Leadership Insights Chapter 2: Sanket Sahu, CEO, GeekyAnts

A conversation with Sanket Sahu, CEO, GeekyAnts on product building, OSS and his growth as a professional and an individual.
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Sanket Sahu is not only a brilliant CEO of the company he calls his life, but is also a revolutionary and an idea machine. He has built his profession around being a part of the community and giving back to it relentlessly, with the only hopes of making the lives of people better using technology.

I continue to have the pleasure of working closely with him and have conversations that I’ve always taken away something from. It was only fair that I sat with him and asked him about what the journey has been for him through the years and how he has managed to grow in his profession from a shy introvert to the face of GeekyAnts. I count my lucky stars because I finally did get the chance to do it.

The following Q&A has been edited to deliver ease of understanding and clarity.

1. Where did your love for building products come from?

I was introduced to technology at a very young age. I grew up in a household where I was surrounded by tech aficionados and early-adopters. As an academician, my father got a computer for his research work and that sparked my curiosity towards how computers and tech worked. 

I loved to solve problems with technology. I remember I once built an electronic morning alarm that would beep with the sunrise when I learnt about light-dependent-resistors. I also built a desktop app to log the visits of patients at my uncle's clinic in the early 2000s. I think my love for building products has its roots in those little problems.

2. You’ve been a developer since the age of 8. How has that helped in shaping your outlook towards the industry?

I was lucky to be born when the tech industry was just getting off the ground. 80286 was my first computer and MS-DOS was the only operating system back then. Witnessing the evolution from the oversized desktops to the wearable ring that kicks my butt when I don't workout, the industry has kept me in awe and definitely made me optimistic about what technology can do. When you discover the ‘why’ at an early age, it's like you skip a lot of what everybody else has to go through. Starting to code at six definitely shaped my outlook and unlocked a lot of opportunities for me.

3. How important a role has OSS played in your career?

A lot! It transformed me and my team from just faces in the crowd into a company that loves to put their work out in the open. OSS makes you insecure at first, but eventually makes you courageous and open to feedback. When it eases the lives of other devs, you feel good. It's a mix of gratitude for others in the community and being content at heart that you helped someone at the end of the day.

GeekyAnts has its roots in open-source. The community adoption of NativeBase was a major milestone in our growth. Sahil has put it well - “Let your work network for you" and that's what happens with our OSS projects.

4. You mentioned that you’re on a mission to inspire people to build things. What inspired you to do the same?

I get bored fast. I don't like monotony. Whenever I have to do the same task for the second or the third time, I stop and try to think of ways to automate it, and that's where most of my projects start.

Also, building apps and websites is still counted as a skill. I dream of a day when building such things would be as trivial as talking or walking that anybody can pick up without much struggle. I want to make technology so transparent that we forget that it exists.

5. Being a developer at heart, you sit atop the mountain as the CEO of GeekyAnts. How hard was the transition from a dev to a managerial role?

Transitioning from a dev role to a managerial role for me was like going from working alone in a room as a shy developer to standing on a stage and speaking my heart out on what I believe in. It was hard. I am selectively introverted and extroverted and it depends on a lot of factors. I went from writing conditional statements in code to making decisions that have bigger impacts on a much larger scale. It was scary at first, but it only gets better like everything else. As a CEO, empathy becomes more important than IQ. You know you are directly impacting the lives of other people and it’s just not binary anymore. Emotional intelligence is an important skill that I had to learn and that has made me a better manager at the end of the day.

6. The path to success is paved with success and failures. How do you handle both?

No surprises here. I think the best way to manage both is to acknowledge the fact that both of them exist and one comes after the other, like night and day. I know, it sounds very philosophical but that is what it is.

7. What are the things that you are looking forward to in the future, both professionally and personally?

I want to continue learning, earning, relaxing and exercising; and outsource everything else. Yes, that's by Naval but looks like I have taken it too seriously. While I want to continue looking for the next big thing that’s to come my way, I want to continue to stay content at heart and grateful for everything that I have in my life. It’s the only way forward for me.