fortunate, I think, to be surrounded by people, who were very, very helpful to, you know, help me cope. And I built my strong belief on the fact as well that your learning journey and your growth journey is deeply shared by who you are surrounded by the community around you plays a massive role into what you could do with this community around me, and one interesting fact that, you know, like, my co founder, at this company, scalar, and integrate for eight years, this was a person who used to live in my dormitory right next door. And not just him, but many others as well, right. And they were pretty kind and helpful for me, while I might be helping them solve their math problems, and they will help me learn computers a little bit more, you know, like, I have a very funny joke here that another friend of mine, who came with a background similar to mine, and we were being taught C language, you know, the basics of C programming language. Now, those who have coded in C, would know that we have these basic commands called get care and put care. Now, of course, somebody who has never put it before seeing these code snippets for the first time in life, how you are going to read these particular get can be very different. So this friend of mine comes to, you know, be what the answers that are given you, you know, I'm having trouble understanding something, can you help me with that? And said, yes, yes, sure. Badly. What is it that says I'm not able to understand what does this getchar and push her do? As I was last read or use this myself, you know, what is catcher and pitcher? Trying to use this, like, okay, okay. This is a job that, you know, even after 15 years, in our close friend, circle, we make fun of him. And his his nickname. Like it became his nickname, as gifts. But but, you know, like, but when you are a strong community of people trying to learn together, people willing to help each other. And very quickly, when I realized that, you know, I can just write a code and I can do things, you know, I can build something that people can use, that always excites me a lot, you know, like, something as simple as the platform on which we are recording this podcast or the platform on which people would be listening to the podcast, my voice transitioning over to you, or the listener, all of this happening through code, and how amazing how fantastic that is, right? That is what hooked me. You know, I can write code with which I can literally do anything. As maybe 1718 year old said, That was fascinating for me. And I think that will be to computer science.

Tim Bourguignon 10:38
And this took a few months. So you said the six first six months were how, but then it became better and better and better and accelerated. And that is that is, that is so cool. So at which point did you say, Okay, now I see, I see myself doing nothing else, then justice. And from there on it was it was really on a roll.

Abhimanyu Saxena 10:57
Right? So I think the moment I realized that I know the language of these machines, and I can instruct them to do anything. And then very quickly, we all you know, our group of friends at the university, we started building things. For example, when we were in the first, you know, the freshman year of our university, and we started, we thought, this is another very interesting story that in our dorm, we used to share, you know, a hall, there would be two or three people in the Corbin Hall, and our, our thermostat and the lights of the room, they were closer to, you know, one person's bed. And every, every time we want to change the thermostat, or we want to, you know, switch on or off the lights, we'll have to call Him and He will often have is the headphone on. So you got to so we will have to open our laptop, and then we will have to message him that can you please switch on the light? Or can you please switch off the light? And this is this is not good? Why can't I do it from my laptop or from my mobiles? Right? That would be you know, like, of course, programmers are the most lazy people that do not want to get up, go to the switchboard and you know, change things. So we thought, let's build this, you know, because now we can code and we can instruct computer to do anything. So let's let's build this, you know, can we build a system with which I can, you know, switch on and off lights in my room, or my thermostat, or the fan or the radiator? I should be able to do that from my computer? Why do I have to get up and switch on or off the switch? So we built that, that was the first started that we built when we were in college. Now as we look at it today, this is back in 2007, almost 15 years. But 15 years back today, today, we have this, you know, home automation, we have Philips, you and all of those, but back in 2007, that was a pretty fancy thing too. And we built that. Fortunately, you know, like we got three of us, me my current business partner and children and couple of other firms we got together, and we built the system. Again, you know, I felt like Superman, a superhuman, you know, I can I can bring the system using which people can control their electrical devices, from their laptops, and they could even do it when they're sitting in the class. They can, you know, change the thermostat in their dormitory when they're sitting in the class. I think that hooked us that hooked us that wow. You know, this is this is we have got a superpower, right?

Tim Bourguignon 13:38
That is an awesome story. Did you remember the point in time where this project grew out of your news where you said, Hey, this is not just us having this problem? We could make a company out of that?

