D. Jameson
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D. Jameson

BYJU’S Classes’ zero-to-one design journey through an anthology of 7 tales

A Treasure Hunt Through Uncharted Waters

Memoirs of creating a brand new EdTech Product during the crisis of 2020–21 and a myriad of unforeseen events. (The makeshift Home Office in the middle of a small island-town by the Arabian Sea added a distinct flavour to the whole remote work experience)

A close up shot of waves in deep blue colour with sun shining on it. A title written on them says “A treasure hunt through uncharted waters (an anthology of seven tales)”
Image courtesy: Viktor Jakovlev

Tale 1 of 7

ROUGH SEAS AND STRONG WINDS OF MARCH 2020

𝙼𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚝𝚑𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚒𝚐𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚞𝚙 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊𝚗 𝚞𝚗𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚒𝚙𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚗𝚎𝚠 𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚐𝚗𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝

Have you ever slipped into a ride with unforeseen adventures full of hideous surprises along the way, especially the kind of rumpus you were never prepared for? Those who have an appetite to venture into the unexplored may find unconventional treasures along the way — but often not in the most obvious ways. Well, that is a somewhat accurate description of the year 2020 for many people. It was indeed quite an odd one for me as well.

My wife and I had already planned to relocate from NCR-Delhi by the end of March 2020 to Bangalore — a city much closer to home. Wrapping up our jobs, we bid goodbye to our friends in the city.

Collage of three pictures showing the author of the blog and his friends during his farewell gatherings
From January 2020, we started bidding farewell to friends in NCR-Delhi in anticipation of leaving the city. (Except this one, all images used in the article are for representational purposes only)

We were all set, maybe just a week or two shy of hitting the highways for a long road trip in our new car. It was something we had been planning for a while. But on the 24th March 2020, the government of India announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days. It was also about the same time that my dad’s health started slipping due to a long chronic kidney illness.

My wife and I ended up getting stuck in our Gurgaon apartment for the next two months. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced in our lifetime. Away from family, the uncertainty and the fear during this time was gruelling.

A shot of waves hotting the sea wall made of huge rocks and at the end of it is a light house painted in orange colour
Image courtesy: Tina Rolf

By the 1st week of June 2020, I reached my home town- a suburb island of Kochi. Months later, after a series of events, I bumped into an opportunity to lead the design efforts for one of the new products at BYJU’S; a leading EdTech company in the world and India’s most valuable startup.

We are talking about a time when this new crisis just triggered a fresh, mad gold rush in the EdTech industry worldwide; one that was already ignited with massive opportunities.

Doesn’t it sound like a smooth landing after a bumpy journey? Well, buckle up! We are just at the beginning of a wild expedition, and hopefully, a meaningful journey for me(Fingers crossed) and a fun read for you.

Let me tell you the whole story…

A view from the top of a sail boat, looking into the sun setting in the horizon
Image courtesy: Kameron Kincade

Tale 2 of 7

THE CONTEXT AND MISSION OF THE EXPEDITION

𝙸𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚊 𝚏𝚎𝚠 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚝𝚑𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝙸 𝚓𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝙱𝚈𝙹𝚄 ’𝚂

The time was such that even some of the biggest internet-based companies were pivoting their businesses to survive an unparalleled crisis unlike most of us had seen in our lifetimes. But for the EdTech companies, the pandemic ended up delivering their future users a bit earlier than expected.

The available platform-based solutions like Zoom, Google, and Whatsapp certainly had an early advantage. But they were not exactly equipped for handling the specific needs of young children and teachers, especially with no educational content of their own; they were all merely tools that connected people remotely.

The target was clear, the scale was massive, the struggle was real, and the competition was fierce among EdTech companies for obvious reasons; the crisis gave birth to many more within no time.

The light at the end of the tunnel to a new world of unseen opportunities was kind of obvious for internet-based businesses. A thumping vigour took over many EdTech camps in the country with new hope in the air and epic ambitions to grab a share of such a gold mine of opportunity.

A photograph of a leather diary kept on a book like something that is covered using a map.
Image Courtesy: Kira auf der Heide

BYJU’S as an organisation responded to the situation with lightning speed and a quick solution to test the waters. The pilot hit the market and many thousands of parents across the country enrolled their kids as an alternative to brick and mortar tuition classes.

In the pilot version, the remote synchronous learning experience was delivered through a combination of existing materials along with a live chat-based doubt resolution. The core concepts were taught using pre-recorded videos from the flagship asynchronous learning app, while multiple trained tutors were resolving any doubts via live chat from remote locations.

