Those of you who know me, know that I hate adventures of any kind. My response is a BIG NO to roller coasters, giant wheels and anything that is to do with varying heights and gushes of adrenaline. My answer is a BIG NO to a ball being thrown at me, my world stands still, and I get super nervous when I have to throw the ball back at someone!
HackerRank has been that rollercoaster that I jumped on in a heartbeat and have been having fun playing catch since day 1. (Obviously metaphorically!)
3 years at a company is not a big deal but the FIRST 3 years of one’s work life at a company is indeed something to celebrate!
I am an excited soul on the face of Earth on a regular day, but, I am on a new high and at my best when at HackerRank! This excitement needs fuel too and I have been lucky enough to be blessed with a company that respects and reciprocates my excitement. Not all days are rainbows and glitter. There are days that drain me out, but there are also many amazing people who I can ALWAYS & ALL WAYS fall back on, to bring me back to being me.
As a fresh graduate out of college, I was constantly told that the life of an HR starts off as being a Sourcer and then a Recruiter. Then if you wish and if the stars align, you slowly transition into operations where you do a lot of background verification, work in various wings ranging from payroll to onboarding and grow eventually into a Business Partnering role. Most people in the industry and otherwise told me the same. The first of the people who told me otherwise was Biraj Ghosh. I was applying for roles on various portals, writing to the Hiring Managers, connecting with the employees of that company to learn more about the work culture, etc. The excitement of applying to HackerRank kicked in when Suryanidhi (my best friend from school) joined HackerRank and couldn’t shut up about how A-M-A-Z-I-N-G the company is. All I wanted was, at the least, to be interviewed here. The first time I applied, I got rejected. I’m not even sure how and why I applied again, but life was on a fast track after that. Day 1 – Talk to Ishani. Day 2 – walked into the office for an Interview with Kenny. Day 3 – Final call with Maria and 11:30 pm the same day, offer discussed, signed & closed!
I was going to be HackerRanked and it still seemed like a dream. Little did I know that it was the start of a series of FIRSTs!
Walking into a HUGE office, with new faces, tons of names to remember, overwhelming feelings, and an ocean full of things to learn. Something that I will clearly remember from that day is how welcoming everyone was! I was ushered around all the 3 floors to each one’s desk to get introduced. The other thing I remember is my picture and intro on the TV at the reception – that was the cherry on the cake on Day 1; way too magical to exist!
The corner seat of the bay was reserved for me. I could see the entire floor from there, from the main door of the office to the full view of my entire team, and being very close to the music box, it seemed like the perfect sweet spot! In spite of the pandemic and remote work, I succeeded at making my desk my own!
3 days in, I was told to take care of the Diwali celebration. I felt like running away at first but I managed to put together a few things. A hybrid tambola competition, ethnic day and amazing pictures, were a super hit amongst the crowd.
I had tons of people pinging me on slack and I was just beginning to settle into the new environment; both tools and people. Not being very familiar with who is who, I ended up telling a series of NO to a bunch of questions, just running by rules. Amongst such requests was one where I had to decline to be the office buddy to a person who was going to play Tambola virtually. To top it off, he asked me if he can be an exception to wearing ethnic even though all the others who were remote were decked up, because he was logging in from Vietnam, and my immediate response was “Nope”. Not regretting my response, after several hours, I stopped functioning when I realized it was the CTO himself Harishankaran K that was pinging me with that request.
I was ragged by my team in every way possible (not complaining) but getting to know the dynamics of the team, creating new bonds and establishing my own self was on top of the agenda. Month one was a tad bit overwhelming for sure. Being a fresher most things were Greek and Latin and I found myself asking questions every 30 seconds to one or the other person on the team. Being able to pick up new things, put my ideas into them and reshape what I was doing gave me the thrill and the fuel to keep going!
First ISO Audit
I may be the very first person who got excited when they said the audit dates were fixed. My question is “when we have such a wonderful process and setup, then audits are just an opportunity to show off the amazingness”. This was my first serious affair to take care of after joining and though the first one was just a shadow, even to date I clearly remember everything that happened during the audit! It was chaotic to an extent with last-minute preps but the pride kicked in when there was no Non-Conformance and the auditors said, “you guys have a pretty strong process for everything”. It was around that time I realized my love for bookkeeping and love for proceeds too.
I was given the TVs at the Reception on three floors to make as much out of it. I decided to go for all Birthdays, Hackerversaries, new joiners, recognition, personal milestones, completed & upcoming activities of the month, etc. Since it was my first project and resources were limited, I tried and pushed as much to get it done as quickly as possible. It was satisfying to see my work on all TVs in the office and when people stopped by and waited for their pictures or event to come up and smile at it.
My first project led me to my first feedback. A brutal one. I had successfully done my best with the project with the limited resources that were available. One thing I missed out on was that I had not even worried about the quality of it. What seemed like a minute error on my laptop screen was blown out of proportion on TV and when we (me, Hari and a bunch of few others) were walking out of a meeting, just when we crossed the TV is when it all started. I stood there stunned while Hari went for a straight 7.5 minutes on every mistake in the slides. The ride back up the escalator was cold and silent. But the lessons I learned that day, I will carry with me forever.
Again, I was one of those who was excited about my first appraisal and I loved how it was a holistic way of assessing and retrospecting a year. I was asked to talk about my highlights, lowlights, support that I need, things I could have done better and so on and that was followed by my Manager doing the same for me! To top it off, I got to nominate 3-4 more people who I have worked closely with to talk about the same things about me. This was as holistic as it could get and going through it was even more fulfilling.
