I had been working on a project called CHARCHA, for quite sometime now. The aim of this project is not to reinvent something that already exists, rather combine a few tools to make a workflow better. Before building thus product , I have to confess that I have worked for 2 other companies and NY present is the 3rd startup I am working for. In all these cases, I have failed a lot of times , even thought of quitting a lot if time. But I never quit, tough I took my time to finish things, I always finished things. I never gave up.
So great, why am I writing this article ??? A few days back one of the contributors of the project called me and asked "Should we stop working in the project". That question stuck to me hard. I was not able to answer it. I was quite and was (not) listening to him, and my mind went through a flash of incidents from my life. This article is a summary of those incidents that flashed my mind and my subsequent response to that person.
The following is going to involve a lot of boring stories of my past. Do BEWARE . . . !
Having said that, once I’ve decided to write a blog post, I never ask myself the question, ‘does anyone care about this?’ I do ask myself questions like ‘Could I improve this?’, ‘Could this be better?’, and ‘Are there useful takeaways in this?’
I was born in a lower middle-class family, who state of next day's food was a question mark. Without the help of a few relatives and friends, our life would have been at stake. My cousin brother and sister paid most part of education and life. My college education was a loan. But without these struggles,I woulnd't have been an "ENGINEER" today. I always will remember this in my life. This gives a powerful overview of what my past was, so that my future would be to change someone with the same present into my present future. Basically create a value in someone's life, not with money, but with RIGHT EDUCATION.
I had failed a lot of times in my life,never actually have seen success until my 8th std, I was not someone people would even like to know. But I had my first success in my 8th std (2005), when I was awarded the "Yuva Kala Bharathi Award", as the youngest Sanskrit teacher, who was teaching Sanskrit to more than 100 people. To me then, it didn't really sound so great, I didn't even realize what I was doing. I just loved teaching. It was my passion. My influence to teaching comes from various teachers in my school and some special classes.
My 10 std, result was a decent 80% from a CBSE board. I was quite happy in the last 3 years, people actually talked to me. People included me in their sports team. They took me all they to district level matches for football, volleyball, shuttle. Teachers used to call me on stage, and sometimes my friends used to clap for me. It was quite amusing to me.
But then life took that turn. A turn that gave me nothing but failures, until recently.
Even with a 80% score, I was rejected a higher education seat in my own school, most private schools, asked for money that we couldn't afford, and we had stand right outside the principal's room asking for a seat, just to be rejected saying you cant afford us. One of my school teachers(Late M/s Krishnambal Sanskrit teacher) told me, that she would talk to the principal and let me know. With some pressure and some support from a few teachers, I made it back to my old school. Tough I wasn't the same as before. I was given some responsibilities for managing my house (If you know what houses, in schools are.). I was not able to do it great, I was not able to be different. I was included in sports team, just to be rejected in the final moments.Friends used to talk less to me. With a mixed feeling of "Am I a nothing now ?" to "I can do something like 2005", I ended up being the former. I became a nothing at the end of my 12th std. I was soon forgotten.
I had to again cry for a college seat. We again couldn't afford a Management seat. And I had to go to karaikal.My College was no different, and neither was I trained to be different. I had to just be a mediacore person, who does nothing different but the same things, that everybody was ordered to do."I was not trained to be different, rather I was trained to be no different". I couldn't do it. I had backlogs. I failed in my most fav papers. I was not able to do assignment. I soon became the laughing stock of my class. Just more depressed. Just more failures.
Until my final year in college, thanks to a few juniors (Selva ganesh, Mohit jain and Lalith kumar), I had a chance of revival. I had an national level project contest, which I decided to participate.
"For a long time I’ve been cursed with an inflated sense of my own potential but nothing to show for it. Nobody else agrees with me that I’m capable of amazing things because they haven’t seen any proof. I don’t need any more proof than what’s in my head, but others do—and rightly so.So I need to prove. I need a proof for myself."
I decided to do it. After bunking a lot of classes, We finished this project, and we won the 3rd prize. It meant something for me.I had revived. People again recognized me. People talked to me. But very soon, it went in vain. Again disheartened. I learn this world needs success. A success which they see as success, to exist in a person for them to talk to, to value them, to even include them in their life.
Awaiting more events to success, I just ended up getting hired for a company that doesn't exist. I couldn't live there. I decided, I will go to Bangalore. I will search for a job. Roaming roads after roads, dropping my resumes in every company I see with a computer, used to happen everyday for a month. But one thing remained. FAILURE. I never even got a call, if at all I got one, that seat would be reserved with somebody with a reference. Until one fine week, I was hired my two companies, one from Chennai and one from Bangalore. For all stupid reasons in the world, I decided to join the Bangalore company.
I joined IdeaPlunge in Sept, 2013, as an intern. The first day I landed in that company,I was handed a single man project to be completed with Java Struts as the backend, and backbone.js as the front end. They were alien to me. I had to learn a lot. I could wait around until I’ve improved my skills and learned more and studied how the pros get things done. But I might never be convinced that I’m ready (sound familiar?). So I had to started working before I was ready. I couldn't handle the workload. I used to work 18*7 (yes, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.). The company told they are not satisfied with me.Everyday it was the same statement I used to hear, when I updated my status at 12 in night to my manager.
I was wanting a challenge, A challenge was given. but I still couldn't prove myself. I stated thinking, what is wrong. But then people working along with me also had the same response. We all quit the company the same day, just to be jobless again. Roaming, dropping resumes, getting rejected, became common again.
