A story on how I went from selling modems door to door to working as a software engineer in the US.

Time for a thread -
It was 1997. I joined a company in Ahmedabad as a sales person to sell modems, browsers, and other assorted networking gear, including patch cables. I had a Luna (yes, the same one - ) and a backpack, and I went to GIDC in 45°C to sell stuff door to door.
Besides selling networking/telecom equipment, our company also dabbled into domain registration and selling internet connections. I used to do sales during day time, and then in the evening surf around the web (hello Altavista, Excite, Yahoo, Dogpile) on the office desktop.
Over the months I earned the trust of my boss, who tell would leave the office keys with me. I would surf late into the night learning as much as I could about HTML, Java applets, reading up about technology, web servers, etc.
In a few weeks I had taught myself HTML, figured how to use third party Applets on our site. I didn't know how to write Java code, since it was Object Oriented. I knew GW Basic, FoxPro, and C back then.
Soon I would also get the additional responsibility to build websites for our industrial clients - Vadilal, Sintex, Rasna, Cadilla, etc. I taught myself Coreldraw, Pagemaker and Photoshop to add images, fonts, etc.
One day, we get a call from someone who had come down from the US to set up some business, and wanted to buy routers, etc. My boss assigned me the case.
The telephone lines were analog back and you had to tweak various modem settings to make the connection reliable. I was right at home with all that.

We chatted for a bit after which he asked me if I could help him setup some servers.
So I setup the web-servers and FTP servers for him. Then he asked me whether I knew Java programming language. I replied in the negative, but said I know C, Foxpro, etc. He said no problem we'll teach you Java if you come work for us. He offered a 10x salary. I refused.
Fast forward to 1998. I had come back from CDAC Delhi after doing an advanced computing course. I was now working for a large software company. The only non-engineer (by education) in the team.

There was an email from our CEO that we're expecting an important visitor tomorrow.
So better dress up, shave, etc. and some of you will be invited to the town hall.

I was a Junior programmer in the company, at the absolute bottom of the totem pole and wasn't invited to the townhall with the foreign visitors.
During the lunch break, I bump into the same person that I had met during my modem selling days. The same one for whom I had setup the servers.

I asked him what he was doing there? And he asked me the same question in return.
That person and their team were the foreign collaborators that our CEO wanted to introduce during the townhall. Only an exclusive group of engineerings (college toppers, gold-medalists, etc.) were present during the meeting.
So I ask this person (Let's call him Mr. X) if he has a couple of minutes to check out some cool new age stuff I was working on? I showed him an early prototype of a distributed software I was working on. He liked it so much that he took me to our VP Engineering's office.
I was very nervous. I thought I'll get fired because I had no business talking to this foreign dignitary. Seriously!

Mr. X wanted me to lead the project they were tasking my company with, and our VP Engineering said we have more qualified people to lead. blah blah.
After 45 mins of debate between the two, our VP Engineering looks at me and informs me, Anand you're going to lead the project. Big sigh of relief.
While leading this project, in ~2 months the client was so impressed with the work that they wanted me to visit them on site. So in 1998/1999 I made two trips to the US (my visit to the airport, and my first plane ride ever).
While visiting them on my second trip, I got offered the job of a Software Engineer to work for a new startup that Mr. X was just about to launch.
They made a special case with the US dept of labor to clear to my file since I only had 15 years of education and no STEM degree. How I got my H1-B visa is story for another day, since I didn't even go to collect my B'Com certificate.
That startup raised $200M in their first round of funding (year 1999), I was one of the early team members hired right out of India and was incredibly lucky to work with some of the smartest. I skipped some more colorful stories in between, but promise to post them someday.
Thanks @avinashraghava for reminding me that I hadn’t posted one of my hustle stories in a while.
I could never learn much during my school/college days, but I’ve never given up an opportunity to learn as much as I can during work and go beyond the charter, and that’s always attracted 10x opportunities to me. I never had to go hunt for them.

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