A decade of Memories – Thank You Zoho!!

My journey at Zoho is chugging into it’s 10th year today.. yess.. on 14th July 2004, 10 years ago I walked into these corridors with fresh thoughts, a very open mind, a few reservations and a lot of expectations.. Many interesting things have transpired in these 10 *short* years.. Looking back, I have a lot of nostalgic memories still fresh in my mind.. Here are 10 things I Love about Zoho from the top of my mind.. [I might go on and on and on if I dont set myself a limit. ;)]

 1. Culture at Zoho:

comfortness

The first and the best thing according to me at  Zoho is the culture.. Different people have different definitions about the culture.. That being said, I think there are a few generalities which can be stated and I’m sure Zohoites would agree..

From the very start, I’ve noticed a very strong emphasis on openess and communication.. And it is followed even now.. Every Friday, our CEO – Sridhar answers questions on any topic that Zohoites want to talk about and discusses everything openly.. And it is possible to ask anonymously as well :)

Employees will not be micromanaged.. not even the freshers.. Micromanagement is considered counter productive managerial style, and most of the managers whom I have worked with don’t micromanage.. More importantly employees are allowed to think freely and are allowed to work on fun projects..

Other standout aspects of Zoho Culture are  – free food, round the clock snacks, bean bags, recreation room with facilities like HD TV, table tennis, flexible timings and much more

2. Work life:

FirstTeam

We have a work-life balance here.. There are always times when there is a deadline and everyone needs to work harder.. However we can easily draw a line between work and rest of our lives – thereby not slogging at office on weekends (unless it is absolutely necessary).. And also not thinking about work at home :)

The best part is working with intelligent people who are always down to earth.. As a fresher.. this would be our wildest dream. My first team – Virtual Office was a special one and it stays close to my heart.. That is where I learnt all the nuances of Javascript and started my career as Client Side developer.. We used to be like a family, staying close and having fun at work..

I have had the privilege of working with different managers at various levels at Zoho.. Each one of them was special and I’ve personally learnt a lot from them.. Managers are mentors.. There are absolutely no barriers in terms of talking with higher level managers and one can freely talk about anything..

Anyone can work on a fun project and develop it in the free time.. It was way back 2009, when I showed one of my fun projects – the ability to attach documents from Google Docs right inside Zoho to one of my higher managers.. He was really impressed. He allocated engineering resources and pushed me to take it up as main project.. That is how I built a team for Zoho – Google integrations.. And now Zoho is one of the premier Technology partners for Google :)

3. Google Influence:

G_Speaker_IO

Being in the team responsible for integrating Zoho with top cloud services, I have had my chances to closely work with different giants like Google, Dropbox, Firefox, Box etc, to integrate our Zoho apps tightly with them.. I, personally, happened to land a lot of exposure working with different companies and experiencing different work culture..

In 2011, Google invited us to showcase our integration with Google  at their annual developer conference – Google IO 2011.. I represented  Zoho and gave a short talk at the conference. It was an awesome experience – as it was my first talk at any conference.. Later I had a chance to speak at various events including the recent one in Developer ISVs 2014 held in Google’s Mountain View office.

Google team invited us to integrate Zoho Writer/Sheet/Show right inside Google Drive.. And I had an opportunity to write our technical experience in Google’s blogs..

4. Android love affair:

Androidapp

I love to explore new technologies.. My desire to write Android apps dates back to 2010. At the Google IO 2010 conference Google gifted me an Android enabled device (a NexusOne) on my birthday – May 19th ;) And being a Google fanboy I love Android ;)

I started building Android apps for fun and have published some apps in Google Play Store..

It is an amazing experience when something, that was a mere idea in your brain, is now being used of thousands of people around the planet.. yess.. some of my apps in Google Play Store have crossed 25K installs already :)

On seeing my interest and love towards Android, I was allowed to expand our team for building official Android apps for Zoho :)

5. Nurturing the Hacker in me:

security

Most of the people at Zoho wear multiple hats.. Employees here are passionate about what they do.. Since we are allowed to choose what we want to do, it’s exciting.. Before starting Zoho-Google integrations team, I was interested in finding security issues like Cross Site Scripting, Request forgery, Clickjacking and related web vulnerabilities.. I learnt various hacking concepts and our team managed to secure the first place in the hackathon event conducted by Zoho.. I soon became a security expert and shared my knowledge with various Zoho teams..

