In Focus: Prateek Gupta

Prateek Gupta is an engineering manager for Supply teams at grofers. He joined us in May 2016 and helped build the warehouse tech team: he created a warehouse management system from scratch that was capable of running offline. He has believed in solving practical problems using the software since the day he wrote his first […]

Prateek Gupta is an engineering manager for Supply teams at grofers. He joined us in May 2016 and helped build the warehouse tech team: he created a warehouse management system from scratch that was capable of running offline. He has believed in solving practical problems using the software since the day he wrote his first calculator program around 15 years back. On a free day, he enjoys a long drive in his car!

Tell us something about yourself and your journey in grofers so far.
I am from a small town known as Ujjain (60 km from Indore–the cleanest city in India). I graduated from NIT Bhopal in 2012 and worked as an android developer at Samsung Research Institute Noida and

I later joined Grofers as an Android developer in May 2016. This was my first experience working with an e-commerce company. I was amazed looking at how an Android app was able to power in-store operations without requiring an Internet connection.

Within two months of joining, I was asked to lead my current team. I was both excited and frightened about this. We’ve grown from a team of 5 to over 20 people, all while seeing the technology stack evolve and mature.

My senior colleagues, Jacob and Karthik, pushed me to learn and follow the Agile framework and its methodologies. And now, the tables have turned, and I have been sharing my knowledge on ‘Being Agile’ by organizing a session every month.

To summarise, joining grofers in the early days of growth was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I am thankful to all the people who motivated me and helped me transition between multiple roles here at grofers.

If you were to describe your experience in grofers in one word, what would that be?

On the technology side, what has been the single greatest change you’ve witnessed in the organization over the years?
We as a company focused only on next day delivery till the last few months. If someone would’ve asked me a few months back if we can deliver fresh vegetables and groceries in 10 minutes? I would’ve been like “Dude, come on!?” Today if someone asks me the same question I still say “Dude, come on” but in a different tone 🙂

Honestly, after experiencing this, I would say that believing 10 minutes is possible is the single most remarkable mindset change I’ve witnessed in the organization over the years.

How has working changed from the pre-and post-pandemic scenario and your adaptability to changes?
Before COVID, discussing a problem and finding the solution to a problem was more manageable. You just take everyone into a meeting room, discuss it on a whiteboard and close in on a solution. It was also easier to onboard the new employees. You weren’t required to set up a meeting just to ask someone about something.

But then came the year 2020, and everyone was introduced to words like ‘quarantine’ and ‘social distancing’ for the first time. For a while, it seemed like a respite from daily stresses due to long commute time and heavy traffic jams, but it started taking a toll on our mental and physical health. Those beginning their careers struggled to be productive at home. It was paramount for me to ensure new joiners could develop good chemistry with the rest of the team. I would thereby like to thank my fantastic team who were able to do that.

Below are the few things we did to make sure we’re still able to work together remotely –

  • Work Agreements: We continued doing all sprint ceremonies like daily standups, sprint planning, and retrospection as we did before COVID
  • Mandatory turning on Video: Being able to see faces ensures we take care of non-verbal cues and so we asked everyone to turn on their videos while in a virtual meeting.
  • Availability Status through Slack: Slack status updates help us see if someone was on leave or away from the keyboard for some time
  • Bi-weekly Fun hour: Every 2 weeks we gather together, play some online games and do a lot of chitchats

As a techie, what is the principle you always adhere to while solving a problem statement?
I am a huge ‘Agile’ fan and to solve any problem my usual approach is to find out what’s the minimalistic thing we can roll out in production so we start getting some feedback. It might not be the ‘perfect’ solution but this will help us move towards our goal one step at a time.

Who do you seek inspiration from on an everyday basis?
I would say almost everyone whom I talk to. Every individual has a unique quality about themselves. I try to observe and learn some of those qualities for myself. Also my wife who teaches me how to be a good husband every day 😀

How has been your evolution as a manager? What are the skills required to be a good manager?
I was an individual contributor for the first four years of my career and became a first-time lead here. Initially, it was difficult, but I learnt a lot of things from Gaurav, my previous manager. One of the most important things that he taught me was how to be calm even in worse situations.

My next manager helped me at a time when my team had the highest attrition rate. Ankur made me introspect what I was doing wrong. I brought some changes in myself and the way I dealt with my team members. I started regular 1–0–1s with my team and got to know them better. I listened to their problems, figured out the strengths and weaknesses of each individual, and correspondingly assigned the tasks. I love seeing people grow their careers. My next manager, Karthik, helped me learn people skills. He is an inspiration for me and I started treating people the same way he treated me.

I believe the biggest strengths of a good manager are patience and empathy. Being a good listener is also equally important. Trust your team and give them the freedom to make their own decisions. This keeps your team members happy and satisfied, leading to a boost of productivity.

What do you love the most about your colleagues?
Everyone is so kind and helpful. For me, the transition from android development to backend development to being a team lead and then becoming an EM couldn’t have been so smooth if it weren’t for my colleagues.

How do you strike a work-life balance?
With COVID, the boundary between work and home has collapsed. There are many problems to be solved in a limited time. So, it becomes important to set priorities for the work and then act accordingly. I make sure to follow the same routine I had before COVID. And now since I am saving the commute hours too, I utilize that time playing with my cat, pursuing my hobbies, learning something new, and bonding with my family.

What would be your advice to an engineer hoping to join grofers soon?
Grofers is a great place to work. Keep interacting with your peers, ask them questions, look out for gaps that you can solve. Focus on growth and learning at every step. Wear multiple hats but also focus on building expertise on the core skills.

To summarise, make yourself valuable to the system; not critical. And most importantly don’t forget to have a lot of fun.

In Focus: Prateek Gupta was originally published in Lambda on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Grofers