Meet Ankita, our engineering lead who does it all

Ankita, or “Anki”, as she’s known to her family, has been in honestbee since July 2015. Besides being a passionate software engineer, she’s also a compassionate individual using her talents for good. 

What brought you to honestbee?

I was looking for a company with growth opportunities in technology. At that point, in the quaint honestbee office in Niven road, the small team was developing exciting things. I was actually sceptical but I felt that it would be a good move because it promised an exciting journey and I was interested to be a part of the company’s launch preparations. I actually felt like I had joined too late. The people who had joined before me had so much more context and seemed to know everything that was going on. After six months though, I felt like I had been here forever.

How would you describe honestbee?

It’s a company with some of the warmest and kindest people I’ve met. It has a very appreciative culture, giving credit where its due.  Obviously things have changed since the beginning when it was much smaller but the fast pace of the company has remained, although I like this speed in which we move.  

What is your fondest memory of working in honestbee?

On the first day of moving into the Delta House offices, we decided to run a huge online launch of honestbee Hong Kong. Customer Service advised launching at night due to the high morning traffic so we came back to work at night. While the contractors were fixing up the office, we were debugging and fixing issues at about 2am or 3am. I remember a bunch of us sleeping on the sofas. It was like an honestbee slumber party on the first night of moving in! Thankfully, we found a solution at around 4am. Some of the most memorable times were the most painful, but it really brought us together.

How did you get into software engineering?

I grew up with an older brother who is very technical, and always opening computers up and challenging my technical knowledge so I was influenced by him. When I was thirteen, I had to decide what academic route to take and among all the options, computer science seemed to be the module that most interested me. So I took basic programming between O levels and A levels. When it came to deciding what to do in university, I knew I wanted to be an engineer because I liked maths and science. Since I had familiarity with computers, I selected computer science out of all the engineering module options available. After graduating, I actually took a detour and got into consulting to find out what else was out there, but I finally came to the conclusion that I enjoyed programming the most.

Do you have words of wisdom for people interested in software engineering?

Humans invented computers so it can’t be more complicated than what a human can think up. Whenever I encounter a problem, I think “It can’t be that hard. You invented it, you must know the answer.” A lot of people make a big deal about writing code, but it’s actually pretty common sense. It’s definitely not rocket science so I would advise people who get into it to just persevere to achieve success.

Who do you admire the most in the technology industry?

I read lots of autobiographies and at one point I was inspired by Elon Musk. I also admire Jeff Bezos and what he is doing with Amazon. Currently, and Jon (Low) is going to laugh at me about this, I am really impressed with Neha Narkhede, co-founder and CTO of Confluent, creator of the distributed streaming platform we know as Apache Kafka. It is a technology I was so intrigued by that I went to find out more about its backstory. Finding out that it is led by a woman in technology made me relate to her even more. I have been following her on twitter and will read any article she shares. She’s my idol right now but who I admire changes from time to time.

If you weren’t a software engineer, what else would you do?

I really like teaching. I have always believed in tech for social good so I run a business on the side that provides tech-based education solutions. We set up educational calls for children on feature phones, because a lot of low income families in India do not have access to smart phones nor stable internet connections. These children receive voice-based messages and they listen to a story in English with some translations and they interact by pressing keys on the phone. These answers are recorded on our database and we provide a portal for teachers to monitor how their students are doing in real-time. This service has become something teachers use especially during the summer holidays and we are currently already working on running year-round programs for parents. Non-profit education services put in a lot of effort during the school months but then when the summer months come, their efforts go to waste when children forget what they have learned – commonly referred to as “summer slide”. This service implemented during the summer break has shown high quantitative and qualitative impact.

Where are you from, what is it like and what do you do when you go back?

Growing up, my parents would shift around a lot in India but I spent most of life, about ten years, in Bombay, followed by Singapore.

Bombay is like New York to me in terms of  life and vibrancy. It is a fast-paced city that is always on, always moving. Generally to me, India is all about festivals so the first things that comes to mind when I think of India are festivities, music, sound and vibrancy. Bombay is amazing in that it affords one the freedom to move about, at any time, thanks to its amazing public transportation system.

I go back so often! As I grow older, I have a greater desire to be home. If I find cheap or marginally cheaper flights, I will fly back. The flight from Singapore to Bombay is five and a half hours but I do not mind going back even for just a weekend, since I pay for it with my own hard-earned money.

When I go home, my routine is to drink tea with my family, watch the sunrise, play with my dog, and watch the sunset. I stay indoors a lot because I have a beautiful house with a balcony that overlooks a lush green garden. It is totally calm and peaceful and allows me to really switch off.

Can you share a fond childhood memory

Most of my memorable moments are also the most traumatic! When I was 9 or 10, I had just moved to Bombay. My parents fetched me from school for the first two days, and on the third day, I had to get home by myself.  So on that day, I got on the wrong bus and it was raining so heavily, roads were flooded and the bus had to take detours, dropping the others before dropping me off. This was in the time before cellphones and my mom was waiting for me to get home with no idea where I was. Meanwhile, I was just enjoying the bus ride. When we were reunited four or five hours later, both my mother and brother were in tears thinking they had lost me!

What do you do for fun?

I have taken up playing the piano as an aspiration, something I am not very good at but want to challenge myself with. But I really enjoy sports like going for a run. I also used to do capoeira with all the headstands and handstands but I was very prone to injury and I was sure I was going to break my neck so I have taken a break. I used to not think much of yoga but it is my biggest hobby now and my not-so-distant aspiration is to go for my yoga certification next year. I am always amazed by how graceful all these yoga practitioners are, doing things like inversions. I cannot do every pose but the progress I have made since I started is encouraging. It feels great to overcome obstacles and do poses you never thought you would be able to do. I practice yoga three or four times a week with a professional, and the remainder of the time, I do my own practice.


How do you balance all your activities and work?

I try to sleep at a reasonable time, like between 11pm – 12am and get six or seven hours of sleep, I do a one-hour workout in the morning when I wake, and then I come to work. I no longer exercise in the evenings because sometimes I might work late or just want to eat dinner instead. My weekends are precious to me – I practice the piano on Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for a long yoga session.

What are you grateful about today?

I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had. My immediate family has been really supportive, and I cannot express just how glad I am to be working with the team here. When I first joined, I couldn’t stop raving to my friends about how appreciative everyone here is – From the first day, Isaac has been so forthcoming with his appreciation, even when I am just doing my job. I call Jonathan Low (honestbee co-founder), Isaac Tay (honestbee co-founder), Tjerk Meesters (Chief Architect) and Lope Emano (Senior Software Engineer) “my pillars” – As long as they are here, I can see myself staying on.


Author: alexandra hui