Samsara Dev Spotlight: Sujay Khandekar

April 09, 2020

Here at Samsara, we love our people. To share what it’s like working here, we created a Dev Spotlight series to highlight members of our team. Once a month, we’ll talk with a Samsarian to learn why they’re with us, what their work is like, and what they’re all about.

At Samsara we build powerful tools for workers in a variety of industries that are very different from what we may be used to as software engineers, such as: manufacturing, industrial operations, and trucking logistics. To do our best work, it helps to have a strong empathy for others. Sujay Khandekar is a great example of someone who cultivates empathy in our engineering organization by taking action. From leading work initiatives and visiting our customers in person to organizing hackathons and participating in our extracurricular clubs and community events, Sujay constantly engages with various teams and helps them succeed. We’re happy to have him with us — let’s meet Sujay!

Why did you decide to join Samsara?

As I wrapped up my college career at the University of Illinois, I was looking for a job where I could work on an awesome product, make big contributions, and learn from a group of really smart people. Through a friend, I met Bo, who introduced me to Samsara at our department career fair, where he was representing the company. I was hooked for two main reasons.

First, I gained exposure to the world of logistics and how Samsara was tackling the complex problems and issues many companies face today. Pressing one-click buy to have an Amazon package appear at your door feels magical, but there’s an intricate amount of coordination and labor that goes into the process of getting it from the seller to me. Normally, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the trucks on the road or the nearby factories and all of the incredibly hard work they do. Through the interview process, I learned about how Samsara is building a hardware and software solution to help an industry that has been, traditionally, underserved by technology. Samsara not only seemed well-positioned in this market, but they also seemed to just be scratching the surface. The challenges were great, and I felt excited about working in this space.

Second, I loved the people I talked to during my onsite interview. Everyone I met was approachable and graciously told me about the tough projects they worked on. I also loved hearing about how everyone interacted with each other in a non-work context. From going on runs after work to playing liar’s dice at lunch, I appreciated how everyone shared and bonded over non-work interests and hobbies. I even had the opportunity to talk to the CEO, Sanjit, and CTO, John. With Samsara being their second venture, they are seasoned veterans who are taking their learnings from their first company to apply towards Samsara. They are humble and honest people, and I greatly appreciated that they would take the time to talk to a potential new grad hire.

When I left my onsite interview, I felt extremely gratified with my visit. For the first time during that long interviewing season, I really hoped I got the job. When I did, I knew it was the right fit for me. After a year and a half here, I’m still really happy with my decision.

Me with some other Illinois grads who left the cornfields and found their way to Samsara. I-L-L!

What is your team responsible for?

I work as an engineer on the Compliance team. We’re focused on providing a seamless experience that allows our fleet customers to easily manage all of their hours of service and follow the law. A major part of a transportation company’s operations is managing how long their drivers are on the road. If a driver is pulled roadside by a police officer or the Department of Transportation does an in-house audit, that information has to be properly stored and available for the authorities. Our goal is to ensure that our customers can navigate these situations as easily as possible. Working on this team requires complete domain knowledge of all of the systems across the tech stack. Whether it’s understanding the experiences of the driver on the mobile app or learning about the pain points that an office administrator has with using our dashboard, we have to be mindful of the various workflows and features and how any change can impact the system at large.

The Compliance team hiked up Twin Peaks to get this amazing view.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently leading a project called “Customer Happiness.” Our mission is to find common pain points in our customers’ workflows and ways to address those issues. As we work through these pieces of customer feedback, we’re not only trying to find wins for our customers in the short term, but also planning for engineering initiatives that can develop into full-fledged projects in the future. Our projects have included improving the log editing experience for office administrators, ensuring the consistency of location data across our platform, and handling edge-cases in the workflow for managing unassigned driving segments. Since the trucking industry has a variety of businesses, operations, and regulations, we also have to make improvements and implement new features to suit our customers’ specific needs. For example, some of our customers require multiple Department of Transportation (DOT) numbers in their reporting, and I’ve been working on making our system more resilient to handling the different numbers in custom scenarios.

What makes Samsara and the engineering culture unique?

I love the well-roundedness of our engineering team. The team is incredibly smart and good at their jobs, and I enjoy having the opportunity to interact with team members through a variety of outlets outside of work.

During my time at Samsara, I’ve helped organize our internal engineering hackathon, Hacksara, where engineers are encouraged to put aside some time to work on a moonshot project or tool that wouldn’t normally be in their critical path of work. Some of our best ideas started off as Hacksara projects, which ultimately evolved into developer tools and product features.

Tonia, Zack, Joy, and me celebrating our Hacksara win.

