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Abhijeet Koli – from India and USA, all the way to Croatia

Marko Kaselj, Marketing Specialist

Abhijeet Koli, our Lead Software Developer, came to be the careers section's first guest in 2023. Abhijeet, or Abi, as we like to call him, had an interesting career path.

abby 1

From his humble beginnings in India, he came to the USA, promised land of dreams. Or was it? Anyway, not long after that, his professional path took him to Croatia, and three years later, he is here with us. And, be sure about that, we are very proud to have him here. Hear what Abi has to say about his career, previous experiences, and how he spends his spare time.

Hello Abi, it's nice to have you here with us. To begin with, a question – how it's going right now?

It’s going well. We went live on recently with first personalization module for Valamar.

You are coming from India, but your career path led you through the USA, and finally – to Croatia. What was it like for you, living in the USA – is it all so shiny or flashy, or it has some downsides as well?

Most IT professionals in India dream to work for a Silicon Valley company. When you work in a new country, you go through all the initial challenges like getting your first credit card, credit score, and a car.  I was lucky. VP from the USA company and others treated me like family, and this was a bright side for me. The USA is a melting pot of migrants from all countries. Food and culture are diverse, and I enjoyed that. On the other hand, the cost of living is too high. It is difficult even for someone from the tech industry to earn a reasonably good salary. I worked for a software company that made web app EHR/PM for ambulatory practices. In two years, we went through three acquisitions. This was the time when the USA was going through a recession. I got used to seeing homeless people on the streets or in parks. But this was the first time I saw families standing on the sides of the roads with boards in their hands asking for help. The contrast between rich and poor is very big even though I come from a city where poverty is noticeable.

And how come that after living in huge countries like India and US, you decided to come to live and work in a small country like Croatia?

I was working for an Indian company on a drug supply chain security project (production line machine and backend software). The backend was developed by a Croatian company.

I traveled to Zagreb first time in 2019 for knowledge transfer after acquisition. I have a few friends who said that Zagreb is a small Silicon Valley. I applied for openings at Croatian software companies when I went back to Mumbai. I got my first offer in 2020. But coming back to Zagreb was not easy. Croatia and India announced lockdown almost at the same time. My flight got canceled and had to work from Mumbai until the airlines resumed flights.

How do you feel here in Croatia?

I feel great. I love the food and culture and people are nice. When I came in 2020, I could be the only south Asian software developer in Croatia. People were curious and asked a lot of questions. That was the time when my Croatian lessons started.

What is different here in comparison to India & USA? Apart from the obvious - population, extreme rush-hour traffic density…

It is a peaceful and beautiful country. I can’t believe that I live and work so close to the birthplace of Nikola Tesla. When I started learning Croatian, even though I felt the language was difficult, there were some similarities. A lot of pronouns rhyme with Marathi. When I speak Croatian, I feel I am speaking four north Indian languages together. My brother joked once and said that the language school was teaching me Marathi with a different grammar. Croatian cuisine is different. The use of bay leaves in rice recipes and čaj surprised me. India is a tea nation. I like the fact that drinking tea is part of the culture here in Croatia also.

Mumbai has a movie industry generally called Bollywood. I see that some Croatian movies are released each week. Plus, people are mad about singing songs at parties, team buildings, and TV shows.

One more thing that surprised me here was the community of Gypsies. They look like people from one part of India. I have heard their names on trams and buses, and they sound familiar.

The voice from the Serengeti developer halls praises you highly. It seems like your colleagues hold your coding skills in high regard. You are a developer with more than 10 years of experience, but how did it all start?

Career guidance in school said that I could be a civil engineer or choose computers as a career. Neither was an option for me. Dad’s employer Unilever was under union strike when I was in my last year of school. There were no paychecks. He couldn’t afford my engineering or science education. My grandpa, who was a lawyer, paid a part of my fees. I had to work part-time to manage the remaining fees.

You are from India, a country with a great number of developers. There are some unfair stereotypes regarding the quality of some developers from India. Have you ever experienced the same prejudices?

Every year, there are 600,000 graduates from engineering schools in India. Few companies see India as a cheap labor market. When it comes to paying equal pay while working on-site, this prejudice comes into play. But many Fortune 500 tech companies have diversity and equal pay policies. These companies recognize talent and potential. Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams, Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, Shantanu Narayan, Arvind Krishna, and Ruchi Sanghvi are a few famous examples.

If you had a chance for a different career, would you like to be in another industry?

I can’t imagine a career without code. But if I get an opportunity, I would like to incubate robotics startups or work with my brother on making movies.

Can you recommend us something? You surely have seen some good movies or read a good book or two, videogame maybe?

Movies: Notting Hill, Hugo, The Pianist, and PK

Books: LEAD… for God’s Sake! and Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Games: LiChess, Monument Valley

What are your main hobbies, and how do you relax after a hard day at work?

Coding is still a hobby. I learn and play chess, listen to Rahul Deshpande’s channel on YouTube, and watch some shows or a movie on Netflix.

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