From the lens of the first employee at Rocketium
A candid chat with our first employee and Senior Engineering Manager - Sateesh Gandipadala
When you have just launched your startup, in addition to the idea, market-fit and investment, the decision of choosing the first employee is equally crucial. For a founder to be all by themselves and make an individual believe in their vision, especially when there is no one else to vouch for it yet, is one of the toughest challenges. Something similar happened when our Founder & CEO Satej Sirur met Sateesh Gandipadala and offered him an opportunity to join as the first employee of Rocketium.
We asked Sateesh a few questions to know his side of the story and what makes him choose Rocketium every day.
Sateesh Gandipadala
Do you mind sharing your career trajectory and what brought you to Rocketium?
Sateesh: Of course, why not! So, my professional journey began in 2008 when I completed my Masters in Computer Applications. It was at the same time when the recession had hit India.It was difficult for fresh talent like me to find a job in the corporate world. During that time I found a prospective opportunity and joined NIIT (Vizag) as a Software Trainer. I also worked at one another Engineering college as a Professor until late 2009.
One of my friends was a game developer and his company was accepting applications. I grabbed that opportunity as a chance to learn. Eventually, I developed an interest in the field of game development. After working in the gaming industry for almost three and a half years, I started feeling stagnation in my growth and realised that I needed to expand my horizon. Following my gut, I started looking for new opportunities again in 2015 and that is when I met Satej.
I was approached via a consulting firm that was hiring for Rocketium. The fact that the Rocketium is a startup, was itself a captivating for me. I knew I wouldn’t get another opportunity to work on an idea from scratch and develop out of the box skills. Then, I was scheduled for a meeting with Satej and that was the end of any second thoughts that I may have had. The extent of transparency with which he explained Rocketium’s purpose and the offered role, was enough to win my trust and join him in the journey.
Being the first employee, you’ve witnessed the product and the team grow first hand. Being in the position of a Full-Stack Developer, can you tell us about the journey of how Rocketium has evolved over the years?
Sateesh: Many people do not know that Rocketium didn’t start with the product that it has become today. In the beginning, we were a platform where users could send their story and we helped them create mini-games. But, soon we realised that the concept wasn’t aligning well with the market need. The idea to transform Rocketium into a software that helps in designing videos & images easily came from one of our users. After researching some more, it made us realise that the need was widely felt among many customers.
Over time, as we continued receiving feedback from users, we kept iterating and developing the product’s capacity. Initially, we built Rocketium Studio with two variations which were built on frontend & JQuery. The tool was made in a way that used AI on the backend to produce aesthetic creatives. In some time we had a new UX team in place and they designed the new product on ReactJS.
As the business progressed, we thought of building something that could also be used by agencies and enterprises instead of just individuals. We focused on companies that didn’t have enough time and resources to develop an AI-enabled designing product of their own, while Rocketium was already in the functioning stage and helping hundreds of users. This gave us an opportunity to develop an API and later the white-label creator.
We kept the feedback loop open for customers and continued to innovate & develop as per their needs.
It has been 5 years since you joined. What makes you continue to choose to work with Rocketium every day?
Sateesh: I don’t think I have to think twice before answering this. As we encourage our employees to be selfish about their careers, I have three major reasons.
  1. 1.
    Challenging projects. When I joined as the first employee, I knew I had a lot to be accountable for. But the best part was, this took my learning and knowledge to another level. Until today, the charm of working on challenges is the same as it was five years ago.
  2. 2.
    Transparency beyond expectations. In all these years, there has never been an 'I don't know whom to ask' moment for me. Also, businesses are not always about the good news but bad news as well. What makes Rocketium special is that our founders don’t shy away from acknowledging and openly discussing down times too. And this stands true for all members at Rocketium.
  3. 3.
    Rich learning. The amount of learning that individuals gain here is something that isn’t taught at a University. The scope of one’s skills isn’t limited by their role or position here. I remember knowing nothing about using data in derivations for software product development, nor did I have an understanding of the concept of marketing funnels. But being here exposed me to fields of learning that I would have never practiced elsewhere.
With all this and much more to the list, there isn’t a doubt why I would not choose Rocketium every single day.
Working with a startup comes with its own share of challenges and extended workload, sometimes. Speaking of that, how do you manage to keep a sound balance between your personal and work life?
Sateesh: I admire the kind of planning, organizing, and optimization with which our whole team works. I don’t think there has ever been a time when I really had to compromise between my personal and professional life. We follow an 8:00 am-4:00 PM work schedule which gives me ample time to spend with my family and personal interests.
Speaking on behalf of the development team, there can often be crunch time. But we make sure to plan in advance to avoid any last-minute hustle. Every Monday, we huddle-up to discuss the priorities for the week. Daily morning stand-ups also help in ensuring that we’re working at the right speed. So by the end of the week, each one of us has enough room to complete our checklist and spend the post-work hours and the weekend in peace.
What advice would you give to job seekers looking to join Rocketium?
Sateesh: I would say, the candidates should just be themselves and not put up an act of chicanery during the interview. The founders and the leadership team at Rocketium are as transparent as they can be with every aspect of the business. It is justified for them to expect this from prospective employees too. I can also guarantee that along with over the top learning from experts, you will also receive a fair share of rewards & recognition for your efforts.
We do not restrict our recruiters to only hire from premier institutes. Our approach is to evaluate an individual’s problem-solving skills. We try to gauge how an individual reads the user experience and how well can they contribute to building a world-class product.
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