[Techie Tuesdays] Vivek Durai - ex-lawyer, now full stack coder

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There are not many full stack coders that I know of. Within that small set, there exists a subset of ex-lawyer turned full stack coder. That subset, as of today, consists of one person - Vivek Durai. Vivek's is a typical case of "do what you love, for you will be good at it". But it isn't love if it doesn't make you persist. And Vivek persisted.

Through his time as a law student, to the time he spent helping large conglomerates file patents in US, and even to the point of starting up his own law firm, one thIng remained constant - his love of technology. Today, Vivek runs a technology startup that is incubated in the IIT Madras Research Park.

While technology is an enabler to address the pain point that he identified during his career as a lawyer, he has now come to the point that he learns and implements frameworks in a matter of weeks. How, you ask? Read on -

The early days 

As most Techie Tuesdays, Vivek too had exposure to computers from a very early age. He says, "Back in the 80s, there used to be a small console with an attached keyboard, which you have to connect to a TV. You could play games on it and also write programs on BASIC. We didn't have a computer at home, so I used to make the most of my time with them wherever I could get my hands on a machine - dad's office, my friends' place. I didn't do anything great, but I knew that this is what I loved."

The story would have been perfect if Vivek went ahead to do his course on computer science. Only, he didn't. He chose to take up law instead.

Peer pressure

So here was a guy, passionate about computers and know he wants to work on computers, but he ends up taking law. Why? Well, Vivek says, "I accidentally wrote the law entrance exam to get into this new and upcoming college that everyone wanted to get into. Also, I didn't like maths very much. So I went ahead with law, only to regret it for the next 15 years or so!" Vivek is quite open about admitting that he didn't enjoy law very much. His found solace in reading up computer magazines at his college library. He says, "I used to pick up Kerningham and Ritchie to try and learn coding in C. However, doing this was difficult with studies on the other hand. But I always found ways to stay close to computers. For example, I became the convener of the computer and internet club at my college and learnt web design to build websites. I even interned with a software firm."

However, all this could not exist once his career as a lawyer started and he embarked on a journey that would last about 10 years. However, he doesn't think too badly about it. He says, "I worked with companies like Sasken helping them file for patents in the US, on 3G technologies. I was still somehow connected with tech. However, when you spend too much time in tech, it is not good for your legal career."

He shared that there are two main lines in law - 1) Litigation - which he finds to be dry (and the people who find it exciting to be dry as well) and 2) Corporate Law - a lot of reading and negotiation (and a lot of money).

Of course, he wasn't worried about this. All through this time, he was looking at various paint points that he startup can address. And he had found one -

Contracts 

"Contracts are everything in a business. But the way they are made, even today, is ancient. Lawyers spend on humongous buildings worth paper in the process of constructing contracts. They'd rather print 400 pages worth contracts and make corrections on it, rather than adopt other forms of technologies. It is definitely a space that was crying out for innovation."

In this time, Vivek had quit his day job and started up a law firm of his own. But with the new freedom, he began experimenting with technology. He says, "I still remember, I had raised an invoice for our first client and instead of using that to grow my business, I was using that to experiment with new technologies. I used to lead this double life, where I'd do a few months of law and a few months of technology."

He wanted to run a software product business along with his law firm, which wasn't allowed for someone who practicing law. He had to take a call and this time. He quit the law firm he helped co-found and began working on a technology product that would make contract building less expensive and more collaborative. (click here to know more)

This period would see Vivek become a full stack engineer. He says, "About a year ago, I was looking for someone who could help me as a technology partner, but a good time spent on trial and error, I am more confident about coding. I've learnt many new languages and I'm able to pick up frameworks like Angular JS and implement them in my product in a few weeks."

The company that he's founded now has 3 full time, hard core programmers, and Vivek is one of them.

Be hands on 

As an entrepreneur, Vivek doesn't believe that he can be a great coder. He says, "As an entrepreneur, you should inherently aim to be a jack of all your trades. But I don't think being an expert full stack coder is something that I can do. You can't put in 10000 hours of practice in one thing if you're doing 5000 hours of something else, right? However, as an entrepreneur, I can definitely lead a good tech team as I have an overall idea of how things work."

His advice for budding technologists is simple - "Do it like you do anything else. Be hands on, especially if you want to be a tech entrepreneur. Remember that you can never lead a tech team if you're not willing to be hands-on with your product.

Catch up with Vivek on Twitter

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