The product was named BYJU’S Classes. It was indeed a good relief for many, but it was far from the final destination. The leadership decided to give it a complete revamp for the best experience.

Byju Raveendran (The founder & CEO, BYJU’S) had a clear vision; he wanted to deliver a new seamless remote synchronous learning experience for millions of school children across the country whose regular school education was interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.

As COVID-19 cases started rising in the country, the lockdown dates kept extending, and there were no signs of schools reopening their physical classrooms. All eyes were on the big EdTech companies like BYJU’S to bring a better solution to sustain this unexpected bizarre summer.

And the clock has started ticking…

Tale 3 of 7

THE BUZZ IN THE BEGINNING

𝙾𝚗𝚋𝚘𝚊𝚛𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚟𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚕 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚠𝚘 𝚖𝚘𝚗𝚝𝚑𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚙𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚞𝚕𝚕.

The new squad was being formed in preparation for the long journey forward under the newly appointed captain Lijo Isac (VP of Products)

When Lijo first approached me about the opportunity, I politely rejected it for another plan I had in mind, but a few weeks later, he persuaded me with a different promising narrative and asked me to give it another thought and I did. Fast forward to the 20th of Nov 2020; I attended my first ever virtual onboarding at BYJU’S.

Initially, I thought it was a ticket for a casual cruise until I learned about the mission and its even crazier timelines. But there was certainly a breath of fresh air about the problem statement and the mission. I could sense the zeal on deck, as much there were shakes and shambles looming over the upcoming expedition. After all, everyone knew this one was to be through uncharted waters.

There was a mix of buzzing excitement in my head too, and at the same time, a heavy apprehension as I realised that there were not enough crew(in the design pod) for such an ambitious mission. I was also told that the leadership wanted us to hit the waters very soon, if not immediately. The race had already begun.

A view from the sail boat looking into the sea, and one can see many people fixing the sail
Image courtesy: Ricardo Frantz

With an extreme sense of urgency expressed by the captain, I understood there was no time to just stand and stare. I jumped straight into understanding the job to be done and gathered a hasty overview from various stakeholders.

Here is how I translated the project’s vision to align myself and articulate the same to my team consistently throughout the project without losing its essence.

We want to create an impact in the lives of millions of school children by building the best and most affordable digital alternative to the current brick and mortar tuition classes, where students from anywhere can experience the magic of live (in person) classes given by top-notch teachers (like Byju Raveendran himself). We would wisely use technology not only to bring the best qualities of traditional tuition but also to enhance the quality of learning in multiple folds to inspire digital natives to fall in love with synchronous learning.

I was pumped up for playing a role in reimagining BYJU’S Classes’ digital experience. The design leader in me was focussing on the following 4 core areas.

1. Handpicking my crew

Hiring new members for the design team was the highest priority item on my to-do list, second to none for obvious reasons.

I had inherited three designers in the beginning. To be honest, I was a bit iffy about not having highly-seasoned designers in the pod for an ambitious project like this. They were young, fantastic and fiery, but my worry was about meeting the milestones with such tight timelines.

Parts of jigsaw puzzle, some scattered, some are arranged well
Image Courtesy: Jonny Gios

There were some hiccups initially, but then I realised that I had to be more patient and flexible. I made the mistake of jumping right in, expecting the early members to be moving in full throttle.

Change is always hard; a lot was happening already with the new remote work culture, and I was also bringing a lot more to their plates too soon. I had to slow down a bit.

When I switched gears, and the team stepped up and outperformed my expectations to become some of the strongest pillars along the way in bringing the first version out. I continued hunting for new members to fill the skill gaps, just like the way people make their Dream Eleven for an IPL cricket team. I strongly believe, a great team is consciously designed, one member at a time.

I have also got the chance to implement an idea around ‘Design hiring practices’ that I had been toying with over the last few years. I hired the subsequent team members based on what I call the 4 design sensibilities required for a competent design team[read more here]

[Trivia: The team scaled to a 12-member design pod within six months]

2. Brewing up a fresh ethos and better work habits for the early sailors.

Given the long sail ahead, setting the right foundation for a culture that supports its members’ growth was the second priority but a non-negotiable item on my list.

A golden coin that has a lot of pirate symbols embossed on it which shows a treasure box, skull and more
Image courtesy: Jakob Rosen

Everyone is given equal respect on the team but when it comes to decisions making, I introduced clearly defined boundaries and hierarchies, leaving no scope for confusion about accountability and responsibilities within the pod.