Abhimanyu Saxena 13:49
Oh, absolutely. So we built this. And there was an interesting event that in our university, there used to be certain, you know, contest or different different things. And there was a contest on base plan that, you know, just presented this plan. We thought that, you know, like we have a cool project, we are building it. Let's just participate in this contest as well. I'm trying to just you know, out of thin air, let's create a big plan on top of it and present it in this competition. And let's see where it goes. We did one little change to it though. And that is the superpower of being a programmer. We created a very nice slide out of it. But the last slide was because it was happening in our university itself. It was a common conference room in our university. We said we said that let's set up our system in this conference. And then the last slide of the presentation is going to be controlling the lights and the fans and the AC of the conference all from our laptop. do a live demo right there. We did that. You know we presented our business plan around it and right after that we said Now we are going to switch off all the lights of this room On this contrast move with 400 people in it right from my laptop, we did that we won the competition. And fortunately, one of the judges for that contest also told us that if you want to build this, I would like to invest in your company. So yeah, that's the event that that was pretty fascinating. We were just 19 year old kids back then it was, it was a big moment for us. But while the investment amount was pretty trivial, looking back, but that was a fascinating time.

Tim Bourguignon 15:33
This is awesome. I just, I'm just imagining how you could do this, making your own presentation, and then at the end of presentations, and it's a bit warm here, isn't it? Let me turn down the AC that I turned on, at the beginning of the presentation and click click. It's a bit too fancy. Now let's dim the lights a little bit and some potential there. That is awesome. There's really cool. Um, was it a software piece only? Or did you have some hardware as well, in this?

Abhimanyu Saxena 16:05
Yeah, it had a hardware piece was well, of course. So so we had to use there is a protocol called ZigBee. ZigBee is a Bluetooth protocol. So we were using the the small, you know, XB Bluetooth modules. So there would be so there was, this was a hub and spoke architecture, that there was a centralized server, which will do the orchestration, between the control and the actuator, all the devices had to have the small ZigBee device attached to them. And then the centralized controller, like which could be, you know, one, one central module in a home or in a building that would be connected to each of these ZigBee endpoints through Bluetooth. And then the control signals will be central. So we have this small hardware piece attached to each of the device that we want to control. And then another hardware centralized hub, which gets the signal from the central server, which could be remote, and my control device, which is my laptop, my mobile, it connects to the server, the server sends a signal to the hub in the home, and then the hub sends the signal to the endpoint, the ZigBee endpoint on Bluetooth. That's our architecture.

Tim Bourguignon 17:19
Sure, I'm smiling right now, because I have a few boxes, right on my desk here from a big Swedish store doing some some lights like this. And there's a big ZigBee logo on it's installed a few again, in my in my office. So yeah, that was ahead. of its time, though, congratulations on that. How did you approach this creating hardware as 19 years old in college, creating software and doing a SAS is actually kind of easy with big air quotes. You don't have any, any any cash upfront and creating hardware, etc. But how I know is, is a different beast, how do you approach that?

Abhimanyu Saxena 17:59
Right? I think, you know, one, one very powerful thing, which comes out of serendipity being in a university, is that you can easily come across people with complementary skill sets. So I had one very dear friend of mine Geraci who was who was who was doing his engineering in electronics. And he was of this case, building, you know, very fascinating pieces of robotics. So he would often be seen in the university campus around trying to run a weird robot that he has built, you know, or, or taking contests taking part into these robot contests, etc. Like, just out of our hobbies, we would often hang out. And when this problem came to my mind that why the hell do I have to walk the switchboard to turn on my light on and it was pretty obvious to me that, you know, it's not just a software problem. This problem also has a hardware part. I shared this with Jay who was my friend, I want to build something like this, but I don't know how to build the hardware. And he was equally pained, he was as lazy as I was, he was also equally pained by the fact that he has to walk up to the switchboard to turn on, light on and off. And he said, Yeah, you know, like, we have to build this and I can build the hardware part. You know, I know like, you know, I can solve this problem. You know, if you send a signal to my hardware device, I can take care of the rest I can make sure that you know devices actually turn on and off as long as your your software sends a signal to my hand here. So we partnered so me Jesuits, who was the who was taking care of the hardware part and and children who was the, you know, the software wizard in our college, I was probably was a perfect connecting them altogether, you know, and throwing very interesting problems at them. So we got together, build a team of four people and rebuild it. So we had a hardware expert with us who was helping us solve the hardware problems.

