An interview with Manju Maheswar : 1 year @ Moolya

About September 2011, we were 6 testers. We decided to hire fresh college graduates full time. Prior to that, we had hired Riyaj Shaik, a highly promising guy, fresh out of college but only for three months, in contract. It was more of an experiment both sides and Riyaj wanted to go back to Pune. When we decided to hire people for full-time work, we wanted to get those who would understand who we are and work towards becoming a role model. We interviewed about 20-30 (out of many who took our test) and shortlisted only 2 out of them. Both joined us. One of them was Manju. It was October 3rd, 2011. Feels like a long time ago for me because there are so many events that happened after that.

I have the honor of interviewing people on their yearly milestones and publishing what they write without editing it. I help in bringing out some inspiring stories to the world through these interviews.

I have to start with a story, as old as 2008. During my consulting days in ETI, I happened to meet Panicker, a front office gentleman who was highly respected with ETI and QAI staff. His hospitality, courteousness, honesty, sincerity and humility touched my heart, likewise for others. In Subroto Bagchi’s way of expressing, he was a professional of a new standard of excellence. However, he was not all that well off when it came to money and had to seek sponsorship for his daughter’s college education. I was one of the sponsors for his daughter’s college education. For the respect I had towards him, I did not even bother to check if he had a daughter. For the man he is, you would hardly want to do any background checks.

When Moolya happened, I forgot about Panicker until Manju arrived. I was briefed by Praven Joseph, who arranged the interviews for us that Manju was a candidate lined up for interview who happened to be Panicker’s daughter. If I made an emotional decision, I should have hired her but hiring decisions just can be only based on emotions. I knew that hiring Manju just because I respect her father would be an insult to the hard work she must have put in. So, I got our own DS to conduct her first round of interview and I guess I did not bias him with my respect for her father. Turned out that DS recommended Manju for the job and then I mixed my emotion. That’s the story of hiring Manju.

She works on a project called Nimit (from Cogknit – a startup) – an award-winning e-learning platform. Working at a startup for a startup has to be a great challenge. There were and there are some high-pressure moments in startups like Moolya and Cogknit. Manju handled all of them and has been able to add great value. She does have qualities that her father has and also beyond it. Manju smiles more often than her father does 🙂 This is important for people around her as much as it is for her. She has been considered as the most approachable and friendly by her colleagues – both in Moolya and Cogknit.

I claim to have a high standard of work, skill and professionalism and care for my people as much as they should care for themselves. This also means, I offer my constructive criticism whilst acting as a mirror to what Moolyans do. This is what I do with everybody in Moolya. Someone did this to me in life, I benefited a lot. Legacy has to be passed on, especially when it is good.

Manju has survived through it and is doing great. I must admit that if Cogknit has a lot of faith in Moolya, one of the top reasons for it is because of Manju. She is a gem, we found. She was also born out of one. In her own words:

How can I forget? Even now I make people feel jealous of me by telling my first-day experience at Moolya. Parimala Hariprasad, she made the day a most memorable one. I was totally in a different world from the time I entered our office. The bouquet, chocolates, Moolya T-shirt, Moolya cup,  “Lessons learned in Software testing”  book and a new laptop which already had my name as user account and the Team lunch, I was somewhere in the heaven throughout the day. Every moment that day was a memorable one.

PS: You joined us in our garage and now we are in a high tech setup, how has this transition been for you?

Moolya is growing! What else can make a Moolyavan happier than this? I am really happy that I joined during garage days and seeing Moolya’s growth one by one, I am proud to be a part of Moolya. At times I really miss our old office and the fun we had there.

PS: Has Moolya been able to deliver what you expected?

Moolya and Moolyavans are always beyond my expectations. Moolya delivered much more than what I expected in Moolya’s own way .

PS: How would you describe your learning experience in Moolya?

Can any other company provide a learning experience that Moolya has provided? I doubt that. Moolya is the best place for learning and the way Moolyavans encourage learning and help developing ourselves is simply awesome. Moolya gave me a confidence that I am capable of doing many things by myself. Moolya taught me how to explore and how to do things better. To name a few

  • Sessions on different topics by Moolyavans
  • Testing dose by DS
  • Testing challenges

have made me much stronger in my knowledge, and helped me improve my testing skills and gain more confidence.

PS: What are your best moments so far with Moolya?

