None of them cracked the exams. Sanil wasn’t too disappointed as he wasn’t very keen on pursuing either of the fields. But a conversation with a friend about the results turned out to be a watershed moment for him. “He told me that these exams are not for people like us. That we are not capable enough,” recalls Sanil.
Sanil decided to give the exam another try, and this time focused on engineering as he felt more inclined towards it. “I wanted to prove that if I studied hard enough, I too could crack it,” he says.
He enrolled for a physics course at a college in his hometown Thiruvananthapuram, but spent the year studying for the entrance exam. His efforts paid off. He cleared the test next year and bagged a seat in Sree Chithra Thirunal College of Engineering. It’s here that Sanil’s quest to prove himself soon turned into a lifelong affair with technology.
Coming from a low-income family, Sanil says he has always felt an enormous responsibility on his shoulders. His father worked odd jobs to support his education, although most of it was funded through small scholarships and financial support from relatives. “My parents always supported my dreams,” he says.
India has so much potential to contribute more to open source. We need to engage the youth and educate them about the endless opportunities in this field
Sanil Kumar, India head, SODA and chief architect, cloud, Huawei
When he got an offer from HCL Infosystems in his final year and realised how much it meant to his parents, he accepted despite it being a mostly non-technical role. But the hardest part was moving to Bengaluru for the job, he says. It was the first time he was living away from his family, and felt terribly homesick. The same year, he moved to ITI Ltd as an engineer, and went on to work with companies like L&T and STMicroelectronics. In 2008, he joined Huawei Technologies.
Sanil recalls how he gave about 20 job interviews in vain before getting the L&T job. “It was a tough period,” he says. “But in retrospect, I think it really taught me the importance of patience and perseverance.”
Sanil is currently the chief architect, cloud platform, at Huawei, and heads the open source project SODA Foundation, focusing on data management challenges. He develops the technology and ecosystem for the project in India.
Earlier this year, his efforts received industry recognition when he won Zinnov’s technical role model award.