Updated: May 19
Five years ago, Abhijeet Sawhney was one of the first software developers to join SmartQ. He made a brave transition from an MNC to a startup. He was apprehensive initially but later took on the challenge and emerged as a rockstar developer as well as an influential leader. Currently, Abhijeet Sawhney is working as a Tech Lead at SmartQ, leading a team of 40+ software engineers.
Interviewer: Hello Abhijeet, it's lovely to have you here. I hope you're keeping well. Today, we'd like to know more about your success story at SmartQ.
Abhijeet Sawhney: Hello, thank you for having me. Yes, I am doing well. I hope you are too. Really excited and looking forward to the conversation.
Interviewer: Tell us something about your professional background and what inspired you to join SmartQ?
Abhijeet Sawhney: I always had startups at the back of my mind, but they were never a top priority. Before stepping into SmartQ, I worked in an MNC as a .NET developer. During conversations with colleagues, I got intrigued by the startup ecosystem, the growth opportunity and the innovation that it promises.
With God's grace, I got a call from a company that grabbed my attention, and I decided to give it a shot. It was a big decision for me because moving from an MNC to a startup and starting all over again was obviously nerve-racking. When I went for the interview, I was so paranoid looking at the small room where the interview was held that I decided not to proceed. Later, I calmed myself and decided to proceed with my gut feeling which was strong inclined to the founders future vision for the company.
Interviewer: How was your initial experience at SmartQ?
Abhijeet Sawhney: Initially at SmartQ, I was a bit apprehensive initially as i was exposed to a very structured and process driven environment in my previous job, and the atmosphere at SmartQ was the exact opposite. It was like us building the ship while sailing on it, constantly iterating and innovating the product.
In hind sight, joining SmartQ ended up being a boon in disguise. I quickly adapted to the environment and realised that it was so much more enjoyable and at the same time it instilled a sense of responsibility.
Interviewer: How was your journey or learning graph as a sole developer in SmartQ?
Abhijeet Sawhney: In the initial days, when I joined SmartQ, we had to do everything from scratch. What was surprising for me was that I was the only .net developer building at that point, and that I was working on the majority of the development out here. I looked at it as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. From laying down the initial technology architecture to building it; from testing it to deploying it and even documenting the process, each and everything was done by ourselves. It was like we had to be jack of all and as master of all, at the same time. So, it was challenging to handle everything at one go, but exciting as well. I learnt a lot through every challenge that my team and I endured; and we came out stronger and more matured.
Interviewer: Could you tell us something more about different launches or projects you worked on as a project lead in SmartQ?
Abhijeet Sawhney: Some of the first launches were a great learning curve for everyone. As they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger; each of our first launches were full of people rising up to the occasion and coming good. In that I could see myself evolve from a novice developer to a mature and seasoned one. We worked on several other launches such as "Shell", which had one of the most complicated requirements to be executed in a short period of time. It wasn't a smooth launch, but we were battle tested to not give up despite that. It's almost like we were fixing the aeroplane while flying it. There were minor obstacles that constantly came up, but we managed to find a workaround. So, it was all in control, and the client was very appreciative of our effort in pulling off such a gargantuan deployment. Another big launch was "Intel", where we worked with 6-7 teams to bring it to the table. It was teamwork that brought immense success.
Interviewer: In your previous company, you worked as a software developer and are now promoted as a Technology Lead. How did this transition happen, and how difficult was it for you to manage a team and deliver expected outcomes within the stipulated time frame?
Abhijeet Sawhney: As I mentioned earlier, I was a little indecisive and hesitant to leave my comfort zone and try out new stuff. Joining SmartQ was the first bold move to come out of my comfort zone.
I had never built a complete software application by myself, and we were already building customer facing products. I was nervous and unsure of myself being the right person for this. Abhishek (co-founder and CTO of SmartQ) had the gut feeling that I could pull this off. He mentored, guided and backed me all the way. He instilled the confidence in me to go beyond.
After the Shell and Intel launches, a lot was under my control. I truly had Abhishek's support, and he guided me at every step possible. In short, he became my role model at SmartQ.
After Intel, we had one more client. Abhishek was not available during this time as he had to fly to Germany. This was when I buckled my belts and led to the project from the front. This was the first-ever project at SmartQ, where Abhishek was unavailable, and I was the only one handling everything. When he returned, he realised everything was smoothly done, which gave us a boost of confidence. So, it was more or less like a turning point for me.
With time, I started taking up Abhishek's work, and he got involved in other important stuff that required his attention. As we began to grow, we added more members to our team, and today, I lead a team of 40 odd software developers. As i have grown at SmartQ, my understanding of multiple aspects has grown too. From getting a deeper understanding of the business, to being a peoples person in leading and managing teams, to scaling the culture across SmartQ tech team, i have had the privilege of getting a 360 degree well rounded growth at SmartQ.
Interviewer: Tell us something about your proudest moment at SmartQ where you felt like you had aced it or you were on cloud nine?
Abhijeet Sawhney: Well, there are many such instances. But I have to mention my will for continuous learning and improvement. When I first entered SmartQ, I wasn't sure what I was doing. With time, I learned several things that boosted my career growth. I always try to make things quicker to lead to a purpose or vision that ultimately leads to job satisfaction. Sometimes I push myself to the extent that I don't have to waste time in rework. That's the reason I scaled along with the company. So, I would say smart work plus hard work is the combination that worked in my favour.
Interviewer: What are a few things you have learned in your career until now?
Abhijeet Sawhney: One essential thing is the power of excellent problem-solving skills. The moment you know the solution to your problem, implementation is straightforward.
Secondly, mentorship and team management are crucial. Since I was engaged with an MNC, I was never served solutions on a platter. Instead, we had to cook them all by ourselves.
Interviewer: What is your advice for someone thinking of joining SmartQ?
Abhijeet Sawhney: At SmartQ, you will find yourself amidst a strong sense of bonding and a family culture. Colleagues are mostly rooting for each others success. Secondly, we believe in the power of initiative and try to engage our team constantly. At times, we allow our internal teams to develop interesting ideas independently.
In a nutshell i feel that SmartQ places enormous trust in its employees, and gives the freedom to figure of ones true calling, being there and guiding them all the way.
Thanks for your time, Abhijeet! It was a wonderful discussion discovering your success story at SmartQ. We hope it will inspire many professionals and further lead to their impeccable career growth.