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September Employee Spotlight: Kalyani Haridasyam
I knew Kalyani Haridasyam, our quality assurance engineer, would be a blast to interview. She may be small and seem quiet, but she packs a ton of personality. A quick read of her team bio shows off her spunk: she claims to be a developer’s worst nightmare, hopes to smash a guitar after a killer rock performance someday, and boasts that she’s feisty and proud of it.
Along with this playful attitude, Kalyani seems to kick ass at what she does. But to be sure, I checked in with Director of Engineering Adam England. He verified, saying, “I’ve met very few people who work as hard as Kalyani does. She really cares about being the best she can be at her job, and it shows in the quality of her work.”
After such rave reviews, I couldn’t wait to dive in and get to know Kalyani better for myself. What better way to do that than by featuring her in this month’s employee spotlight? So let’s get to it.
Amy: One of the things I found most interesting in your bio was when you said “RNL fits the bill for what you were looking for.” How so?
Kalyani: I like to work in an environment that’s fast paced, where things move quickly, and where there are some really intelligent people who know what they are doing. After my interview I thought, “This is an amazing place. I should work here.” As soon as I got into the car, I told my husband I would love it so much here. It just fits.
Amy: Good! I’m glad to hear that. Kind of related, you said that QA has been your professional passion since your first job. You made a few references to that, saying “you break it to make it better” and that you're a developer’s worst nightmare. What draws you to QA?
Kalyani: When I started my first job, I was bored with QA. I said to myself, “This is not why I earned a degree in computer engineering.” Then, one day, someday gave me the advice: “Don’t look at the documents and replicate it. Just explore.” When I started doing that, I found the process of testing as entertaining as a treasure hunt. You make the product better and, in the end, it doesn’t matter if you do that as QA or as a developer. But in development, you fix 10 bugs and your job for the day is done. My job isn’t done even if I find 20 or 30 bugs. That’s the most challenging part of it; there are no limits or bounds to testing. I like the uncertainty.
Amy: What do you have to say to developers who think you’re their worst nightmare?
Kalyani: I wish I weren’t! All of us are trying to build a product that’s really good and that people appreciate (and buy). So, this is what I have to tell them: I’m on your team! It’s better me than somebody from outside, right?
Amy: That’s true. You also said in your bio that you have a number of different hobbies. You like reading, blogging, photography, painting, and playing piano. Tell me more about those.
Kalyani: Add crocheting and cooking to the list! I’m an extremely curious person and like to try my hand and heart at everything. I need to have a reason to not do something. I’d like to give breadth to life. I also think that, to truly appreciate something, you need to know what goes into making it. For example, I listen to a lot of Indian classical music. Its beautiful, but I can’t differentiate between the ragas. So I want learn it in order to appreciate it better. I also want to try my hand at pottery.
Amy: So you’re focused on trying a little bit of everything. Are you going to tell us what your blog is?
Amy: What is it?!
Kalyani: It’s kalyanisthoughts.blogspot.com.
Amy: Oh yes. Excellent. I remember when you finished your hazing you said, “Nobody asked me what my blog was. That was your one chance!” And I thought “Nooo!”
Kalyani: Yeah, but it’s locked. You need an invitation to view it.
Amy: What?! That’s cheating. Can we all get an invitation?
Kalyani: Sure. Anybody who asks gets an invitation and an implicit invitation to proofread it, too.
Amy: Awesome. So, since I don’t work with you very much, I decided to get some dirt on you by sending messages to a bunch of people around the office. I asked 11 people what they wanted to know about you, so this is viewer’s choice right now. All the next questions are from co-workers. First, people want to know, how do you feel knowing you’re going to be a mom soon?
Kalyani: This may sound silly, but a couple years ago I decided not to have kids. The world is a mean place for a little child and it isn’t getting any better. But then I grew selfish and talked myself into it. During the first couple of months, I didn’t really feel any change. I felt normal, but I was paranoid as hell. I am a self-critical person and during pregnancy that’s going up a notch. I asked myself a lot of questions: “Am I eating too little? Too much? Can I do this? Should I do this?”