Especially in such a fast and lean environment, this structure encourages fewer conflicts in decision making (be they right or wrong) and timely execution, which encourages higher individual learning outcomes for members.

The unhealthy competition internally within pod members is one of the greatest barriers to creating competent teams. Hence, for the role I play in the team, every single thing I do is vetted for keeping any such toxicity as far away as possible.

Every member is given clear feedback and clarity into their strengths, and we celebrate them reinforcing their unique position within the pod. This is probably the most important cultural hallmark of the team, something I wouldn’t trade for anything else.

Given the new remote work situations, I had two general rules of thumb for setting the tone for promoting better work habits in the pod.

(a) A non-negotiable milestone-based design process and a review focussed on predefined deliverables at the project level.

(b) A biweekly sprint cycle with a few recurring rituals to ensure progress

Once defined, both these items are no-brainers, but they go a long way in creating design operations like a well-oiled machine. At the same time, the pod members enjoy a high degree of freedom on how things are done at the personal level and capacity.

These frameworks are mainly meant to bring clear communication while simplifying decision making and ensuring that things aren’t getting mixed up in the thick of things. It works well with everyone despite their level of experience or expertise.

At the macro level, the idea was to get everyone into the habit of following a milestone-based iterative approach with timely reviews before making irreversible (read costly) design decisions.

It starts with understanding the ‘Vision’, before moving to the ‘Strategies of problem-solving’, and only when the strategy is approved by the key decision-makers, it moves to the final ‘Execution tactics’. This saves a lot of production hours.

There are no cutting corners here. This is very much in the interest of time when there was none to waste. It reduces the time and effort normally wasted through unnecessary to and fro, by ensuring enough clarity and confidence at each milestone of the project. More importantly, it gave all the pod members much-needed confidence at each level.

Source: giphy.com

[Trivia: At BYJU’S, all departments have their own unique culture, where teams and pods inside the departments may have their respective subcultures. Without many direct connections or legacy from the main design team, it was easier to develop a unique DNA from the ground up for my pod.]

3. Understanding scope, hatching up a strategy and defining the route-maps in anticipation of a long sail

Preparing for a scalable design infrastructure is fundamental to a ‘zero to one’ journey for any product. That was exactly my next focus.

Additionally, considering the complete virtual work set up in a new industry slightly different from previous years, there was some homework to be done to get me up to speed with the knowledge gap. At the same time, I had to figure out how to build bridges across different stakeholders to understand the core vision and define the best scope and strategy before getting into the final tactics.

Virtually collaborating with different departments was challenging as I had not worked with any of the leaders in person previously. In general, a lot of organisations still look at design as an afterthought or a last-mile problem, and unfortunately not a strategic partner one should be involved in the early phase. So given the situation, I knew it is something I had to earn on the go. There is a long way to go and a lot depends on the culture within the team.

One of the key things I realised early on about this project was that it is, in fact, a service design problem, where the product comes at the point of delivery. The product is the service itself, where the digital interface plays a key role as a differentiator that can break or make the business. Design and technology are like oxygen to deliver a flawless service experience. The first hire I made — the 3rd person in the pod — was a service designer.

Picture shows two hands looking at a map using a lit matchstick. Two wax candles can be seen in the picture
Image courtesy: S Migaj

From the homework of quick competitor analysis, I realised there were many makeshift solutions borrowed from the corporate world but no real competitor in the current market, offering a true teaching-focused solution like that we were trying to bring.

It was an opportunity to bring an innovative product solution to one of the hottest segments of time, to redefine a synchronous learning experience for school children. All of it had to be done in a way I had never worked in the past, by virtually coordinating different teams with a set of people I had no professional history with. But that was also the exciting part about the problem statement, and I could not have been happier.

I began by looking into different industries’ responses to the ongoing crisis for inspiration. I also collected the latest EdTech media mentions and took a glimpse at various published research literature to better understand the fundamental building blocks of human behaviour and developmental psychology to get some grip on the topic.

All these preparations were to be done in anticipation of a future product to be built on a tight deadline with no comparisons. At the same time, my thoughts were all about how to warm the team up for such an uncharted journey into the future.

More than anything, it was important to make the team members believe in themselves. I started the journey from the end. One of the first things I asked them to do was to create completely fabricated yet believable celebrations at the end of the mission as their vision board.

