Vaddadi Kartick

IIT | Google | Founder | Advisor | Consultant

After graduating from IIT with an M.Tech. in Computer Engineering, I worked at Google for almost 9 years on many critical products — Google search, ads, Youtube, Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Drive, Google News, Orkut and more.

Along the way, I advised four startups.

I run my startup Futurecam, an advanced computational photography camera app for photography enthusiasts.

I now work as a Technical Consultant, helping other companies with my insights.

Why Work With Me

  • I’ve worked with different technologies like mobile, backend, frontend and SRE/DevOps, so you’re getting a highly versatile and skilled engineer.
  • I have deep knowledge of engineering, and also engineering management. I’ve met some good engineers who can’t manage well, and some good managers who aren’t good engineers anymore, but few people who can do both well. I bring both these skills to the table, putting in place the right tech, team, process and culture at your company.
  • I’ve worked across disciplines like engineering, UX, project management, product management and business. I can connect tech to business and suggest the right tech based on the business need, not tech as an end to itself. As a simple example, there are a lot of people who can churn out an iOS app. But, depending on what you need, an iOS app may be the right or wrong answer, and I’ll help you figure it out.
  • I’ve worked with companies in different sectors like photography, fintech and health, and you’ll benefit from this experience.
  • I can effectively execute a given plan, and I can also decide what should be done. You’ll be working with a leader, not just a follower.
  • When you work with me, you’re hiring a team rather than having to assemble it yourself. Just as you want to buy a car, not buy a steering wheel, engine and brakes and assemble them yourself.
  • After leaving Google, I maintained Google hiring standards. I evaluate 50 candidates before hiring one. My team consists of people you won’t find in an outsourcing company (or many startups for that matter). You can leverage this team when you work with me.
  • Hiring an employee takes a month or two to find the right person, followed by a month or two for him to join, at which point he may shop around your offer and not join, so you’re back to square one. By contrast, when you work with me, we can start executing your project today.
  • Having been a founder, I have a deep and personal understanding of what problems startups face, so if you’re running a startup, I’ll be your partner, not just a person to outsource work to.
  • I know the right amount of emphasis to put on code quality, depending on your needs. You’ll be able to enhance the code we deliver as business needs change, rather than have to throw it away and start from scratch, or risk not being able to meet your business needs because the tech couldn’t keep up. Working with us results in a lower Total Cost of Ownership.
  • I’ve worked with companies of varying sizes from one founder and one employee to Saif Partners to Google, so I know what’s right for companies at different stages, not one-size-fits-all.
  • You pay only when we work on your projects, rather than a fixed cost irrespective of work done. You won’t have overheads that employees come with, like vacation, sick leave, public holidays, equipment like laptops, office rent, life and medical insurance, being responsible for their career growth, and so on. Focus on your work, and leave these to me.
  • I care about the work I do, about benefiting people I work with, and to working with you in the long term. It’s not just about money.

Whatsapp | LinkedIn | Github

Testimonials

I have helped companies in various domains like fin-tech, home automation, recruiting, digital health, and more. Here are some testimonials:

Rohan Rai Gupta
CEO, Homad
I was introduced to Kartick by a common friend from Sequoia. I would often ping Kartick about questions related to the tech stack and product capabilities. He has not only answered those questions for me but also taught me how to think and approach those questions effectively. He has a deep technical understanding and an eye for business nuances.
Vaddadi Kartick has contributed to multiple areas: staying on top of the evolving fin-tech landscape, brainstorming products and features to build, planning our roadmap, pricing, making introductions to relevant people, helping with a vendor relationship…
Lakshmi Narasimham
former Head of Eng, Loktra
Kart has given significant inputs to the company work culture which fixed the gaps and improved work culture a lot. He pulled couple of engineers from his network in short notice and helped Loktra to fill the urgent opening in just 3 days. He has helped Loktra in key hiring. Kart is an excellent critic and provides constructive feedback to resolve conflict/issues and did several times at Loktra. He is a great value addition.
Kartick has contributed significantly to evaluating new platforms and understanding their capabilities, debugging, optimisation, hiring, engineering management, mentoring employees, brainstorming product direction, and more.

Services I Offer

Development

I’ll build an app (or other product) for you, be it mobile, backend or frontend, with my high-quality team of full-stack engineers. This will have good code quality, and will be flexible for you to adapt to meet unanticipated business needs in the future, rather than having to throw it away and start afresh, thus resulting in a lower Total Cost of Ownership.

Architecture Review

I’ll start by identifying what problems you have with your architecture, and also independently taking a look at your architecture from a fresh point of view. For example, one client had two problems: new engineers took a long time to get productive, and debugging took a long time, too. I determined that the code quality was reasonably good, but identified a few specific things to improve that will have a significant benefit. I illustrated my suggestions in the context of their code, to make it easy for them to understand, and worked with them to implement these changes in a phased manner. Importantly, I told them what’s already good and doesn’t need changing.

