Sunday, June 19, 2016

Nihar Babu: A Puttaparthi mandal (local) boy, Sai university student, who I was able to help by teaching software development

Last updated on 21st June 2016

I do seek the kind indulgence of readers for blowing my own bugle in this post. But I felt it is necessary to record such success stories in software development education for rural and economically challenged students, and so have put up this post.

In most of my stint as a teacher and technical consultant for software development courses and projects in the Sai university (Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning) as free service from Jan. 2003 to Mar. 2012, I came across very few students in my class or to whom I was a technical consultant, who were from in and around Puttaparthi. Most students that I taught seem to be have been from outside Puttaparthi area/mandal and even outside Anantapur district.

D. Nihar Babu was an exception. He came from Kothacheruvu (or some other village/town near to Puttaparthi) and hailed from an economically challenged family. As part of his M.Sc. project work he sought to do a software development project as he perhaps felt that his job prospects after M.Sc. would be better if he did that. [The M.Sc. was mainly a Mathematics intensive program with some amount of software development being taught.] Note that most M.Sc. (Maths) students in the Sai university then, attempted to get into M.Tech. (Computer Science) program after finishing their M.Sc. In Nihar's case, he had to start working after finishing his M.Sc. to help his family.

He approached me (along with two other students) to do an Information Technology type software development project (essentially a database oriented web application). I agreed to play the role of a technical consultant to the project (three different projects for three different students) - the official guide/supervisor was somebody else though the responsibility of guiding the student through his software development project fell on my shoulders. I don't recall the academic year this was done - maybe 2007-08.

After he passed out from the M.Sc. program, I came to know that he got employed by Thomson Reuters, a multinational software services company in Bangalore in the Quality Assurance area. He got a decent pay package. I was very happy about it as this was my first and only case in the Sai university (as far as I can recall) where I could serve a local from Puttaparthi area (mandal) who was financially challenged, by imparting software development skills including testing/Quality Assurance skills. From a remote village/town in rural South India and from a poor background, Nihar had made it into the international software services field in Bangalore, with me playing a small role in helping him in this journey. This gave me a lot of happiness and satisfaction.

A couple of months or so ago, Nihar had dropped in to my home, to invite me to his marriage. He told me that he had moved from Thomson Reuters to Cisco Systems India Pvt. Ltd. This is the India arm of the USA based giant computer network company, Cisco. [As an aside, I thought I should also mention that my nephew also works for Cisco but in San Jose, California, USA.] Nihar had always been thankful to me for what I had taught him and I found his gratitude to be touching. I asked him whether he could write a few words about it, which I could put up on social media. He agreed. Given below are his words:

The debugging techniques and the process of thinking on how to come up with test scenarios are (some of) the few key things that I learnt during my M.Sc. dissertation software project which I did under the guidance of Ravi Iyer sir.

Nihar Babu
Software Quality Analyst
[Previous company: Thomson Reuters]
---- end Nihar Babu's short write-up ---
An update

Once again I seek the kind indulgence of readers for blowing my own bugle. In the interests of keeping an accurate record, I felt it necessary to share this slightly edited response I received over email from Kartick Vaddadi who was OK with me sharing it publicly.

First some background about Kartick. Kartick did his M.Sc. (Mathematics) with some amount of Computer Science being taught in this M.Sc. (Mathematics) program, in the Sai university. While I did not teach him any courses, I did have some free-wheeling discussions with him when he was a student in the Sai university. There was some small Radio Sai related programming work (did not get completed) viewed as extra curricular activity, for which he and I (me playing a tech. guide kind of role), had some interactions for a short period of time. I was also involved in a very marginal way in a sort of quick project review, at the fag end of his M.Sc. dissertation software project related to virtual machines.

After Kartick finished his M.Sc. in the Sai university, he moved on to do M.Tech. (Comp. Science) from IIT Bombay, and then joined Google at Bangalore as a software engineer. During this period we did have many interactions over telephone and email too, where I played a sort-of mentor role giving my top-level view of the software development world but based more on my software industry experience of a decade or so earlier (prior to 2003) which I would try to map onto the current situation as Kartick would narrate to me and as I would read about from some other quarters. I should also mention that our discussions were not limited to software.

Here's Kartick's response (slightly edited) to the post contents above related to Nihar Babu:

Interesting, and good to hear.

BTW, Reuters has an office just below Google's. It would be funny if he and I worked in the same building for years and not know :)

Since you brought this up, you also helped me a ton. More important than technical knowledge, you also helped me in terms of encouragement, which was crucial back then, because when one isn't able to make sufficient progress towards the thing one is passionate about, one can get demotivated.
--- end Kartick response ---

Chandu Patel, an old software industry colleague and friend of mine who is now based in the USA, responded as follows (and was OK with public sharing):

This is awesome, Ravi! You did your part of selfless service and helping out the ones in the areas/ways it was most relevant; and the students did their part by remaining grateful and expressing it too!! Wonderful!
--- end Chandu Patel response ---

[Ravi: I thanked Nihar, Kartick and Chandu Patel for their kind words.]

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