CARS24 recently celebrated its 5th Anniversary, and the organization is a melting pot of various individuals. A fusion of vast and varied experiences, our company has seen people from all walks of life. To offer a peep into the lives of our employees, we have launched a series of interviews mapping those experiences. This series offers an inside look into the CARS24 office and the employee journeys.
In this segment, we are in conversation with Marut Singh, Chief Technology Officer at CARS24, where he speaks about the importance of his team in the CARS24 business and more in an exclusive interview.
Q. How did your journey to becoming a CTO begin?
A. My journey towards becoming a CTO has been 10 years in the making. As with everyone, I too started out with no set idea of what this job entails. In 2009, I was given the opportunity to run a team- lead my own team, and build it from scratch. I managed to lead a team of 23 for a financial trading company, where we built an algorithmic trading tool, launched several other products, and hustled to make a space for ourselves in the market. It was this opportunity that instilled in me the hustle and the respect for the grind, for it is where I built my foundation. My managerial role had just begun. From here I went on to lead and direct teams of 45 and even 200 people. After this stunt, I dabbled in multiple start-up companies and led many teams, building from the ground up in India as well as in the US.
For any executive, it is crucial that they have the autonomy and the control to make their own decisions. This is highly important because it is where one learns the most. CARS24 gave me this autonomy and leadership opportunity and the hands-on experience has been by far the biggest teacher in my journey and made me into who I am. For me, management and ideation go hand in hand. I made sure to be as involved as I could in both pre and post ideation aspects of every team I have ever worked with. From the germination of the idea to its becoming a product we could market, and then lastly the strategizing managerial roles, I was fully involved each step of the way. The fact that I could make my own decisions and then watch them unfold into successful ventures kept me going and focused on the outcome. This result-centric approach not only worked wonders for our teams but also boost my confidence.
As a CTO, I swear by the motto that one must be sure and know how to invest in tech, where to invest, and what should be picked at what point in time. For me, I have experienced a vast range of situations in the tech world but one never stops learning. With almost ten years of experience behind me, I believe I still have a long way to go.
Q. What is it about tech that drives you or that you find fascinating?
A. The thing that I value the most about the tech world is that it is always moving. It is never stationary. Most other professions, with time, are riddled with stagnation and monotony. Inevitably, learning comes to halt and takes a back seat after a period of time. Not with tech, no. Technology is something that always moves forward and moves very fast when compared to other domains. It is quick in its newness and almost every two years, there’s a massive drastic change on offer, i.e, new solutions, and undoubtedly, newer research. There is hardly any room for repetition in the tech community, as it is very open and holds immeasurable knowledge, one always keeps learning. The reserve of wisdom in tech is infinite; with a huge pool of knowledge in the past, and an even bigger reservoir that is yet to be discovered.
Q. What are some “tech hacks” you swear by?
A. Hacks for me hold a different connotation. For me, my hacks revolve around how one can learn quickly and then use this knowledge to their own advantage. Understanding the basic foundations is tech is of utmost importance. If one has a mastery over the base knowledge they have learned over the years and have total command on their foundations, then one can learn the newer advancements very quickly and effectively. Platforms like Google, Stack Overflow, Reddit, and various other open-source groups are readily accessible and can enable one in learning the newer tech tips and tricks. Knowing how and when to look up and ask for help is crucial for people in tech, it not only makes sure that learning is occurring but also helps one apply the acquired knowledge and use it to their own benefit.
Q. What are your go-to activities apart from tech?
A. I have a temperamental inclination towards all things science. Because of this scientific background, I am naturally drawn towards anything pertaining to facts, be it finance, engineering, history, structures, or business. Any show that reflects the enigmatic world of knowledge and science fascinates me and I would 100% be binging that show in my free time. My favorites include ‘Billions’, ‘Megastructures’, ‘Succession’, and for my guilty pleasure, any show focusing on the American cowboy culture!
Q. What changes have you seen unfold in your stint as CTO? Did the pandemic allow for more changes at the CARS24 Tech Department?
