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He eats, drinks and breathes coding!

From solving a problem in three days to solving three problems in a day, Vinit Shahdeo has come a long way in his eventful, exciting career. But he bounced back the way he only he can. After being rejected by 22 companies, Vinit is now excelling in what he does best: coding.

Hear his story in his own words.

It was my curiosity about how a computer works sparked my interest in them. I was introduced to the computer during my school days at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, where I studied till my Class X. Of all the subjects taught to me throughout the week, I always eagerly waited for the computer practical class which used to take only once a week. Quite often, I wasn’t lucky enough to get a system as there were frequent power shutdowns in our locality. Doodling with MS Paint was indeed a great feeling then.

During my early teens, when my friends were excited about opening an account on Facebook or Orkut, what excited me was: how Facebook worked? I used to inspect the source code and do some changes, which made me feel like Mr. Robot. This triggered my passion for designing webpages.

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After Class X, I changed my school and took admission to DPS Bokaro and was lucky enough to get Computer Science as the fifth subject. It was one of the best phases of my life. It was where I met some wonderful people. Whenever we meet we have a long conversation about those days. Whenever I go through the photo gallery, my eyes get teary.

Like many others, I went to Kota to prepare for IIT-JEE. I couldn’t make it to IITs which left me disheartened. But the love and interest in computer programming were still alive and irrespective of the college I would get, I was determined to pursue Computer Science Engineering. I still remember the day when I was at the counseling for admission into VIT, back in 2015. I was upset that I did not get CSE. Now that I look back at that moment I know that I took the best decision to pursue B.Tech in IT at VIT than pursuing B.Tech in CSE from other colleges. Later I discovered there is not much difference between IT and CSE branch in VIT Vellore.

In the first week, there was a freshers’ orientation session organized by VinnovateIT, where I was introduced to different domains like Web Development, Game Development, Graphics Designing, etc. There were talks by seniors who got jobs in Microsoft, Akamai, etc. I was so inspired by their hard work and determined that one day I will be on the other side sharing my journey with freshers.

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Soon I was introduced to CodeChef VIT Chapter by one of my friends. When I heard ‘CodeChef’ for the first time, the first thing struck into my mind was the “Master Chef” program on TV. I went for CodeChef’s orientation where I came to know that our seniors are going to open an initiative aiming to fill students with the spirit of coding and make them contribute significantly in the field of Computer Science and Engineering. I got interested after hearing about their mission to help everyone to become a coder. I was waiting for their recruitments.

Once the dates were out, I applied for it. They arranged interviews and luckily I got into the Design team as the only thing that I knew then was Photoshop. Once I joined CodeChef, I discovered that all the teams can work together and this was all that I wanted. I started learning and the first tech project that I did was the website of CodeChef VIT Chapter. Our chapter didn’t have a website. I built a website, bought the domain and made it live.

I was still waiting for the recruitments of VinnovateIT. Till then, I have learned basic HTML & CSS. I went for the interview and got selected for the Web Development domain after the seniors noticed my passion for web development. They encouraged me to build my personal website from day one I joined. I started working on this. I learnt Bootstrap and made a simple portfolio. Immediately, I bought the domain and made it live. The website was so simple but I was so glad that I made something of my own and it was out there in WWW. And I was so pumped up after seeing my little presence on the web, I started looking for a lot of web designing practices. The seniors taught us about Git & GitHub. It was so interesting that GitHub has soon become my homepage. I started contributing to open source. Whatever code I used to write, I used to push on the GitHub. The green dots on my GitHub profile show my journey: the journey into the coding world!

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Once I was in the second year, I took part in organizing many classroom tech events. The first workshop I took was on Digital Footprint. I was supposed to speak for 1 hour. I was so nervous as this was the first time I was going to speak on the stage. I went blank after speaking for 10 minutes, I was so upset. I came back to the hostel and I cried thinking I couldn’t speak even after practising my slides multiple times. After that I started taking many in-core sessions in order to improve my communication skills. Now I don’t even remember how many times I have spoken after that. Whenever I get a chance to take a session, I never said no. The second-year went away and it was time to lead the clubs/chapters I was part of. I got elected as President of VinnovateIT, the innovation & incubation lab in VIT Vellore and Vice President (Tech) of CodeChef VIT Chapter. Being the tech lead of CodeChef, the first thing I did was I reformed the tech team, announced explicit recruitments for the tech team. I recruited 10 people after interviewing around 100. I shared my vision with them and started taking in-core sessions to train them. Sooner they become technically sound and we started working upon different project ideas, the teams took part in different hackathons and we won 3 out of 5 hackathons. This was the time, we as CodeChef have shown our potential across the university. I’m still indebted to the tech team who has made this possible. I feel so proud when they invite me as a guest speaker in hackathons they organize these days.

