[Techie Tuesday] From building interfaces for mammograms to automating customer workflows, how Intuit’s Namita Devadas found her calling in coding
For Namita Devadas, transforming her passion for computers and technology into a professional career was a no brainer. Having studied computer science from her early school days, Namita especially loved the problem-solving aspects of coding and programming.
“My group of friends and I loved being in the computer lab. It was fun to play with code instead of just sitting in a classroom,” says Namita. Today, as a Senior Software Engineer at Intuit, Namita is living her dream as she gets to experiment with code and different systems every day.
“In my view, coding is a way to experiment with problem-solving. In terms of the code I write today, I focus on it being clean. There are multiple ways to solve a problem, but the goal is to find a simple and clean way to do it. It is important to think long-term when you are designing and implementing any system, as everything you create can have a cascading effect on customers,” says Namita.
Even today, after over five years in the industry, Namita’s core focus is on learning and understanding how different systems work.
Originally from Kerala but raised in Mumbai, Namita’s father is a naval architect and mother, a homemaker. Her early love for coding led her to pursue computer science engineering from the Amrita School of Engineering in Coimbatore in 2012.
From quizzes to healthcare
While still in college, Namita took up quite a few projects. “One of the earliest projects I remember taking on was trying to create an online quiz application. I also dabbled in research projects, where we were trying to achieve search result diversification while building a semantic search tool, based on queries and the user results,” recalls Namita.
Namita aspired to explore more about the real-world applications of what she had learnt in college, and understand how it can be used to solve problems. To achieve this, she embarked on an internship at a healthcare firm - Cerner, for her final year project. Here, she worked on building an interface to get radiology data to detect anomalies in mammograms.
“It helped detect breast cancer,” says Namita. It was in the middle of the internship that she got an interview for Intuit. She recollects not being prepared for the interview.
“I was interning at Cerner in Bengaluru one day, and the next day I had to go to college for a few reviews, and the day after that, I had to attend the interview at Intuit. I was juggling so many things, so I felt unprepared but, three days later, I got the offer!” she recalls.
Namita has been with Intuit for five years now, as part of multiple teams, starting off as part of the reports team of the Quickbooks Online product, a financial accounting solution for small businesses and the self-employed.
Intuit and Quickbooks
“We were focused on building all kinds of business-related reports for small business owners, for example, looking at the business’ profit and loss in a specific period, balance sheet, how many bills they pay, retrieving sales rep margins reports in a customised manner etc.,” says Namita.
She adds, “One of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on was building a reports configuration framework.”
Explaining in detail, she says that, earlier, if the team had to introduce any kind of new reports into the system, it would go through a monolithic system that took development and release time.
“We built a configuration system that helps create reports on the fly, and even customise it. When GST was introduced, this framework was used to build at least 40 to 50 reports in a span of five to six months. Otherwise, any developer working on one report with the complexities of a GST system would take at least a month,” explains Namita.
What this also does is help in creating reports according to regulatory requirements of each geography and region.
From there, Namita moved to the Quickbooks Online Advanced Team. This focused on mid-market business owners’ software needs - comprising more features and higher performance.
The open-source journey
It was while working on one of these projects that Namita’s open-source journey began, which was a new learning experience.
“The open-source community is all about learning and collaborating. It is also a great place to network with novice developers and subject matter experts to solve problems. Also, when your code is public, it’s a way to learn and contribute back to the tech community,” says Namita.
The team was looking to solve a problem, which enabled database restoration in a self-reliant manner on cloud-native environments. The idea was, if something goes wrong, the engineers would be notified, but otherwise, it should work in a self-sufficient manner.
“A teammate and I worked on a tool that automated the restoration of a database from its snapshots. When we initially found the problem that we wanted to solve, we had to google to look up potential solutions. That’s when we realised that this was an unsolved problem and there were others who may be looking for a solution too - so we designed Trapheus, and open-sourced it,” says Namita.
She points out that open-source is a platform to build and understand different use cases, which opens up plenty of opportunities. Namita says that Trapheus has also been a part of the Grace Hopper Celebration, a conference that not only aims to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront, but also several other open-source projects.
“The best part is that I have worked on different projects with teams that have encouraged learning and development. You are allowed to dabble in anything at Intuit, it doesn’t matter if it is frontend or backend or cloud related,” adds Namita.
She adds that working at Intuit has taught her that coding is just the beginning and the initial part of a job. “In college, one has a micro view of projects as they are largely small projects. But at work, the real impact hits you, and it is then you realise everything is more detail oriented, and the result of every decision is massive. I also think that the people you work with matters; they shape the person and the engineer you become,” adds Namita.
Namita is now working on automation of multiple customer workflows that increases business efficiency, easing the lives of business owners and customers by automating functions like approvals, reminders etc.
Today, while hiring engineers, the one thing that she looks for is - how a candidate approaches a particular problem. “It isn’t about finding the exact solution, but more about how they look at a problem, communicate, and the way they reach a solution,” concludes Namita.
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Edited by Anju Narayanan