At Freshworks, challenges, inspiration and opportunities abound for Anil Kommineni
[Note: This blog post is the first in a new series we are calling the Freshworks Friday Series. Why ‘Friday’? Well, let’s just say building great software comes easy as Fridays to us. Read on and you might discover more than that :)]
If you’ve met Anil Kommineni in person, you would know that he is always ready to take on a challenge. With his pleasant demeanor and a million-watt smile, Anil is someone you would love to get to know professionally and personally. He is the Site Head of Hyderabad and a Senior Director of Engineering at Freshworks.
Anil is as passionate about engineering as he is about building next-gen solutions in the new agile and nimble world of cloud, big data, and other emerging technologies.
Jack Welch had said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” This holds true in every sense for Anil. He is constantly thinking about how to better himself and how to enable his team and create a brilliant and successful engineering function at Freshworks.
In an email exchange, Anil opens up to us about his career, his philosophy in life, his learning, and more.
How long have you been with Freshworks? How would you summarize what you do?
It has been over a year since I joined Freshworks. Yeah, feels wonderful completing your first year as an engineering leader—you know you are making a difference and you know you are here for the long haul in making the next big thing in the history of the software world. Can’t believe it has been 12+ months and probably some of the best and most challenging times of my career, especially as we all continue dealing with the unparalleled Covid times.
I play two different roles at Freshworks. The first one is as the Site Head for the Hyderabad office, building world-class product engineering teams working on some of our cool SaaS products and solving complex/exciting problems ranging from our flagship products like Freshdesk, Freshservice, and Freshcaller and critical platform engineering areas like Search/Relevance, SRE, Freshworks Analytics, and NOC/SOC teams. In addition, I lead the engineering efforts for our cloud-telephony solution, called Freshcaller, with engineering teams across Chennai, Hyderabad and Seattle.
After a year it makes me feel alive as an engineer/leader and reminds me of my early years of career—full of excitement, energy and ambition.
What’s your career story been like?
My journey started with a software/systems engineering role at Wipro Infotech in 1991, building IT solutions with Oracle and Unix. After my Master’s at Louisiana State University and a short development engineering stint at Tampa, I joined Microsoft (Redmond, US) in December 1995 with the SQL Server team building their first version of SQL Server. Then went on to work at Microsoft for about 20 years in various roles, ranging from development lead and architect to principal engineer and senior director, and developing products like CommerceServer, ExchangeServer, MSN Mobile Services, Windows Mobile, and Azure. At Microsoft, I had the opportunity to build some cool solutions and build/lead engineering teams from 2 engineers to 150+ engineers, and had the privilege of working with some inspiring leaders and mentors.
In 2015 me and my wife decided to move back to India (Hyderabad). At the same time I thought of pushing myself out of my comfort zone working at Microsoft and decided to take a different path. So I joined Teradata R&D Labs, Hyderabad, and helped build some cool data engineering and cloud services in AWS/Azure/on-premise as part of Engineering R&D in India—and built the R&D Engineering and Product Management teams at Hyderabad and Pune. My most recent gig was with Amazon as Senior Engineering Leader where I was part of their Transportation and Logistics Engineering team solving some of the most complex logistics problems on the planet and building engineering teams across Hyderabad, Luxembourg and Seattle.
I am fortunate to have worked with some amazing organizations and have been part of delivering impactful experiences in enterprise, consumer and (now) cloud spaces. Having had the opportunity and the privilege to work with some role-model engineers and inspiring leaders, I have experienced, first-hand, some of the major tech revolutions taking shape—from the desktop to the enterprise, from the enterprise to the Web, from the Web to .COM to Mobile…and then the whole new world with Cloud. I successfully adapted and took the challenges head-on at each of these pivotal movements in tech history—though I must admit I had a few of my own failures to learn from but I kept moving forward. For the past one year, it has been an honor and privilege working with the world-class engineering teams and leaders at Freshworks and I look forward to many more amazing years ahead!
What do you look forward to coming to work every day?
Freshworks is a place where there is no dearth of cool problems to solve, great engineers/leaders to work with to get inspiration/learnings and have freedom/opportunity to take on those challenges head-on. Every day I look forward to the difference I am going to bring in for our customers, for our engineers/teams/stakeholders and, most importantly, to creating a happy work environment for all of us at work—while continuing to work on achieving our dream of creating the next big thing in the software world.
How would you define Freshworks’ culture? What is your take on our culture codes and values?
Inspiring, rewarding and most-happening experiences day-in and day-out. It is the happiest place on Earth if you are a software engineer/leader, who is looking to make a difference while being a part of history in the making—in building the next big surprise for the SaaS industry.
Where on earth would you get to take on cool problems to solve, have tons of fun solving/learning in the process and get plenty of independence in doing it at your own pace!
Freshworks is committed to a diverse workspace. How are you as a leader committed to it? What are your thoughts on gender diversity?
Diversity (race/gender/ethnicity/physical) is an important and critical dimension in building great software engineering teams to deliver inspirational, well-rounded experiences for the world today and tomorrow. Diversity brings in different thoughts/views and diverse experiences, which gives us an opportunity to have a more well-rounded view of potential solutions—and that helps everyone.
Especially in India, from a gender diversity perspective, we need to find ways to create, retain and bring back more women leaders/engineers/architects into the software engineering profession and find innovative ways to create the right work-life balance for them to stick to the profession for the long run and be successful ultimately. There is plenty of opportunity here in my view.
What advice would you give individuals looking to work for Freshworks?
If you are looking for once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to create history in creating the first product engineering company out of India potentially making a global impact, going to (planned) IPO and becoming one of the great software power houses in the SMB and mid-market space—which is also giving the big guys a run for their money—this is the company to join. This is the company to inspire the next generation of startups and innovation.
What’s the one thing that people don’t know about you?
Proud to share that I come from a humble background where I went to local public elementary/high school where there was no class when it rained—as the entire school was in huts! I also helped my dad in farming until I was 15 years of age.
Cover imaging & design: Deepak Kumar J
Feeling inspired by Anil’s story? Freshworks invites passionate candidates to explore working with the various leaders and team members in our engineering and other functions. Do read more about our culture code and check out our careers page: https://www.freshworks.com/company/careers/
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