I was also part of VinnovateIT where we used to build IoT projects to solve simple use cases we see all around. Our team took part in open house competitions to represent the smart city projects built by our team. Leading a team of 20 people at VinnovateIT helped me to grow my leadership skills. VinnovateIT team was like a family for me - Spending time in VinnovateIT Lab (We had a lab sponsored by Cognizant) felt like being at home. The fun that we had in the lab is something that I’ll cherish forever.

I, along with a few of my fellow undergrads at VIT Vellore, started an initiative, Commulearn, with the objective of community learning to spread awareness of Digital Education among rural people. We visited rural schools to teach them but we had to stop this due to our hectic schedule in VIT. I’ve participated in many Hackathons, including Code For Good by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Attending Hackathons helped me enhance my horizons and think beyond. Most of the time, I have spent time working with my team on different projects. I am still connected with my juniors and mentor them on a regular basis for their upcoming hackathons, events and job interviews. It is an amazing feeling to be able to help someone else.

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My third year of Engineering was full of new things; organized many events, attended many workshops/Hackathons, learnt new technologies, practiced a lot of coding problems. As a VP Tech of CodeChef, I organized COOK-OFF, an inter-college 8-hour-long coding competition during the tech fest of VIT Vellore. Creating coding challenges for this competition was itself a challenge. It was a matter of pride for the CodeChef, luckily I lived up to the expectations as a problem setter.

This time, I thought of automating the recruitment process for VinnovateIT. We had a rigorous selection process. Application forms collected via Google Forms, pen paper coding rounds, personal interviews, collating results – there were a few tedious steps. I automated this whole process and brought it online by developing a recruitment portal.

Being President of VinnovateIT, I was invited to be the keynote speaker for the freshers’ orientation. Finally, I was standing on another side of the journey sharing my wonderful and not so wonderful memories and learning curve.

In my third year, my major focus was on competitive coding. From solving a problem in three days to solving three problems in a day, I have honed my problem-solving skills. I consistently used to set short-term goals for myself. Then, once I had defined the benchmarks, I took the necessary steps to achieve those milestones. Being a tireless seeker of knowledge, I always looked at where I could improve and strive for perfection in the code that I write.

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I utilized my summer breaks to improve my coding skills. I used to specifically devote time to solve 10 coding questions every day during summer breaks. I started with low-level questions and this resulted in being able to solve more than 10 questions on some days. But with each passing day, I moved to solve the next level of questions. There were times when I couldn’t solve a single question due to the high difficulty level but I didn’t quit. I had a simple rule that if I cannot solve a problem for a day, I would leave that, go back and study the basic concepts and come back and attempt the same question after three days. I never jumped to solutions, without the concepts. When we have gone through the solutions of 1,000 questions, we can’t be sure of solving the 1001st question. But if I have solved 100 questions without jumping over the solutions before the concept, there’s a 99.9% chance of solving the 101st question.

I didn’t even realize when these four years passed and finally I got placed in Bank Of America (Dream) and NeoGrowth (Super Dream). But this wasn’t easy for me, I got my first job after being rejected by 22 companies, including Microsoft, Shell, Dell, Navis, UBS, etc. in the HR round. Each day started with going out for interviews at 8 AM and ended by coming back to the hostel around 11 PM. I was dejected. This was heartbreaking. I used to clear the coding rounds, tech rounds but the managerial rounds were tough ones for me. The more I got rejected, the more I learnt from the interviewers as the expectations vary from company to company. The first job I got was at Bank of America. I called my grandmom up on video call and broke the news to her. The smile and tears of joy I saw on her face that day. I have never experienced something like that. It is undoubtedly the happiest experience of my life.

After getting an on-campus job, I was not allowed to sit for any further companies placements. I started looking for an off-campus job. I applied for Postman, HackerRank, HackerEarth, etc. I got a call from Postman and HackerRank. I got rejected in HackerRank after the second round. But I made it to Postman where I got a six-month internship.

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As l look back, I feel so nostalgic about my college days. It has been almost 1.5 years since I left my college and still I feel like I'm on a vacation and I’ll be going back to see the same faces all around laughing at our own silly jokes. VIT has given a family, not friends. Throughout the four years, I have moulded myself to fight fear with hope, arrogance with confidence, thoughts with actions, actions with response and pessimism with optimism. I am indebted to VIT for everything I have achieved in my life.

