Deepu Thomas Philip is a Staff Engineer at Blinkit (formerly Grofers). He joined us in June 2018 and has since helped us scale data practices at Blinkit. He is currently working on improving our predicted ETAs and 10-minute promises made to our customers. He also chips in to keep our services healthy alongside the SRE team.
Tell us about your background and your journey in Blinkit so far.
Before joining Blinkit, I worked at three different startups. I learned how to be an engineer, dabble a bit with statistics at the first two, and learned how to build socially impactful products at the third (SocialCops), often needing to adorn different hats through failure and success. It’s been an exciting journey so far, and I’m looking forward to many more years.
I joined Blinkit 3.5 years ago. From the get-go, I had to set up a data team for the Supply Chain tribe. With the help and blessings of various peers at Blinkit, we quickly scaled up from a small reporting team to a group of prototypers and feature enablers in production. I currently help estimate ETAs (and hopefully ease anxiety) for customers trying to place an order on our app.
I have had the privilege to help steer some of the decisions we’ve made in the Supply Chain alongside some of the most intelligent, passionate and foolhardy individuals in tech. Together we have accomplished a lot, and there is still a long way to go. We have empty seats on our rocket and are constantly looking to fill them.
Why did you choose to work in tech? What drove you?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a computer since I was 5. I was hooked when an older cousin showed me how to use the “megahit” cheat code while starting Prince of Persia from a DOS shell. A few CMOS resets and hooking up two computers’ guts to install an OS — I knew I was born to spend the majority of my life in front of a computer.
While in school, I remember having this moment of disbelief while learning how to verify a Full Adder. Nothing was Magic! We (humans) designed and manipulated everything to add two numbers given the constraints of electricity. Fast forward ten years of being in front of a computer, the sheer ability to scale human effort has remained the driving force to stay in technology.
I like building things that help computers help humans.
What excites you the most about your field?
Over the last ten years, I’ve gotten to wear many hats, play with a lot of different technologies, discover and appreciate concepts across the field of computer science. I’ve also been mentored and taught by some awe-inspiring people over the years. Our collective thought as a race in this field is almost readily accessible to everyone on the internet, and the barrier of entry is low. I’ve had to constantly evolve to keep up with problem statements I’ve encountered along the way, as well as the kids coming out of college.
Evolve or die.
While solving a problem, what is the principle you always adhere to?
Be anal about what you are solving (customer first), not how it is solved (implementation)
Stand on the shoulders of giants. Don’t reinvent the wheel and always Read The Fucking Manual (RTFM)
(Un-verified) assumptions are the mother of all fuck ups
Premature optimization is the root of all evil. Rewrites and continuous refactors are a way of life (embrace it early on)
Measure, validate and benchmark everything as a habit
Don’t ever trust user input (learned this the hard way)
Don’t hesitate to ask for help
What are your views on the future of technology?
For better or worse, we are at the precipice of significant change. We live in a world facing global warming, economic downturns, civil strife, poverty, hunger and pandemics. I feel technology will play a huge role in solving/alleviating these large-scale problems. We’ve come a long way in leveraging data and the sheer computing power we’ve built up across the globe. Along with technology, I hope we develop the mindset to change the trend we’ve set so far as a race.
What do you love the most about your role at Blinkit?
I’ve had the privilege of working with many teams over the last 3.5 years at Blinkit. From Data Engineering to various teams in the Supply Chain tribe. Each functional domain at Blinkit comes with a unique set of problem statements, and it’s always exciting to apply what I know or learn from first principles while solving them. Helping teams design and optimize their services has also helped me hone my engineering skills and forced me (an old dog) to learn new tricks. I love our culture of blameless RCAs and how we leverage failures for continuous learning and introspection as an organization. Being party to this reflection and introspection is another privilege that keeps me learning and evolving constantly.
What is your experience of diversity in the tech industry?
I’m not going to bring up the poor gender ratios and rampant pay discrimination in tech. It’s a problem that we have to solve collectively as an industry. I’m proud that we have many women leaders at Blinkit and constantly ensure our policies and culture reflect our inclusiveness.
I’ve also observed that many of us devs (including me) need richer experiences in life. Unfortunately, low experiential diversity in tech leads to poor cognitive diversity as a collective. When tasked with solving problems for a very different demographic, this hits home hard. Tunnel vision and lack of empathizing with customers surface pretty quickly. Not sure how to solve this but maybe embrace YOLO?
Paraphrasing from The Zhuangzi — Like the frog in his well, we can often believe that what we know is all that there is to know.
How do you strike the life-work balance?
To be honest, I don’t. I like solving problems, and we have many problems that need solving. At the same time, I don’t prescribe this to anyone else as a way of life — it is not sustainable. Find your balance early and keep adjusting it based on what keeps you happy. I reset every now and then with a small break from the daily grind.
Avi Singh Raghuwanshi, works as an Associate Product Manager (APM) at Blinkit. He joined us on our instant delivery journey in July 2022. He previously worked on upselling and cross selling through product listing pages during his first two months.
Utkarsh Shukla is a Data Scientist at Blinkit. He joined us in July 2021 and has helped different teams make data-driven decisions since then. He is currently working on predicting item demand at our platform and has worked towards improving our predicted ETAs.