Fireside Chats at KI labs; ep. 6

In this episode, we talk with one of our Developer Advocates and Android Developer, Wahib Ul-Haq, about living in Munich and why he chose KI labs.

What do the first years of Wahib look like?

“I grew up in the metropolitan city of Rawalpindi in Pakistan. I was in a very motivating and focused environment with a lot of academic pressure from my parents and classmates. Pressure builds up very quickly in the Pakistan school system to be eligible for the top universities.

I became interested in computers in 8th grade and learned GW Basic as my first programming language. I soon developed a simple calculator. The first domino had fallen in my technical career.

I was privileged to receive my Bachelors in Information and Communication Systems Engineering from NUST (the top university in Pakistan). Like many, I was heavily influenced by technology innovation, startups and the contributions of researchers from the western world in IT. Things are much better now but back at that time, I realised that there was a lack of growth and opportunity to impact on a much larger scale while living in Pakistan. All these factors combined influenced me to leave Pakistan to pursue my Masters in Computer Science at TU Munich.”

Since then you’ve been in Munich for 6 years now. What’s the verdict?

“Honestly, I love Munich. Moving here was big for me. It was my first time out of my country, and even my first time on a plane. Looking back, I’m really happy this is where I landed. Munich has a great mix of older architecture and also the more modern art and culture. It’s not too touristy but also has many building, museums, and attractions to see. It is very welcoming to foreigners and also a great place to raise a child. The education system here nurtures creativity rather than pushing a curriculum at such an early age, like the one I was a part of. I think it is more important for children to learn values and different ways of thinking rather than arithmetic in their first years of education.

Lastly, Munich has been a great city for my newfound passion: street photography. Shameless plug: you can see my pictures @not_that_pindi_boy on Instagram”

KI labs is not your first work experience in Munich. How does it compare?

“I worked at a few product companies as a working student and then as a full-time employee. I had great experiences at those companies, and learned a lot, but I ended up leaving since the product wasn’t changing. There wasn’t an option of doing things differently.

KI’s business model is very unique. It’s consulting but not consulting at the same time. Danial’s (KI labs CEO) vision makes it very different than other services companies. I had no intention of joining a services company but after 2 hours with Danial at a café, my mind was changed. I was the 15th employee. He gave me the opportunity to start the Android team with a focus on the users from day 1. I saw the possibility of having a significant impact within the company and that meant a lot for me.”

Has KI reached your expectations?

“I’d be lying if I said everything has been perfect. With such a young company, it’s been chaotic at times, but that’s part of the fun. Danial is open for ideas, and always waiting for people to jump in and drive things. I’m the type of guy to jump in and initiate change when I think it’s important to do so and I’ve made it a goal of mine to initiate projects of knowledge sharing and branding, and also strengthening engineering culture.

We have also been given a lot of freedom to make technical decisions. For example, from day 1, I was able to advocate for Kotlin in all Android products — what I see as the future for Android development.

The one thing I’d like to see more of in a perfect world is the release of our products to the real end users. We often handoff before the sun rises on the product and we don’t get to see the impact of our work — but that will change with our current project. Also, this notion is reserved for the projects I’ve worked on, not all of KI projects.”

Because of your previously mentioned “initiative” you were recently given the official position of Developer Advocate. What is that?

“I am not aware of any consulting company which has such a position, so it was awesome when the team announced it. It’s reaffirms our focus on engineering and making lives better for engineers within the company. You should honestly do another one of these talks just about that position. We’re organizing meetups, company hackathons, managing company outreach, establishing a presence on Medium, and building our brand on social platforms to attract more candidates. We’re also working to build a larger open source environment, contributing to more libraries on GitHub, and perhaps more long-term projects in the future.”

What is your definition of an engineering culture?

“As a tech company it is important to offer engineers activities and support to make sure they have space to learn and try new things, they are equally motivated and feel acknowledged. Being informed of what your engineers are interested in and listening to their concerns is something that’s often lost in company bureaucracy. People have an intrinsic need to be heard and recognized, and it’s important to not underscore that impact.

Another challenge is equally motivating other people, who aren’t as passionate about the topic as you. It was important to have the position of ‘Developer Advocate’ so the other engineers see these initiatives coming from KI labs and not from Wahib.”

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