I love building products that make a meaningful impact on people’s lives.
I also love experiences. I’ve backpacked through six countries across Europe, traveled to Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Thailand, volunteered and taught at a school for the blind in Bangalore, India, rolled Cuban cigars in Havana, ran a half-marathon in Brooklyn, and went scuba diving among sharks off the islands of Turks & Caicos. I grew up skiing on the slopes of Vancouver and this past summer I started surfing in the Pacific. I support charity:water and Startup Visa. You can reach me at [rao d0t girish @t gmail d0t c0m] and follow me @girishra0.
Now the boring stuff :)
I tailored a double degree in molecular biology and computer science here to quench my curiosities, worked on some bleeding edge computational biology here in Toronto for 15 months as part of the Human Genome Project, and then moved to NYC for more computer science here.
After watching my friends decide to pursue more education or join banks I decided to hold out. After the tireless hours and sleepless nights in the CS labs there had to be a future better than W*ll St. I couldn’t envision myself wearing a tie everyday while some prick yelled over my shoulder.
After a couple months of unemployment I joined a 3-person team at Sense Networks as the second engineering hire (co-founders were Tony Jebara, director of machine learning at Columbia, and Sandy Pentland, former head of the MIT Media Lab and current head of human dynamics research at MIT). At the time I had no idea what it meant to be part of a startup, but it sounded exciting and challenging.
We built a great team. I engineered v1 of our real-time location analytics platform, worked with our Chief Scientist to deploy statistical algorithms, built out our infrastructure from scratch, and as our team and data grew I helped engineer the Hadoop-based v2 of the platform. We also launched a couple pioneering mobile apps built on top of our platform and API, including CabSense. After missing a couple paychecks and a bidding war with Sequoia Capital, we raised a $5M+ Series B with Intel Capital.
That was a couple years ago. We built some awesome technology, but selling into top-4 mobile operators is tough sledding. I eventually left. Sense is still going strong though and they recently productized and launched that platform.
I then moved to Appinions an early-stage NYC startup in the social media analytics space. I joined as the 4th engineer and I learned a ton. We launched our core product last year. Much of the core NLP technology comes out of Cornell research. The company is at more than 20 employees now and still growing. I coded and lead scaling efforts of both our backend engine and our customer-facing application so that we could analyze 100M opinions 24/7/365.
I practice agile methodologies and I like to be agile in our agile methodologies, continuously tuning scrum and kanban techniques to meet the team’s needs.
I’m slinging the Big Co rock now, at Amazon. I get to work on AWS, machine learning and data mining algorithms, and hundreds of billions of business-critical records. Revisiting some crypto too. Working on internet-scale data has been a remarkable experience.
I don’t believe in Java vs Ruby style debates. Everything has their own trade-offs. I believe in the pragmatic, not dogmatic, approaches to engineering. I believe in building robust systems that work today, tomorrow, and next year. I believe in teamwork, transparency, objective decision making, tenacity, and staying humble.
Work is play. I work on a couple things in my spare time too. A buddy of mine and I applied to TechStars with a startup we founded. We made it to TechStars For A Day but weren’t selected. I learned a TON though. One of these days I’ll write about it.
I’m still looking to catch the big fish but in the meantime I’m loving the journey and learning everyday.
The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer past or present.