Last week I tweeted on Twitter how I am moving from a Slum where I lived for 29 years to a multi-story apartment on rent. The tech community on Twitter responded with nothing but the love. Dan Wahlin posted that he would love to hear more about my story. It's not going to be easy to write about my struggle over the years, but I will try my best.
I was born in Mumbai and lived in a slum as long as I remember. It was typical slums which you see in movies, there were good people and a lot of bad people too. I was lucky not to hang out with those bad peoples for long. I was more of a lazy person, cricket was my first love. I performed very poorly in the 10th exams. I was expecting to get better grades, but they were all below my expectations. I was not sure what I am going to do next, I thought I will take admission in science but my marks were less than expected.
Getting Admission in Computer Science (Diploma)
I would say it was my luck or destiny. One of my dad's friends informed us about the Diploma courses. I applied for it and luckily I got the admission. I was asked to choose from multiple courses, I chose computer science without thinking twice. But it was not going to be easy.
Struggle due to language
English is not my native language. I studied in a school where Hindi was my first language and had accent issues as well (coming from the north, we have a different accent). I remember crying in a class because I couldn't understand a thing, and I was scared to fail again like I failed my expectations in 10th Standard.
I did really bad in our internal exams, but giving up was not an option this time. I never told my parents that I was struggling with studies. I pulled myself back, started studying hard, stopped playing cricket, isolated myself from friends. The only thing I wanted to achieve is somehow not to fail in the first year of 3-year program. In upcoming exams I did ok and got around 50% in the first year.
I was not happy, but that was the best I could do.
When I moved into the second year I was a better version of myself, I was more confident and scored more than 55% this time and in my final year I scored more than 60%.
Once I passed final exams, I was more interested to go study and get a CS degree. That was another 4-year program (3 years for me as I had studied 3-year diploma). I had my mind set on continuing my studies, but when I was in the second year, my dad lost his job. I was not aware of it for a long time.
One day my dad gave bad news to me. He asked me to start looking for a job as he could not afford to pay the fee for my CS degree which was around 42k (550 USD) per year.
I was crying the entire night and couldn't sleep. The next day my mom, who noticed me crying, spoke to my dad: 'Do whatever you want to do, but my son is going to continue his studies'.
Dad agreed and with the help of my uncle (dad's big brother) helped me financially.
Getting into CS degree
I scored enough marks to get into the CS degree program, I got admission into 2nd year and got admission into one of the colleges which just opened in the year 2004, so not a Tier-1 college, but from the Mumbai university and I was happy to get the admission. The same year we had heavy floods in Mumbai the entire admission process was postponed and within 2 months we had our exams, I was lucky to not fail any subject.
When I went into 3rd year, as I got admission into 2nd year directly, I started borrowing books from the library to study, because I had no money to buy those books. A few of my professors used to borrow it for me, so I can use it to study during exams and return it afterward.
By the time I could complete my 3rd year, my family's finances got worse, I thought of dropping out this time, but one of my friend with whom I shared this news, said: 'You don't worry about it, I will do something'. I almost cried. But during my vacations, my dad informed me, that he managed to save up the money for the final year.
I was happy and I did well in my final year. In my final exam, I scored close to 70%. I thought a bad phase is gone, I have a degree finally. But there was something which was happening, we were not aware of.
Recession of 2008
The Great recession happened, not many companies were hiring that year, and I was not aware of what I wanted to do next.
My friends said I am good into coding, so I should get into this and I realized I love doing it, and I fell in love with C#. I waited for 3-4 months before I could get a small job. I could study new things and getting something paid, my salary was 5k INR around (68 USD) per month. After 8 months I decided to quit and was jobless for a month. I got some support work for the next 4 months, it required some knowledge or SQL queries, so I took it.
Finally, in January 2010, I got the job, where I could write some code. It was a Windows application using C#. I gave my best, but the salary was still a concern.
I was getting paid 12k (163 USD) per month, and there was not enough work. I spoke to my manager about this and he told me to take this as an opportunity to learn something new.
I started reading more C# and another colleague of mine who was a DBA helped me with SQL (creating Stored Procedures, functions, writing queries). Within 10 months I got an offer with a 100% raise. A giant step! I worked on this new job for another 8 months.