Tim Bourguignon 19:57
That is awesome. How'd you formulate this? This sounds like a, like a story where you could still be in business still building lights, we wouldn't have haven't heard about Philips view. But we would have your company instead. What happened? What Why did you at some point say, Well, I'm going to do something else.

Abhimanyu Saxena 20:20
think the answer to why is pretty simple. We were young, and we were more than being young, we were very stupid.

Tim Bourguignon 20:29
Okay, I used a year.

Abhimanyu Saxena 20:35
I think at the same time, we were pretty lucky as well, that, you know, we found this gentleman who wanted to, because apart from being stupid, we were poor as well. So it was not easy for us to procure the hardware needed, or you know, the investor, you know, time on it, just so much. But, but we were fortunate to have this gentleman who was happy to help us with some capital that, you know, like, if you want to buy, say, a bunch of ZigBee modules, but have other hardware that you want to experiment with, I can, I can help you buy those, I can give you money for that. So that problem was solved. And we started building it as well. This was back in 2008 2008, right. And then I'm sure all of us who are old enough to have some gray hair, we will remember the recession of 2008. So we built it pretty nicely, we had a great prototype ready, you know, although it was looking ugly, because there were a lot of open wires coming out of it, etc. But we had a prototype that worked pretty well. The next step was product, you know, like taking it to the production, building a nice sleek looking product out of it, which is marketable, which is sellable, which a consumer can buy, you know, like, if you look at, you know, I'm sure that the smart lights that you have bought today, they must be looking pretty slick as well, it's not as easy to install, you do not need a technician to install them. Right. So that was the next phase of it. We felt we were ready to it. But to be honest, we were not really smart enough at industrial design, you know, like packaging it well, scaling the production of it. And of course, another part was that that requires quite good amount of capital investment. Now 2008 and nine was not the time when you could, you know, raise capital really, for a despite everybody said solid prototype ready. The gentleman who was backing us, he was pretty kind he said, but you know, guys, I can't give you a million dollar to productize it and take it to the market in this time. But but if you want, I'm happy to buy your IP for it. And in that case, he said the next couple of years, I don't know if anything could be done out of it. But if you guys are okay with that, I can buy the IP, I will see you later once the market is better, if there is something I could do with it, you guys can we can get back in touch then. Now probably being young and stupid, we thought Fair enough. Without the capital anyway, there's not much we could be able to do with it. And we kind of saw, right, we'll sell the IP. So as a young entrepreneur, 19 year old, I think it was still a great first exit for us, we build something in six to nine months sold it to the gentleman for like, at least as as a three four tour. Poor engineering students, we made a good buck out of it, and we partied out of it. But that was the, you know, that was the head of the company. Then

Tim Bourguignon 23:28
I see it I said thank you for this story. As a as a person working for an IoT company. Nowadays, I can understand the trouble in the beans, we wrote a few checks for for half a million or million in advance for parts. That's not an easy an easy world to live in right now. With some shortage of components, etc. It's really hard to go from this, this prototyping a prototype working a few prototypes, working stuff that we printed out in our labs, and then go to the series of a few 1000 units or a few 100,000 units. It's a whole different beast. So I totally understand. But good job anyway, taking it all the way there in college. That's That's awesome. So how did you fall back on your on your feet after that having touched the the the intrapreneur life? Right? Did you go back to go back to a normal job with with big equity? How did that career start for

Abhimanyu Saxena 24:27
you? Right? Right, right. So after this, you know like once the entrepreneurial bug bites you it's pretty hard to you know, it's kind of addictive right but but all the time you might not have you know all the resources needed to just run a company yourself. So both for for both me. I'm someone who is my business partner here at scaler as well. What we had a fallback of course joining two very very small young startups where You might not be the founder founder. But But kind of you know, you are, if you're early by in a young startup you, you get to do all the crazy stuff that you would want to do even if you were running your own company, right. So I worked with a very young, New York based fashion startup called fab.com. So when I joined them, it was a seed stage, you know, seed funded very small company with a single digit employees. Antoine was an early employee at Facebook. So when he joined Facebook, it was a company with less than 100 employees. So fascinating time to be. At fab, I was totally, you know, my employee ID was in single digit. So both the companies were however, growing fairly, very fast back in 2012, or so I remember, fab was one of the fastest unicorns in the world, we had raised close to close to 350 to $400 billion, in just a couple of years. Facebook story, I think the world knows it in general. So So while we were not running a startup anymore, but we were at least at the center of so much action happening, that, you know, it kind of kept associated with, with, with the, you know, the direction of entrepreneurship that we had early in our life.

