Surendhar Reddy

Year in review: 2021

2021 was yet another decent year for me. I did learn about more things, acquired new interests, and persisted in my hobbies — code, read, learn new things, and meet interesting people.

Atlas and Y Combinator

Atlas went live this year! We started writing code for it early this year (first commit on 12th Jan!) and processed the first order on 12th May.

I spent the bulk of 2021 building Atlas. I developed the software, deployed the systems (sometimes physically at the stores), supported our merchants, and continued building some good relationships along the way. It was fun and challenging; I’m still learning how to deal with ambiguity and find clarity, managing myself to be more effective in my role.

Atlas has pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone and forced me to learn more things this year, not just on the engineering side but also personally — learning to talk to customers, understanding the on-ground operational issues, and business finance side of things.

And… we also got into Y Combinator (S21 batch). It’s a good validation for us and a huge personal milestone.

More diverse engineering

This year, I worked more on infrastructure and backend engineering. Before starting Atlas, I focused more on site reliability engineering and picked up every opportunity to learn more about the space and excel at it. Working on Atlas diverted that journey and introduced me to other facets of engineering.

I picked up Ruby to contribute to the backend, built many internal tools using node, learned about PostgreSQL database management, experimented with new technologies (GraphQL, serverless, edge-side computing), and shipped production software with them.

One of the other things I started doing more actively this year is to write to other engineers to meet and share learnings.

Apart from work, I helped build a website for The Pan IIM Alumni of Singapore’s Breathe Life Into India campaign to raise money and save lives from COVID in India. Another fun project I worked on this year was — my co-founder, and I randomly thought of solving Singapore COVID dine-out rules with this app.

Homecoming and a heritage walk

The world is still emerging from the ruins of COVID, we have seen new variants and more prolonged lockdowns this year, but it’s relieving to see everyone get vaccinated and join hands to slow down the spread of the virus and help countries open up for travel.

Singapore opening up the borders and allowing controlled travel through vaccination lanes was a piece of good news for me. After two years, I took a short break and traveled home to meet my parents and friends; it felt good to physically be present, hang out and catch up with everyone’s life.

During my short trip, I had an opportunity to go on a heritage walk with two hobbyist historians (Sam Dalrymple and Yunus Lasania) to see the Golconda Fort and learn more about Hyderabad. I was thrilled to know that the Persians were the ones who started to build the city, and eventually, Nizam took it over during the time to the Mughals. (History nerd in me wants to talk more about it but will leave it for another day)

We’re still seeing a rise of new variants like Omicron and countries bringing the restrictions back. But hopefully, with booster shots and more precaution’s we’ll get back to everyday life.

Learnings and life skills

A lot of work I did this year was purely exploratory — understanding the problem space, figuring out solutions, prototyping, synthesizing the insights/facts from reading demanded a lot of structure and discipline. I struggled a lot during the initial phases to be more effective and add value but got better at it. I’m still learning and definitely in a better place than I started.

I’ve moved houses twice this year. Packing everything I have and moving between homes made me think deeply about two things, the things I need and how to design a space with more thought. I never invested my time to think about what I needed in my room thoroughly. Doing that once made me realize how you can design/engineer anything in life — I wrote about engineering happiness and having perfect days.

Staying with housemates forced me to learn some life skills this year; I never had or took care of a pet in my life, but I got to cross that fear now with the help of Eden (friends dog) — yes, I only learned how to keep a dog alive this year.

I also tried to write a bit more this year; I find deep joy in organizing my thoughts and also sharing my ideas, learnings. I didn’t get time to read as many books as I would like to, but I actively spent time reading a few good long-form articles — tried to capture some compelling thoughts in the stream.

New interests and hobbies

Netflix’s “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” got me hooked onto the motor racing sport this year; I think it’s one of the best sports documentaries I’ve ever watched. After completing this show in May, I hardly missed watching a race, started watching it in the middle of the tournament (from the Portuguese Grand Prix), and continued till the end — this was a perfect escape from work during the weekends sometimes.

This year’s decider was one of the best races I watched! Watching the driver perform at that speed, carefully strategize pit stops, and pace through laps to ascend positions was exciting.

Along with learning how to keep a dog alive, I also learned how to make a few cocktails.

There’s been a lot of learnings this year, both personally and professionally. All these life skills are helping me prepare to play long-term games and enabling me to have “the long obedience in the same direction”.

Thank you for reading.

I wish you a happy 2022.