cin >> Technology_Savvy; cout << Dilip Raj Baral;
Most techies have a way of their own – they’re essentially lone-wolfs, low on everybody’s radar and introverted. Dilip Raj Baral, however, is a legend who transformed in the course of his four years at NITR, and became a leader and mentor, as well. For someone with his skills and talent, he is extremely patient with laymen, and in this candid interview with Team MM, he shares his experiences.
We obviously had to begin by asking him about his childhood, Nepal, and everything that happened to him before India did. We found out that he had a very interesting childhood, wherein he was never really academically inclined but ended up topping his school by chance. He blames this once incident for raising everybody’s expectations in him and thus, having to put in more effort to maintain his grades, thereafter. Even as a kid, he was less social, and he tells us how he never played a sport, but once tried his hand at football; before everything he coaxed his parents into buying him expensive playing studs, which he wore to the practice of Annual Football Tournament of his school and his coach was immediately impressed. However, much to the coach’s surprise, who played Dilip as a center forward in his very first much, he was an absolute novice. Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed too many second chances, and since everybody else on the field had been playing since their first or second standard, Dilip’s promising career as a footballer was cut short by a demotivating coach.
The only thing that has remained constant throughout, however, is his love for coding. When he was in his eighth standard he saw his brother programming and that aroused his interest. Thereafter he self-learned using the internet as his sole source of wisdom and guidance. Since he pursued University of Cambridge’s A Level course in his 11-12, he had a lighter syllabus and sufficient time to pursue his hobbies and passions, and he believes this is what helped him hone his coding skills, further.
I always knew I wanted to be a Computer Science Engineer, so even though everybody else in my family usually graduates from school and takes up the responsibility of the family business, I decided to do engineering. Initially my father had his share of inhibitions, but eventually, he saw that I was passionate about it, and really good at it so he let me. Today even he feels really happy.
On being asked about his preconceived notions about India, he went on tell us that residents of Nepal are quite acquainted with the Indian culture (especially through Bollywood and TV shows), so India wasn’t much of a surprise for him. However, he finds the Academic schedule here way more hectic than the one in Nepal and he feels it allows very little scope for holistic development.
Monday Morning: The Wild Card Entry
While there are many people who have been known to be wild-card entries into Monday Morning in their second year as a member of the working team, Dilip is perhaps the only person who ever had a direct lateral entry into the executive team as a Technical Coordinator. However, those who know him could easily say that this was his destiny, as he had turned up for the Inductions in his freshman year, and then later lost interest when he found out that the job involved more data-entry than building a website.
His journey with MM began, when in his second year, his senior from Microsoft Campus Club, who also happened to be a coordinator at Monday Morning, Shantanu Kumar, approached him to work as a part of the Core Technical Team of Project Adamantium (comprising of members of MM as well as Microsoft campus club), to develop the new website for MM. Dilip says:
“It was a pretty hectic task. I was supposed to work on this throughout the summer, but I couldn’t do that because of the Nepal earthquake. So, I only started working during the last two weeks of the vacation, on a tight deadline.”
The site was scheduled to be launched a week right after the college reopened. The enormous size of the site, and Dilip’s as well as the entire team’s vision for it along with the inputs from the Chief Coordinators, meant that he had to spend ungodly hours working on the website during that one week. On Sunday, when he realised that it was not humanly possible to complete the website on time, he insisted with the CCs to either use the old website for that particular issue or shift the launch to the week after. The CCs, on the other hand, were completely intransigent as the teaser posters (with the dates) for the website launch were all around. Keeping aside the exhaustion of more than two weeks of two hours of sleep a day, Dilip took up the mammoth task of finishing the job.
Nevertheless, he completed his job on time, but the website had multiple errors and bugs as a result of the eleventh-hour chaos that took place. However, with enough time and tolerable amount of sleep, he successfully fixed most of the glitches over the week, which was further followed by several weeks of incremental developments.
Seeing the amount of dedication and hard work he had put into this, the MM fraternity decided to make him the Technical Coordinator for MM. Soon after that, the enthusiastic team started planning for an app alongside an endless list of new features/changes they needed on the website. Chief Coordinator for the session 2015-16, Anurag Saha Roy says:
We had ideas, but so far they were not being implemented. When we found Dilip, it was almost like finding a Genie for us. We pestered him week after week with a never-ending wish list of features that we wanted, and the website is still “work in progress”.
However, due to lack of much prior experience in app development, the work on the App was stalled till they could find a team that would be able to handle the responsibility. So in a nutshell, if Dilip had never been handed Project Adamantium, neither would transformed into a good team worker and neither would Monday Morning have a website which has now crossed the 1 million mark in terms of the lines of codes that it consists of.
During his work for Monday Morning, for the first semester he mostly worked by himself, and it was only later that he started teaching the Techies then, Astitva Srivastava and Sitesh Patnaik. When asked what his vision for Monday Morning is, he says:
I want the technical team to grow and comprise of more members. There are several good coders on campus, but here the focus is merely on getting an ouput. However, once they go out into the real world they have to spend almost a year learning industry standards and convention. At Monday Morning, we encourage you to create code, alongside other team members, that is not only functional, but also readable and easy to maintain. These three traits are what makes you a great programmer. Thus, this gives you an edge, at all times. I would encourage more people to use this opportunity and develop their technical skills, as well as take Monday Morning to new heights.
