“Your time is limited. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
A personification of this quote is Vinit Kumar, Technical Lead at OpenSense Labs. He had started off as an aeronautical engineer, but life took several turns and he somehow ended up being a Drupal developer! Let’s skim through a story that talks about conventions, ups and downs, and most importantly, following your dreams.
Q : Hi Vinit! So let’s start with talking about your education. Why did you choose aeronautical engineering in the first place?
A : I had been pursuing aeronautical engineering more for its professional aspect, and always had more interest in graphic designing and consequently, web development. While still in college, I took up a course in graphic designing and also took up some commissioned projects that were offered to me by the teacher himself. While working on these projects, soon I realized that web development and graphics go hand in hand, and started trying my hands on development as well.
Q : I see. Had you ever developed interest in programming beforehand or was it a spur of the moment decision to transform?
A : It was a rather extended transformation process. Pritam has been my friend since we were in school, and he was the one who was more into web development. During the years I spent being an aeronautical engineer, the aeronautics sector was not looking good - a big airline like Kingfisher was on the verge of closing. It was rather chaotic! Pritam knew about my interest in graphics and web development, and insisted that I pursue that instead - as the web was only going to expand in the upcoming years and moreover, it was something that had spiked my interest since the very beginning. Pritam helped with the basics when I was still a fresher in the domain. Subsequently, I joined a company in Hyderabad as a developer, but left within a month because my skills weren’t competent enough to keep up with the profile. After that, I brushed up my knowledge a bit and joined another company where I worked the night shift for a year. By the end of the year, due to consistent hard work and toil, I made a rather smooth switch and felt that my life was finally getting in order.
Q : As you said, you left the first company that you had joined within a month as you lacked the skills to keep working. What made you pursue the field despite not finding success anytime sooner?
A : I think that the approach makes all the difference. I wasn’t bummed by the fact that I didn’t have the supposed skillset but rather took all that as a part of my learning curve. I appeared for numerous interviews and all the questions that I couldn’t answer, I would go home and prepare those. Hence, I accepted that I was still learning. The added bonus was that web development was something that I actually wanted to do - so work never felt like work. It felt like a yearlong training procedure.
Q : That is such a great perspective! While we’re still in the topic of transformation, was there a moment of instigation that prompted you to switch from aeronautical engineering to Drupal development? How easy/difficult was it to take the call?
A : Sometimes, an outsider’s perspective is required to make the picture clearer. While working in Bangalore in a job dealing in technical publication (publication of different kinds of user manuals for the maintenance of aircrafts), I occasionally used to skip going to work as an engineer to stay home and create websites. On one such event, one of my friends realised that I had been sitting creating the website since early morning when he was going to work - and was still on it by the time he returned in the evening. I still remember when he looked at me, a little astonished, and said that I should go on and pursue something that I really wanted to. It was a turning point in my life. I called Pritam that very day and left for Hyderabad - where I took up my first job as a developer.
Q : So that is how it started! When I look back at your journey - that has eventually led you to becoming the tech lead, how has the experience with Drupal been so far?
A : It has been working pretty well for me. I still consider myself a student in the domain and focus on learning more than anything else. I have definitely grown a lot in the past 8 years and gathered knowledge in every step - and I want to keep it that way.
Q : Do you ever wonder how different life would have been had you remained an aeronautical engineer?
A : Quite different. I don’t really have any regrets though, I followed my heart and landed in a decent place. I don’t think that any of the jobs I had taken up in aeronautical engineering really spoke to me as much as Drupal development has done so far. Not once in these years have I been prompted to go back to become an aeronautical engineer.
Q : Glad it worked out for you. Lastly, what would you tell someone who wants to make a career switch like you did?
A : I’ll tell them the same thing that my friend had told me - follow your heart and it will lead you to the right path.
While we may believe that following conventional guidelines is the ‘safer’ way to live life, Vinit also highlights that we can step onto different boats and examine the best one for ourselves while we are still young and agile. There’s a time suitable for experimenting as well - we just need to identify it!
For more such interviews on The Unlikely Drupalists series, read about a/an:
DJ who became a web developer
Electrical engineer who became a frontend developer