Akash Badshah calls himself the “classic millennial engineer,” but really he finds himself sitting squarely at the intersection between an engineer and people manager.
He wears a lot of hats as the product architect at Socedo, a Seattle startup that helps business generate sales leads from Twitter. He has to think strategically about Socedo’s longterm roadmap as the product manager; he gets to climb knee-deep in code as the company’s software architect; and he’s in charge of managing a team of fellow engineers as the development manager.
Finding a way to bridge that gap between technical talent and product visionary, he says, has been one of his favorite parts of his job.
“Technical people can actually be the visionaries and managers behind the biggest innovations,” Badshah said. “An engineer doesn’t need to abandon his or her geeky-soul to rise to the top.”
When he’s not working, Badshah is an avid snowboarder, Seahawks “super fan,” fantasy football addict and a TV binge-watcher.
“[My] immersion in technology has empowered me with the belief that nearly any problem can be solved, often in spite of my own limitations,” Badshah said.
Meet our new Geek of the Week, and continue reading on for his answers to the Q&A.
What do you do, and why do you do it? “I’m the product architect at Socedo. That essentially boils down to three main tasks: setting the product vision and roadmap, designing the architecture behind new features, and managing the day-to-day goals of the development team. In other words, I wear three hats: product manager, software architect, and dev manager.”
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “When most people hear about online marketing and sales, their first response is usually to cringe at the ringing of their ‘spam-alarm.’ In reality, however, the wealth of data available online allows sales and marketing to be more targeted and relevant at the expense of scatter-shot techniques like TV advertising or cold-calling.
The power of social media is that now, more than ever, people are expressing who they are and what they want online. It is our goal to utilize this information to connect need with solution. It is our belief that by automating certain aspects of the sales process, it actually allocates more time for the part that really deserves it: human interaction.
Social media advertising is not the beginning of a world of spam, it’s actually the beginning of a world where marketers aren’t just talking — they’re listening.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “I am continually inspired by the pace of innovation in today’s world, both large and small.
I think constantly about how much the world has changed, even in my relatively short life. This exponential innovation makes me feel like I’m standing on the edge of a vast wave of change. I see massive industries on the cusp of disruption by technology, like self-driving cars, the internet of things, and computational biology. I feel compelled to involve myself in technology to participate in this shift. I frequently reflect on things I take for granted that did not exist in the generation before me, and that inspires me to continue creating.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “I don’t think I could live without Uber, or the sharing economy as a whole. I don’t own a car, but I can still get around Seattle (or frankly any city) to my heart’s content because of Uber. I can venture out into the world without any real plans, and know that I can always find a way home as long as I’ve got battery in my magic-pocket-box. Being able to count on technology to crowd-source a solution to a physical problem has allowed me to live in a very aloof sense — not owning or planning much. Although I could certainly live without Uber, I think I would live a very different life in terms of the plans I’d need to make.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “My workplace is extremely loud and energetic. We have a large open floor-plan for the entire company, which means that someone is usually yelling across the office to someone in a different team. In the center of the office is a ping-pong table that only adds to the chaos as little orange balls frequently hit workers in the back of their heads. The volume and energy helps keep me motivated and the loudness encourages an atmosphere of constant collaboration and challenge.
My personal workspace is a cramped little table, which I share with the rest of the development team and is usually pretty messy. I don’t need a lot of personal space (at home I’ll work on my couch instead of desk) and it’s much more valuable for me to be able to quickly chat with or share my screen with another engineer.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life (Help us out, we need it): “Keep work out of the bedroom! By this I mean to find a dedicated time or space and prioritize it over work. For me, this was taking the time to read the news and eat breakfast in the morning before jumping online or responding to emails. I used to start working from bed as soon as daylight hit my face, and I burned out pretty quickly because I was essentially always-on. By forcing myself to wait before getting involved I was able to regain some mental sanity, and honestly become more productive because I spent half as much time worrying. Of course, there are still fire-alarms that need to take precedence, but those are few and far between.”
Mac, Windows or Linux? “Mac, with a side of Windows VM.”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Kirk.”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time machine.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “Work on building small, self-powered sensors. I think the Internet of Things has the potential to transform our world exponentially by simply giving any physical artifact two things: the ability to talk, and something to say. The problem with simply making everything in the world digitally connected is that sensing something interesting requires power, and communicating that back to a computer requires even more power. I’d want to invest in sensor/transmitters that harness ambient energy, like solar, thermo or motion, to power themselves and enable a connection to the Internet of Things.”
I once waited in line for … “I absolutely hate lines — impatience is a prominent quality of mine. So I don’t really wait too long unless forced to, like boarding a plane or dealing with bureaucracy.”
Your role models? “Elon Musk is my ultimate role model because he captures the engineer-entrepreneur duality I see in myself, and he is passionate about solving huge problems that require seemingly infinite resources just to compete. Elon is an engineer with a deep respect and understanding for the technologies that power his progress, which inspires me to continue to work on hard problems that require big solutions.”
Greatest Game in History? “Mass Effect. It’s an excellent RPG with a phenomenal plot and a sci-fi galactic space travel cherry on top.”
Best Gadget Ever? “Sphero – the right mix between adorable, creative and ultimately useless.”
First Computer? “Home-made desktop computer.”
Current Phone? “iPhone 6.”
Favorite App? “Hype Machine.”
Favorite Cause? “Fresh water.”
Most important technology of 2015? “Wearables.”
Most important technology of 2017: “Virtual reality.”
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “An engineer is quickly becoming the most powerful profession in the world. Learn to wield that power for yourself and for the better.”