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Talks Tech #48: Exploring Emerging Technologies and Building Them With Limited Resources

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Written by Bhavya BatraSeptember 13, 2023

Archana Vaidheeswaran, Data Product Manager at Women Who Code, interviews Bhavya Batra, Chief of Strategy at The Phoenix Guild and 2022 Leadership Fellow at Women Who Code. They discuss driving pieces of Bhavya’s tech journey, from the fascination of corporate culture to the lack of resources for certain tech areas. Bhavya also shares her experiences as a leadership fellow. 

When did you get started in tech?

I was naturally more inclined towards HTML. It happened pretty early for me. I was in an international school and fourth standard when I first encountered a computer lab and an HTML competition. That's what primarily got me interested in tech. I saw how people could build web pages and wanted to do more. 

Did you pursue HTML back then? Did you build something?

I started building web pages, and my teachers were very supportive. I started attending a lot of inter-school competitions. I would build web pages. I first learned how to build web pages with MS Excel. Our curriculum was modified, and we got Photoshop and CorelDRAW. There were no limits to the tools that we were exposed to. It only grew from there.

What has your tech journey sort of looked like since school?

Growing up in a city like Delhi, a metro city, I was always fascinated by corporate culture. I was very fascinated by big buildings. A career in computer science was very attractive to me. I wanted to enter the space because my parents are both from a government service background, where you do the same daily tasks. Computer science came through as something that I would need you to change my skills every six months. 

What got you involved with Web3 and blockchain? Why do you find those areas interesting?

For my undergrad, I didn't want to go for engineering. I chose a more theoretical course, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. I thought I would get more into the theory part of it. Midway through the curriculum, I realized it tends to get very boring. That's when I started exploring random research papers online. I started interacting with my coaches more. Most of my teachers there at the university were pursuing their Ph.D. as well. That's where I encountered machine learning, AI, and blockchain. 

When everyone was working on machine learning and AI, one professor started with blockchain and then migrated to AI because there were not enough resources around the space. That's what pushed me to explore it more. I was curious about what happens with the tech stack that does not have resources. How do people build on it? I started exploring, in-depth, private blockchain. 

If you were to explain it to someone who doesn't get it and someone completely new to it, how would you describe Web3 to that person?

Web3 is for the people, by the people. Web3 promotes an idea wherein all the participants come together and make unanimous decisions.

Do you see a future where blockchain and Web2 overlap or work together? 

Blockchain is essentially a tech stack that is facilitating Web3 in a way. It promotes transparency and security. It is already a part of it, but essentially, where it's going is with every emerging tech, there's a curve to it. With the learning curve around blockchain, there was a lot of information overload since open source was already very prominent. It scared people away from the tech stack because they assumed it was too technical. That is fading off now. People are getting to the real value of it and understanding where the core proposition around the tech stack lies. 

What's your fellowship at Women Who Code been like, and what attracted you to fellowship in the first place?

I had been coding pretty early on, and I had always been a geek. After my MBA, I wanted to delve more into the business side of things. I understood I could learn better if I could talk in an un-jargonized way. I encountered Women Who Code and they were kind enough to have faith in me and give me a leadership position. It has been a great journey. I have learned how to interact better, communicate my needs better, and give ownership by maintaining authority.

If someone is looking to get into this role, what would be your advice, and what would you suggest they do or do not do as part of being a fellow?

You have to be open to experiments and failures. With communities like Women Who Code, what people are looking for is that you have confidence and the ability to take on a challenge. You need not have everything on day one. That is something you grow and develop with the community. It can be overwhelming initially because you might not have previous experience managing people. You might be an introvert, or you might be someone who's been behind a desk all their lives. This is a place where you can make mistakes because, with a community like this, you'll have many people helping you throughout. They'll be very honest and open. It provides a learning ground.

What sort of events did you hold in blockchain? How has your fellowship been in general, in terms of the track?

When I was entering the track, it was pretty new. We were testing the ground as to what does well with the audience. There were a lot of sessions here and there, a lot of beginner sessions. There was not enough structure to the track. I realized where the gap was and why people could not get onto the blockchain bandwagon and not have a clear journey to their learning.

It's an emerging tech with limited resources, so people misuse it. A lot of people started creating paid courses that didn't have any value. That's where we started interacting with our community more in meet and greets. The recent event we did was a Solidity boot camp. That has been pretty great with the track that we could understand our audience being a small community, communicate the needs well, and get some projects ongoing.

How did you get into streaming, and what has that been like?

I started streaming on a platform called Creator Club. It was a Web3-based streaming platform where they introduced the concept of DAO. It is a decentralized autonomous organization where all streaming people govern the streaming rules. I started streaming, and I started seeing a lot of organic traffic. I started seeing 80-200 people in my live sessions. That's when I started to gain a little confidence. I never looked back. I have been more open to podcasts, speaking out in public, and going on stage. That has helped me overcome that fear of speaking in public.

Why did you use something like DAO for streaming, or are there other sources? Can you do it on YouTube itself?

For anyone looking to start, Instagram is a good medium because you can start with small videos, and it's more friendly. You can go on live and test it out for yourself. What happened was that the Creator Club contacted me for an opportunity. I just happened to explore a platform where none of my friends would be. I chose to explore it because I love challenging tasks, but I sometimes try to keep it a secret until I get good at it.

How do you go towards a similar audience?

Identifying what you want to talk about and who it would benefit is essential. We learned through Women Who Code events it's less about what that event holds and more about the value it adds to the attendees. Whenever you are trying to stream, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the person listening. How does it add value to their life? 

When did you decide to join the founding team at Startups, and why?

In big organizations, you mostly do monotonous tasks until you've reached a certain level. Post graduation, I joined Deloitte USI, which is a big company. I was working there as an analyst. It does get monotonous for someone like me who would like to explore more and try hands at more problems. That's when I thought, okay, maybe I'll take a break and explore more startups to have a fair idea of how both situations work, and then I can decide for myself.

I encountered freelancing at. First, it's not easy to get into startups because they don't have ten people doing the same thing. They would have a one-person marketing team handling everything, from business relations to their marketing to sales. When I did get into a startup, it gave me a lot of room to explore. In startups, I've never been limited. For the past two years, I've been trying to de-jargonize my language into more of a business lingo than a techie language. I've helped create a bridge between the core technical world and the business world, and that's how startups have worked well for me, especially the senior management roles.

How do you cope with taking care of emerging technologies and ensuring they both gel together? It's not easy. Each person has a roadmap. Initially, it gets overwhelming when you don't have any clue as to what you do. Set your priorities right and divulge yourself in freelancing projects. When you have responsibilities and commitments, you can't dive into a new space and expect to have a good role matching your current composition.

I did a small sales project for free, but I would devote two to three hours to it and not more. Once I had a little experience in it, I took small internship roles. Once I was very confident, I took on bigger contractual projects. That's when I could shift from my full-time job to having two to three contractual jobs. I was equipped in three to four fields.

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