How Fyle changed my life from a naive intern to a confident Engineering Lead
Let me introduce myself. I am Shwetabh; like many of us out there, I am a Software Engineer and lead integrations engineering at Fyle. I complete three years at Fyle on the 1st of February 2022.
This blog is about my experience with Fyle so far. It covers my journey as a person and an engineer. Before I dive into the details, here's some background on how and where my journey at Fyle started. So sit tight and enjoy!
How did it all begin?
I was a 21-year-old college student back in October of 2018, and I was nervous about scoring an internship for my final semester. I came across an internship posting at Fyle, read about the company, and immediately applied. I also completed a cool assignment and then got selected for the interview.
My interview was conducted by Gokul (please memorize this name, it's important to the story 😄 .) Luckily it all went well, and the very next day, I was handed an offer letter saying my internship began on the 1st of February 2019.
Takeaway: Like many of us out there, I was a naive, nervous college student, excited and afraid at the same time about joining a startup. A wave of feelings and thoughts came to my mind between the day I received the offer to the day I joined. I am sure you can relate to them.
What if I just got lucky with the interview? Do I deserve it?
What if joining a startup is not a great decision?
Oh great, I have an internship in a SaaS company!!!! Can't wait to get started with this new journey.
Am I good enough for this? What if I'm not?
And many more...
The audience of this blog is anyone who is apprehensive about walking a similar path.
Days with Fyle as an Intern
Coming back to the story, as planned, I joined Fyle on the 1st of February 2019. I met several amazing people at Fyle, and I hope you remember Gokul because this is where it gets important. Every intern at Fyle is assigned a mentor, and for me, it was Gokul.
My first task as an intern was a minor bug fix, and Gokul made sure I scored that win and felt confident about myself. Slowly the complexities of things I worked on increased, but what remained constant was Gokul's support, advice, and intention to make me successful and independent as an intern.
In our 1x1s, I would often tell him that I was worried about how it was going, and Gokul would always tell the truth, give me feedback to act on, and boost my confidence. I also got to work on several parts of the product, and after three months, I got an offer to join full-time at Fyle, and I was ecstatic.
Takeaway: Gokul always pushed me in the right direction, taught me to be independent, never spoon-fed anything to me, and always expressed his support. These are some qualities that I always incorporate in how I work today. I now know how a great mentor can influence your life.
A new opportunity that could help Fyle land in the US market!
Towards the end of my internship, I started working directly with our CTO, Siva (Another important character in my journey, please commit this name to memory 😄.)
In 2019, Fyle mostly catered to Indian companies, but the aim was always to make a presence in the USA. One of the crucial factors that would help us do that was... (Assume Drumroll 🥁) ... Integrations (This word is important to my identity at Fyle, so please hold on to it.)
We didn't have any integrations in 2019, and naturally, we wanted to build them. We did not have any integrations team or engineers working on integrations too. This allowed me the opportunity to lay the foundation for it.
Takeaway: I was still very inexperienced, but still Siva took a chance on me, and this is how we generally operate at Fyle. We trust people and give them an opportunity to grow into more advanced complex roles. Most of our engineering team members started as interns, and because of the trust put in them, they're all making a difference.
Building Integrations for Fyle
Back to the story, we did not want to build our integrations inside our core product as we knew very little about the requirements and use cases then. So we decided that we would build our integrations on top of Fyle's public APIs.
So, I started to work on the APIs, which included improvement and adding any missing APIs. The point of doing this was that we wanted to work with specific customers and build integrations for them which were custom applications, and did the work using Fyle's public APIs.
During this time, I got to work with the Customer Success team to collect and understand customer requirements. By the end of 2019, we had around ten custom integrations built for ten different companies, and they were all unique integrations with different accounting software. This was clearly not a scalable solution, and we pivoted to build self-serve integrations that would cater to multiple tenants. Still, these custom applications helped us stabilize our public APIs and collect some general use cases that we can work with to build multi-tenant integrations.
Takeaway: This was the first moment at Fyle where I had to collaborate with another team and customers. There were times when I felt intimidated, but Siva kept pushing me, and there is nothing that I would change about it today. Pratima, Jb, and Shrey from the CS team were extremely helpful and aided ease conversations with customers. So the challenges I faced were different from "what code to write?"