Streamlining Team Processes

Should you do code reviews? How should you plan sprints? There are a lot of opinions out there, and I’ll help you identify what’s right for you. I’ll start from problems you’re facing, getting all stakeholders’ perspectives. For example, one client was unable to launch anything for months. I’ll dig in, identify where things are going wrong, and set up the right amount of process to fix the problems you’re facing. But not too much, which would reduce speed and demotivate engineers.

Hiring

Different companies need different skills from their engineers. There’s no such thing as a good engineer; there’s a good engineer for your company. I’ll help you identify what that means. Then write a JD to attract skilled engineers, set up a hiring process, interview candidates, evaluate technical and non-technical aspects of a candidate, advise you on how to negotiate...

Mentoring

I can mentor people from individual contributors all the way up to the CEO, giving each person relevant, actionable advice for their role. For example, I advised a frontend engineer not to block his work for the backend engineer, and showed him how to proceed in parallel. I advised the CTO that his job is not to personally sign off on all decisions himself (that made him a bottleneck) but to empower others to make decisions, stepping in personally only for critical decisions. I advised the CEO that the company culture is going bad, which will cause talented people to leave, and where exactly to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Training

Is your team being held back because they don’t have knowledge in specific technologies? I can work with you identify what those are, and train them in a varied set of technologies and other topics.

External CTO

As an External CTO, in addition to all the services above, I’ll do whatever else you need from a CTO, like giving technical input into key product decisions. I can do development, or work with your engineering team on development, providing leadership. Whatever is best for you.

Other Successes

I delivered the first public launch on a client project in the second week of our engagement, that too on a platform we didn't work on before.

Prior Work

I graduated from IIT Bombay with an M.Tech. in Computer Science, worked at Google for more than 8 years, on a variety of products: Google Search, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Gmail, Google Drive, Google News, Youtube…

In addition to my consultancy, I head a product startup, Futurecam where we built three apps. I also built a Reverse Tax Calculator for Mac, iPhone and an open-source version.

Skills

Within engineering, I have experience in a variety of technologies including mobile apps, backend and frontend. In more detail, my skills include iOS, macOS (both Catalyst and command-line apps), Android, frontend, backend, computational photography, Angular, service-oriented architecture, microservices, feature flags, REST, JSON, XML, JSON-RPC, cloud, Google App Engine, Swift, Objective-C, Java, C++, Python, Ruby, Rails, C#, .NET, Haskell, C, Javascript, Firebase, API design and implementation, asynchronous APIs and multithreading, web security, scalability, distributed systems, Borg (Google's internal cloud), unit testing, end-to-end testing, Chrome extensions, content blocking APIs on multiple platforms (iOS, macOS, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge), PDF internals, analytics, SRE, UX design, project management…

For more, see my resume.

How I Work

  1. I’ll understand your requirements.
  2. I’ll narrow it down to the minimum needed for the first launch by:
    1. Eliminating nice-to-have features.
    2. Eliminating must-have features that are must-have at a later time.
    3. Agreeing on the minimum level of UX polish needed, sketching the UX on paper so we’re all on the same page.
  3. We’ll pick a stack to work on based on what we think is best for you (if applicable).
  4. Now we have a list of work items needed for the initial launch.
  5. We’ll sort the list of work items by priority.
  6. If there are some unknowns that need to be resolved, we’ll add those to the list, before other items.
  7. We’ll start working on the list in order of priority.
  8. We’ll maintain at least a minimum level of code quality.
  9. We’ll show you some progress regularly, every week if possible.
  10. I will personally be doing a significant amount of coding, so that I can be more effective as a lead, spot problems early, etc.
  11. Once the milestone is reached, we’ll repeat the process with subsequent milestones.
  12. As time goes by, we’ll be adjusting scope to fit the time remaining that has been purchased. If things are going behind schedule, we’ll drop less important features. If things are ahead of schedule, we can add more features. In either case, I’ll try to deliver as much value to your business as possible in the time you’ve purchased.

How I Charge

  1. I charge hourly.
  2. The pricing doesn’t vary depending on the nature of the work, be it coding, researching, interviewing candidates who apply to your company, etc.
  3. All work done after signing the contract is charged — planning the project (including making UX sketches, goals, milestones, prioritisation, technical decisions like choosing a stack), writing or reading documents, calls, meeting, etc. If two people have a meeting for half an hour, that’s charged as one person-hour. When I or my engineers commute to your office, it’s also charged as working time.
  4. If it’s development work, you should buy at least 174 person-hours of engineering time, so that we can make sufficient progress before you evaluate it and decide to renew. Vacation, public holidays, sick leave, breaks to attend training, breaks requested by you, are not charged. Only actual work done is charged. You’ll have priority over an engineer’s time, rather than having him multitask between multiple clients, which results in lower productivity for everyone.
  5. If you’re looking for consulting, rather than development, you can buy shorter chunks of time like 60 hours, or whatever you prefer.
  6. Once the time purchased is exhausted, you can buy more.
  7. If you want to guarantee our availability for a certain duration, pre-pay us 100% of the fee for that duration. That is, if you want to guarantee two person-months of time, pay for two person-months right away.
  8. If you choose to discontinue our engagement, no advance notice like 1 month is required. But any amount paid can’t be refunded, not even unused hours. You can instead get more work done for this time.

