Twenty-two years ago to this day, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared May 11 as National Technology Day to celebrate the successful test of the Pokhran-II which cemented India as a new nuclear power. Today, the national day of observance has acquired a new significance as the nation treads through the technological advancements of the 21st century.
As BYJUites, we all know that BYJU’S is the world’s most valuable ed-tech venture. Undoubtedly, we as a company are practically synonymous with online education in India. But while the ‘ed’ in ed-tech grabs all the attention, the ‘tech’ bit often doesn’t get its share of the limelight, perhaps a testament to how seamlessly the tech team keeps everything running in the first place.
So on this National Technology Day, Team Storyweavers took a look under the hood to give you a sneak-peek of the technological engine that drives BYJU’S forward. We spoke to the BYJUites that make it all possible, each one contributing in their own unique way. Here’s a first-hand look at our Tech Team – their passions and motivations, their success stories and pet peeves, what they find unique about BYJU’s and what keeps the ones that keep the whole company ticking, ticking!
“I have got a chance to explore things I have not worked on before, new technologies and playing with the unknown,” says Sr Software Engineer Jyothika Sahajanandan, who is the force behind the AI chatbot on Google Home devices. If you say “OK Google,” followed by “Talk to BYJU’S”, everything that happens from that point on is thanks to Jyothika’s efforts. “There were times when we had to push really hard but all thanks go to my manager,” notes Jyothika. “He has been a true motivator. He’s indeed the captain and anchor of our ship!”
This sense of camaraderie is echoed by practically everyone we spoke to. For Rohit Singh, the Quality Assurance Lead at BYJU’S, this team spirit is crucial to the work he does, which involves making sure that every BYJU’S app on iOS is glistening and humming with that futuristic perfection we have come to expect from our Apple devices. “As a team, we always stand together. It’s very challenging for us. We don’t know at what time some new problem will pop up and the deadlines are always very short,” Rohit admits.
“So we go the extra mile and without getting support from our colleagues, it would be impossible,” he adds. So what do Rohit and his team do to blow off steam after dealing with such an intense, hands-on work environment? They take a few days off when the waters are relatively calm and this includes team outings and dinners, something he really misses during the nation-wide COVID lockdown.
For Backend Architect Smit Patel, his team is the reason why he never gets stuck in a rut while addressing an issue. “My team members come from diverse backgrounds. Be it gaming, education technology or e-commerce – because of this the team always has a unique perspective while dealing with a problem. We never get stuck in a bubble,” says Smit, who has been described on more than one occasion as the “one-man backend army” at BYJU’S. Smit is responsible for powering the backend infrastructure of BYJU’S The Learning App as well as architecting a host of other BYJU’S apps.
While Rohit definitely misses his team outings, another thing he sorely misses during the lockdown is the chance to get on his bike and hit the road. His dream is to ride across the length of India and even venture into our neighbouring countries all by road, something he hopes to do once the current situation improves.
Meanwhile, as we all brace for impact and do our best to stay safe during the lockdown, our BYJUites are definitely aware of the implications this has for the technology sector in the country. Android Engineer Brijesh Masrani sees a huge impact, particularly in the Ed-Tech space. “COVID will bring a huge shift in the education sector. A lot of people will realize now that the phone is no longer a gaming device or an entertainment device, but also a tool to handle everyday utilities. The power of the smartphone and the internet will be evident. With BYJU’S and similar apps, the control now lies in the hands of the students,” Brijesh notes.
Principal Software Engineer Jain Basil Aliyas notes that while Ed-Tech as a sector will definitely come under the spotlight in a post-COVID world, he is also interested in seeing how the world adapts its technology to the contact tracing program that is unfurling full-swing around the world. Jain is particularly concerned about finding the balance between effective contact tracing and maintaining the end-users’ privacy, a key concern as technology explores uncharted territories. “I believe privacy is a basic right. If I were to give access to my data, I would expect the government to anonymise that and just give out the minimum required data,” says Basil. “Moreover, as a user, I believe I should have the right to know where my data is going and what exactly it is being used for,” he adds.
Drawing parallels to his own team’s work on the Disney BYJU’S Early Learn product for classes 1-3, he further stresses the importance of privacy in a tech-driven world. “When I was building the Disney Early Learn App, one of the most important things I had to deal with was COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Tool). Since we’re working with children, privacy becomes even more important and we had to take the utmost care in handling the data,” he elaborates.
For us BYJUites, knowing that our work directly impacts the education of a child is a very rewarding experience. This is more so for our fellow colleagues in the Tech Team for whom the impact is directly recognizable as it is their hard work that ultimately results in the finished product which connects us to our students.
“The unique thing about tech in BYJU’S is the fast pace and the massive scale at which we work. We also get a lot of visibility because of our large userbase,” says Android Architect Brijesh Patel, who not only keeps BYJU’S The Learning App firmly on track, but also recently headed the launch of BYJU’S Live Classes on the Android platform. “When you see your work being used by millions of students it’s very rewarding,” Brijesh shares.
Software Engineer Kalyani Kongari shares a similar sentiment. “In our line of work, we directly get feedback from millions of students every day. In this process, we can improve not just the students’ experience but our own skills too,” says Kalyani, who is the force behind the front-end development of the Discovery School Super League, a campaign that impacted tens of thousands of schools across India by promoting critical thinking and aptitude-based competition in partnership with The Discovery Channel.
While this immediate impact on students’ learning process is something cherished by all, there are also those in the team that are driven by a more personal calling to one-up their own performance. For Senior Software Engineer Subin Walter, it’s about tackling the next big challenge and successfully overcoming it.
“The most satisfying part of my work is the joy of solving something. This is something I’ve been drawn to from my childhood and I’m reliving that in my work here. Every time we face a challenge and solve it, we learn something new,” says Subin, who once wrote a script with his friends to filter out the noise and notify them every time movie tickets went online for something they were looking forward to watching! So coding is not just something to solve problems at work for Subin, but also a nifty life-hack in his personal life too!
For Software Engineer Nihal Gurjar, it’s all about innovation! “BYJU’S does great work in terms of innovation. Right from interactive questions to the kind of games we have on our app, they’re all unique,” says Nihal, who rose to the challenge of building the landing page for BYJU’S Live Classes practically overnight in order to facilitate students’ smooth learning during the lockdown. “Our team is also highly driven to building high-quality products at scale. This makes work very rewarding,” Nihal adds.
Our fellow BYJUites in the Tech Team also have a spate of hidden talents up their sleeves. Jain Basil is also a pianist. He played regularly for his church choir and was also part of the corporate band at his previous workplace. While he’s not handling the backend infrastructure and Content Management Software (CMS) systems at BYJU’S, he likes to practise on his stage piano at home.
Nihal loves to dance and if given the chance to do anything he wants, he says he’d be travelling the world and busting out contemporary breakdance moves! For some others, technology has always been their first and final calling. And the Tech Team at BYJU’S makes them feel perfectly at home.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else if it were not related to computers! It was something that I always looked forward to. My motivation to go to school and college was the chance to go to the lab and work with computers,” says Brijesh Masrani, who practically lives and breathes Android! When he’s not at conferences educating the global community about building on Android, he’s busy architecting Byju’s The Learning App and Tutor+ platforms. “I come from a business family and that was something that never excited me! Business never attracted me. It was technology that always did the trick for me!”
From Team Storyweavers to all the BYJUites and especially our dear colleagues who took the time to share their views with us, we wish you a very happy and productive National Technology Day.
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