When he’s not making travel videos for his epic Instagram page or learning to shred on the slopes, Varad is working hard to solve problems and support his colleagues as a data engineer at Ethos. Since joining the company last August, Varad has formed tight-knit relationships with co-workers across the company, and believes the strong network of talent at Ethos has propelled the organization’s continued success. “I’m always excited to see my colleagues, talk to them, and learn new things from them — it feels like talking to family members,” he says. We asked this budding snowboarder and Linkin Park fan about his role at Ethos, his passion for city living, and more below.
How did you get your start in data engineering and what does a typical day on the job look like for you?
My first job working as a software engineer for a pricing sciences solution company introduced me to the world of data engineering and sciences. The curiosity led me to pursue my Master’s Degree in Data Sciences, and explore how I could use data to make decisions. A typical day for me includes talking to people about requirements and resolving their problems while also thinking about generic solutions and frameworks that could be applicable in any case for the long term.
What initially drew you to Ethos?
The startup I was with at the time was closing its doors, and my former CTO introduced me to Ethos. I began researching the company and found out that the work they were doing was truly helping people. I interviewed with Ethos, and got an offer a couple of days later. Along with that offer, I got emails from the employees reaching out to me already! I had never seen this before in my career. After talking to the people at Ethos, I felt it was the right decision to join.
How would you describe Ethos in a few words?
A mission-driven company helping people to secure their life and their loved ones. In terms of work, it is exciting and challenging to work on the problems that Ethos is trying to solve; making life insurance easy and hassle-free.
What is it about Ethos that you feel differentiates it from other companies — particularly those in the life insurance industry?
The human touch — Ethos is helping people navigate the complicated life insurance industry while also providing the tools and knowledge to educate people on making the right decisions which are personalized to them.
What excites you most about your work?
For me, I have always been passionate about building stuff from the ground up and thinking through complex problems; figuring out all the edge cases. I get excited to see the work I do and design come to life flawlessly — it just gives me happiness (insert success kid meme!).
What's the most important thing you've learned at Ethos so far?
I would borrow a quote which our VP of Engineering (Vipul Sharma) always uses: “Have strong opinions, but loosely held.” Learning this important lesson has driven my thinking — whenever you are working on a problem or a new thing, you have a certain vision of how things should be because in your mind, you have visualized and calculated all the scenarios; making them rock solid. However, once you discuss it with your colleagues, you are exposed to things that you may have missed that challenge the whole vision. In these cases, you should be ready to discard or modify, and start working on a better solution.
Where are you from originally and what was the biggest lifestyle/day-to-day adjustment you had to make when you moved to San Francisco?
I am originally from Mumbai, but I moved to Buffalo, New York for my master’s, spent a summer in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then moved to San Francisco for my first job in the city. After having the experience of living in four cities, I felt San Francisco had more of the 'vibe' I was looking for. I always wanted to live in the middle of the city between tall buildings. The biggest change for me was saving a lot of time in commuting to work or other places. For my first job, I used to commute over 3-4 hours each day, so cutting the commute down to a couple of minutes was a huge difference. I can use those hours to do something productive like working out, exploring the city more, or spending time with friends. California's weather along with living in a city where there are a lot of events over the weekends is also pretty amazing.
What's a common myth you want to debunk about data engineers? What do people often get totally wrong about your job that you want to correct?
Often, when people think of data engineers, they associate the work with just writing ETL [extract, transform, load] jobs and building pipelines/reports. The way I think about this role is broader than that. It is also about owning the infrastructure, having a variety of solutions implemented which are more optimally suited for business needs. Given the growing privacy concerns, along with satisfying the business need for data, I feel data engineers should take on the data governance and be the custodians/guardians of customer data.
Name one movie/TV show/book/album that had a significant impact on your life and tell us how/why.
I would say music had a significant impact on my life. I listen to rock, metal, EDM, and rap. The first rock band I ever listened to was Linkin Park. The music was so relatable and got me through both good and bad times. It’s got some weird energy which just makes me happy and pumped up.
Anything else about yourself you'd love to share that really illustrates your personality?
I like to learn and try new things. Currently, I am learning snowboarding and Spanish. I have been doing photography, playing guitar, and making travel videos and posting them on Instagram and YouTube. One thing I have been doing for the past 2-3 years is every time I visit a new city, I take a jumping picture in front of that city’s famous landmark/monument and post it on social media. I use social media to tell the story of my life; letting people experience the stuff that I've been doing through Instagram stories and travel videos. I think that's a good way of inspiring people to explore, try new things, and stay in touch with old friends. Instagram: a_peek_in_varad_s_life.