My 3 years at Aricent – An Engineering Odyssey

In: General

By Bakshi Gulam

24 Jan 2016

I had been trying to write this blog since I joined Aricent. But, for past few years, Aricent kept me so busy to such extent that I couldn’t even find time to write about itself. As I have started getting LinkedIn messages congratulating my third anniversary with Aricent, I have now finally decided to unfold my story at Aricent. I joined Aricent at Jan, 2013 and celebrating my third anniversary on this January. From memorable Nalanda Days at Gurgaon to “issues-packed” Engineering Days at Chennai, it’s been a wonderful journey at Aricent.

So… Where shall I start?

“Three-whole-years” is indeed quite lot of time. In this post, I’ve decided to narrate whatever mattered most to me (at the professional front) in these three years. Let me start with the story of how I ended up in Aricent. I was a average engineering student who fails in 2 out of 6 papers in each semester but painstakingly clears 2 arrears from previous semester. When companies visited our campus for recruitment, many didn’t allow me to sit for the interview owing to my history of arrears. Though college life was full of hardships (Yes Man! Electro-Magnetic Fields, Antenna & Wave Propagation, Transmission Lines… What could be worse than these?), I managed to complete the course on time  and secured a job at an MNC.

All is Well…

My initial date of joining was just a month or two after final exams. So after exams, I wasn’t trying any other company. In fact, I was busy in taking company’s Online Courses which was a per-requisite for joining. But the initial mentioned date was getting postponed due to their constantly changing  “Business Requirements”. Meanwhile they started conducting surprise interviews and asking me thought-provoking questions like “Tell me something about Chennai”. This is when I decided to look for opportunities other than huge MNCs with 2,22,000+ employees.

Interview by Aricent

Fortunately, Aricent was conducting an off-campus drive at that time. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard the name “Aricent” before. I got a detailed mail from our Placement Cell describing the interview process and it was little intimidating at the first sight. It had 7 different rounds some of which I don’t remember till date. There was a strong question deep inside my mind till the time I started from my hometown – “Is it worth going to Chennai?” But I had informed few of my classmates that I would be attending this interview. Hence just to keep my words up, I just started with an attitude “Let’s attend this!”. When everybody was worrying “Will we clear the next round?” I was wondering “How the heck did I clear the last round?”. When my name was shortlisted for the last (HR) round, I was going to people and asking “Man! Tell me something about Aricent. I know these guys will surely ask the same”. One guy told “Dude! It looks like they are into Networking. It seems “Alcatel-Lucent” is one of their clients”. I was asking him back “Who? Alca-What?” A date of joining within 15 days from the date of interview was really convincing and I decided to join Aricent though training was planned at Gurgaon.

Training at Nalanda, Gurgaon

After few classes at Nalanda, I became panic and called my senior and told “I’m at a training facility of company called Aricent and none of the tools we use at college are working here. Even same programs I used to write at college are throwing some error here. I’m feeling like an illiterate. I’m afraid I’ve wasted four years at college.” As days passed by, I started un-learning (whatever I  already know about computers) and re-learning everything. And the learning at Nalanda was un-comparable. In those three months, I learned more than what I learned in four-years at college. The training programme had made me realize my potentials; it had brought many of my talents out. And it was no wonder that it was aptly named as “PRISM”.

The Unforgettable PJ Rao

Though there was 3 months of jam-packed schedule at Nalanda, the training was mostly focused on writing programs in C, various IPC mechanisms, Linux operating system, etc. It was this 65+ old energetic guy who stands in front of class and talks about networking 8 hours a day, spoon-fed basics of “Computer Networks” to us. There were many in the industry who have lived and breathed networking for decades. But not all can teach networking to someone who doesn’t even know what it is. I still admire his way of teaching especially his famous starter “This Dabba wants to communicate with that Dabba…”

Alca-What? Alcatel-What?? “Alcatel-Lucent” Man! A-L-U!!

To my surprise, I was put on to a project for a client whose name I couldn’t get properly on the day of interview. I was fortunate to work on ALU’s IP-DSLAMs as a fresher. ALU gave me the big picture which many from my same batch couldn’t have got at that time. Familiarity with ALU’s systems made me eligible for an exiting opportunity on SDN at it’s early stage. Though it was a short stint, those 2-3 months were the best days in my whole 3 year career. Every day was just exiting. I wouldn’t get to know what’s in the shelf for me until I attend those 11′o clock meetings every morning. I still cherish those days and longing for such an opportunity again.

DELL-Force10

After a year with ALU, I moved on to work on Dell products. Dell exposed me to whole new set of network equipments namely Chassis and Pizza Boxes which powers the enterprise/data-center deployments. As Dell owns  the hardware, Operating System & Switching Software, there was a greater scope for learning in Dell. From Broadcom’s Packet-Processing-Pipeline to Co-operative Multi-threaded model implemented at application, I learned a lot at Dell.

M.S.-Software Engineering

It was just 6 months into the company when Aricent announced it’s collaboration with BITS for WILP (work integrated learning programme). I enrolled for the same and started my academic learning once again! When I completed my graduation, I was determined not to pursue higher education in Indian Education System. But BITS curriculum & pedagogy completely changed my notion. It was updated, very practical and tailored for the needs of working professionals. Once again I enjoyed learning Embedded Systems, Distributed Computing, OOAD, Software Architecture, Cloud Computing, etc. More than curriculum, faculties mattered a lot. We couldn’t have got those pearls of wisdom from any text book other than such experts at their respective areas.