Tim Bourguignon 26:16
So that begs the question, How did you make the jump from university to being at Facebook and being in fab in this very early stage, where the kinds of skills you require is actually more being a versatile, touch anything jack of all trade? They're also having the the skills to really bootstrap things and take them to the next level? How do you How did you manage to jump?

Abhimanyu Saxena 26:42
Right? So I think, like, Jeremy was slightly different for both of us. So for me, the fab discovery was more of, like, you know, I didn't discover fab, the founder of FAB discovered me. And I actually did ask them as well that, you know, how the hell did that happen? How did you can try to connect me because, you know, I'm just a nerd coder, you know, sitting somewhere writing my code. And actually, you know, that's a very interesting advice that I will like to give to all the younger developers who might be listening to this podcast as well. That open source is a great, great way to, you know, network, people say that, you know, to network, go to conferences, or just just go out and meet people that, of course, is valuable. But at the same time, if you are contributing to the right open source projects, that might add so much value for you, because, you know, if I'm trying to hire someone for a specific role, and if there is a very mature, very high quality open source project, and if you are one of the core contributors to that, probably, I would want to talk to you, right, and that is what happened with me. So bad. Back then, there used to be a JavaScript library called backbone. JS, to Backbone js is something that I started using, and then, you know, I started contributing few little patches here or there, to the core library as well. And then, you know, the fab founder, when they were trying to hire someone fab was growing like crazy, it was, you know, it was a, it was a fashion ecommerce portal, which was, you know, the quality of their front end their mobile app, their website was just just the top notch. And they were trying to find people who can really contribute to that in meaningful ways. And that is how they discovered me that there is someone that gorgeous was, you know, a library, which was very commonly used and all the high quality front end projects, and then they found that if someone is contributing to Backbone js project, this guy might be able to add some value to us. So there is out to be given to a such a small startup back then, I had this question that, you know, like, you know, would it work for me, but then I think you know, that bug that, you know, I will be at a driver driving seat here, I would be able to probably create things which which impact a lot of people I will be able to see the impact of my work in a very, very direct way. I think, I think that hope to be

Tim Bourguignon 29:09
during this day job, were you still able to contribute tobacco and to maybe use your day job to contribute to backbone and still bring to this community? Something was valuable for you.

Abhimanyu Saxena 29:21
Right, right. Right. So actually, as a matter of fact, when I joined the company apart from just building the tech, because it was a young company, one of the core responsibility that companies expected from me was also building the team, you know, finding the best engineers out there and and making sure that they come and join join us. Which is pretty hard. You know, to be honest, hiring quality software engineers, even till date is not an easy task. I'm sure you would, you would have experienced that yourself as well. But one hat that worked really well for us was that like it's if you are able to We hire the highest quality open source contributors, these are the people who are, you know, they are day in day out writing code. And the way to do that probably is just do not contribute to open source just as an individual, but why not contribute as a company as well, that is something that, you know, we build at fab. So not only my project, but a lot of people, like we encourage our entire tech team that, you know, go contribute to open source whenever you can, even if there are, you know, something that we are building internally, which is not, you know, which is not directly related to our core business, if it could be shared outside, just go ahead. And you know, like I shared it. In the open source community, we actually sponsored a lot of open source conferences, you know, on Ruby on Rails on JavaScript, different open source JavaScript libraries. And that worked really well, that was probably one of the best thing that we did for our tech hiring, that instead of just just trying to hire tech recruiters, what we did was that we said that we will use that time and money to fuel into open source, so that all the open source developer in the relevant technologies that we use, get to know about our company, and if it is a company, which is involved so deeply, they're like, We by default, become a company that these these developers, these programmers love, and they probably would want to be part of it. So that worked really well for us, not only I was able to contribute myself, I was also able to kind of, you know, leverage open source as a tool to accelerate our hiring, we were able to find really, really amazing people out of the open source community to come and join, join our tech team.

Tim Bourguignon 31:42
That is a very smart move that really brings to this to this engineering brand of the company. And that already brings you the candidates, you need the like minded candidates that you need to contribute. That's fantastic. One, one curveball, and then and then we can piggyback on this to go toward the interview bit and scale. How do you prevent building some kind of echo chamber of only like minded people? In such a case, if you are only trying to get or not? Maybe not only, but if you're trying to get mostly people from this open source community, right?