All of these learnings led me to find a couple of security issues in Google and being an ethical hacker I posted those issues to internal Google team :) And I made to Google’s security Hall of fame twice in a single year 2013.

6. Play at Zoho:

chess

I used to play chess daily with my school friend and Chess guru – Barani. We used to participate in many chess tournaments irrespective of the result :) However academics gained priority and our daily games were forgotten till I joined AdventNet (now Zoho).. I was pleasantly surprised to see many chess enthusiasts who were playing chess daily after office hours.. I joined them and renewed my love affair with Chess..  After a month or so ARC (AdventNet Recreation Club) announced the chess tournament – Normal and Blitz.. I was doubly excited for Blitz Chess and brushed up the openings, techniques and tactics.. Annnddd.. I managed to get a second place in Normal chess and won the title in Blitz chess.. That was my first ever win in any tournament…

Chess_Corporate

I have represented Zoho in various Inter Corporate Chess tournaments for the last 4 years and it has been an awesome experience.. Out of 6 games, I manage to win only 4 .. And most of my losses have been against rated players.. I attend the tournament atleast for this pose ;)

Every single year, after the tournament, I used to think of playing rated tournaments to get a place in FIDE ratings.. but the desire had to be shelved due to various reasons – work pressure or personal life  or something else ..

But during the start of this year, I decided enough was enough and attended a couple of rated tournmanets and became a FIDE rated player by defeating many rated players.. Yes… One of my biggest dreams came true :)

TT_new

There have been times when I’ve felt that I’ve chess addiction and need to get out of it. I started playing TT.. I even used to come to office on weekends just to play TT… Slowly my chess addiction faded away and the passion towards TT went up..

I participated in TT tournaments conducted by Zoho every single year, without counting the defeats.. And I clinched TT Championship 2013 in both singles and doubles..


Most part of my childhood was spent playing cricket (Motta-Maadi Cricket) with my friends.. And CricFest at Zoho helped me to be in touch with the game :) CricFest at Zoho is considered as a big festival every year and we used to practice our heart out right before the tournament..

Being a hard core fan of Sachin, and an Android geek I made a small tribute to the great man – Sachin Tendulkar by publishing an Android App in GPlayStore :)

We also have Carrom board and Badminton tournaments but so far I havent managed to claim the title, though I play both, well. My latest obsession is badminton and I really hope to win the title in the coming years :)

sports

7. Team Trips:

teamtripEvery year we go for a team outing for a couple of days to get to know each other well and at the same time to counter the work stress.. And this picture is a special one.. you will know why :)

8. Marriage – In the Cloud:

I still remember the day I met her at Zoho, became friends on FB, followed each other on twitter, talked away to glory on Google Talk and how the inevitable happened in 2010.. Thank you @Zoho for shaping up my personal life as well ;)

Marr_new

9. Friends:

friends

I think this is the best part… Friendships forged at the workplace are strong and supportive like the friends made during school or college days.. I’m really blessed to have made some great friends in this journey with whom I can share my personal things and who stand for me during my difficult times. Some of my friends have left Zoho but are still in constant touch with me. Thank you folks!!

GeekOfZoho

 

10. Gratitude:

My time at Zoho has lead to where I’m today.. I’m thankful to all my mentors who gave me valuable suggestions in every single level of my career and to my parents/wife who supported and backed me up during my difficult times..  This post won’t be a complete one if I didn’t mention @Raju Vegesna for being an unselfish mentor and helping me turn my dreams into reality.. I have admired him for years and followed – without whom my presence in Zoho would have happened..

Special thanks to all my relatives and to some friends who asked me to switch from Zoho. I’m really glad that I didn’t listen to them – otherwise this post wouldn’t have been possible at all ;)

Overall, if you are going to work for an established company instead of a start-up, I honestly believe that Zoho is the best place to work. – Yes I’m biased :)

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Droid Hackathon at Home -> A fun app :)

Recently, favourable winds in my direction at work ensured that the Senior Management handed me the responsibility of leading my team into developing an Android app for a newly launched Zoho app. In a very short period of time, we were able to release the app (Thanks to my super focussed and passionate team) and it so far, our customers are loving it. During the course of development, we came across quite a few of challenges and I personally learnt a lot.

After all these experiences, I was toying with the idea of developing an Android app (a fun app) in one night/day – more like Droid-hackthon at home. I decided to take up this challenge on August 14th night and planned to come up with a working app before Aug 15th night.