For every Hackerversay at HackerRank, there is a hugeeeee message that goes out on the company slack channel, with people congratulating and wishing in the same thread and it is a vibe in itself with cake and celebrations all over. One feels on top of the world to have achieved the milestone.
First-time Pet Parenting
As the typical story goes, I always wanted to have a pet at home and I was always told if a pet comes into the house then I shall be kicked off. Fearing being kicked out, I never could imagine adopting a pet. Momo (my kitten) happened in my life as an accident (I am super grateful that she happened to me). The best part of everything that happened was that I was available for her all the time while she grew up and even now. There is a channel in slack where all pet parents are cheering for you and people helping you with answers and suggestion if need be which helped me be a better parent to Momo. At HackerRank goodness gracious she is loved by each and every one. The video is a testimony of the same! There was a brief amount of time when no one asked me how I was on a call, they stuck to “How is Momo and where is she” (not jealous but hey! I am here too).
First Trek & First Workation
As the pandemic cleared up we started meeting office folks more often and treks and workations were on top of our wishlist. The remote work indeed gave us all the freedom to work from anywhere and the flexi hours at HackerRank added the boost needed. My first trek was a small one but the ride to that place and just the journey made me see the different versions of the people I worked with on a regular basis. The workation on the other hand just gave me an opportunity to appreciate the flexibility more than ever.
Fast forward by a few million FIRSTs, brings me to now.
I bought the domain 2 years ago in the dream that I will build a website of my own. A year passed with no activity and the second was almost over when the experience at JTD made me want to write (and also the constant push/taunt about not doing anything with the purchased domain from people added to the pressure). I published my first blog!
I never thought I would but now that I have started, I don’t want to stop!
All the above is just like the tip of the iceberg. Every day at HackerRank can turn an individual blog of its own and together might as well turn into a book (one day for sure!). 3 years in and I am still doing many things for the first time every day. I was not aware up until now. After I have written this blog, I understand now that each of these FIRSTs was not just firsts but was a milestone in itself.
On top of mind, if I have to talk about the life lessons I have learned and which have helped me be the person I am today are:
- Never be afraid to speak your mind out even though it is difficult
- I was a perfect example of someone who would rather prefer to keep quiet than speak at all. I am not fully there but I am getting there to speak my mind out. Not afraid to put my ideas, thoughts and opinions out.
- Start getting comfortable with how often things get uncomfortable
- Working in a startup culture has made me realize that there is never going to be a quiet day. There is always something that will continue to break. The only thing to do is to get comfortable around chaos. I don’t think to date I have been able to strike everything off my to-do list and up until one point it used to bug me and take me down an endless spiral but right now I am in the process of learning to prioritize and get comfortable with the fact that I won’t be able to scratch off everything on my list in a day and that is absolutely ok.
- The craziest of ideas can still come to life
- One of the craziest projects that have come to life is the quarterly company magazine which quite literally was a thought vomit in a meeting. After a few sleepless nights when it finally got its’ form, the satisfaction was a whole new high.
- As a team, if you put your mind to it, the path toward achieving it seems a lot….achievable
- When the Pandemic hit, with all that was going on in the world, getting everyone back up on their feet both personally and professionally was on top of the list for companies across the globe. Being an office-first company, it was tough to change the mindset to a remote-first setup. But with time, efforts and some help from everyone, we were all able to get exactly what we visualized. Today the entire team at HackerRank has their mindset fixed toward being remote-first. It wasn’t easy but we all did it together.
- When you are blessed with good company and great people, there are no Monday blues, Tuesday pinks and Wednesday yellows
- When you have people who are invested in who you are as a person and not just the role that you play at a company, (BTW this holds true for all, not just me) you genuinely feel belonged and are cared for; that gratitude one feels is absolute bliss. It makes you want to bring your best version of yourself to work every day and day after day.
- It is never too late to pick up new habits, skills and work on it
- Reading books always seemed like a punishment when I was young. Then I reached a stage where I fell in love with books but making it a habit was tough. I have now picked the habit up and it is now a part of my life. All thanks to the people at work who pushed me to. Apart from this, I have ticked off many many things on my wishlist when it comes to picking up new things. I have successfully scorched off skating, learning Sanskrit and brush calligraphy off my list. Even the art of writing seemed like a far-fetched dream and even getting to publish my second blog is a pat on the back moment for me. I am trying my hands on journaling and increasing my habit of writing. Small skills like this always takes a back seat, it is time one puts it on P0
These are just a few things and the learning continues every day in every experience and conversation. One thing that I knew from day 1 of deciding to be an HR professional is that I wanted to change the mindset of people who told me that “all that HR does is interviews, roll out offer letters and organize the Rangoli competition.” There is sooooo much more to People Ops (that is what we call HR at HackerRank because people are never resources but People. You never say you are going back home to your Human Resource, you say you are going back to your people) that I hope for the world to see and appreciate. I am not sure at this point how far I have traversed but I am certain I will get there someday soon. The reassurance kicks in when I meet my school/college friends and they ask me what I do as a POps (short form for People Ops) person, take a genuine interest in understanding my role and not just make fun of me by saying “all I do is push people to participate in events/competitions “.
Maybe later I shall write another blog with a list of many more firsts. But at the moment, cheers to my First 3 years at HackerRank. I am living my best life, one day at a time! (*touch wood!*)
Question back at you: When was the last time you did something for the first time?