My expectation from clients

So far, we’ve discussed what you can expect from me. Let’s also go over some things I’ll be expecting from you to make this partnership a success.

If you disagree with any of these, let me know and we can discuss and reach a mutually acceptable understanding.

  1. Think through things before making any decision. Sometimes people say yes, then no, then yes again. This is fine with me, but it will delay the project and ultimately increase costs.
  2. If you want me to coordinate with multiple stakeholders in your company, I’m happy to do that, but that will take more time and therefore cost. Alternatively, you can provide me a single point of contact for us, reducing this cost.
  3. Say things directly and clearly, rather than being vague or hinting about them. Saying things clearly first requires one to be clear in our own mind. I’m happy to dig into vague statements to try to understand, but that will take time, which increases costs.
  4. When you work with anyone new (consultant, employee, cofounder, anyone), you need to give them a month before judging. We need to ramp up on a new stack, understand how you work, decide what to build, prioritise, etc. In the first few weeks, progress will be slow, and there will be some adjustments needed on both sides, so it’s unfair to judge quickly without giving us a month to prove themselves.
  5. Start with trust, give people a few chances, and switch to mistrust only if they repeatedly fail to meet expectations. Don’t start with mistrust and ask people to work to prove themselves.
  6. I understand that I’m asking you to commit your hard-earned money for a month before seeing results, but we’re committing our time and efforts, too and some commitment is necessary from both sides before results materialise.
  7. Be clear about roles. For example, if you have an architect under whose technical direction you want us to work, say so. Or if you’re a PM yourself and you want to manage this project, say so. Or if you prefer to work directly with my engineers and don’t need me, that’s also perfectly fine, but say so so I know what you want and can work accordingly. If you’re not clear about roles, I can still work in an ambiguous situation, but it increases time and costs.
  8. In any relationship, there will be ups and downs. When we have a down:
    1. Sit down at the table and communicate rather than assuming things about the other side, or unilaterally deciding a course of action.
    2. We all have a natural bias that we’re right and if things are going wrong, it must be the other side who’s at fault. Let’s keep this bias in mind and try to overcome it.
    3. We should remember that the other side is also smart and well-intentioned, start from the assumption that they know what they’re doing, and work positively to understand why there a misunderstanding and how to fix it, rather than blaming, which invites retaliation, hurts the working relationship, and causes people who approached the engagement with the best intention to think, “Why should I care so much? He’s going to blame me anyway.”
  9. When I make a decision, it will be based only on what I think is best for you, but you can disagree. If there are two good ways of doing things, and you prefer one, we’ll go with that. But if you choose an option that I think will hurt timelines or isn’t in your best interest, I’ll refuse. At that point, you can still override me and make a decision yourself, but when you do, you should also take responsibility for the consequences of the decision and not hold me accountable for it.
  10. Resist the urge to micro-manage my work, such as by asking me why I had a meeting with my employees. Yes, it costs you money, but I will do what’s in your best interest, so you can’t question every decision. Let me focus on my part (eng and project management), and you focus on your part (business).

Ethics

  1. I’ll be as clear as possible about what I will and won’t deliver, at the beginning of the project.
  2. I won’t lie, such as by claiming to have worked with any technology that I actually didn’t. If we need a few weeks to ramp up on a technology, I’ll volunteer that information proactively.
  3. I’ll always tell you what I believe is true, not what you want to hear. For example, an estimate is a guess, not a commitment.
  4. I won’t make an estimate I know is unrealistic in order to get the project.
  5. I’ll track time using an app, to make sure you’re getting what you paid for. If you paid for 200 hours, you should get 200 hours, not 180.
  6. I’ll work efficiently to make the most of every hour you’re paying for. If you buy 500 hours at once, I’ll be as careful with those 500 hours as if you’d purchased 50 hours at once.
  7. I’ll advise you in your best interest, such as encouraging one client to hire their own engineers since they’ll have a greater sense of mission, and since it will cost less than working with my engineers.
  8. If multiple engineers are available, I’ll try to assign the person who has the best skills for your project, rather than deliberately assigning someone else to learn at your expense.
  9. Once I assign an engineer to your project, he’ll work on your project without multi-tasking with other clients, so that your work is done quickly, and productivity per hour will be higher.
  10. In the unlikely event of me taking on a project and not delivering, I will make it right, such as by giving you extra time free, a partial refund, or a full refund, as I see fit. I should get paid only if I meet my commitments.

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