The previous week I saw Anjana playing with her iPad (Yes all mobile devices at home are her’s only and not ours ;) ) She says “A” after the tablet says A and taps on it… and repeats B and so on. I noticed that the FREE version of the app had only 5 alphabets and in order to get 26 alphabets, I had to upgrade (what the heck).. So there was my app requirement, staring right at my face. I decided to write a complete alphabet app on my own and take it up on Droid-hackthon day.

Started working on this app (August 14th – 9 PM) by choosing the different fonts for the app and deciding on the features to be added in the app. After putting everything together, I was able to come up with the working version in 5 hours time. I wanted to put this app in Google Play Store on Aug 15th itself, but (80/20 rule happened) due to some family commitments, I was not able to spend time to finish off the app completely.. Somehow managed to work on it last night and published the app in G Play Store :)

Here is what you will find in the app:

With this colorful app, Kids will love learning the English alphabets.There are 7 different fonts in which alphabets appear in the app . A different version comes up each time you tap on the magic button or anywhere on the screen. The app contains flashcards to teach your kids and also a quiz to check how well your kid has learnt.

Curious to know how the app looks? Take a look at the below screenshots,

Screenshot_2013-08-28-15-46-14 Screenshot_2013-08-28-15-46-24 Screenshot_2013-08-28-15-47-56

Screenshot_2013-08-28-15-47-18 Screenshot_2013-08-28-15-47-01 Screenshot_2013-08-28-15-46-32

Go ahead and install the app here

Android app on Google Play

If you like the app, do rate it in GPlay Store :) If you find any missing features or any glaring mistakes, do comment it here.. will get it rectified :)

I’m planning to do Droid-hackathon at home in coming months as well.. So you can expect atleast one fun app for every single month.. Stay tuned!! :)

Bow woow – a new Android app!!

The Kids FlashCards app that I published last month turned out to be quite popular in Google Play Store.. Thanks +Anjana for asking :) The app has crossed 2500 installs so far and is being used world-wide in countries like US, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore etc., Of more than 1000 apps in Kids Flashcards category, the app is listed in the 9th place in Google Play Store. I got emails from app users praising the app and how useful it is to them. Some even said that the app was their kids’ favourite lunchtime routine.. All this positive feedback motivated me and the excitement was out of the world when some folks at my office called and thanked me for the app :) All this pushed me to come up with one more app for kids.

On a lazy weekend, as usual I was playing with my lil angel.. I took her outside our home and noticed a something new… Whenever my overzealous daughter saw dog, crow or parrot, she screams Kakka Kakka or bow bow boww on top of her voice until the poor animal goes out of her sight ;) That is when I decided to that my next app would be exclusively for animals. Despite her busy schedule (running behind our daughter all the time ;) ) my wifey helped me collect a lot of pictures of domestic and wild animals, birds, baby animals etc., and edited them all to fit them in the mobile layout.

It will not be fair if I didn’t mention this special person +Balaganesh who extended his help in the UI design for this app.. He spent a weekend and gave me the UI design with all the necessary specifications/icons.. I was pumped up after seeing the super make over of the app and immediately worked on giving life to the UI design.. I burnt midnight oil for nearly 5 nights to get to a working version of the app.

Here are some details about the app,

feature-image

With this app you can introduce your child to wildlife in all its glory.. With over 100 high quality flash cards and sounds, your child will have a wonderful time amongst the different kinds of animals, birds, insects and reptiles.. Learning is so much fun for preschool kids with these colorful and interactive flashcards. Bring a complete zoo right to your mobile phone with this app and watch your kids learn the names of animals and birds in days!

  • Colorful flashcards with animal names, pictures and sounds.
  • 6 different categories from the animal kingdom.
  • Great for tiny tots and toddlers alike.
  • High quality pictures.
  • Easy swipe action.
  • Child friendly screens and navigation.
  • Sound On/Off option.
  • Random/ Alphabetical order option.
  • Can keep your kids entertained anywhere, anytime!
  • Its free and will always be.

Screenshot_2013-06-02-17-54-22  Screenshot_2013-06-02-17-54-49  Screenshot_2013-06-03-16-38-33

Go ahead and try out the app and let me know if your toddler likes it!!

Android app on Google Play

As usual please do send me any bouquets or brickbats about the app :) I’m all ears!!

P.S: In the last post, I promised to write the technology used and the challenges that I faced during app development, but didn’t have enough time to write it down.. If you’re still looking for it, wait for the next post ;)

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