From Mentee to a Mentor
Before I get to the next segment, there is one thing that you should know about Siva's management style. He always keeps you on your toes, you become familiar and get comfortable with things, and BOOM! 💥 Here comes another challenge, and suddenly without realizing it, you find that you've grown to a whole new level.
Now, I was doing well with my work, managing time well, and getting admired for building all those integrations. Then, one fine day, Siva told me that an intern would be joining next week. You'll be mentoring him, and this is where my path to becoming a mentor started, and eventually, I also got involved in intern hiring, and we hired Sravan (Remember Remember 😀.)
Sravan was just in the 2nd year of college when he joined Fyle, and from one person working on integrations, we became a team, and in early 2020 we released our first self-serve multi-tenant Quickbooks Online integration.
A new set of challenges came with mentorship, like managing time, communication, and productivity. But, I slowly worked towards it, and also, whenever I got comfortable, the team size increased, and then we went fully remote due to the pandemic.
The second person to join team integrations was Ashwin, who was also in college when he joined Fyle (Notice a pattern yet? 😄 ), and now we have become a team of three people. From having one self-serve integration, we went to having four self-serve integrations by the end of 2020, and one of them we built in a week.
Takeaway: I've constantly been challenged by Siva, and it has always worked positively for me. The reward of not saying no to challenges led to me handling a team of 2 people by the end of 2020 within just two years from the beginning of my career.
From Coding to Sales Calls, how we pitched Integrations and got customers!
Now coming to the most exciting phase, we built four integrations but found it very hard to get customers onboarded. A few reasons were -
Different accounting software were involved, and there was no training or proper communication.
There was a disconnect between business and engineering, and the Sales team was facing difficulties pitching the integrations to customers.
My team and I were never sure if we were building in the right direction.
Then came the turning point towards the end of 2020. We had a call with a prospect interested in our NetSuite integration. I also joined the call to demo our integration, and Siva joined as a backup because it was the first time I was joining a sales call. I demoed the NetSuite integration, and the customer did not like it at all and ended up rejecting Fyle because of it. It was highly disappointing for me, but Siva came to the rescue once again.
Siva trusted me and guided me to the solution in his subtle manner, and for the next six months, I got on multiple sales calls and demoed the integrations directly to prospects. I also got the opportunity to understand and learn from the use cases of many customers to implement improvements in our integrations. In addition, I conducted several training sessions for the Sales, Customer Success, and Marketing teams. Eventually, the Sales team became independent, and we started closing deals that involved integrations.
Then we pushed to get those customers onboarded to use our integrations to have usage. I also had to get on multiple calls with customers to understand their requirements and help them with setup until the CS team got familiar and started owning the process. These efforts helped us get customers onboarded on all of our integrations, and usage started picking up. We were even able to gain valuable partnerships due to these integrations.
During this phase, what was constant was that team integrations were admired and praised by everyone. We were mentioned in every town hall, and shoutouts were flying all around, which was great for everyone's morale in the team.
Takeaway: I was an extremely shy person, and for many days even the thought of getting on a Sales call and that too to demo an integration made me lose sleep. But somehow, I kept going and trying, and eventually, I started feeling better.
In retrospect, all of these interactions across multiple teams, sales prospects, and customers made me a more confident and outspoken person in real life (Now I find it hard to shut up 🤣 .) All of this happened while managing the engineering and product requirements too.
How is it going now?
All of this made my work life pretty hectic. It was rewarding but tiring. I was switching between a lot of things, and finally, I told Siva about it. Luckily, Fyle had just started building a product team, and then Gayathiri came into the picture. She was hired as a product manager for integrations, and she took all my worries away.
This gives me more time to manage the Engineering Team, which has four people now Sravan, Ashwin, Nilesh, and Labhvam. With Gayathiri managing all the communications, research, etc., team-integrations is setting new standards every day and still getting praised for how quickly and efficiently we work.
Did I tell you all the interns in my team are full-time engineers now? 😄 Yes, it's true, and three of them finished college in 2021, and Nilesh is still in college.
Finally, it goes without saying that I started at Fyle as a nervous, shy, inexperienced intern at the age of 21, and now at the age of 24, I am leading a team of 4 people who are on the same journey and are learning and growing along with me. I am extremely thankful that I took that decision to join Fyle. I would like to thank each and every person who was a part of this journey, and if you're someone who is thinking about joining Fyle, please do it; you'll not regret it.