Acceldata’s co-founder and Director of Engineering, Raghu Mitra, started his career as a software engineer in 2005. He quickly realized he enjoyed problem-solving, and the world of data had a huge problem: projects were almost impossible to complete, and that struck a chord with him. Raghu provides insight into this revelation, his part in Acceldata’s founding, and what his typical day looks like as a co-founder at the enterprise data observability leader.
What Was Your Background Before Acceldata?
I started off as a software engineer in 2005 and after few years of experience worked as a staff software engineer with companies like Subex and Citrix. Prior to starting Acceldata, I was at a company called Hortonworks where I focused on an open source project - Apache Metron. Before this, I’d never had interactions with database applications, so most of the time I was working on non-big data projects. I would definitely call it a baptism by fire experience. While most people may have taken it all one step at a time, I was more thrown to the far end of this project. However, I immediately knew the ecosystem in place was not sustainable and there were overarching issues that would need to be solved soon.
Often, I would ask co-workers, “Hey, is this difficult, or as a team are we doing anything wrong?” I didn’t want to be rude, but in my previous experiences outside the data domain tasks were simple and efficient. There was an order and process to everything, and I just hadn’t seen that within the data industry. In response, I was often told that the then-current processes were just how things were done.
Comparatively, at least at Hortonworks, we retained an employee who did understand the entire system. Outside, that wasn’t always the case, and as someone stepping into this world of big data, it was slightly shocking. These ecosystems that were barely making it through the day were just accepted, and ultimately the genesis of Acceldata was, “Every enterprise relying on data needs a solution that addresses these issues impacting data quality and data engineers’ ability to be efficient.“
What Sparked Your Interest in Big Data?
When I was at Citrix and Subex, we were trying to provide solutions to end users. They were both telecom and networking companies, so it just made sense to build interfaces that were simple to use and could integrate to what the end user would ultimately need. So as a senior engineer, my goal was to ultimately create designs and software that helped people and made their lives a little easier. The benefits are tangible when it comes to developing technology for specific customers, and it was baffling that data management tools weren’t made with the same concept in mind.
This is unfortunately a common challenge in most industries, but I see problem-solving as my own responsibility. I cannot leave issues without a resolution, and I realized that my talent can be beneficial to solve big data related issues. I wanted to help teams to be passionate about what they’re doing, as well as help them accomplish their jobs efficiently. My innate desire to make the world a simpler, more efficient place was my own genesis into Acceldata.
Acceldata has been a great outlet and opportunity for someone like me who is always focused on finding solutions. The sheer complexity and magnitude of what we’re attempting to achieve is thrilling, and I’d say an extra benefit of big data is engaging with a wide audience. The reach of the solutions we provide is so much broader, and it’s my sweet spot for creating a great product. At Acceldata, I am finally able to make the difference I thought was needed for so long.
Was There A Specific Experience That Led You To Start Acceldata?
Going back to Apache Metron, by nature it was huge and fairly complicated. At the time, there were only a few people who understood it and could install the project. One of them could debug and provide insight on the backend. Having so few on the team who really understood the project resulted in difficulties. For example, if we were to install this project for a customer somewhere far away, such as Australia, we would then either need to schedule a call or fly the one or two people who could actually install the project out there.
This stuck with me because it shows data problems are complex, and there can be a heavy dependency on individuals who know these systems very well. The question for me then became, “Is the system currently in place sustainable? Is it okay to leave it as it is? Is there a better way?”
The answer was absolutely not, and this leads into more of Acceldata’s story.
Rohit Choudhary (Acceldata’s CEO) is super-smart so I knew that by the time I realized that the current ecosystems and processes weren’t working, he’d known about it for at least two years. He had a huge head start on me from the beginning, and he already had a plan. It was very evident to him that he was looking for a particular set of people. He was looking for a core group who could become the nucleus of Acceldata, the enterprise data observability solution data engineers didn’t yet know they needed.
Rohit and I were casually talking one day, and I remember bringing up that the big data space was extremely complicated with no solution to alleviate these issues. I had no idea how people were working and completing projects within that environment, and even worse, I didn’t know what I could do. I was presenting the problem more than providing a solution.
Meanwhile, Rohit was already conceptualizing the answer to it all. He and I spoke about his ideas, and I was eventually brought into the founding of the world’s first true data observability company. For me, deciding to help co-found Acceldata was a no-brainer.
We were a balanced group, and I knew if there was anyone who had a fair shot at implementing actionable change for the better within this space, it was the founding group assembled. I knew that Acceldata could make a difference within the data space, and I believe it even more now.
How Would You Describe Your Role Among Acceldata’s Founding Team?
Taking a pure product approach to building this product would oversimplify the problem, and it wouldn’t be as valuable. And taking a pure platform approach probably wouldn’t have simplified it enough. There was a meaningful balance required, and the core nucleus we have right now is perfect. We all come from different backgrounds within data, and we make it work to the advantage of Acceldata’s end users.
We all understand exactly what is necessary to bring true enterprise data observability to those in this space who truly need it, and I think that’s really our biggest role altogether.
What Are Some Top Challenges You’ve Faced In Your Position While Building Acceldata?
When you’re part of the first people venturing into a certain space, the first issue you run into is how difficult explaining what you’re trying to accomplish is. I would say evangelizing the concept itself was, in my opinion, the first real challenge.
From a product standpoint, there is no template to guide you. You’re starting off literally with a blank slate, and you only understand that there is a problem that you have just an inkling of how to solve. Acceldata was formed against all odds, and I believe it’s because the data space desperately needs our solution to its massive problem.
What Does Your Day-to-Day Look Like As A Co-founder?
First thing in the morning, I wake up and check my messages just to anticipate the day ahead. It’s usually an indicator of how much I can expect once I get into the office and helps to make a mental map of my day.
Once I’ve made it to the office, I join our standard meetings where we take stock of everything occurring internally and externally. What are the plans? The pitches? Are they progressing? Some of these might relate to the earlier Slack messages, and some of them might be related to a customer inquiry or a change in the product roadmap. It’s imperative that everyone understands what’s happening.
Invariably, there is someone who’s stuck on a problem and is struggling. The first order of business is to ensure they get back on track. Making sure everyone is unblocked and doing well when I’ve just started my day and have nothing going on is important. On a good day, all of this could take until about mid-morning. On a bad day, it may be closer to noon.
Afterward, until about 2 p.m., I may have some ad hoc calls and tasks. I prefer to conduct candidate interviews and other meetings within the first half of my day because I need at least some time to be distraction-free and productive. By this time, I usually try to start working on code.
Beyond 4 p.m., most of the product team is awake due to time zone differences in the US. I’m based in Bangalore, so there is often some coordination. I often discuss with the sales teams and product teams, plan for upcoming releases, and sometimes there are architectural discussions.
I try to be on my way home by 7 p.m., where I’ll wrap up earlier projects, play with my kids and finish by evening with some late meetings for the U.S. teams. Once I’ve gotten through it all, from 11 p.m. to midnight is the best time to finish my last projects for the night.
Being a co-founder requires a lot of dedication and time, but being part of Acceldata and our revolution within the world of big data is worth it. Every day, I can make a difference and solve this massive problem that data enterprises are facing.