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How YouTube changed his life

In a way, Adarsh Menon is an autodidact in every sense. Right from the school to his MEC days, he knew exactly what he wanted and took steps to climb the steps of success. Brimming with confidence, Adarsh says he wants to become the CTO of a company in the next 5 to 10 years. In an inspiring article, Adarsh narrates his story.

I was interested in programming and just computers in general when I was young. Though I got an Internet connection when I was in Class VII, I didn't know how to use it. In Class 1X, we had an IT club in school where our sir taught us PHP. I think this was the beginning of my journey in web development and engineering in general. I started learning the art of googling and just learning on my own from the internet. By Class X,I was taking classes for the IT Club and had done a few small projects in PHP. I had also organised and created the website for our school festival when I was in Class XII.

In my first year of college, I was simply exploring different technologies and frameworks. I did watch a few online tutorials and did small projects for fun. By the end of Semester 2, I got an opportunity called Work in MEC, which is basically ex-MECians looking for interns to work on their personal projects. There was a small coding test, where we had to write a script to do web scraping. I think I was the only one who applied from the first year, and I had an interview with the ex-MECian. But I didn't get the internship.

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After a few months, the ex-MECian contacted me and asked me if I was interested to work on the project to which I said yes. This was the beginning of something very exciting and life changing for me. At this point, it was just the two of us and we created 35brands.com which is an online shopping app for women that aggregates products from different brands.

We had weekly calls, discussed our progress and also made plans for the next week. I learned a lot from this experience, and it has helped a lot in my growth as an engineer as well as a person. 18 months and 3 product iterations later, we hired 3 more people and currently, we are working on the 4th iteration.

One big advice that I got from him was to decide what not to do, rather than what to do. This has completely changed my life. I started being very picky about how I invested my time and making sure that everything I did align with who I wanted to become. I started saying no to a lot of opportunities that came my way and focused on a few things that added value to my life. I basically did things because I wanted to, and not because someone else was doing them.

In October 2018, I was watching random videos YouTube and came across a video by Gary Vaynerchuk, where he was talking about his company VaynerMedia. He was also talking about how to grow your business and seek out opportunities by approaching people on Instagram. I simply checked out VaynerMeida's website and came across Tracer, a company under them. After going through Tracer's landing page, I realized that it was very similar to a project I had done in the past. I also found the social media handles of the CEO and CTO of Tracer on the website and started following them.

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As I was researching more about Tracer, I thought that maybe I can bring value to Tracer, mainly because I had done something very similar and I was also familiar with the tech stack Tracer was using. So one fine day I simply messaged Tracer's CEO on Instagram, saying that I think I can bring value to Tracer and would like to work for free. I was 100% sure that he was not even going to see it. But to my surprise, he replied after a few days and asked me email the details.

I sent him an email and we set up a call in December. I was quite nervous and had no idea how it would go. I dialled the conference call and waited for him to join, but he never showed up. Later, I sent an email and he said that he was on the call but I didn't join. Turned out that his manager did not set up an international dialing facility. I was sure that I had lost the opportunity.

But I followed up with an email, requesting his manager to set up another call whenever possible. After a few weeks, she responded back apologizing and set up a new call in January end.

The call went well. I talked to the CEO as well as the CTO of the company. They were extremely curious about how I found out about Tracer, and when I told them the story they were amazed. We talked about what exactly Tracer did, and how it operated, as well as about my experiences with programming in general.

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The CTO then gave me a data test, where I had to answer a few questions after performing analysis on the given dataset. I finished that and had a follow-up call with the VP of Engineering and a Senior Engineer at Tracer. After this, they set up an external repository for me to work on and assigned me work. I was assigned a manager and we used to have frequent calls to discuss about the project and progress.

I had an opportunity to visit New York with my grandfather, to visit my aunt who lives there in the summer of 2018. So during one of the calls, I was talking about this with my manager and he was like then you could possibly do an internship here. There were only three weeks left for the summer and there was no way I could apply for a visa. But he discussed with the legal department and said that if I was there I could visit their office and attend meetings with the team. I realized that this was a huge opportunity, but it would be a huge investment of time and money as well, and also I had no idea how it would turn out. But I decided to take the risk and go for it.

I was extremely nervous the first time I went to meet them. But they were very warm and welcoming. They took me out for lunch and we just had general conversations. They were all very supportive and encouraged me to approach people and talk to them if I had any questions.

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I think the biggest take-away for me with this experience was being able to see how an actual company functions and seeing teams collaboratively solve problems. The technical side of things was a bit challenging at first, but eventually, with a lot of help with the team, I was feeling comfortable. I got to learn about the entire software development life cycle they follow - right from creating a requirements doc up to QA and pushing the code into production. Also, my communication has improved immensely.

Meeting and talking to a lot of interesting people who were experts at what they do was extremely insightful. I got the chance to interview the CEO and CTO of Tracer as well as meet Gary Vaynerchuk. My interview with the CEO

They were really amazed by my proactive attitude and how I followed up with them and communicated well. Some things I could improve on were testing and familiarizing with dev ops tools.

The entire experience has changed me as a person, and my entire attitude towards software development. I am much more process-oriented now and it has really helped my push out quality code.

Here are some important points which I would like to stress:

  • I think the main thing to realize while looking for any opportunity is to make sure that it is something you really want to do and you are able to bring value to them. At Tracer everybody is focused on giving as much value as they can to the company and they collaboratively solve complex problems. One advice from the CEO was to give disproportionate value to others - could be companies, clients or your team mates, and you will eventually get back what you put in.
  • More than setting goals, it is about setting habits that lead to a particular goal. These habits compound and eventually lead to the end goal. I think coding every day, being systematic and constantly learning were a few habits that lead to this opportunity.
  • My primary goal is to follow my passion for software development and collaborate with like-minded people to develop products to bring technology to the masses and make an impact.
  • The CTO of Tracer has really inspired me, and in the next 5 to 10 years I would like to be the CTO of a company, because I think the role would be a good fit for me and it will push me to bring out the best version of myself.
  • I learned all the skills I know on the internet. I think the skill of googling is something that everyone should master first. I also have a YouTube channel where my primary goal is to simplify complex topics and make it beginner friendly.(Link to my You Tube Channel)

3 habits that totally changed my life are:

  • Deciding what not to do - and learning to say no.
  • Giving disproportionate value to others.
  • Self- awareness and practising gratitude.
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