The team came up with realistic-looking media coverages, hailing the product interventions they designed while highlighting some specific mentions of the never seen innovations. This exercise may sound cheesy or a bit of overkill, but I believe it helped me bring new energy and confidence to a comparatively young team of designers from non-design backgrounds.

It helped the team find a clear purpose and unite with a better focus on the goal. This energy helped me conduct further typical design exercises with ease and greater participation, all done in preparation for the journey forward.

An image of group of people rowing shot from the top, the water looks almost black
Image courtesy: Josh Calabrese

As a team, we moved on to virtual jam-boards to map out the whole journey as a series of events taking references from the real world and considered every possible nuance of their learning experience for bridging the gap in the existing digital solutions.

All those efforts eventually brought more clarity and developed stronger instincts in each of the team members to be swift with design decisions in the journey that unfolded later. The key was not to get carried away with the immediate milestones of delivering the screens but to soak in an understanding of the service in its entirety before getting into task-level details.

At this stage, the scope of work was just what we call ‘In-class experience’, and my focus was on building a scalable design infrastructure that would allow the team to conduct multiple experiments and validate hypotheses.

As we moved to the execution level, the primary focus was given to the Product Communication (to make the product and features intuitive and understandable), and then Functionality (enabling users to complete their objectives at ease), leaving Business Feasibility and Product Aesthetics, Delights at a minimum hygiene level to start with.

Once we hit the market, I wanted to prioritise the objective of ‘Designing for all’ (accessibility and inclusivity) as a major design concern, given the humongous scale of the product’s reach and its impact on online learning for a country like India.

An illustration of multiple people representing diversity
Image courtesy: LeeAnn Cline

4. Supporting the ongoing project:

While we were all set and prepping the big ship for a long-enduring journey into deep waters, there was an urgent call to duty to drop everything and provide support to ensure the pilot vessel was ‘floating’ fine.

A chat-based communication was one of the core features of the pilot product, which needed some necessary hygiene fixes in its user flow and user experience. We had to immediately shift our focus to this task as a priority, and it kept me and the team busy for a few weeks of December 2020 and early January 2021.

Although it was a slight deviation from the top-down approach we had initially taken in preparation for the new version, chat-based communication was a subset of the new product as well and something we would have picked anyway. However, on the brighter side, this task gave me a chance to understand my team a little better and their core skillsets at the tactics level before the actual work started. It was indeed a blessing in disguise.

A paper boat floating in the water with s tiny red flag on top of it
Image courtesy: Artak Petrosyan

Towards the end of January 2021, I had clocked two months into the new job. Everyone was finding their rhythm, working with each other and understanding the new coordinates and boundaries within the pod.

Suddenly, the fire alarm went off in the captain’s cabin…

Tale 4 of 7

AN UNEXPECTED FIRE ON DECK, AND THERE WAS A MAD RUSH

𝙰𝚕𝚕 𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚔, 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚕𝚎 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚎

Well, I was not expecting a journey with all fair winds and calm seas. But this one I never saw coming. After back-tracking the release dates, we should have already left the port and been sailing by now; at least that is what I understood from the captain’s tone.

He sounded like he would have been probably happier if we were to go back in time and start everything earlier than we had done. As per the new timelines, the product requirement doc was to be submitted to the engineering team in a week from that time.

Alas, we were not even at the beginning of the beginning. We are not building a small feature; the whole beast had to be built from the ground up with no references. I was told to submit the screens, explaining all the product flows in 7–10 days.

I had no choice but to believe in magic and maybe a few instincts from the mock drills we already did in our warm-up sessions. Then there was a mad mad rush; that is all I can recollect.

A hazy picture of people running in circles, and it looks like they are actors of a theatre performance. The whole thing is mostly in red colour.
Image courtesy: jurien huggins

I did not dare to look at the actual grand [dream] plan and the best product design practices to be honest. We chalked out a design infrastructure and the entire flow for the product with mock screens for the business as a signoff. All in 10 days. Phew!

Those ten days were no less than a fire on deck for all of us in the Design Team. One thing I can assure you is that it would not have been possible without those warm-ups and countless virtual brainstorming sessions whipping out concepts from inspirations, imagination, and all sorts of stories we told ourselves about what each one of us would have liked to see in a perfect scenario — of course sans business requirements.

That was magic and we pulled it off.

(Will share the details of some of the key design challenges and interventions in future articles)

Tale 5 of 7

THE HUNKY-DORY PLAIN SAILING (BEFORE AND AFTER THE STORM)

𝙾𝚏 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎, 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚘𝚘 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚙𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚒𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚓𝚘𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚖𝚞𝚜𝚒𝚌 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚌𝚔.

