Over the years, Intuit has developed a reputation of being a “lean corporate”. Here, engineers are not just engineers. It is a part of the company’s practice to expose these engineers to all aspects of building a product. In a previous interview with Deepa Bachu, the director of emerging market innovation at Intuit, we asked how they go about recruiting these people. She said, “We only have 800 people working for us in India. Recruiting a few good engineers isn’t that difficult. One Intuit engineer is easily worth about 10 average engineers.”
To put that theory to test, I began digging my contacts for an engineer from the company. I know today’s Techie Tuesday from my association with the Bangalore Android User Group. This mobility enthusiast’s day job is nothing to do with mobility and yet, he is known in the community for being an expert app developer. He also head’s BAUG’s initiative of teaching Android app development to college students. And in his free time, he builds Android apps which are wildly popular on the Android app store.
Meet Pranay Airan, software engineer at Intuit by day and Android app developer every other time.
Pranay started coding at school. He had access to a computer as well as the internet at home during his school days. He says, “I started off with VB for making a computer application that would create a jingle. Slowly I moved on to web design and HTML. Luckily I had an internet connection back then and Google has just started out. While I learnt a lot, a lot of the programming that I did was just for fun.”
Pranay shared that he didn’t come from a computer science background. He says, “I always wanted to do higher studies related to computers, but I didn’t have a good enough rank to get a CS course in the college that I wanted. So I decided to take up another course in a good college. I learnt coding more seriously after joining NIIT and learnt Java and other higher level programming languages. I made sure that I did my masters in computer science though. That is when I got introduced to mobility and got associated with the BAUG.”
Not having a computer science background proved disadvantageous for Pranay. He says, “So many people in my M.Tech course were very well versed in basic computer science concepts. Even though you can code and build things, knowing your fundamentals is very important. I’m still learning in that respect.”
The holistic coder
In the app developer community, Pranay’s reputation of being more than just a coder is well known. When asked about the nurturing behind this mindset, he says, “I think it comes from my company. The focus here is to look at developing a solution holistically. We speak very extensively with our customers and we learn their needs. I guess that’s what translates in my other programming activities as well.”
As a part of his college project, Pranay created a functional clone of Amazon.com, which he ranks as one of the coolest projects he’s worked on. He further shares, “Apart from this, I worked on an app called Pitara. I worked with Amrit Sanjeev, who’s also a part of BAUG (also Intuit now). It was an app which had no visual graphics in it and we aimed to give it a great user experience using only typography. Working with Amrit on such a project was a lot of fun. I learnt a lot from it as well.”
Giving back by teaching
As a part of the BAUG teach program, Pranay and other members from the community go to colleges around Bangalore, teaching the basics of Android app development. He says, “When I started out learning on my own, I implemented it in code. Getting students to do the same is a great feeling. Going back to college to teach programming itself is great, but it gives me great satisfaction to be giving students a jump start to their learning.”
However, Pranay feels that the current academic system gets in the way of students learning. He says, “At college, marks are the most important thing. And if that means that you don’t need to see or use eclipse (an IDE) and make do with Turbo C, then so be it. We’ve taught over 1000 students, and what we’ve seen is that people are not even aware of eclipse and Java, because they don’t need it at college. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is the general state of affairs.”
On a parting note, I asked Pranay how much he’d rate himself on a scale of 10. He says, “If it’s about building stuff, then I’d rate my self an 8, but I believe that on a larger scale, you need to write clean and efficient code. I’m not there yet. So, I’d rate myself say, a 6. Someone who’s both these things would make a killer programmer.”
Something tells me Pranay will be that very soon.
Connect with Pranay on LinkedIn.