Joining the Startup
I joined a startup in August 2011, and went onto work here till the next 4.8 years, I spoke to one of my friends and joined here. The pay was good, I got more than 50% raise while joining, with finally insurance provided by the company and PF too. I gave my best when I started, I used to deliver things really fast because I wanted more work. Within a few months, I made a good repo within the team and everyone including my CEO appreciated my work.
It's never a smooth ride
I thought now, everything will be fine, I have a more settled job, good salary, but you never know what can go wrong.
My wife was expecting and suddenly around 6th month, she had some complications. The doctor told us to do an urgent surgery and said we are not sure if we can save the baby. He asked us if we can shift the baby to one of the hospitals which is known to handle the cases like these. There are chances she can survive, but it will cost us more than 6L INR (8000 USD) which was more than my entire year's salary.
I said 'Yes, I will do anything to save her'.
I hardly had any saving as I was supporting my family too and taking care of all day to day expenses.
The entire hospital bill including my wife's surgery was 8L (11K USD) and insurance covered only 5%. I took some personal loan from the bank and my friends helped me with some money. Also I spoke to my manager if I can get some extra raise this year, which was around 40% more than I was getting. To my surprise my manager and my CEO agreed and I got the raise.
I used to go to the hospital daily to see my daughter, then go to work it was my schedule for 3 months. She was born with a weight of 845 g and around 1.5 kg once she was home. I continued working hard and paid all my friends, but the personal loan was where I was paying most of my salary. My wife sold her all golds so we can close it and repay some of my friends.
I bought her a ring and some gold last month, I don't have to tell how happy she was.
In search of a better life
I had started focusing more on my career, so I can make more money and pay off my loans, but I missed spending time with my daughter and wife. My parents were not supporting her and they used to think I waste a lot of money, but in reality, I was paying my loan and was trying to support the family.
I left my parents house to start my own family, with no saving one of my friend rented me house, where I lived for a year and we had no bed to sleep. We built our home from nothing. I lived there for a year, and bought some mattress to sleep and purchased a laptop to practice programming (Yes I had no laptop of my own till 2015).
What kept me strong
Between 2012-2015 there were many instances, where I really wanted to give up, But I really wanted to fight for my daughter and wife and give them a better life, and I wanted to my best at my job.
If you are reading this, please spend time with family, you don't get paid to work more than 8 hours, anything above that is the free work for your employer.
After 2015 I was asked to work more than 8 hours only once and my obvious answer was no, because this is how it start. Work for yourself rather, learn something new, practice and build something, it will help you in future.
Moving to Pune
Around 2016 I left the startup, due to the toxic manager I had. I still remember the last day, he intentionally was trying to avoid me as I needed a sign on some paper on my last day. Finally, after waiting for almost the entire day, I handed the papers to HR saying, if he is interested let him sign it I am leaving. I am sure I will never work with this guy in my entire life. When I left, all my co-workers clapped for me, it was a very emotional moment for me.
I moved to Pune, to work with one of the MNC, I started giving more time to my family, no more than 8 hrs work, no more weekends. During this time, I realized I wanted to write blogs, so even wrote few blogs on .Net and AngularJS and Angular.
I started taking training for Angular and made some money. I purchased a bed, took admission into a good school for my daughter and also paid off some loans. 2017 was a good year for me and my family.
The extra income was really helping us. I remember the old mattress was really in bad condition and it started impacting our health, and my wife had a very bad backache due to it, the extra money helped me invest in a good high-quality mattress.
Another Bad Phase
2018 started with some bad things, I invested 4 months recording a course for one person and he didn't pay me, I had some conflict with the organization I used to conduct training with, so I left them.
I was earning but my learning was stopped and I was not doing anything for the community. I was earning because of OSS. and worse than that, my daughter was diagnosed with TB. I was disappointed and demotivated again, I had joined the Deutsche bank at the end of 2017. So work was good, not much pressure and pay was also good.
I did nothing in 2018 for community but performed well in my project, where I was working full-time on Angular.
2019 A Resurrection and Journey to GDE
After below par 2018, I had something different in my mind for 2019, I really wanted to contribute to the community, but was not aware how to do it, I decided to attend one Angular conference (My first conference ever) I met Vikram from Angular Team and asked for some tips.
