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Day in the life of a TVS Next Developer: Atul

I’ve always wanted to build software. From a young age I was interested in technology and that led me to study computer science engineering. With offers in hand as a fresh grad, I started my professional career with an edtech startup. 
This was 8 years ago when I was mostly doing UI Development, but I wanted to be a full stack developer. I learned Node.js and programmed in my free time to get better at backend as well. I started at TVS Next 3 years ago, as a Node.js developer. Since then I’ve worked across frontend and backend web and mobile technologies, be it Angular, React, MySQL, Node.js, Mongo, AWS, Machine Learning, Data Science and what not. 

How did your interest in AI/ML begin?
A while ago I was between projects, and for 2 weeks I spent time brushing up my Angular skills. There happened to be an immediate requirement to head an Angular team. They asked me, and I said yes. I got the chance to build a POC in Angular.js. The client liked my solution and the project came to us. 
Similar requests for POCs started coming in. There was one from the security domain that needed a Machine Learning model which can detect weapons from a captured image. It was such an interesting piece to work on, that I started learning ML full-fledged. I created chatbots and AI-assistants that can respond to queries, in my free time and as POCs for clients since then. I usually start with some research to see what tech fits best, whether an open source stack works etc. I prefer RASA for chatbots. It’s one of my favourite open sourced technologies that has the flexibility to create any artificial assistant like Siri or Alexa.  

What do you do with all your learning?
Everything I’ve learnt is on github. And I have my own YouTube channel as well. I like to make short videos of a concept whenever I learn something new. I find that it’s one of the best ways to gain confidence in using a new language or framework. Plus, sharing it on YouTube generates a lot of questions that make me rethink and improve my code. Similarly, I’ve done my share of sessions on UI and ML within TVS Next.

What does your typical day look like?
We follow an agile process. A usual day has:

  • Daily stand ups with the team
  • Discussions on the plan for the day
  • Core programming hours

The best part of being agile is that you get to decide the time and effort for your tasks. And there are the grooming sessions — dedicated time to talk through the story points, challenges and other plans for the sprint itself. We do monthly retros and once a quarter, we keep a week sprint-free to pick up stuff from the parking lot or give attention to things that got deprioritized over the sprints. 

What’s your favorite part of your role?
Completing a particularly tricky piece of code, and picking up new tech. 

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
It’s usually the dependencies, whether it’s within the team or with the client. Even though these are not the core part of my work as a developer, they’re the most critical ones to reach out for alternatives.

What do you think makes a successful developer?
I think one of the most underrated qualities as a coder is patience. A lot of times people quit too soon because they’re not learning fast enough. That’s not the right attitude. You need to be patient with yourself and you need to be ready, for there are always new things coming.

What technology excites you the most?
Machine Learning (ML) is a major interest area for me right now. I want to create an artificial assistant that’s as close to having a conversation with a human. I want to make it the best it can be.

How I became an SAP and IT Infrastructure consultant

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I never dreamed of becoming an SAP consultant. But here I am, heading a team, in less than 6 years since I first started in this role as a trainee at TVS Next.

My background was in Mechanical engineering. I had an interest in the manufacturing sector and that’s where I wanted to build my career. I was part of a manufacturing unit, taking care of production planning. But when the opportunity came along to join the SAP team as a domain expert for a global manufacturing client, I decided to try it out.

Mechanical Engineer turned SAP Consultant

My role as a lead consultant is to ensure that the domain-specific business requirements don’t get lost in translation when they come to development. One of the most critical things before developing an SAP module is to fit it to context for the relevant manufacturing process. Each step of the process in the real world, the interactions between various cross-functional teams or other internal processes, the effort involved, the machine hours, manpower, outcomes, etc. – everything needs to be mapped on to SAP before we can begin development. Once the mapping is done, comes development where I take on a more hands-off role with the frontend and backend teams – still heavily involved in the testing and ratifying the modules being developed.

As I started doing this more, I realized I have a knack for SAP and my efforts didn’t go unnoticed either. I soon became the single point of contact for my clients across India and the UK, heading the SAP Production Planning, Quality Management, and Planned Maintenance modules.

Moving to China

In 2019, I was asked to lead the project, when the client decided to take some of our best practices from India and incorporate them into their new ventures in China. It’s only when I started working in China, did we realize that the IT infrastructure controls there are not as they should be. Cybersecurity was a big question with people working remotely during the pandemic. This led me to take on the additional responsibility of owning and consulting the IT infrastructure for the units. We started creating and enforcing infrastructure controls, starting with a firewall system, developing token-based access control and more.

Learning on the go

While my move from a manufacturing unit to an SAP consultant didn’t seem all that different, this new responsibility I had taken on to look after IT Infrastructure was a whole other ballgame. One that I couldn’t have done without the support of our Infra team in India who never once hesitated to share their expertise and show me how things are done. And of course, my manager who believed in me every step of the way and pushed me to pursue this completely new assignment.

