In our previous blog, we shared the super inspiring story of Shantanu which talked about how he went on to become a Udacity hiring partner from a job aspirant in just a little more than a year. In this blog, we bring to you another inspiring story of a young and budding entrepreneur, Prakhar Agarwal.
When the 24 year old Prakhar Agarwal enrolled for a Udacity Android Developer Nanodegree program two years back, little did he know that he would soon become an entrepreneur and hire other Udacity Nanodegree graduates. Well, the tables have turned quickly for him as this year he returned to Udacity's flagship job fair, Udacity Propel as a hiring partner for his startup, Binge Digital. He has surely come a long way in just a span of two years. Here's his story of hardwork and grit.
Q. Tell us something about yourself
I am Prakhar Agarwal, Director and CTO at Binge-‘A food discovery Platform’. My areas of expertise include Android and Full Stack development. I am raised in Delhi and did my schooling from there itself. In high school, I developed a keen interest in coding in C++ and discovered my passion for programming. After school when I had to choose which stream of engineering to pursue, I was clear that it is computer science. Unlike many students who take computer science as their major in engineering due to trends, my decision was purely due to my interest in coding. We are four members in my family including me. My father has an Export and Travel Business based out of Delhi, my mother is a home-maker and my younger brother is pursuing his graduation in economics.
Q At what stage of your career did you decide to enroll for Udacity Nanodegree program and
It was my pre-final year of engineering when I was looking for various online courses to skill up and then I came across Udacity. At first, its range of free courses attracted me and I started doing some. Mainly it was the Android course which caught my attention due to its brilliant content as I had done a course in Android development previously from another online platform but I learned nothing. Then luckily there was this scholarship program being offered in Android Developer Nanodegree in association with Google and Tata Trusts. I grabbed the opportunity and got selected.
Q What change did the Nanodegree program bring in your life - personally and professionally?
Personally, it helped me develop my skills in research and development. Whenever I got stuck in a problem, I searched through Google, StackOverflow and the community forums of Udacity and got them solved. Hence in the process, I learned more topics than what I was actually searching for. Nanodegree was self-paced and it helped me learn to organize time better and gave me enough confidence to take more online courses. Professionally, it added a latest in-demand technology to my resume. Every company is building its app and jobs for mobile application developers are rising exponentially. I got my first internship as an android developer in a startup based out of Delhi in between the course of Nanodegree. The range of projects I did as part of the course trained me well in every aspect of the technology. In the final semester of my engineering, I got 3 offers in Android development including one from Udacity’s job fair Propel. Thanks to added extracurricular courses like resume building and interview preparation I felt very comfortable in every job interview I gave.
Q.Today, you are working on your own startup called Binge Digital. Tell us something about that.
Binge Digital started with three people working from a small room in one of our houses. We worked on weekends trying to build a product for diners to discover new food dishes around them. After months of testing and iterating, we built a product that failed but gave us a lot of market insight as to what the market wanted. We quit our jobs to work on this full time, built a new product that now helps restaurants up-sell and increases ticket size while increasing diner's customer experience with the help of video menus. We grew from a team of 3 to 8 in a short span of 10 months and on-boarded around 60 brands in Delhi. We are now at about 100 locations across Delhi/NCR and soon plan to expand to 8 cities in the country. During this time we were also accelerated and worked with some leading industry experts.
Q.When you were young, did you ever dream of being an entrepreneur? What made you leave a cushy job and take the plunge?
I belong to a business family and have always experienced that environment so it helped to take the decision easily. I wanted to do my own business at some later point in time but never thought it would come this early. Right after my engineering, I started working for Binge alongside my job. I really liked the freedom of working on my own product. The learning curve was more than in my job as I was indulged in various aspects of building a product along with the technical side. The risk-taking capability is much more in our young years when we don’t have many responsibilities. My family supported me and I quit my then job. The risk of not getting a job after a gap was minimal as I was working in the same domain.
Q. You are also now a hiring partner of Udacity. How does it feel to be on the other side of the table?
Two years back I attended Udacity’s job fair as a job seeker and now I am hiring people for my company from this event. People sometimes call it destiny or luck but it is pure hard work. Having become an interviewer now in a very short time span, I know what the candidate must be feeling and what is his thought process. It is a big responsibility as the person’s future depends on your decision and you have to be fair. People come with great hope, some leave happy and some disappointed. As an interviewer, I believe that we should help the people sitting in front of us and make them feel comfortable. In the end, we can give them useful tips for improvement so that they get enough confidence for their next interviews in the future.
Q. As an employer, why do you prefer to hire Udacity Nanodegree grads. What makes them stand out?
A great way of learning is doing projects. Nanodegree graduates have good knowledge of the subject due to the various projects that they complete. The course content covers most of the topics to start your journey as a professional and thus it helps the hiring company to invest less time and money in training the employees. They develop self-learning and tends to solve problems more by themselves which even I experienced in myself having done the Nanodegree. Hence when working for someone they need less support.
Q.Anything else you would like to add?
I would recommend everyone to keep upgrading their skills in their respective careers. It's the only way to compete in this fast growing world. Start taking risks at an early age, they prepare you for the future. Make lots of mistakes, learn and try again.