Dec 19, 2019. It's the end of a golden era. My college life ended and I shifted to Bangalore for my internship at Postman. The internship journey was so amazing that I can’t even explain what I had experienced. Entered the IT world as a fresher, made significant progress in self-learning new technologies and implemented them in the project. I was given a fairly challenging project as many developers were waiting for its release. It was a long due feature - Syncing browser cookies/requests into Postman Desktop App. I lived all the phases of the Software Development Life Cycle from conceptualization till delivery of the product to the end-users. Now I feel great that this feature is now available to the end-users.

It started years ago and now I am working as a Software Engineer at Postman for providing the complete API development platform. Apart from contributing towards my job, I’m highly active on GitHub.

My charitable motivation, coupled with a passion for what I am doing, inspires me for open source. I am addicted to green dots on GitHub. Others stalk on Facebook, I stalk a lot of people on GitHub. I get amazed and inspired by the work of open source contributors. Even a beginner's project inspires me a lot as his first chapter seems better than mine. During Hacktoberfest’19, I’ve mentored 100+ students to create their first-ever pull request on GitHub. Helping hundreds of people to mark their identity on GitHub was ineffable.

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Currently, I am also part of an initiative DoItTogether where I voluntarily mentor students for Open Source that would help them to be work-ready; future-skill ready.

Recently I was honored to be one among the Judge panel of InOut, one of the biggest annual Hackathons in Bangalore. I was astonished after listening to the ideas of 76 shortlisted teams. The teams hacked on different tracks including AR/VR, Blockchain, Computer Vision, IoT, etc. I must say it was a great learning curve for me too. It feels great now, just as it did earlier- going to hackathons. Though there’s a difference now. While I used to go as a participant earlier, I’m visiting as a judge or a mentor these days.

I must say my whole family including parents, grandmom, brother and my elder sister have supported me throughout the journey. My father has always been the iron pillar of my life. The list of the people who supported me is too long. I met different people at different phases of life who stood by my side. And luckily, I am in touch with all of them and I thank them regularly for their kind support.

There is still a long way to go because this field always comes with new challenges and opportunities so to excel and achieve one should always have the desire to get better every day which in itself is an achievement. For example, I work with JavaScript, which is an endless sea. Every time I browse GitHub and I find a new framework on top of JavaScript.

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Tell us more about your VIT days. How influential has it been in your life? What should an aspirational student do to get into VIT?

VIT is a place to learn and grow. I must say VIT has got a diverse kind of exposure where one can excel in any domain she/he wants to. I’ll be telling more about the technical aspect of the college as I was more bent towards exploring the technical side of the college. VIT has plenty of technical clubs/chapters such as VinnovateIT, CodeChef VIT, etc. Being a part of such clubs not only advanced my technical skills but also I got to learn management and leadership skills.

Multiple Hackathons happen each semester and every episode is fun. Hackathons bring the coding community together where one can meet like-minded people, learn new things, and create cool technology. Sticking to only the classroom and self-learning can be very limiting. Not just in coding, it's also about how you think, how you execute things.

To get into VIT, one should clear VITEEE with a decent rank. Regular self-study for a minimum of 3-5 hours a day from day one of 11th STD is more than enough. Stick to the JEE Mains syllabus and it will be super easy for students to get into VIT. NCERT books are considered a great help for VITEEE aspirants. Make short notes and keep them handy. Make a schedule and study accordingly to avoid the last-minute rush of completing the syllabus. Last year, question papers are available online. Entrance papers for other exams are even useful. Try solving as many question banks as you can. Lastly, VIT has given me family, not friends. Once a VITian, Always a VITian!

How did you develop an interest in computers and later coding?

It was my curiosity and approaching every new thing with the question of how it worked, that developed my interest in computers as I was curious about computers since my childhood. I discovered that hardware and software are two ingredients of a computer. Eventually, I got interested in the Software part and I discovered that CODE is something that makes the software work. Building my first-ever personal website was the moment of realization that I had just built something that went out on the internet.

What was going through your mind when you were rejected by 22 companies? How did you stay motivated?

Whenever I was rejected by a company, I used to think like I might deserve better and this was the driving force that made me motivated all the way. Whenever I was rejected, I was called by another friend. Forgetting the previous failures, I used to start preparing for upcoming interviews with the same enthusiasm (later with no expectation). A few of my close friends always helped me come out of the frustration by making me believe that I deserve better. Thanks to all of them - a big hug to them. Here is the link to my placement story.

How important is GitHub for a techie? Can you elaborate? How can students leave a mark in GitHub?