Goes without saying that my learning curve, these last couple of years, has been through the roof! This learning journey has been one of the best things about being with TVS Next – professionally and personally.

This supportive mindset extends to other things as well. Whether it’s making sure that the whole team is fully hands-on to step in when you’re held up with an emergency; or ensuring everyone’s ideas about the project are heard and considered during daily meetings or even coordinating casual team catch-ups so we stayed in touch across time zones.

Like I said, I never dreamed of being an SAP consultant. But I’m more than happy being one, here at TVS Next.

Virtual team building – My learning experience

“Hey Krithika, can you and rest of the team gather at 4 p.m for a quick huddle?” my manager would ask. We would gather – a few minutes for business and a few for outside of work. Our team was close-knit. We knew each other well, outside of work. Family occasions always had our full attendance. I was a business analyst then and our team activities were usually in-person, virtual team building was not even something I had thought about.

A couple of years have passed and nothing changed except that I’m an assistant project manager now. I have my own team, but I learned the nuances of fostering great team bonding. It was simple – spend time with the team, know them outside of work, be genuine and care for them.

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt.

We had regular engagement activities, several team games, lunch meetings and outings to keep the momentum going. With all these, team building is a cakewalk or at least that is what I thought…..until COVID hit us. We started working remotely. A month and we would be back, we thought! It is a year now and still uncertain.

Several projects kickstarted, new hire onboarding, meetings, activities….everything was virtual! I had a big team and most of them were brand new. I haven’t seen them yet and neither have they seen me. It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult. Accepting what is in front, I discovered new ways of employee connect.

The goal was simple – build a TEAM. I started working backward from this goal and everything fell in place. We managed daily huddles online. It took extra time due to technical snags. Over time, it improved. From being just a routine, this huddle became the most expected as we had time distinguished for work and personal. We empathized, engaged and enjoyed getting to know each other. I understood the interests of the large majority. We had engagement activities revolving around our interest areas; image and video activities were preferred, so we had more of those.

The shrinkage in my team, let alone attrition is at all-time low. Virtual team building goes a long way. It instills interest and lets the team walk into work happily.

“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.”

A culture built on trust

A culture built on trust

It’s been a little over 2 years since I’ve been with TVS Next. I joined them as a Business Analyst from a traditional IT Services MNC, hoping to explore how the role is played out elsewhere – how different a BA can be. This time with them has made a world of difference to me not just in a professional capacity, but also as an individual. The one underlying factor I could connect across all these great experiences that I’ve had here is trust — and that’s what this blog is all about.

Confidence in their processes

An ex-colleague of mine had referred TVS Next and I went for the interview expecting a typical Q&A session. Only, it was a very different interview process from what I’d experienced before. It felt more like a series of discussions rather than actual interviews. It felt good knowing that the people interviewing me already trusted my credentials — and they basically wanted to understand my thought process, my preferences, how I approach a problem etc.

I had other offers, but I chose TVS Next firstly because of my great interview experience, and secondly because TVS is a brand name that I felt proud associating myself with.

Expertise counts, not the years in the system

My first 2 months here was a time of heavy learning – about the projects, the company, the people and their practices. My first project involved a healthcare product that needed to be built from scratch. Even though I was quite new in the system, I was part of the team chosen to travel to Delhi to meet the client.

My first client meeting through TVS Next was a unique experience and will stand out for me for a lot of reasons – starting with my own understanding of how a particular tech stack is positioned to what kind of delivery experience the client can expect. But what was incredible to see, was how everyone on the proposal team complemented each other. It’s not just the CX or the delivery head taking the lead, everyone had a part to play. And being new did not matter. I dived right in being the BA. I was given the opportunity to build the trust directly with the client, despite having more senior folks on the team.

Proving your worth as a newcomer in a team and a new employee in an organization comes easy when you’re entrusted with responsibilities right from the start.

Value for individual beliefs and expectations

The learning here is continuous. So is the opportunity to improve yourself. Every 6 months there’s a systematic self-assessment that is quantitative as well as qualitative, based on your understanding of the agreed KPIs and KRAs. In a way, you’re the first to know what kind of career path you’re on and you’re going to be.

I’ve been doing projects end-to-end, but now I feel more equipped to get into a fully consulting role. And this came up in one of my review conversations. We discussed how my interests could align with the organization’s and how together we could explore this opportunity to make it work. The transparent nature of these conversations is one of the other things that I like best at TVS Next.

It’s the people that make the culture

The whole environment here is casual. You simply walk up to someone and end up having an amazing conversation. It’s incredible how even the leadership doesn’t sit in rooms. There isn’t this “boss” culture. Instead, we try to find solutions together to make things better, rather than a “your problem” kind of mindset.

There are people who joined along with me that I’ve built a bond with. We’re all from different roles and backgrounds, so even our casual conversations are a mix of tech and project discussions. It made learning on the job easier.