Microsoft Campus Club: Shot to Stardom
Microsoft campus club was one of the first things that happened to Dilip in NITR. He recalled ticking all the options on the paper asking him of the programming languages he knew. This resulted in almost two dozens of the club’s senior members encircling Dilip during his PI round, and a series of questions that followed inevitably.
After a month of his induction, he was still hesitant about joining the club since one of his seniors had warned him about the work pressure. However, he finally realized that he was missing out on something his interests lied in, and hence, started attending the club meetings regularly. To re-prove before the seniors that he was as enthusiastic as the Dilip they had inducted, he was instrumental in recreating the website of “Hunt your Destiny” to give it an entirely new bigger and better shape of “Treasherlocked”, all by himself in his first year.
Tresherlocked was the first NITR event that was organized at a national level and turned out to be a huge success. There was never looking back after that point. It was followed by several successful events by the club - like Appathon, Codenigma and Techathon to name a few.
Being an integral part of all these events resulted in him becoming the coordinator of the Microsoft Campus club in his third year.
As a coordinator, Dilip introduced novel concepts like Tech-Xere (a technical blog by the club) to improve the technical acumen of the NITR Junta and regular weekly workshops within the club to ensure that club members were not only involved in managerial tasks but got a chance to improve their technical skills. He also restructured the organization of the club, and created posts with more specific job-descriptions so the various activities around the year could be executed more efficiently. He, however, regrets not being able to contribute much to the club as a coordinator due to his prior engagements and his project with MM during that period.
I come from a family that does business, and I don’t think that I’m meant to work under someone. In our language, Jagir translates to a job; and my father used to say: Jaagir stands for Ja – Gir (Jaa: go || Gir: Fall). I’m the first one in my family who has made it this far in academics. So yeah, I will take up a job for now but I guess I’ll be turning towards entrepreneurship in the future.
Bookfount was mostly the brainchild of my batch mate and sibling, Dipesh Baral (This is where we found out that he’s not only talented but also humble). I primarily handled the technical part. If you’ve ever found the book fee insufficient to buy books to last an entire semester or you generally discard these same books after use, then this is probably the answer to your problems. Bookfount is a platform where you can sell and buy books that have been used for a semester, at half their price. They have plans to expand it, but couldn’t execute them to a large extent because both of them were final year students and had to concentrate on other aspects of their life. However, he assures us that Bookfount will not die out, and they will induct a team of juniors to pass the baton on to, and they’re even planning to collaborate with the institute.
A major reason behind him being a legend in the institute is him bagging the coveted Google Summer of Code. The project was huge, open-sourced and very different from the ones he had worked previously on (It even followed a work-from-home job offer at its end which he eventually denied). Due to his previous experience with working for MM, he believes he gained a slight edge over the other coders because he was well-acquainted with modern technologies, industrial practices and professionalism that his work demanded.
The Struggle and its Rewards
People prepare for interviews in summer while neglecting their internship, but Dilip obvious didn’t do that. He was interning in Malaysia, and wasn’t prepared for the placement season. In the early days of his final year, Amazon visited the campus. He didn’t even clear the first round and was rejected by two other companies; which is when he realised that he needed more time to prepare. So he took two months off to prepare, September and October. Once, he came across a company on his placement portal (which he thanked Siddharth Manu for having created) which was looking for Analysts. He wasn’t even remotely interested, so he didn’t bother to look into it. On one fateful day, their Placement Coordinator called him up, asking him to attend this company’s presentation. He was really reluctant to go and was thinking of excuses to make so he told him that he wasn’t in formals and was in a lab, but the coordinator wasn’t ready to reason with me. Later after his friend told him that the job required someone with developmental skills, he went for the company’s presentation, which he happily slept through in his causal clothes, in a room full of people dressed in formals. Funnily enough though, he not only cleared the written round this time, but also topped it and was called for the Personal Interview round.
Towards the end of the interview, the panel asked me if I had any questions in mind, to which I asked them a rather generic question related to company policy. One of the panelists was surprised by my question and turned to the HR Manager, and said ‘Wasn’t it your job to brief the candidates about this?’, to which the HR Manager calmly replied, “I did, but he was sleeping then!” However guess what? I did get in, after all.
Dilip is going to be working for the technology development center of DBS, a multinational banking corporation headquartered Singapore. They’re expanding in India, and he’ll be working at Hyderabad for now, and after four-five years he will have the option of switching from his engineering role to a managerial one.
A down-to-earth personality, yet surprisingly humorous and subtly charming, that conversation with him was surely one to remember. As we bade goodbye, he spoke of his fond memories of working for the clubs and consequently celebrating, and he shared how he wished he could’ve improved his life outside of them.
One should definitely join clubs, but not more than one or two. It is extremely important to strike a balance to ensure productivity and efficiency. Be quick to imbibe important qualities like teamwork and sincerity, which will help you in the long run and ensure that you manage to have equal measures of fun and work.