GitHub is a social coding platform; I highly believe that if you’re a techie, your homepage should be GitHub, not Instagram. GitHub is a home for the code-blooded; it facilitates social coding by providing a web interface to the Git Repository and management tools for collaboration. It can be thought of as a similar social networking site for software developers. It provides you a platform to share and store your projects and work with like-minded people. I started contributing from 2016. The first project that I had pushed on GitHub was a basic calculator and now when I look back, the green dots on my profile show how far I have come. Recently, I've finally accomplished a self-set milestone of a perfect century. I wish it was the one in cricket but this is no less a GitHub Repository Century! These days, I am Project Admin for GirlScript Summer of Code - a three-month-long celebration of open source.
● Creating and maintaining your profile and repository of work is also really important. You might think this is a too simple project, why should I put it on GitHub? But the truth is, someone will benefit from it, no matter how sure you are that it’s not good enough. And even you will learn from your past self in the future.
● GitHub is a repository, it allows your work to get out in front of the public. Moreover, it is one of the largest coding communities around, so using it can provide wide exposure for your project and for you. The more people you have to review your project, the more attention and use it is likely to attract.
● Never compare your first chapter with someone’s last chapter. Your first repository can even contain a code to check if a number is even or odd.
● In the future, your digital footprint will carry more weightage than your resume. GitHub is the best place where aspiring Software Engineers can build their portfolio.
● The open-source community is awesome. People will notice your work - the forks/stars on your repo will show that your work is being appreciated. Getting appreciation for the code you write will drive you to write more and more code.
● One thing I have noticed is that many repositories do not have proper documentation. Always remember, documentation is the key. Having proper README.md always makes your project look better.
● Open source matters a lot in your career. Reading other’s codebase every day will help you more.
● Take part in open-source competitions like Hacktoberfest, GirlScript Summer of Code, etc. These competitions are beginner-friendly to spread open-source among curious souls. Currently, I’m a Project Admin at GSSoC 2020.
● Lastly, maintain a streak on GitHub as you maintain on SnapChat. Get addicted to the green dots on GitHub.
Link to my GitHub Profile

What are your future career plans? How has the experience been at Postman?

The journey has just started, I don’t know where I will land up after some years but one thing I am sure about is, I am not going to change my stream, will continue working in Software Development domain. The only change I can see is I might have to change my tech stack if the need arises. Working at Postman is an enriching experience so far and made me appreciate how Postman has become one of the known developer-first companies in the world. I cannot believe how much I have grown personally, technically and professionally by working with the bunch of greatest tech brains under one roof. I have met some of the most hard-working people, some of the super talented people, and some of the kindest people here. I must say everyone here is best at what she/he does. It’s always exciting for me to work on something that might have an impact on millions of developers across the world. Every single line of code that I write goes to production. Knowing the fact that the feature I’m working on will be rolled out to 10 million end-users, it’s a moment of pride. And such moments of pride keep changing as I grow with the Postman. At Postman, everyone is expected to figure out things on their own and is responsible for e2e delivery of the product. Being through all the phases of the development life cycle from design till maintenance gives full context about the project, one is working on. With the ownership comes the responsibility - we’ve to live up to the expectations of millions of developers across the globe who use Postman to power their APIs. The world of software development is moving from a code-first approach to an API-first approach as it helps to ship higher-quality applications faster by building APIs before writing code. Postman leads the way in the transition from code-first to API-first universe. I feel blessed to be a part of an organization leading the way in API first Universe. Lastly, I could not have asked for a better set of people to work with. Right from my super cool Manager (Abhijit Kane - one of co-founders) to extremely talented colleagues, it is fun to learn, work and grow with Postman. Click here to read my Internship experience at Postman

Five habits of yours which you are proud of?

  • I compete with myself daily - it’s better to compare yourself (what you did in the past) than others. For example, I always ensure that my code quality is always improved from the last time.
  • I always seek experiences and collect memories. In the end, the experiences matter, not the result. With this spirit, I always keep an eye on tech events happening around and try my best to be part of as many events as I can. Meeting new people, learning from their experience is itself an experience. Whenever one goes to any hackathons, one gets stickers as schwags; Glad to share that I’ve collected 500+ stickers! It’s not the collection, it’s the journey.
  • FM Radio is my companion - Anyday, I prefer FM over Spotify. Radio has the human touch and makes me feel connected. I regularly listen to RJ Naved, RJ Sayema. Thanks to both of them for entertaining me even when I’m debugging the bugs which I could not even reproduce.
  • I never say “NO” if someone asks me for any help - I’m always happy to help. It is an amazing feeling to be able to help someone else. I love helping my juniors with my stories of experience and a few tips and ideas, because what use are we if we don’t help others get better!? It’s for the reasons that I often deliver speeches in seminars.
  • I always smile at security guards and catching their smiles back makes me feel so good. No matter what happens, no matter what life throws at me. No matter how tough the day is, I always greet the guards with an XXL smile. Smiling at them is my way of saying thanks to them to make the surroundings safer for me.

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