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image An old screenshot of us doing a fun weekly brainstorming session on Figma

A fuzzy Beginning

If you know me, I have told this story a lot of times. And still, I will repeat again. I was in my 3rd year of engineering at BITS Pilani. Things weren't going smooth to say the least. While my friends would go to classes and study diligently when exams were around, I spent the time, in my room, learning stuff that at the time, seemed risky and maybe dumb. I learned 2d animation, 3d modelling, game development and web-dev instead of attending classes. And that reflected in my grades. So much so that while my friends were discussing and preparing for summer internship interviews, I didn't even qualify for sitting in the interviews because of my low cgpa.

So I knew I had to take an alternative route. And so I did. I applied to a few companies and startups I was interesting in and specifically those that didn't care about my grades but more so on my skills. I applied to DeepMind Google and I have already written how it went.

And during that time, I saw this post on BITS Pilani's one of FB pages from Adi -


The post didn't exactly mentioned who the founders were and I didn't bother to check either. I scrolled past. Imagine if that would have been the end of it!

I was talking to my friend Yash, who casually mentioned - "did you see that post?". I replied yes but then I didn't know if it was worth it to apply. He said no harm in having a conversation. And I agreed.

Almost There

I applied and heard back from Adi. We got on a call and on the first call, I knew it was something interesting. We had a couple more calls and then I got to meet Chandra. And that was it. I knew it, I had to join Inspirit (Sundial was called Inspirit back then). We just connected and I have been a admirer ever since.

I got to meet the early team, Jay and Ani. I was super nervous and I remember I had a hard time getting Jay's accent for the first time. I thought I bombed it and I am not sure what both of them saw in me to give a green flag.

Then I met Julie. Up till now, I wasn't asked any strong technical questions but Julie did. She showed a popular app and asked me how would you go about implementing the real time collaboration feature? How would you implement the commenting?

'To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail' - Abraham Maslow. And I had a hammer called Firebase. That's what I knew. And so I literally replied to her every question with - "Umm, I would, ahh, use Firebase?", trailing with a explanation on how I would go about it.

I thought surely, this was it. They would know I don't know what I am talking about. But by luck, Julie gave a green light too.

And then I had a call with Chandra. He said, you are in. And I was ecstatic. And then he said, just one formality, there is a technical interview remaining.

What? Weren't we doing it until now? I have to give a real interview? I would surely mess it up.

The technical interview was with a friend of Chandra from Sequoia US. Luckily they asked questions I knew answers of, so I was able to wing my way through.

And, that's how I got into Sundial.

Ship Love

I will not go into all the technical stuff we did. But we did try to ship love, a concept Julie brought with her from FB.

During our team meetings, we have this demo thing. Where we demo all the interesting stuff we built. Sometimes, these were our little secret features or hacks we built just for fun.

You would feel that you shouldn't show it as it's not that great or polished. But then you have these awesome colleagues that will cheer and rally around you to demo it.

This is a screenshot when I demoed the first version of Narrative Builder. What it does? Iykyk.

Pro tip - take screenshots when people appreciate something you built. It helps when you feel like an imposter. And it's always fun to see how far you have come.

narrrative builder comments

We all built a lot of awesome stuff. Making Sundial better, bit by bit. And all these replies made it worth it. Admin panel comments

Move Fast, Break Things?

SEV-2, SEV-3? What's that? Wait I did a SEV-1?

a SEV (severity) 1 incident is a “a critical incident with very high impact".

We emulate a lot of values from FB that Chandra and Julie brought at Sundial with them. "Move fast and break things" too. You have a high ownership and freedom to execute your tasks. But that can sometime lead to unwanted side-effects. One such was a critical incident by yours truly. It was severe enough for me to think that I was done for. But Sundial surprised me again.

After we realized what had happened, we did the immediate rectification, everything according to the book. Well Julie did. But no-one said anything to me, surprisingly. But they did say this -

"It was a fault of the system and processed we put in the place. People will make mistakes. We need to make our processes better".

You don't see this happening at most places. For a team to think and operate like this, that's a very high bar. Where we know that everyone is operating with a sense of ownership and care. And we may make mistakes. But we need to fix the processes instead of blaming someone. Although I do feel I deserved a lot of it (@_@).

Events like these tell you a lot about the people you are working with. I know that Sundial deserves every bit of success it has and will have.

When I joined Sundial, I had a hackerish approach to everything. Just make it work. All the wrong mental models. Heck, I probably didn't even know what mental models were. Doing things like, going under the radar and then emerging to valiantly claim that I have fixed that big problem in a one big chunky solution. But that's not how you work with a team. Had to unlearn before I could learn from the pros around me.

What makes you, you?

I don't know the answer for that. But I know that Sundial is Sundial because of the all the gems we have. Each and everyone different and still great in their own ways. It's hard to find such people. Someone as caring as Chandra, compassionate like Julie, passionate like Jay, crazy intelligent yet humble like Ani or someone as brilliant as Satyajeet and many more.

I can probably write a post about everyone and still I would not be able to convey how awesome it feels to work with these folks.

Time is a flat circle

Doesn't feel like I have known all of you for almost three years now. Crazy! Feels I have know some of you for a lot longer but feels like a small amount of time. Relativity folks!

But why am I writing this? Because all things have an end, even the good ones. I have always been terrible at communicating how I feel. And saying bye to Sundial is the same - hard. I have been avoidant about it for a long time. Trying to find new ways to avoid saying a final bye.

But this ends now with me saying bye to Sundial, for now. This chapter has a closure. And as much as I love Sundial, I have found some ideas that I feel are worth exploring, worth taking a leap of faith for.

But I will always call Sundial my home. And as I've said to some of you, whenever I am done with these experiments of mine, if I can still bring value to Sundial, I would join in a heartbeat. It's hard not to.

I started taking a Photo-Booth picture before a meet to see if I look decent-ish for the team meets. And then it became a ritual. Compiled some of them to show you that I have actually transformed in the last 3 years :D(and maybe lost some weight?).

time is a flat circle

It's a wrap.