Q&A with a Computer Science Engineer

Rajesh Premkumar is a mobile software engineer at Oracle. He is passionate about mobile app development and is currently focusing on apps for real estate, property management and human resources. The apps, “Day tripper,” “To go” and “My rental pro” are some of the feathers in his cap. He is available as a mentor with Careers Infinite and can be contacted for app-related queries.   

How did you get involved with mobile app development?

The concept of apps came into existence when the first iPhone was launched. This got every software engineer interested, including me. Employed at Qualcomm then - they are pioneers in mobile software technology - I had firsthand experience working with the new technology. When the android apps were made open source, my interest in apps deepened. Almost all activities involve apps these days, so the focus is shifted from creating the app to identifying the various problems it can be used to solve. These days, we expect to have access to something of our interest right in our hand and get as much information as we can with just a click. What I love about apps is that they allow maximum automation with minimal user interaction, which makes for ideal user experience.

Could you tell us briefly about your educational background?

I have a BE and an MS in Computer Science, with specialization in wireless communication. I started to work with mobile phones, which are essentially small computers, at a time when they were still a nascent technology. So, I have had ample opportunity to study them and develop a strong technical understanding, and it has been smooth sailing so far.  

What is the timeline that an undergraduate student should look at, to get into a career path similar to yours?

As far as formal training is concerned, two years of Masters and about five years of work experience in one of the top twenty software companies is ideal. The experience teaches one how to build one’s own product and equips him/her to take the risk to venture into app-making start-ups. There are also courses that are taught in college for writing apps. Apart from that, nowadays, there are a number of online resources, which are open source. So, learning is not limited by access to software or coding knowledge.        

What would you say are some important professional skills (outside of academics) that one has to develop to become successful in your field?

More than training in app development, I think that they need the skills to sell their app. So, it would benefit them to take up some business courses. They can either make the app themselves or even hire people to build it for them. But it is very essential to understand business development, sales and marketing in order for their product to successfully reach the target consumers. Also, apart from education, to venture into start-ups, one needs to have a clear idea of who he/she wants to be.

What are some of the challenges you face in your field of work?

In this industry, we face challenges on a daily basis as we have to keep up with the updates in technology. In addition, getting people to download our app as well as pricing an app are challenges we constantly work on solving. I have worked on an online food ordering and delivery system app. We initially found it difficult to attract individuals from either end of the market, that is, restaurateurs and consumers, and could not decide who to aim our product at. After trying out various approaches, we overcame the challenge by changing our interface to a completely visual experience. And then, we saw the reach of the app widen automatically. So, it is always important to provide our end users value for their time.

What are your plans for the future?

I am interested in real estate, human resources and the food and clothing businesses. I hope to bring in more automation to these markets through app development.

What do you do for recreation? Would you like to comment on the work-life balance your career offers?

I play tennis every day. I have a tennis academy and I teach children at least four days a week. I believe that my job offers a good work-life balance, but, it is also a personality trait.

What is your advice to a student of computer science and engineering?

I would tell them to keep at it! Get the fundamentals right. Don’t work breadth-wise. Don’t try to have your finger in too many pies. Focus on one particular specialization and work in-depth. And also, learn how to sell!

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