A birds eye view of a sailing boat peacefully moving through a calm sea
Image courtesy: Austin Neill

When the work pressure flattened the curve and our intensity found its rhythm, it was the best time to work on consistency hacks for the team. As the engineering team started their work, we moved on to the regular beat of the two-week sprint with a plain execution mode, knocking one item after the other off the promised list of features, flows and assets.

I divided the sprint into 3 key milestones. It began with a sprint kick-off, mid-sprint review, and the end-of-sprint demo. Every sprint starts with aligning the project requirements to ensure the designers and PMs have the same understanding of the sprint objectives and deliverables.

On the first day of the sprint, we meet to determine what the next 5-day plan would look like, and towards the end, on the 4th day of the sprint, we evaluate the progress towards the week’s objectives. By the end of the 5th day, we have a mid-sprint review with the other stakeholders to ensure that everything is still aligned. This cycle continued week after week; it was essential to ensure smooth design operations.

Internally, each member updates the progress in the pod twice a week as a ritual, but countless other organic collaborations happen over Discord channels every so often. These Discord channels are named ‘New York’, ‘Goa’, ‘Howrah Bridge’, ‘Cafe’, ‘Country bar’, ‘Forum mall’, etc. They lighten the mood and brings much-needed reminders about not going all work and no play.

e.g. Accepting a meeting invite on Discord would look like this.

It is more than satisfying to say, “Let’s catch up in Goa to discuss this”. Or when you are joining in late for the meeting, it is much fun to greet by saying “Sorry, I am a bit late! After all, it was a long flight from Goa to New York”. And, if one thing that can hit the whole blues around the remote work out of the park, it would be your mastery in using those Gifs in your Discord chats. Trust me, it not only eases but also lifts the quality of communication to a whole new level. If someone calls for a quick meeting, just reply with an appropriate Gif(like the one above) along with something like “Sure.. on my way” if you really want to. But, what can beat when you can express with such swagg?

Once things became a bit stabilised, I started picking up other internal hygiene tasks that were important for the design team, as filler tasks with more long term timelines. This was also important to kill the monotony of the day-to-day duties.

A photograph shot from the top of a sailing boat, a view similar to that of a bird sitting on top and looking down
Image courtesy: Tobias Fischer

As we started ‘shipping’ the designs, we started collaborating more intensely with our counterparts on the development team to ensure the product and flows and the interface elements were intact just like we had imagined.

Given the speed with which we were moving in the beginning, along the way we had to pick up some of the corner cases we had missed and any consistency issues we had overlooked. Sometimes, it was simply about raising the bar as we started gaining a better understanding of the service.

When it all looked like a hunky-dory plain sailing, complete mayhem broke out from nowhere…

Tale 6 of 7

THE STORM

𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚖𝚖𝚊 𝚘𝚏 𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚋𝚎𝚝𝚠𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚟𝚒𝚕 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚎𝚙 𝚋𝚕𝚞𝚎 𝚜𝚎𝚊.

We are now somewhere in April 2021. The country was witnessing the worst phase of COVID-19 cases in India. The second wave was mercilessly unrolling catastrophe everywhere in India without sparing anyone; the poor or the rich, the young or the old. Almost everyone I knew has lost someone in the family or someone from their circle of friends.

Source: giphy.com

Every day, we had been hearing about people of our age group dying because of not getting enough life support; the hospitals were closing their doors helplessly, shutting out people gasping for breath.

The crematoriums were overcrowded. People with the dead bodies of their loved ones were standing in long queues on the streets, and the news channels were breaking horror stories every minute. To add to the agony, there was news about how people were fighting with each other for life-saving medicine or getting cheated by crooks trying to benefit from the helplessness of people during such tough times.

We were working at full throttle to meet the next deadline. Soon, a couple of us started applying for sick leaves on consecutive days and I had a feeling this and the whole atmosphere is anyway going to bring down the productivity of the ones who are working. I wanted to just halt the whole thing and give it a break.

On one hand, putting an unexpected halt will impact the immediate deadlines, and it would be solely my accountability to not let that happen. But on the other hand, how anyone could have a sane mental space and work well during such conditions. I was caught between the devil and the deep sea.

There was no doubt with me that everyone needed some time to regain their sanity and get on terms with the horror unfolding outside. It was an important milestone project for me at my new job, personally, a lot could have been at stake. But this sudden storm had rocked the vessel quite badly and there was no point in pushing anyone further.