I was a member of the Free Software moment, then, but without really knowing anything about Free Software. I never really invested time in learning about it. One of my friends (Prasanna Venkatesh), offered me an internship in Chennai, but then I really didn't want to go back to my past. So , I stopped and looked back in my life. Apart from the two success,I never really had anything. I wasn't the smart programmer, I didn't really try anything different in my life, only thing that was different, was the failures I had in life.
But that thought, really didn't have an impact in my life. I just joined another company in bangalore as an intern again. I was paid a little more, but then I could hardly manage myself and nothing more. But the two months of internship created a thought in me. But this time, I took time. I learn the tools, I was going to work with. I was not very efficient, but I could get the job done, in my own time (not the deadlines set to me). That is when I started exploring more. I started learning everything I saw. My roommate (Rajesh Kumar), was a person, who created a change in my life. He streamlined my technical skills. I was at a stage when I used to ask the basic question to him to , solve some problems, that he told "Good", for me it meant something big. I was improving. I started writing code for everything I started seeing. I started thinking differently. I went from a not even a decent programmer, to a programmer, who can code any average problem with the help of internet and in my own time, and that I realized then. I started working on some project ideas.
So with all going good, life was probably not happy with me being happy. It gave the twist again. This time, the startup I worked for, shutdown. Rejection (My best friend) was back. This time, I had just worked for an year. I was not very bad, but I was a decent programmer. I really didnt want to join an MNC. I realized in one year, I had grown to a decent level. I needed this growth. But this time with no job, I was not applying to any job. I rather decided to start my own start-up. I had no experience. I had no expections either. I just needed something, that will make me belive me in myself.
"I have had a 1000 failures before, what is 1 more going to make a difference ?". This was my thought.
I had an idea, I started working on the prototype along with my roommate and ex-officemate (Harish), to get the prototype successfully completed.
"To keep creating without falling into existential disarray I’ve learned to be brave and start from a base assumption that if I care about my work at least one other person probably does too, so it’s worth finishing."
The prototype was live. We were happy. We now took the prototype out for validation. People were exited to look at a product like ours. But then the hard question came, what is our revenue model. The obvious answer that came was "Data and pattern collection and selling them". Everybody accepted it. I started reading more on that. I took the responsibility of the business side of it. I was pretty impressed with "Data as the revenue model". It works. That is when, the Free software movement came into play in my life, to create another failure. I read about surveillance and decided not to have "Data collection" as the revenue model. I just felt it was against the ethics of a common man. We cant sell a common man's data to companies all over the world. My team-mates were not happy. We got an investor call. He was also impressed with the idea, and asked the same old question. "What is the revenue model ?". I didnt have an answer. I replied "I am working on it." He was ok, but then he put a condition, at least two people should sit full time. I came back happy, and told my other two people. But then for the life's twist again, both of them told a "NO", for full time, and the investor was not happy with one person, coding and handling the business. Things dropped off again. It went from an interesting idea to a nothing. All that happiness was just to go in vain.
I was back to the job search. This time I improvised. Instead of dropping resume's in person, I dropped in emails, just to see no different response. I took me 4 months of joblessness to realize, I had become a nothing again. I kept attending interviews, I kept taking calls, I kept trying. Until at one point, I was selected for a a few companies. But this time, I decided to join a company that is inclined with my values (Free Software, Free society). I found one.I joined Fractalio Data, as an engineer. This time, I invested more time, learning than coding. I didn't code random stuff. I read more, and wrote a more clear code. I kept improving. I wrote better code. I became better. Its been 8 months working here, and I spent, 80% of my time, reading about the work I do, than code the work. The moment I am clear with job I am going to do, I do the job better. But apart from doing the job, this time I was doing a job with some values, that I believe in. For good or bad, I am paid less than most of you people out there, but then I am improving. That is enough for me. After all money is just one more entity in our life. It is not the only thing.
I became more associated with some Free Software societies, I learn a lot and read a lot. With all interactions I have with people, I look for problem that technology can solve. Sometimes solutions already exists, sometimes they are split up, sometimes they dont.
Charcha is one such experiment, which came up to solve the problem of community discussions. Distributed solutions exist, but then, there was no unified solution. So Charcha, basically took a few technologies (WebRTC, Etherpad) and gave a platform to have discussion and note taking simultaneously. It is not a different product, but is a product with a difference. There is nothing new is what people feel, but when you merge two technologies, and have to make them work is sync, is the actual challenge. And when it is a web product, the work of optimizing it for a lower bandwidth consumption is another bigger challenge.
With all these thoughts, that flashed my mind, I told, We are not stopping working on Charcha. I told, there are real world use-cases, when this tool cal be used. And I am not quitting it. Its the choice of other people, to choose to quit.
"If someone asks me whether anyone cares about what I’m working on, I can usually tell them honestly that I’d read this if someone else wrote it, or I’d use this app if someone else built it.I’m always working in-line with my values."
Well to answer the question of the article,"When to quit" ? Quit when necessary, not when you cant. When you cant, postpone it.You can eventually come back to it and solve it. I had a lot of reasons to quit, but I never did. I just keep going, tough I cant solve problem at your pace, I can always solve it at my own pace. Eventually I will solve it. But I never quit trying. I never quit, the thirst for knowledge and knowing. Life is all about learning, and keep going forward.There is no stopping. There is no quitting. You just dis-align with things that don't suit your values.
But always remember :
“We all start in the same place: no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. The difference is that some people — the winners — choose to start anyway.” James Clear
If you are interested in contributing to charcha, please do write to us. firstname.lastname@example.org
You could follow charcha here : https://github.com/charcha