Most of my project discussions are within a cross-functional team and this becomes insightful and makes decision-making faster. In addition to these team-level conversations, there are thoughtfully curated wellness meets, inspirational talks by external speakers and more such avenues for me to engage with people within and outside of TVS Next. It’s that wholesome nature of being in the office that I miss during these times of extended remote work. Now, I can’t wait to go back to office!

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A new beginning during Corona – How I started a new job in 2020

A new beginning during Corona - How I started a new job in 2020

Balamurugan joined us right in the middle of 2020, a year that turned out to be nothing like any of us could have foreseen. So we talked to him about what it was like to look for a job, interview with and join a new company during this extraordinary period.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at TVS Next.

I’m a Technical project manager, currently handling multiple projects. I have a background in engineering and tech management. I’ve worked in various product organizations across industry domains for over 15 years. I joined TVS Next 6 months ago. My current focus is the healthcare industry.

How and when did you first come across TVS Next?

You already know that I was looking for a change from my previous role, in the middle of a pandemic. I was confident enough in my skill set and eager to challenge myself more. It just seemed as good a time as any other! When I started looking out though, it was quite surprising to know that organizations are shutting down partly or fully and even cutting down on personnel.

So I reached out to my friends and my network outside to help me identify opportunities with organizations that are still actively hiring. That’s how I came across TVS Next first. TVS group is obviously a famous household name. That got me interested to see what TVS Next, the group’s software development and delivery entity has to offer.

Why did you choose TVS Next?

The first thing of course, was the fact that they were actively hiring even in the middle of a global pandemic. I’ve also heard good things from my friends in the organization. What was more impressive for me was when TVS Next not only called me for interviews, but also didn’t economize on the compensation, bonus or the benefits. It definitely shows their stability, in the way they think and operate – goes to show how being a part of such a sustainable group makes them stand out from other newage tech organizations that tend to fold under external market pressure.

Describe your first impressions during the interviews and when you joined.

It was quite a new experience for me – doing all my interviews remotely, end-to-end. I was a bit uncertain as to what to expect at first, but my recruiter kept me well-informed. The interview process was extremely organized. Right from the scheduling to the follow-ups, and continuous detailed feedback after every round of interview, my recruiter was in constant touch with me every step of the way. It was a very positive experience that made me look forward to joining them.

As my joining date got closer, the induction process seemed to get only more seamless. Everything I needed was at my disposal the very first day, including the laptop that arrived at my doorstep!

How are you managing remote work currently?

It’s been a little over 6 months now, since I started here. I have to say I’ve been enjoying work, even with everything being completely remote. My current role extends across multiple client projects, so I love that I get to learn about different contexts from different teams. The projects are quite interesting and different from my product background where we stick to a specific tech stack.

Being in a service organization is so different! There’s a diverse range of engagements. I’m learning a lot of new things across domains (healthcare for now) and technologies like data science. It makes me want to do better.

Building a rapport with a remote team, in a new environment was challenging though, especially when I started. Now, things are comfortable. I look forward to our casual team calls in addition to the project-specific meetings where I get to know people outside of the work context – it keeps my energy levels up. And having a supportive peer group and mentors are a very big part of me handling this comfortably.

How would you describe the team and the people you’re working with at TVS Next?

Like I said, the people in my teams are very friendly and welcoming. Right from my onboarding sessions to the regular detailing meetings, there’s always someone I can count on to help me understand the roadblocks and set the pace for the projects to move forward.

The engineering teams are cooperative. The sales folks keep in close connection so we make good on successful customer engagement. The UX team is very approachable and inclusive – we spend a lot of time together to brainstorm, come up with new frameworks and solutions. Everyone I have spoken to has helped move my learning curve in one way or another.

How would you describe the culture at TVS Next?

Though my interactions have been all remote, I can still see the difference in the way the people engage with one another. And it’s not just the teams. The way the leadership connects with the people is quite inspiring. Even the way they share feedback or the how we should be looking at and doing things differently, are always positive and encouraging. I always come away with new insights after I finish a conversation with one of them.

And it works the other way around as well. For instance, I’ve been studying the processes and have identified some tweaks for us to become more efficient. I know that I can put my thoughts forward and not be shot down. People here are open to feedback and are encouraging of your curiosity. The leadership is very receptive and open to new ideas. They in fact proactively ask for our inputs and include them in discussions whether it’s about the project, team or even something organization-wide.

The whole environment has a very employee-first vibe, where people genuinely want to take care of you, your welfare and hear your concerns.

What are your hopes for 2021?

What everybody wants! For things to go back, or should I say, move forward, to normal again. I hope, this year, we put the pandemic behind us. Personally, I’d love to finally meet my teams in person and get to know everybody I’ve been working with. And professionally, there’s a lot of room to grow and explore within the organization. So I’m looking forward to doing that and whatever new things come my way.