Abhimanyu Saxena 32:21
Now, that's a very good question. Because you know, like, if you really want to build a product, which is loved by your users, it's very important that people who are building it represent your end users adequately. Because you know, like, if it is, for example, if it is all white male building a product, how do you make sure that you know, it's a product, which is also loved by other communities, and probably, you know, one specific kind of community by features 10% of the real use of this you have, and if you, if you do not have representation of those communities, into your product and tech team, it's close to impossible for you to really even understand that, what do they really need? Right? So it's super, super important that in product, technology, etc, we have right representation for all the parts of community that this product is going to serve. It's not a it's not a nice book thing to do. It's a must have for the business to train. Right? So what we did was that, you know, like, well, good one, another good thing that I see is that even open source community is weather pretty, pretty diverse, you know, if you look at who are kind of, there's a good reason to it, that this low gatekeeping in the open source community, unlike, let's say, joining a company, where you will have to go through certain interviews, where sometimes there might always be biases. In the open source community, you know, there's absolutely no gatekeeping you can write a code, you can have anonymous profile, you can you can share your code, and if it is, if it is, you know, really high quality it will get most people half the time in the online world of open source community, people do not even know what's the ethnicity, gender, background country of the person who is contributing this patch, right. So, what I see is that even very fascinating and amazing thing about open source communities, that it's very diverse and inclusive community without anyone gatekeeping I think, you know, like, that reflected event without conscious effort that reflected in our tech team as well. That if you are if you are hiring a lot of people from the open source community by design, it will be pretty diverse community in itself.

Tim Bourguignon 34:39
Okay, makes sense. Makes sense. Thank you for explaining this. So which one did you say okay, I want to tackle this problem, especially this this scarcity of skilled talents and bypassing recruiters maybe or changing the way technical recruitment works.

Abhimanyu Saxena 34:57
Right, right. So as we were talking about the fact that, you know, once you have this bug of entrepreneurship, it's pretty hard to let go of that addiction, right. So me, we both always had this thing that like, like, while we are having a lot of fun at Facebook. But eventually we do want to build something of our own. Now know, before jumping, you know, before the jumping the gun, what we'll find was that more than just running for a great solution, we first want to pick a great problem, a great problem that we can take a lot of pride in solving. And we can stick to public for a few decades, if not more. One thing that we very strongly believe is that picking up a very important problem, and then sticking to solve that problem for long enough is a very big superpower. While your solutions might change over time, you know, as you as you build, you will learn so many things, and you will keep changing how you solve it. But if you're sticking to solving same problem for long enough, we will definitely be able to build something of very high value. So the problem statement that we felt is pretty close to our heart has pretty high impact on the world. And is something also that we feel that we might be able to do a decent job at was tech upskilling. The problem statement is so hard that an employability is one of the most important thing for any developing or even developed country, right people, I think one of the biggest problem that the world struggles with is that we have so many people with graduating with a degree, but are not unemployable. There is no shortage of jobs. But the issue is that the people do not have the right skills that organizations are looking for. So we thought that it's a huge problem on both sides, that companies are not able to find quality engineers. And on the other hand, you know, our our younger students are young professionals that do not know how to build strong skills to get these high quality jobs. And let's build something that fixes it for both, then we can expand the talent pool for the companies. And we can give a clear path to you know, these young, you know, students in the universities or young young professionals to be able to build skills with which they can get very high quality tech employment. So this is a problem statement that we felt that is a pretty big important problem to be solved. And we given our work at fire and Facebook, you know, being coders, ourselves having, having mentored caused hired a lot of engineers, we could solve fairly well. Probably better than a lot of other people. So that is how we picked this particular problem. And then we said let's invest few decades on it and solve it.

Tim Bourguignon 37:53
A few decades right away. Wow. That's that's resilience. So he has it been a decade already

Abhimanyu Saxena 37:59
said yes. already about to get towards the kid.

Tim Bourguignon 38:04
Okay, wow. That is cool. That is really cool. And do you do you have the feeling you achieve this already? Or are you still on the on the uphill battle to try and to crack this? This, this problem statement that you just described?