After a few weeks of being paranoid I started to feel the baby and I took it as assurance. Now, the baby moves a lot. Constantly. Nudging to remind me that I’ve got company. That’s a really happy feeling. I’m extremely excited about the future. I’m not as scared as I’m supposed to be. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Amy: Aww, good. That’s really cool. People also want to know —
Kalyani: If it’s a boy or a girl?
Amy: No, they want to know if you’re having twins.
Kalyani: No, I’m not having twins.
Amy: You’re not? There’s a rumor going around that you are. I don’t know if you know that.
Kalyani: No! I wish I were having twins. I even made sure I married into a family that has a history of twins. But no.
Amy: Okay. And you’re having a boy?
Amy: Do you know what you’re going to name him?
Kalyani: No. We just know the letter we are going to start the name with. We want to start with V because my nephew’s name starts with a V and we want all the cousins to have V names. So we know it’ll start with a V. Well, at least we want it to start with a V. We have three more months to figure out the following letters!
Amy: You’ve got time! People also want to know how your husband feels being called “Mr. Kalyani” by the RNL team. What does he think about that?
Kalyani: I don’t think he notices anything odd in that. I'm pretty sure he is totally okay with that.
Amy: Do you ever call him Mr. Kalyani?
Kalyani: Nope. I call him a lot of cute names. Well, at least I think they’re cute, but nevermind that.
Amy: What’s his actual name?
Kalyani: His name is Sravan. Now that I think of it, I should try calling him Mr. Kalyani. It’s a really cool reference. I should do that.
Amy: He seemed really sweet when you brought him to the company outing to the Royals game.
Kalyani: Yes, he is. When I first met him more than a decade ago, he was the nicest guy I ever met and that’s still true today.
Amy: Aww, that’s sweet. Unrelated, you got two tattoos this year. Are those the “love” and “peace” on your arms?
Amy: What’s the story behind those?
Kalyani: I’ve wanted to get a tattoo for a few years now but I didn’t know what to get. I wanted something that would be significant throughout my life and not just during this phase of my life. I lost my dad in 2010. I didn’t have proper closure with him and that constantly haunts me every day. So, the “peace” tattoo was more for him to get that closure. I also had a traumatic past, so there’s the idea of making peace with my past and loving my future. There are many reasons for each of the tattoos, but “peace” is for my dad and “love” is for Sravan. The “L” in “love” forms an infinity, so that's my testimony of infinite love for him.
Amy: I love those stories. People also want to know: Why are you a vegetarian?
Kalyani: I’m a vegetarian because I don’t like to eat meat.
Amy: You don’t like the taste of it?
Kalyani: I love it. I used to love chicken. And then at 12, I was a little more spiritual than someone that age is supposed to be. I didn’t like the idea of killing innocent animals for food. That was just a thought that I had and without even informing my parents, I decided I wouldn’t eat meat anymore.
My parents were really, really unhappy with that because I was a growing child and I'd hardly ever eat anything. But they understood and respected my decision. Although my siblings made fun of me. Enduring that was tough.
Amy: And you’ve stuck with it since you were 12? You’re not going back?
Kalyani: Nope, not going back. I had a craving for chicken the first few months of the pregnancy. And I think I was almost ready to eat it. But when my husband made everything and put it in front of me, I saw it as something that's not edible because it has been like that in my mind for so many years. So I couldn’t do that. The cravings phase is gone and I am relieved.
Amy: Wow, way to stick to your guns. Kind of related… This is a segue I’m making: vegetarian, vegetables, fruit. I had three people tell me to ask you about the fruit you had hiding in your desk!
Kalyani: We weren’t getting fruit in the office for a couple of weeks. So to make sure that I was eating right, I got a few pears and oranges and I put them in the bottom drawer of my desk. They weren't as ripe as I would like them so I decided to leave them for a few days, thinking, “The AC's always on, it's like a mini fridge in there, nothing can go wrong.” That few days turned to few more days and I completely forgot about them.
One day I opened the top drawer and something smelled bad. I was like, “Why is it smelling like this… Oh my gosh!” I didn’t dare open the bottom drawer because I knew it would result in some casualties. One evening, there were two people left in the office, but I couldn’t wait for them to leave. So I took out the bag and ran to the dumpster. But Megan was here and she was like, “Oh my god, what was that?”
Amy: And then word just spread from there I guess?