After coming home from conference, I wanted to start contributing, and Angular was the framework I was in love with. But couldn't find any issues which I can do, so I decided to go to NgRx. I found one issue and raised my first PR on 28th Feb, and started contributing more. Around mid-March I found an Issue in Angular repo I could take and started working on it and finally raised my first PR .
In March I came to know about there is something Called GDE Program for Angular, I decided to go ahead and check what it is, and learned you get invited based on your contribution (Yes, I was not aware of GDE program), I figured out this something not for me, I am too far away from GDE and anyways that was not my motivation to start contributing.
Writing for inDepth.dev
I had stopped writing for a long time. I remember while working on one PR for NgRx where the NgRx team motivated me to write an article and even helped me with the review. It was published and I was excited as I loved inDepth.dev for the quality contents, and never thought one day I will write on this platform.
My first open source project
Around June 2019 I started to work on a personal project. I came to know about Angular Builders, and Minko gave a nice example on how to deploy your app on GitHub pages, inspired by it. I decided to create one for Netlify for myself and decided to publish it on NPM.
It became popular and now is used by more than 200+ projects on GitHub. And it also became part of Angular Docs.
Part of First Angular Conference in Sri-Lanka
Sajeetharan the organizer of NgSrilanka posted on Twitter they are looking for speakers for the conference and I decided to send him a mail. Within one week I was confirmed as a speaker.
Invited for GDE Program
In the month of August, I got a message on LinkedIn from Siddhant Agarwal from Google, if I would be interested to apply for GDE. In September 2019 my application was accepted and my interview was scheduled.
And on November 13th, which is my birthday too, I was announced as GDE.
A few months ago, I thought I can never become one, but sometimes, when you work hard enough, you don't need to ask for anything.
Bad Phase with Deutsche Bank
Around October 2019 I had the opportunity to speak at 2 conferences. For one of the conferences, I had to travel to Poland, which required NOC (No Objection Certificate) from my employer. I thought becoming a GDE would be beneficial for Deutsche Bank as well, but I was wrong. What was about to happen, I never thought in my wildest dream.
My request for NOC (No Objection Certificate) was denied saying, we don't allow anyone apart from VP (Vice President), MD (Managing Director) to represent the bank at the conference. I tried to explain them, this is for OSS and I am not representing the bank, but they didn't bother to reply and I couldn't get my Visa to travel to Poland.
I resigned one week after that incident, but I raised my voice too, that this is against the Equal opportunity and as a tech company we should support OSS. But I never thought I will be punished for speaking up. Even though I had resigned, I was forced to leave the bank premises until I complete my notice period. They almost tried to destroy my career, by not cooperating with my new employer whenever I needed some documents.
I was surprised to get a call from some Managing Director that I should not speak about this incident after leaving. Even after completing my notice period, they made me suffer, I wrote about that experience here.
I cried when they asked me to leave the premises as I could see everything falling apart and was scared for my family.
Support from my New Employer
My new employer supported me in this situation, my HR always said to me, don't worry we are here with you, whatever happens, you will be joining us. The period between Oct 2019 to Feb 2020 was worst.
I was scared every day, what Deutsche Bank will do next to destroy my career, I even tried to get help from the CEO and CIO of technology but they didn't bother to look into it. But finally, after a struggle, I received my documents and salary, but I can never forget the humiliation for standing for Open Source and what is right.
While writing this blog post, I will accept that I am still scared to speak about the incident with Deutsche Bank, but this story needs to come out. Hope they take this as feedback and try to fix it, rather than coming after me again.
The life after Feb 2020 is good so far, I am able to speak at conferences without worrying about my employer as they don't have any issues with it, I started contributing to OSS again, and started a Talk Show called "Tech Talks with Santosh"
Like all developers out there, I do have some dream, below are few things I want to achieve:
- Contribute more towards Open Source.
- Inspire more developers to contribute towards Open Source.
- Work hard on my Show "Tech Talks with Santosh" to share the knowledge with the community.
- And finally work towards my dream Job which is working as a Developer Advocate, because that's what I love to do, helping developers succeed.
I don't want to conclude anything so far, I believe everyone has a story worth telling, this is my story so far, few important question which I ask myself:
Is my struggle over?
I don't know.
will everything will be alright?
I don't know.
Am I going to stop fighting?
To quit is not an option.