I immediately decided to lower the anchor and halt the ship. Informed everyone in the team, despite they are sick or not, to take a break from work immediately at least for the next 48 hrs. I informed the leaders after this and negotiated a few days of delay.

I had to make quick decisions first and deal with their repercussions later. I thought that was the best way to stem such an unseen ginormous tide of emotional ill-being.

This was particularly a defining moment for me personally as it taught me a lot more about the weight of making such decisions. I couldn’t have fathomed those challenges any better than experiencing them myself through those few hours. It gave me a little taste of the actual pressures the leaders have to go through beyond one’s subject matter expertise.

This storm was indeed an important practical module (but out of syllabus ) in my leadership training…

Tale 7 of 7

THE CAPTAIN SAYS, “AHOY! AN ISLAND PORT IN VIEW!”

𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚎𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐.

A few months ago, we thought we were sailing close to the wind. But, somewhere by the end of June 2021, we started hearing about the beta testing of the new product, and the potential release dates. Of course, it is not yet the final destination, but that was the much-needed solace everyone wanted to hear for some time.

It brought a new flair of enthusiasm on the deck and more confidence that we are on the right track. That bright shining something in the horizon brought some vim and vigour back on deck.

A nice bright day, a lush green island in the middle of the picture.
Image courtesy: Aiman Ahmed

By August 2021, the product finally went live to beta users. When we were a few days away from the product’s public release, Lijo Isac (the captain) called me when the initial trends started coming in. The excitement in his voice assured me that the wind was undoubtedly blowing in our favour. I was brimming with a weird mix of joy and some heebie-jeebies in anticipation of the release.

By the 3rd week of August 2021, Version ONE of ‘BYJU’S Classes- with two teacher advantage’ went live finally. The same week I clocked exactly 9 months into the project, and with BYJU’S.

I believe with such a fabulous team, our vessel is copper-bottomed and well prepared to face the storm if need be. This first version release was surely a big turn around the corner for us.

With that, we are now reaching the end of the beginning of a long journey. The milestone of designing the zero to one of the BYJU’S Classes was already eventful and fabulous. Do wish us fair winds and calm seas for the rest of the sail ahead!

Miles to go from here. Fingers crossed!

Epilogue

Every zero to one has challenges and its share of excitement. I feel this is not any different from other products and their journeys. I have tried to capture it like the real journey along with the memories associated with it. I believe the story is well intertwined with some of the external scenarios of the times we were in and it also helped me record the whole essence including some of the emotional aspects of the team during such a journey.

More importantly, the 9 months gave me ample chances to mature my own leadership abilities with such unseen challenges and incredible opportunities while leading a relatively small pod of just 12 people.

It certainly helped me evolve myself within such a short period adding new perspectives and a newfound appreciation for the great leaders who deal with the ups and downs while leading hundreds and thousands of people. Having to make important decisions at that scale, impacting the success of a mission and those people associated with it cannot go without facing fierce criticism and other organisational politics that comes with it.

A boat sailing through sea and sun set in the background
Image courtesy: Nicole Chen

The lockdown also gave me a chance that I never thought would happen. I was with my parents in my home town when they needed me the most. All the while, I was able to take my dad to his treatment twice a week for the last year; this would not have been possible without new work from a home arrangement.

I would like to give a huge shout out to the Design team of BYJU’S Classes, my fellow pirates; Akash, Fazal, Hridika, Parul, Pragya, Praveen, Rashid, Richu, Saideep, Salman, and Sumith

Ahoy! Ahoy! MATEYS! Cheers for being such incredible matelots on this chase. Yo Ho Ho!

An image captured from an online video call, There are 12 happy faces on the screen
My eleven fellow pirates and I on a fun session in September 2021

And of course, I must do a special mention of other leaders and their teams, especially Lijo (Product), Jiny (Technology) and all our fellow shipmates with whom we closely work(virtually) shoulder to shoulder (remotely) to get this ship going! — Bon voyage… Fair winds and following seas!

Cheers,
Dhaneesh Jameson | LinkedIn | Twitter
(Experience Design Producer, Filmmaker)

A photograph that looks like a painting of a big sailing boat and its evening. There is a title written on the image that says “The end of the beginning…”
Image courtesy: Zoltan Tasi

Awful to Awesome & All in-betweens in pursuit of better Experiences, Solutions, & Stories…

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Dhaneesh Jameson

Dhaneesh Jameson

Experience Design Producer

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