Abhimanyu Saxena 38:19
Right. So I think the amazing thing about picking a really big problem is that, as I said that you can easily spend few decades solving it while so I think that Mike's to go. While there are two ways to look at it that in eight years, we have achieved so much. You know, we are a fairly large team. Now we are impacting lives of millions of developers. But they're miles to go. Because it's such a global problem, right. So if I talk about some numbers interview, but as of today, thirds to about about, you know, 5 million monthly users, you know, right now scalar Academy, which is you know, we are trying to build a tech university like Stanford, if not better on Cloud. As of today, this university, just just, you know, if I may call it, Neo versity instead of university, because this is a new kind of university that we are trying to build has our alumni learner base of 30,000 students, which in just three years, bigger than probably most of the universities in the world. But despite that, despite that, I think this is just the beginning. Because it's such a large problem to be solved that you're not only we can keep going keep going for another decade or two, but most likely will still have more problems to solve.

Tim Bourguignon 39:42
I like your, your, the smile you have when you're describing this first. And then you see the steps and say well, there's more and there's more and there's more and we can go there and always thinking about other people that that is fantastic that that's that's pretty cool. I really hope it's gonna go your way and really continue growing like you like you expected, you're doing the world a favor for that. So thank you very much. I'd like to come back to to one thing. So we talk a lot about about open source? And do you have some kind of advice to help us start with open source? Because I feel it's always the hardest point is where to find where to contribute, how to contribute, match the community style, and feel accepted and really want to get going. And once you're in there, it's easier. But But stuff is hard. So what was your advice in this regard?

Abhimanyu Saxena 40:33
Right, right, right? Well, I have a very interesting hack that I can give to people. And as you said, that the hardest part is getting started. And the hack to that is pretty simple. Just get started, do not try to find the best thing you could do. So the fact is that, you know, like C, you know, open source. And the reason why the word community is used so often, in the open source world is that it's truly a community, everyone is welcome. You know, like, just pick anything, find whatever little thing that you think would be better, it could be something as simple as a spelling mistake in the documentation, it could be something as simple as maybe, you know, just just improving the documentation a little bit more, it's fine, if you do not understand a huge codebase on day zero. But if you just keep reading, you know, like, just keep reading, keep using it just keep saying, you know, it could be just a better variable name for a piece of code, right? That is absolutely. All right, you do not have to start with, you know, one big fancy patch to the most, you know, most problematic bug in the system, because no, you can't do that. Right? Just start, I think that's the most important thing. And if you start, if you commit that I'll start today, I'll just contribute something, whatever small, I might be able to, and just keep doing that, within a small window of time, you will realize that you know, now you are, you are getting the hang of things, now you are able to you know, take a little more bigger pieces as well. And in no time, you might realize that now you are a very well respected member of this particular project. In the community, it just happens with

Tim Bourguignon 42:17
this I'm sure. Love, it's Thank you very much. It's the end of our time box already, it's been it's been a blast listening to your story, thank you very much for that, where would be the best place to continue this discussion with you?

Abhimanyu Saxena 42:32
Right, for I am on Twitter. My username is a SX Na, of course, I'm on LinkedIn as well on YouTube, I do keep sharing some of my content on scalers YouTube channel. So you could follow me on Twitter, my user name is a SX na. And of course, you can search for me on LinkedIn on.

Tim Bourguignon 42:57
And we'll add all the links to the show notes. So you don't have to write it down, it will be there. Anything else you want to plug in there before we call it today?

Abhimanyu Saxena 43:06
I think one general advice to know all the software engineers, young and old, it's it's pretty fascinating to be in this industry, which evolves so rapidly. You know, like entire tech stacks change within few years. So just one thing that I would advise to every engineer is that, you know, keep investing into your learning, keep investing into learning new things, keep investing into building your fundamentals so strong that learning a new technology, a new framework, as you're never, you know, worried or bothered about that. So I think that's the advice that someone gave to me 15 years back, and it's worked really, really well for me. So I'll just pass that on to others as well. That keep investing your time your sources into learning new stuff all the time.

Tim Bourguignon 43:55
Amen. to that. Thank you very much for highlighting the menu. Thank you very, very much.

Abhimanyu Saxena 44:01
Thank you so much, Tim for hosting me today.

Tim Bourguignon 44:04
It was my pleasure. And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we see each other next week. Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Will you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at Tim SAP ti m o th e p corporate email info at Dev journey dot info