  • First day, the most memorable one
  • Evening walk with Sunil, Yagnesh and Mampi
  • Lunch/Evening snacks at Aditya
  • The first movie outing with Sunil, Yagnesh and Mampi, 7.30 show 🙂 (The unforgettable day, I never enjoyed the film, from the time I entered  theater, only one thing was running in my mind  – whether I will get a bus to reach home as it was late. Thanks to Sunil for driving all the way from Jayadeva to KR Puram and dropping me  J, and the care and responsibility PS has)
  • The daily testing challenges and daily sessions
  • Moolya’s first anniversary celebration
  • Our new office inauguration
  • All team movie outing and bowling

And lot more 🙂

PS: You were testing an e-learning application that fetched the best e-learning product of the year award at an international conference, how did you feel about it?

I consider myself lucky to be a part of such an innovative product which fetched the best e-learning product of the year award at World Education Congress. The overall experience I am having in this project is really great. I have heard about the tensions between dev and test but here we are having a totally different experience. We are friends not enemies 🙂 I have heard Moolyavans explaining the advantage of being a friend of developer and truly I am experiencing those advantages. I am very happy to work along with the Cogknit team.

I am waiting celebrate the release of our product.

PS: What good things do you notice about the people working with you? You can name them (even from Cogknit) and mention what is good about them

The best thing about the people I have worked along with is that they don’t have egos; they share the knowledge they have without any hesitation, eagerness to learn, they are caring, encourage people in doing things and lot more. I have noticed this in most of the people I worked with, from both Moolya and Cogknit. Love you all. You all have inspired me in many ways.

PS: In the project you were working, there were times where the pressure was too high, how did you handle them?

If I look back I wonder how I handled them, what I realize is that, those pressures made me stronger and gave me confidence that I can handle these situations.  Thanks to Moolyavans and team Cogknit for encouraging and giving me full support. I am really grateful to all of you.

I am also happy that you gave me a wonderful team now (Ashok, Mallikarjuna & Bhavanassss)

PS: Do you remember the Ruby days and the confusion that surrounded on what Ruby code you should be writing? What did you feel about us? Stupid?

Oh God, the Ruby days J. When I was asked to learn Ruby language without anybody guiding me I was shocked, I thought I can never write a script in Ruby, Moolya proved me wrong. I was able to write scripts and make them run and get output which I know was not enough.

Thanks to Santhosh for guiding me throughout and appreciating me for all the scripts that I sent him, that encouraged me to do more and more. Thanks even to Rema from Multunus for helping me out. I was disappointed when I had to stop my work incomplete, but I am sure I will restart the ruby learning and do things much better.

PS: Can you tell us about the work you did that made you feel great about yourselves?

  • I was happy when I was able to learn ruby and felt great when I saw my scripts running
  • I felt great when I was able to handle the pressures I had in my work
  • Owning the test server and deployment  in the current project
  • Being a part of implementing CD Pipeline

I also like to state that, discussions with PS always made me realize that those work were not great, I would have done it much better and faster. Thanks PS; you always correct me when I am in a wrong path

PS: Stealing a question from Huib Schoots: What is the most important skill for a software tester according to you?

A good tester should have many skills,

  • Logical thinking
  • Curiosity to learn
  • Good communication (spoken & writing)
  • Questioning skill , are some of those

PS: What is your plan for the next year? What do you want Manju 2.0 to do that Manju 1.0 did not?

The following are my plans for making Manju 2.0 much better than Manju 1.0,

  • Start writing blogs
  • Improving my testing skills
  • Improving my leadership skills
  • Taking many sessions for Moolyavans

PS: Who is your biggest influence in Moolya? Why?

Everyone at Moolya has influenced me in a way or the other. If I have to tell about the biggest influence it is Pradeep, Pari, DS, Santhosh and Sunil. I always bow my head in front of this people. Their dedication and passion towards testing and their dream of building up a great testing company and the name they gained in testing community, their blogging skills and the leadership quality. I am happy that I am working with this great people.

_end of interview_

The pattern I noticed in her response to all the questions I asked her was – she repeatedly owed her success to people around her. I wish, I was as humble as she was. Cogknit is our customer for the last 10 months. The founders of Cogknit says we are their permanent partner for testing. Imagine a girl as young as Manju helping us achieve this great milestone. She is the unsung hero of Moolya. My respect for the work you and your father do. Congratulations for the first year at Moolya, Manju. I know there is plenty more to come, for you and for Moolya.

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