Amy: Someone else wants to know: How come you don’t drive?
Kalyani: I don’t drive because I know I’m going to kill somebody if I drive.
Amy: Oh, cool. That’s it, then?
Kalyani: I’ve been riding bicycles since I was 8 and I rode a scooter ever since I was 13. So I’ve always been around two-wheelers that didn’t have walls around me. If I have to drive a car, everything is covered. You have such a limited view. You don’t know who’s going to come in front of you and you might kill. I could see myself pushing the gas instead of the brake and that’d be it. I’m pretty scared of killing someone. That is why I haven’t had the courage to go and get a driver’s license. But then I have to get it someday, right?
Amy: I suppose. Are you not nervous riding with your husband when he drives you?
Amy: You’re just nervous that you’d do something if you were driving.
Amy: Well, somebody said you had a motorcycle when you were in India? Maybe it was the scooter you were talking about?
Kalyani: Yeah. It was a scooter, not a motorcycle. We call any kind of scooter a bike there. So I might’ve said a bike.
Amy: Maybe they just misinterpreted.
Kalyani: Yeah. I want to own a bike someday here. I want to do that rather than drive a car.
Amy: Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask next. But do you live close enough to do that?
Kalyani: Close enough to be able to bike?
Amy: To RNL? To be able to take a scooter to work?
Kalyani: Oh, I’m actually talking about a Harley-Davidson.
Amy: Oh, really? You do want a motorcycle?
Kalyani: Yeah, I’m comfortable with that. I’m more comfortable about that than a car.
Amy: Oh, wow. That’s funny. So many people are afraid of motorcycles but not afraid of cars. So it’s funny that you’re the opposite.
Kalyani: I think, with a motorcycle, the chance of killing someone is less because of the kind of vehicle it is. A car has a higher chance because it’s so huge.
Amy: That’s a good point. Somebody pointed out that you have an additional monitor that you only use to put Post-it notes on. What’s the story with that?
Kalyani: I’m used to writing things down so that I can see them. So when Dan sent out a message about house cleaning, I got one of the monitors that I liked so I could see my notes better. Also, one of the notes says “Testing is not necessary?” I was hearing that a lot from other developers. I told them that I’m going to keep a record of who says that and the number of times. Ever since, no one has said that to me anymore. It’s working!
Amy: That works. The last question I have is super random: Android development?
Kalyani: Yep. I developed an Android app that uses Facebook data. You see the places your friends have visited or recommended. The idea came when my nephew and his family were visiting us. Who’s more reliable than your friends? Using the app you can search for something like, “I want to find a restaurant in Chicago that my friends have recommended.” And it gives you a list of options.
It’s like Yelp but with just your friends instead of everybody out there. It also has a cool feature that allows you to ask specific friends for specific recommendations. That was my master’s project. The coding and testing part is done. The only thing I have left on it is documentation, like user notes and help notes. I’m so lazy to just finish that last bit. Apparently, I’ve been busy doing nothing.
Amy: Well, being pregnant.
Amy: Do you think you’ll finish it someday?
Kalyani: I should. Just to put a period on the project. The bad part is I lost the hard disk. The computer with all the code on it crashed.
Amy: Oh no!
Kalyani: I have the code in GitHub though. So I have to check that out, set up the local environment, and all that. It just adds to the laziness.
Amy: It sounds like you’ve done the fun part of it and all you have left is the not fun part of it. So I can sympathize with that. Do you have any screenshots?
Kalyani: I do. I have a demo video. So I can share that.
Amy: Yes, please do! Well, we blew right through your interview. I think we got a good, well-rounded picture of you. I’m glad my random number generator chose you!
Kalyani: Go figure. It’s my birthday this month!
Amy: It is?
Kalyani: Yeah, September 29th! But there’s tricky stuff with my birthday. All my documents have my birthday as the 29th of December. When my father enrolled me and my sister in school, he messed up the months and put her birth month for my name.
Amy: That’s funny. So all your documents have the wrong day?
Kalyani: Yeah. It’s actually September 29th. I’m three months younger otherwise.
Amy: Aww. Well, all your documents may be wrong, but at least you’ll have a post on your birthday.
Amy: Thanks so much for letting me interview you! Oh, and...