Hello! What's your background and what do you do?
Hello world! I’m Shubhodeep, a self-taught (but inspired by many) developer, still learning and navigating through my journey as a Tech Lead at Paytm Insider.
My journey with software development started at a very early age. At the age of 15, I remember watching “The Social Network” movie, and it somehow made me excited about programming. Movies have always been a source of inspiration for me. At that time I didn’t know much of programming, only the bits that were being taught in my school, which was beginners Java. But I was determined to learn, even though the lack of proper internet access was a big pain point. I remember borrowing an O’Reilly book on PHP from the school’s library, and going through page by page, and trying to understand each and every line and syntax. I was lucky enough to have Linux (Ubuntu) as my primary OS, which helped a lot in basic setup and normal blockers I would face while learning to code. With time I learned web development with a keen interest in workings of programming languages.
After that, it made sense for me to get a CS degree, so I did my B.Sc in Computer Science from Vellore Institute of Technology in Vellore, India. I am very glad to have joined this particular college, because it gave me the exposure and competition I needed. I met such great programmers and people during my college time. It gave me a great kickstart in my career and a boost to my learning.
How was your transition from software development to management like?
Almost a year back, I had expressed my desire to lead a team at some point to my manager. I had no expectation that I would be given the opportunity so soon. My manager became my mentor, and helped me through the ways to work at a high pace and taught me how important my work was. I had been an individual contributor for almost 2 years and was always more comfortable to work alone. But I would credit my manager and my team that helped me get out of my comfort zone, and push my limits.
I feel, we all are managers, if you are an individual contributor, then you are managing yourself, and it is a big task in itself. To learn how to manage your time, and able to fit your work and your extra-curricular. Before I was a Tech Lead, I was managing myself. This realisation made the transition a lot smoother.
What does your day-to-day work look like, and what motivates you to do it every day?
There has been a drastic change in my routine since I took up the role of Tech Lead. Earlier as an IC, it was quite simple. I was free to choose my time of work. But being a TL means taking your team into account to manage your time.
I start my work roughly around 9:30 AM. Before that I spend time learning for myself, usually by watching talks and listening to podcasts. At 9:30 AM, I sit down to clear any spillovers from the last day, which usually are any pending doubts from my team and any code dependencies that I had on me to complete. We have our daily standups at 11:00 AM, which is very helpful for me to take into account if my team is blocked on something and if I can help them. I try to squeeze in my breakfast along with the standup call. After the standup calls, I schedule meetings with my team to discuss their issues and blockers in their tasks. Between these meetings, I work on code (re-)architecture,code reviews, and ad-hoc tasks which are dependencies/blockers for my team . Usually my day gets stretched until 7PM with meetings and dependencies, after which I take a break for around 2 hours before coming back to work. I take this time to focus on pure coding work. I code for roughly 3-4 hours, complete my tasks and find new issues that can be worked on.
I use Notion religiously. I manage my day, my tasks and everything there is on Notion. I find it the most perfect tool for my needs. It helps me document work, work on ideas and keep track of my todo list.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far? What did you do to overcome them?
The biggest challenge I have faced so far is to delegate tasks to my team members. I have always had an attitude to pick all the tasks for myself. This attitude made it really hard for me to not pick a task for once and instead, hand it over to my team. But with time I realised how important it is to distribute work within the team, and it helps everyone to grow as a team.
Another challenge I faced as a Tech Lead was to say “I don’t know the answer”. It is expected of a Technical Lead to have answers to all the technical doubts that a team could have. But the truth is, it is not possible for a single person to have all the answers. I learned this with time. I learned how to say “I don’t know the answer to your question”. The more important thing is to figure out how to find the solutions to those questions. It could be that someone in the team is already proficient enough to answer that. In general though, it’s important to encourage a culture of research. As a lead, one should encourage people to learn and give them chances to make errors (so they can then learn from those errors).
What has been the biggest surprise so far? Something you didn't expect?
I was surprised to see how well my team accepted me. There is no lead without a team, and a lead is as good as its team. I am surprised everyday with how different people work with each other so well, and help each other to achieve their goals. Everytime we complete a task as a team, I am in awe of how well it went, or if we ever screw up, how easy it is to get back up as a team.
What's the best advice you've received about being a manager?
I have had many mentors in my career, and I have tried my best to learn from them.
One of my mentors told me once, Being a Tech Lead means giving 130%, though it didn’t make sense then, but as time passed as a lead, I found it to be true. That 130% includes management and being a programmer.
What do you tell developers who are considering making the switch or new to the role?
Before making the switch, consider it very carefully. Being an individual contributor is no less than being a manager. But it is also necessary to experience and take up new opportunities, and examine yourself and your potential.
There is clearly no harm if you later want to get back to being an individual contributor. One should always know what they are best at.
Final call to action! Where can we go to learn more about you?
You can find me at http://shubhodeep.xyz. I am very active on my twitter (https://twitter.com/shubhothegreat) and my linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/shubhodeep9/). Always ready for a quick chat on interesting topics, so feel free to reach me. Don’t forget to visit Paytm Insider and checkout cool digital events on our platform.