A. As a CTO what I have always tried to push to the forefront is a sense of responsibility, a sense of ownership, and the importance and quality of software and how it impacts the user. To our developers, I say, have a thorough grasp on what you build, why you build, and how you build. Through the course of my journey, I have tried to be as hands-on with the development aspect in tech and collaboratively work with the team for more and better exposure.
The pandemic really was something no one saw coming. I truly came as a surprise for all of us, and not a fun one. For us, however, we tried to get on top of it ASAP. We made sure to try to structure ourselves and to hustle was our approach. There were a lot of obstacles, chief of them being working remotely and still trying to work as a team. A major cause of concern was the unavailability of the option to get together and work cohesively as a team. We couldn’t jump on top of the issue and work together to come up with a solution. Onboarding new people proved to be a massive task in itself. We had to strategize how to be thorough with the newer recruits, train the new employees, and still get the jobs done at the end of the day.
The pandemic taught us how to adapt. Unlearning was as crucial as learning new ways to work remotely. We had to unlearn the old and get on with the “new normal”. To say that it was a challenge is an understatement. We did, however, did the best we could with respect to availability and preparation. It is still an ongoing effort on our part, we’re merely 60% of the way there. We have come a long way from the beginning of the lockdown, but the hustle has just only begun.
Q. Any future plans for the team?
A. Our purpose as a team is to be able to fully support the company in all its endeavours and that is exactly what we hope to become. We hope to form the backbone of the business and do so by working hard to not only acquire new skills but also hone our pre-existing ones to perfection. We also hope to increase the average experience of the team and learning newer techniques to elevate our standing as a start-up in the country.
We strive to become the very best in tech by adopting proven best practices, using cutting edge technologies, enhance our knowledge about how large scale softwares are built and maintained. We plan to shorten our release cycles, innovate faster, use data science to build more intelligent solutions, and deeply embed data into the decision-making process and in turn produce even more data and further refine our process. We intend to explore more frameworks both backend and front end, databases, brokers, and cloud services in near future. Even though we are a JVM shop we will explore other platforms if they help us move faster, and build better tools. We intend to build for our future.
Q. What is your vision for the company and what do you hope to achieve by the end of 2020?
A. Our vision for the company is aligned with the company values itself. We hope to become the Best Tech Team in Delhi-NCR and subsequently the best across the country.
By the end of 2020, we hope that we are well onto that path. We are firmly rooted in turning this idea into a reality and we sure believe that with our dedication we shall be able to lay bare our foundations and work towards this goal.
Q. What is the one thing that keeps you going?
A. The fact that tech is always omnipresent, constantly in demand. It is a domain that people bank upon, look up to, ask solutions from. We are for them, and quite frankly, only because of them. It is their voices, their opinions, their feedbacks that make us who we are, and one of the coolest things about tech in my opinion, is the fast-paced nature of it all. One can get feedback and results rather quickly, the responses are lightning-fast, which renders us in full control of any changes that need to be made. Action on the said feedback is very quick, one doesn’t have to wait on exhaustive logistics to understand the working and reception of a product, it gets done within hours!
As an engineer and a professional, this accuracy and steadfastness is something you not only crave but also come to expect. It keeps one going in the sense, the quicker we get feedback the quicker we can work on the solutions. I really do quite enjoy and appreciate the promptness, that only pushes me to do more.
Q. Lastly, any parting advice for the young folks who wish to make it big in the tech world?
A. The tech community is very forgiving. It does, however, to both our luck and misfortune, moves very quickly. If you want to make it big in tech then one thing you need to understand is that our world moves very fast, so one needs to make sure that their bases and foundations are very very strong. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to do it with the utmost passion and dedication, for without passion you cannot aim for success.
It is crucial that you follow the path to knowledge because many a quick solution will fall short in the long run, if not aided with the proper know-how. Getting solutions in a blink comes very easy in tech, the easy way out. But it is also short-lived. A short term win. One must focus on the knowledge because as I said earlier, the world of tech is dynamic and ever-changing. Knowledge and principles are what make us. One must be open to learning, it is the only way to survive.
Marut Singh is the Chief Technology Officer at CARS24. If you wish to be a part of his journey, connect with him on LinkedIn.