Hanu Kunduru

AGE: 29
INTERESTS: Technology, Entrepreneurship, reading, activism and social causes are important to me. I am also passionate about learning and growing and being more effective and efficient in general.

Where are you from?

I am from the Southern part of India, from a city called Hyderabad. But I have lived in different places for work and education. I went on to become an electrical engineer and then got my MBA in India. After that, I worked in finance for a while. I was passionate about the power of technology to solve a lot of problems and was also super curious about solving problems on a larger scale, so entrepreneurship was interesting to me. This took me and a company I started with a few friends from school to different places in India, Chile, and the USA.

What did you do before 42?

In 2013 I quit my job and came to the U.S. for 10 months as part of the Startup Leadership Program. It was a nonprofit for business and entrepreneurship, where you could go and share experiences while exploring different business opportunities. That is when I realized I needed to learn to code. I started to teach myself how to code because I wanted to be more tech-focused and I enjoyed the logical way of thinking. Previously I was more involved in design and front-end engineering. But this was more hands-on and led me to start my second company in India. The company that I founded was more on the technology side, and this is where my interest came from. I could speak the language but I could have been better. Once I exited the company I heard about 42. Being socially driven and mission-aligned was a big factor in deciding to attend the program. I attended the August piscine and was part of the first cohort of cadets in September.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

Yes, before 42 it was mostly javascript and python. I actually published a book on javascript during my time at 42. I didn’t know the lower level C language until I attended the piscine.

How did you hear about 42?

Through a TechCrunch article. I had just been exploring what I wanted to do next after my trip to the U.S. when they announced they were opening a 42 campus in Fremont. I just wanted to check out the piscine for a month and one thing led to another and I end up staying for the program.

What did you like best about your 42 experience?

For me, it was basically the community. I made really good friends, and I also joined the bocal so the people, the diversity of thought and background was the most amazing part of my experience. While at 42 there was a point where I was pretty far ahead in the program and I was thinking of moving on. But then an opportunity to join the bocal gave me an opportunity to be part of contributing and building  42 as well.

How did 42 prepare you for the workplace?

Even though I was previously working on my own startups, it was more on a manager level. So there were people who were part of my team but I didn’t have experience working with peers and being managed. So 42 definitely helped because we were friends working together and collaborating which is a spirit that I picked up which I think is important. Last December when I decided it was time to do more, I looked for an opportunity and found one with OpenInvest. OpenInvest is a mission-driven company, trying to bring social change through sustainable finance. It is a startup, we have a small team and we are super busy doing a lot of things and growing fast. The collaborative effort and figuring things out in uncertainty is super important. It is something the 42 experience instilled in me.

How did you get your foot in the door where you work?

Around September/October of last year, I started applying to places, mostly startups. That was a month-long process where I just focused on applying and talking to people. I was lucky enough to be open to a couple of different opportunities, and OpenInvest interested me the most.

Describe what you do:

So there are a couple of things. Primarily our engineering is distributed across three verticals: financial engineering, infrastructure, and consumer applications. I primarily look at the infrastructure. Which is basically the cloud architecture and deployment, lead the mobile app and web app development, and the applications that our consumers use. I also manage vendor relationships and interact with consultants, our design team, engineers and things that revolve around coordinating, prioritizing, and estimating work.

What does your typical workday look like?

My days change on a regular basis. I used to come in at 10 am 10:30 am, now I am coming in around 8:30 am. We start off with a stand-up meeting where the entire engineering team goes over what they are working on and what challenges they are facing. Because we do that daily our standups are short. Then we get on with our work, usually every Monday we have an entire all-hands meeting for our company.

There are a lot of things changing because we are a startup, so we need to replan and make sure we are on the right path, find out what is urgent and important. The rest of the day is sticking to our tasks. If something urgent or important comes up, we still need to work on that but follow our plan and roadmap and interface depending on other needs. We are a company with a culture that is feedback focused and transparent with each other. So it is important that we communicate openly and constantly.

For the last month or two, at least a quarter of our day is focused on hiring, we are trying to hire more people and expand our engineering team. We have been spending a lot of time in interviews and talking to people. So for now, my typical workday is all over the place and changing. The goal is to grow our team to around 20-25 over the next year.

What have other interns/co-workers at your work or in your program found difficult that you found easy?

From my exposure to the DevOps and infrastructure side in the bocal, I learned a lot about networking and server infrastructure. This helped me a lot in contributing to cloud infrastructure on AWS for OpenInvest.

Have you been involved in any tech outreach?

Not in the traditional sense. As a company, OpenInvest supports a lot of causes that align with our mission, we launched projects that are designed to tackle issues such as the industrial prison complex and climate change. We are a public benefit corporation where creating social value is part of our mission statement.

Would you recommend the 42 program and if so, why?

I would definitely recommend the 42 program for anyone who is motivated to learn. The top 3 reasons why I recommend the program:

1. It is free, cost-effective.

2. The whole peer-to-peer and project-based learning environment prepares you to build and learn in a workplace setting. This will prepare you for the workplace, which you don’t get in a traditional educational setting.

3. The community: learning with each other and collaborating are far more useful as learning mechanisms in the real world.

Do you have any advice for 42 students when it comes to securing an internship or job?

Personally, my advice is simple perseverance. A lot of people don’t think they are prepared. A lot of people at 42 might have imposter syndrome, and they don’t think they are ready for it. Being on the other side now, I remember the inertia delaying the process of starting out. Going through initial rejections also will help you. But it is more about getting through it, learning through your experiences and getting an internship or job that makes sense to you and aligns with your goals.

Connect with Hanu on LinkedIn

Photos by 42’s in-house photographer, Priscilla Vongdara

Interview by: Stacey Faucett