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Engineering & Product

Hemant Patel, Fullstack Developer at Tracksuit

From wanting to start his own business to carving out a career in software development, Hemant Patel, Fullstack Developer at Tracksuit, has found a home working in a high-growth environment that he loves.

We caught up with Hemant to learn more about his journey into software development, which included taking jobs at KFC and BP whilst he studied so that he could brush up on his English, as well as his advice to others that might want to follow a similar path. He also shared what he loves about working in a smaller high-growth business. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Hemant.

Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what you do for work?

“What’s your favourite chocolate?” “Milk chocolate? Great. Now imagine if I ask all of your friends about their favourite chocolate. Then I show the best chocolate on a screen. That’s my job!

And for the adults, what does a typical day-in-the-life look like? 

My role is a full-stack developer at Tracksuit. But right now, I’m focused on some front-end improvements for our SaaS dashboard tool. I’m working on making survey data beautiful, easy, and accessible. Plus learning a lot about building a scalable infrastructure for our platform.

“I think my love of numbers is what led me from business to tech.”

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

No, it really wasn’t. I always dreamed of running my own business, because that’s what my father did. I started by studying Accountancy before my interest in technology really developed. I think my love of numbers is what led me from business to tech.

What are some of the most interesting challenges that you face in your role currently?

I’m working on bringing data visualisation to life. We have some complex survey data from thousands of respondents.

One of the biggest challenges we have is making this data dynamic, simple, accessible, and more understandable. A lot of my time right now is spent on building features to help customers get more use out of their data.

I’m also learning best practices to set our platform up for future growth and scalability. This includes improving our code structure to help us move faster and build more.

“I decided to get a job at a BP gas station. Just like KFC, it taught me more about how to speak to all different types of people.”

Tell us a little bit more about your career pathway and ultimately how you got into your current role Tracksuit? 

It was a long and windy road for me. 

  • I started studying Accountancy originally when I lived in India. 
  • After graduating, I was tossing up between an MBA and a Masters in Computer Science. I wasn’t sold on tech. I still felt business was for me. I ended up applying for a Masters in Computer Science, and I did well simply because I had studied a lot of math in previous courses. 
  • During my Masters, I landed a web developer internship which turned into a full-time role.
    In 2013 I joined a firm that offered development services for start-ups. That was a real turning point for me. I started jumping into hackathons, start-up seminars, and everything start-up related. 
  • I wanted to head to the US or Canada to get access to more opportunities in the same space. I got married in 2016, then started applying to the US and Canada, but my visa was rejected. I started freelancing and didn’t know where to go.
  • I knew I had to support my family, so I looked elsewhere, and NZ appealed to me. I came to NZ in May 2018. 
  • I was only able to come to the country on a student visa, so I decided to study, even though I had already studied for a long time. I started a Graduate Diploma in Web & Software Development from Manukau Institute of Technology. 
  • I stopped freelancing because it was tough to find good, dependent freelance work. I decided to focus on my study but still needed a source of income. I also wanted to improve my English and have some practice speaking to people, so I got a job at KFC as a cook. I had hoped to work at the front of the store, taking orders. But I was told I could only join if I started as a cook.
  • I finished studying in NZ in May 2019. After finishing my studies, I was still working in KFC while looking for other development jobs. At that stage, I was having no luck with my applications because I had a strange mix of too much experience but also not the right skills.
  • So, I decided to get a job at a BP gas station. Just like KFC, it taught me more about how to speak to all different types of people. It taught me how to convince people to buy more (the team tells me this is called “upselling”).
  • I found one temporary development gig supporting an e-Commerce site for a few months, which turned into a full-time role.
  • Then, a friend of mine knew the Tracksuit team and suggested I interview for a role here. I wanted to join Tracksuit because I wanted to see my ideas/solutions/work go out to the world. I also wanted experience in a high-growth environment. I landed this role and am very happy here now.
“Just start learning and talking to people.”

What do you love about your role and why should others consider the career path?

Being a full-stack developer in an early-stage start-up like Tracksuit is interesting because there is a large variety of work. We’re also building this from the ground up.

In other organisations, you have a lot more limitations and it’s a lot slower moving. This means I can learn a lot more at a place at Tracksuit, where we are building the entire structure from scratch and moving much quicker. You’re also free to explore your ideas, get more support and collaborate more with a small team. 

At Tracksuit, I have found everyone has energy and an eagerness to do something new to improve the status quo. People do what is needed to build a great product for our customers. I don’t see that level of customer-focused mentality elsewhere. 

For people interested in following a similar path, what are the key skills or attributes that you think are important and where can people get started?

I think the willingness to try is enough to get started. There are a lot of different roles in tech. Odds are you can find something to match your skill set. Just start learning and talking to people.

Lastly, are there any key traits or characteristics of people that do well in the Tracksuit environment?

I have found everyone is enjoying their role here at Tracksuit, which makes this a great place to work. We want people that bring energy to the team. And people that are full of ideas! You have to be ready to suggest improvements and make an impact, especially when the team is so small.

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