We spoke to Navneet Karnani, Head of Engineering at Ozone API, about the mentorship and internship program he started earlier this year. As the first official team member in India, he shares his journey from working through the COVID-19 pandemic to the exciting growth trajectory of the India office and the next generation of Ozonians.
Navneet, you were one of the first members of the Ozone API India team. Can you describe your first year at Ozone API India?
This is a story, and takes me into the Ozone API culture; which is so fundamental to the way we think, solve problems and collaborate.
It all started when I was on a career break due to health reasons, and Freddi, who is a Co-founder and CTO, approached me to work with Ozone API. Freddi and I go back a long way, so working remote, part-time, was not a challenge. It helped that I could take days off when my health demanded it, and a flexible working schedule was convenient.
The first few months were interesting with the COVID-19 pandemic causing us all to work remotely.
Fast forward to January 2021, I became a full-time employee and started working out of a co-working space called Oyo Workflow, in the Indexnine office as they had extra space. It was good to be around people and helped me to improve my work discipline.
I worked out of Indexnine’s office for three months and then an office space became available next door. So on the 1st April 2021, Ozone API opened its first office space in Pune, India and Vaibhav Billore joined the India team as a software engineer. We were the first two India team members until August 2021.
How big is the team today and how big do you foresee the team growing more this year?
Between August 2021 and August 2022, the India team has grown from 2 to 13 people. We are planning to add more people to the team by the end of the year.
Which Ozone API teams sit in India and what tech stack do you cover?
We cover the full stack of workloads from India, including:
- Customer Operations, Deployment and Site Reliability Engineering – Customer deployments, system upgrades, monitoring
- Support Desk
- Product Engineering
- Release Engineering and Automation
As a Product team, we cover the following tech stack:
- Node JS, Typescript
- MongoDB, DocumentDB
- AWS, Oracle Cloud
- Terraform, Cloudformation
We are currently recruiting members to join our Site Reliability Engineering, Release Engineering and Automation teams.
You launched an exciting mentorship and internship program in March 2022. Tell us more.
The program is intended to help students gain industry experience while they are still studying at university. The criteria to join the programme includes a:
- Passion for technology
- Passion for learning
- Commitment to forming a routine
Our end goal is to enable the students to ‘learn the process of learning’, which is a valuable life skill.
Meet the 2022 Interns
What do you look for in prospective interns?
- Students who have taken the effort to do more than is required by their course;
- Those who would otherwise not get the opportunity to be mentored, because they do not come from a position of privilege;
- Pre-graduation year students, who have more than 12 months with us, so that we can make a significant difference in their learning and development while they are completing their qualification.
How does the program work?
We have two phases where recruits first join the mentorship program and then graduate into the internship program.
The mentorship phase looks something like this:
- We provide mentees with real life problems to solve, and help them learn the ‘Product’ mindset. They learn and develop the following skills: technology, engineering processes, professional work presentations, and getting used to working in a team. In turn, we observe their strengths and interest areas which informs how we guide and support each individual’s development.
- During this phase, mentees do not work on any Ozone API products which is a deviation from the industry practice. We also do not use our mentees as affordable labour and make them work on non-essential tasks. We treat them as future colleagues.
Shaunak Inamdar is a mentee and reflects on his experience so far:
“My mentee-ship under Navneet Karnani has been very beneficial to my career as well as my personal growth. In a short period of time, Navneet has deeply influenced the way I approach problems or learn new concepts. The main takeaway for me, apart from the goldmine of technical knowledge that I have gained, is the process of iterative thinking and building from scratch. I would not have gained this experience in college.”
“The most rewarding part of the program is the interactions with the senior leadership team and highly experienced developers. This program has provided me a rare opportunity to directly interact with seniors like Navneet and they are more than happy to impart their knowledge. This along with the camaraderie that I have managed to develop with my fellow mentees and interns has been the most enjoyable part of the program.”
After a successful mentorship, mentees graduate and enter the internship phase:
- The internship phase involves starting work on Ozone API products. Interns gain exposure to company processes, customers, and the whole gamut of corporate life, while also continuing to observe and contribute to the culture of the company. We ensure that interns are set up for success, support and growth.
Ayush Thakur joined the program as a mentee and is now an intern. He shared his journey so far:
“As a mentee working under Navneet, I have been exposed to projects that solve real life problems and have gained a better understanding of the product engineering process.
My learning journey has continued as an intern but on a larger scale. As a mentee, we built products from scratch, and as an intern the first thing we learnt was to understand the product completely and then think of ways to optimise the product to make it more reliable and consistent.
From a career development perspective, working under a senior engineer at such a young age has definitely boosted my career in terms of learning and experience. I really feel like I am growing more and more each week, that I am a valuable member of the Ozone API team and I’m having fun at the same time.”
Alfiya Khan is also an intern and reflected on her experience at Ozone API so far:
“As an intern, I have a deep insight into how to build a product from scratch. Working with a software engineer who has a tremendous level of expertise is exciting and helps me learn new things every day. The key thing I’ve learned from Navneet is that perspective is everything. It has certainly stimulated my career in terms of apprenticeship and experience.
I love working at Ozone API because everybody shares the same mission and works to make it happen. As interns, we share the common objective of learning and supporting each other so that we can do our work better.”
Navneet, where would you like to see the mentorship and internship program in 1-2 years’ time?
The mentorship programme itself is evolving. We started when education was still happening online. All colleges now require students to be on campus again so there are challenges getting students to spend time with their mentors.
I am hoping that within two years, we will be able to iron out the details and Ozone API’s Internship programme will be recognised as an industry innovation that makes a difference to the society at large.
It is great that we are seeing interest from a very diverse set of individuals such as diversity in gender, religion, financial, family background and age.
We want to start putting together a formal structure around the application and selection process. I would also like to make the programme very schedule / cohort driven and possibly create a platform similar to Fintechs Without Frontiers, where industry collaboration can be formalised, and efforts unified, in mentoring those that deserve an opportunity.
If you are based in Pune, India, and are interested in applying to join the Ozone API Mentor & Internship program email your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.