I also love how I am able to interact and bond with other team members across the company through clubs and events. A special shout-out goes to my Samsara Gets Swole club members who help keep me in shape! I’ve participated in so many other club events too: the Experimental Sports club, the Cooking club, the Hot Sauce club, and the Casual Basketball club! I love the great variety of clubs that we have at Samsara and that I get to interact with people I don’t normally work with through shared interests.

If you don’t post a sweaty selfie after your workout, did you even work out?

I’ve also attended a variety of events that the recruiting team has put on, including Deck the H’owls and the Let’s Roll sushi-making event. Our organization partners with non-profits like Hamilton Families to give back to our local community and help make a family’s holiday season just a little better. My teammates and I bought children’s books and toys for our family, including my favorite childhood book, “The Hungry Caterpillar.” I hope it becomes the gift recipient’s favorite book too. The Let’s Roll sushi event is always an engaging and unique way to interact with potential candidates, and it’s really special that we can continue to hold such interactive events. Over the years, the attendance of these events has increased as our company has grown, and somehow the recruiting events team pulls it off each time.

The Compliance team showing off our wrapped presents at Deck the H’owls.

What is something you’ve learned at Samsara?

One of the biggest tenets of our culture is that we’re a feedback-driven company. Whether that’s feedback from our customers or peers, I’ve learned how to receive and give effective feedback. During a Samsara-organized workshop in partnership with LifeLabs Learning, I learned how to give “diamond” rather than “heart” feedback — both are positive, but being sharp and specific is what helps make that feedback effective. I like that feedback isn’t just something my manager gives to me; rather, it’s a frank, open conversation on how we can work better together. Through engaging with this culture over the past year and a half, I’ve received incredible feedback about my work and my career that has helped shape my thinking and helped me grow at Samsara.

What’s next for you at Samsara?

As I continue to build my domain knowledge in compliance, I aim to continue designing complex technical systems. I’ve learned that there are so many facets to a project, including estimating work time, costs, tradeoffs, key metrics, and so much more. As the company grows and expands to new types of customers, I’m excited to play a part in understanding their needs and building features that they will love.

What’s the best advice you’ve received from another Samsarian?

One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve received is from my manager and tech lead, Faiz. He’s taught me to always be mindful of the impact that my work can have on people inside and outside of Samsara and how I can use metrics and testing to ship with confidence.

When I first started to write features at Samsara, I wanted to move quickly and deploy the code I wrote so I could deliver a customer ask or fix right away. Faiz explained to me that even if the fix was the correct one, there’s a lot to consider before I pressed the big, shiny “Merge” button:

  1. Which teams would want to be looped in on the changes I’m making? If my change is a fix to a customer issue, it would be good to loop in the appropriate product manager and support representative, so they’re aware of the fix and how it may affect a customer’s experience with the product. Perhaps the change is broad enough that I should loop in my team’s quality assurance engineer to extensively test against a variety of scenarios. Perhaps the logic is tricky enough that we should write a suite of tests that cover our edge cases, which another engineer on our team could audit. Perhaps our team’s designer wants to be looped in regarding a front-end change.

  2. What metrics are used to track our success? Samsara is extremely good at being data-driven when it comes to decision-making. To incorporate that mentality into my workflow, I was taught to identify key metrics that can indicate the health of the fix or introduce those metrics if they didn’t exist. Moreover, if we want to gradually test the waters with the feature, then we should consider a feature flag that rolls out my work to a subset of customers. Even if a feature is working, we have to also consider the performance implications for the rest of our system.

  3. Which customers will be impacted by this change, and how will their experience with our front-end interfaces affect their workflows? Even if a change makes sense to me personally, it might not be practical to a truck driver or an administrator. With the help of our user research team, I’ve visited customers to understand how they use our product. When I’ve watched an administrator use our dashboards or a truck driver use our mobile app, I’ve always taken away a piece of knowledge that makes me think a little differently about how we create features and ship our product.

Me and Zach at a customer visit.

A selfie with Garry, a truck driver who graciously let me join on a ride-along.

Who is your favorite Samsarian and why?

A huge shout-out to Zack Littke-Smith, who inspires me to work hard and play even harder. Whether it’s a code review or a game of chess, Zack is very detail-oriented, thoughtful, and strategic. He enables other Samsarians to get hyped about any win, no matter how big or small. He’s wonderfully consistent about recognizing good work when he sees it.

Also, I have to give a special shout-out to Larry, my favorite office dog!

Every now and then, Sujay gets the special honor of dog-sitting Larry.

Interested in working at Samsara? Check out our open positions. We’re always looking for great people to join us as we learn and grow together, and if you love learning and building things in a highly collaborative environment, we’d love to hear from you! 👋

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