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Engineering & Product

Danushka Abeysuriya, CTO and Founder at RUSH

After falling in love with computer programming at a young age and starting a few small businesses as a teenager, it makes a lot of sense that Danushka Abeysuriya, CTO and Founder of RUSH has combined both passions to build one of New Zealand's premier technology studios.

We caught up with Danushka to learn more about his journey into the tech industry, his passion for building better technology that helps more people, what a typical day in his life looks like and where he would love to see RUSH in the years ahead. 

Thanks for sharing your story, Danushka.

“We make stuff for doing things like going to the shops, or playing with friends and try not to hurt the animals and plants while we do it.”

How would you explain to a five year old what it is that you do?

We make stuff for doing things like going to the shops, or playing with friends and try not to hurt the animals and plants while we do it. Most of the stuff we make lives on the iPad or iPhone your parents have, cool huh?

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day? 

RUSH practises what’s called Human Centred Design with a technology-integrated approach. What this means is that we put the human who has to complete an objective in the middle of the design process to really understand the goals, limitations and steps involved in a task.

The integration of technology advice in the process means that we get to better outcomes, faster, since “dead ends” are eliminated quicker, and opportunities to apply new technologies emerge quicker as well.

We practice Agile delivery so a typical day would involve:

  • Make a coffee and breaky to get started right 
  • Team standup to talk about blockers/issues/progress
  • Appropriate Agile rituals like Sprint Review, Retro’s, Planning, Grooming, etc
  • Take a break - have some fruit, make some more coffee 
  • Get overly competitive at the office Table Tennis arena during said break
  • Partner (Client) meetings - keeping our partners across our work, and also getting direction from their PO’s/PM’s who might be integrated with our teams
  • Write some code
  • Have some cheese together
  • Do some customer interviews, research, design
  • Test and quality assure some stuff
  • Write proposals, do some business deals
  • Go to lunch as a group (if not in a lockdown!)
  • Play some sports together (Soccer, Cricket or Netball)
  • Go to an industry event or work event (mid-winter Christmas, lunch and learn, xmas party etc.)
“I’ve always supported the underdog, and for me since an early age, making the world fairer has always been a big passion and driver personally.”

Was starting a company something you dreamed about doing as a kid? If not, what was?

I’ve always seen business and technologies as tools for good, that haven’t necessarily been used the right way for the past while. I aspired to be an innovator, and to build better technology that helps more people. I’ve always supported the underdog, and for me since an early age, making the world fairer has always been a big passion and driver personally.

I had that thought as a young child. As a teenager I started a few small businesses and learned that it was possible because the world’s attitudes were changing. RUSH’s mission statement of “designing and building technology to better serve humankind” is the refined manifestation of that personal drive.

“..my family supported me exploring technology along the way, as long as I didn't flunk at school (my folks are teachers!).”

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and what inspired you to start RUSH?

I fell in love with computer programming, especially making video game engines at a relatively young age of 12. A close friend of mine taught me the ropes and my family supported me exploring technology along the way, as long as I didn't flunk at school (my folks are teachers!).

Around 2008, after I graduated from Auckland Uni, I saw the iPhone running a full desktop webpage like it was a walk in the park and could see that this was the future. So I set out to make games and apps for the emerging mobile tidal wave. RUSH grew out of that and is now the reputable firm it is.

I wanted to create a place of excellence with a strong culture of pragmatic software development that works reliably, at scale and is beautifully designed and polished - like the top video games are. 

This has become what is unique to RUSH - our reputation for continuously delivering innovative and “hard to implement” technologies, well designed for users and within a business environment that actually scales - i.e. our innovations grow into new businesses and deliver results - that’s what we are most well known for.

Where do you hope RUSH will be in five years from now?

Internationally established, working with the world's best brands and innovators to help contribute towards a better future - limiting climate change, improving social equity, making people safer, happier and even entertaining people in better ways.

How does RUSH support the growth of employees?

RUSH can certainly also be a career rocketship - many examples of staff starting their first few years at RUSH and then moving through the ranks internally or onto great international organisations like Google and Atlassian Engineering. 

Through feedback, we know that this is because of the exposure and experience at RUSH because staff at RUSH are more involved and trusted to execute work and are given plenty of opportunities to work on high profile and innovative projects from time to time.

I personally have had many career highlights and when I walk around in New Zealand, I see several of RUSH’s digital products every day - it's hard to look past that, because that was achieved with a team of great people together over many years, each of them part of that success.

“We like pragmatism - coming up with simpler or more efficient ways to untangle problems.”

Lastly, as RUSH continues to grow and evolve, what character traits or attributes are common amongst people that thrive at RUSH? 

We like pragmatism - coming up with simpler or more efficient ways to untangle problems.

We like thoroughness and diligence - an appreciation for how hard this can be, and knowing where to focus and simplify.

We like fun people, who like fun and varied hobbies - D&D, puzzles, sports, outdoors, video games, music, karaoke, coding for passion and fun!

We like people who don’t have egos - we deal with tough tech, and also bigger clients, ego’s get in the way of getting the right solution as the problem and environment evolves (we believe you have to admit you’re wrong, when you’re wrong, in order innovate fast).

We like T-shaped people - people who have great competency in one area, but are flexible to know enough of other areas - e.g. a Frontend coder who knows a bit of backend coding and cloud (and vice versa). Conversations, decisions, outcomes are better when we each have empathy or understanding of other people’s jobs.

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