Kind of Work…

The engineering problems we face at Aricent are really interesting ones. I have worked on lot of interesting issues over these 3 years. “Ping to VRRP virtual-IP is not working”, “SDN flow is installed but traffic is not hitting the installed flow.”, “Telnet which was working fine for decades suddenly stopped working since yesterday” are just samples issues worth mentioning here. I get reminded of a famous quote regarding debugging which goes as below

Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place.

I realised it to be so true while working at Aricent. Identifying and fixing issues in a huge code base written years back, wouldn’t be a cakewalk. One has to really have a good understanding of the system and think “inside-the-box” to fix issues.  By the definition quoted above, this makes me smarter than people who wrote the code years back. ;-)

Good people to work with…

Aricent people are very logical. They focus on whichever really important and what the project demands. There isn’t any dress code. There isn’t any fixed working hours. Nobody cares what we wear to work and when we enter/leave office as long as the work get completed. I’m fortunate to have technical leaders who motivates me, push me beyond my limits and are supportive during crisis. I really enjoyed working with well experienced people who are Directors, Assistant Vice Presidents on critical as well as interesting issues. In maintenance projects, it is very difficult to give an estimate of when will the issue get fixed. If the issue demands 21 days, irrespective of the person working on that issue, it will take 21 days to fix it. I’m also fortunate to have managers in Aricent who are aware of the above fact and be supportive.

Great Responsibilities

Freshers are not treated as freshers at all in Aricent. The moment they enter the company they are given great responsibilities. When I was a fresher, I was given a task of pruning the switching software so that 50 instances of it can be accommodated in 1.2Gb of RAM where single instance was consuming 700Mb-1Gb of memory! I learned a lot about a process’s memory layout and Linux’s memory management. Since then every assignment was forcing me to learn something new; pushing me a bit beyond my comfort zone – something which I doubt I would’ve got in any other company.

When I look back…

Nalanda days are still fresh in my memory. I’m feeling like I’ve just completed my training a month back. But in sooth, three whole years have just flown by. Today, when I look back, these 3 years were full of learning; full of networking; full of engineering. I couldn’t have got a training better than PRISM as a fresher. I’m not sure whether I could’ve got a chance to do a quality MS while still working for some company if it was not Aricent. I’m not sure whether I could’ve got a chance to work with a variety of Network Nodes (IP-DSLAM, Chassis, Pizza Box, Server Enclosure) and deployments if it was not Aricent.

When I ask my fellow classmates working for different companies “What do you do at work?”, I got name of some technology as answer from few and names of some tools from some other. When probed further, one thing became clear to me – They were not sure about what they do at work and they didn’t have a big picture. I wouldn’t say “I’ve mastered networking in these 3 years at Aricent. OR I’ve become a networking expert in these 3 years at Aricent.” But I have developed a better understanding of computer systems and computer networks. I learned how to approach a problem and corner it. I’m aware of my own skills. I know who I’m, where I stand. I’m more confident. I don’t feel insecure.

These 3 years at Aricent has given me an identity – from “Bakshi Gulam – Nobody” to “Bakshi Gulam – A Naive Networking Guy”

These 3 years at Aricent is indeed an engineering odyssey.

 

12 Responses to My 3 years at Aricent – An Engineering Odyssey

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Sathyanarayanan

January 25th, 2016 at 11:51 pm

Hey Bakshi … really nice to scroll through your journey…. I started reflecting on my own !!!

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Bakshi Gulam

January 26th, 2016 at 9:18 am

Thanks for good words Sathya! :-)

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Krishna

January 27th, 2016 at 10:21 am

great narration Bakshi and I am sure Aricent will keep you in even more challenging ways going forward and you become leader. Wish you the best!!

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Prakash

January 27th, 2016 at 10:48 am

Good Work Bakshi.

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Bakshi Gulam

January 27th, 2016 at 11:06 am

Thanks Krishna! :-)

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ramya

January 27th, 2016 at 11:28 am

Very Nice Bakshi :-)

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Rajanika

January 27th, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Congrats Bakshi !!
Blog is awesome.

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Bakshi Gulam

January 28th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Thanks Prakash, Ramya & Rajanika :-)

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Chaitanya

March 20th, 2016 at 10:57 pm

Nice post. Couldn’t resist the temptation of reading your journey. Disappointed a little for not mentioning, that initial “industrial level” LTE we did under raj kumar (Rock star) in Nalanda.

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Reshma

May 13th, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Nice work bakshi… very well narrated…:)

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Bakshi Gulam

May 14th, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Thanks Chaitanya! Sorry for not mentioning about our 4G-LTE project at Nalanda. As I mentioned in the introduction section, there were lot of events which happened over these 3+ years. I don’t know what to mention and what not to. With the intention of giving readers a big picture and keeping the blog short, I left many things and our 4G-LTE project was one among those. ;-)

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Bakshi Gulam

May 14th, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Thanks Reshma! :-)

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This is Bakshi Gulam. I’m a programmer, a blogger and an open-source lover interested in anything related to computer systems. Click here to read my bio.

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