Prabhat Jha joined Wootric as CTO in June 2016. His expertise in developing enterprise software includes Java EE, distributed computing, PaaS, and SaaS. Prabhat co-founded InstaOps, a performance monitoring platform for mobile applications. His company was acquired by Apigee in 2012 to tap into the enterprise mobile app development ecosystem. Prabhat stayed on to lead efforts to launch and integrate InstaOps with Apigee’s flagship API management platform. Prabhat is a strong advocate of open source software (OSS) and is an active participant in OSS development communities. A native of Nepal, he founded Eejot, a nonprofit that provides kids in remote areas with an opportunity to learn how to use computers and software. Prabhat, who can usually be found at his stand-up desk, sat down with me recently to talk about his career, Wootric, and being CTO.
Let’s start with the role of CTO. What is your approach to it?
Prabhat Jha: There is a common theme across all the good CTOs that I have known and follow: They are smart and pragmatic about which software frameworks to choose to build the product. You have to solve the problem you have at present with an eye on the near future. This also means that you’ve got to know your team’s skill set.
My role at Wootric is a hybrid of the CTO/VP Engineering role, so I think about people, product, and process, in that order. Taking care of people is very important. If you’re a small engineering team of 5, for example, if one of them is not producing to his or her capacity, that means your productivity is down by 20%. That’s huge.
What excites you about the technical challenges of scaling Wootric?
PJ: Wootric, despite being an early stage startup, the amount of traffic that we handle is pretty high. We get millions of API calls to our servers on a daily basis. That’s some serious traffic to handle and scale efficiently for a small team.
To give you a concrete example: Wootric eligibility servers are very critical because they decide whether to show a survey to an end user. We can’t mess it up. If we did, people would be bombarded with surveys or nobody would get one. The margin of error is very low. We have to be very thoughtful about how we scale and handle eligibility across different channels such as web, mobile, and email.
To stay up to date on engineering at Wootric, follow Prabhat on Twitter.
Wootric is not simply about showing a survey and getting Net Promoter Score data from your customers. If it’s just that, then this is not exciting. Excitement is in what we can do with the data. For example, with NPS you know who your promoters and detractors are, and every company will have their own way of responding to them. How we can automatically route feedback to right team so that they can act quickly? That is one challenge for us.
Another aspect is using big data, machine learning, and NLP to enrich, analyze, and contextualize customer feedback. NLP in particular is very relevant for our use case. For example, a customer could score you a 10 on the NPS survey, but in the feedback they will say “I really like this product but I really wish it had X feature.” So, even though they currently are your promoters, they are looking for improvement. You want to measure the sentiment and parse it automatically to make sure that you are not missing something by simply looking at the score.
Also, already we are getting hundreds of thousands of surveys on a weekly basis. Scaling this falls into the category of big data analysis. Our tech stack currently includes ElasticSearch, Redis, Postgres, Angular.js, RoR, Go lang. We are going to expand to using all or subset of Apache Spark, AWS Kinesis, Redshift, Google Cloud’s NLP and Prediction APIs.
Our API adoption is increasing so we will look into best of breed API development and management solutions. Good APIs open up lots of new integration opportunities for us.
Our goal is to build the best customer experience management platform. NPS is just one aspect of it.
Why should an engineer join the team at Wootric?
PJ: I know good engineers don’t liked to be siloed. They like to tackle different kinds of problems, such as responsive single page apps (SPAs), mobile apps, devops, automation, big data processing, etc. At Wootric we have all of these so it’s very exciting place to be to gain a wealth of experience. My team sees their impact on the company’s bottom line every day.
On top of that Deepa and Jessica, the two co-founders, believe in a good work-life balance. They have created a culture right from the outset where everybody has flexibility to work around their personal schedules and constraints. So team members use their judgement and it has worked out very well.
What moved you to make the jump to Wootric?
PJ: First of all, the customer experience (CX) space. More and more companies have CX on their radar because there is a direct correlation between profitability and customer happiness. Reports from Gartner and Forrester confirm this trend. And, I know the value of customer feedback myself. To date, most of the products I built –whether proprietary or open source –were enterprise platforms for software developers. So, I interacted a lot with developers. I was very active on forums, blogs, IRC channels –aka old school Slack– and presenting at meetups. I saw the value of getting raw feedback on your product. It always influenced the roadmap for the next version.
Wootric’s approach to CX is all about helping companies boost customer happiness. How do you relate to that?
PJ: At Apigee, I was very vocal and passionate about improving the developer experience of Apigee’s products. So they said, “Why don’t you fix it?” Ha ha. Initially I focused on the onboarding experience: Are customers feeling productive in the first 30 minutes of using the product? We launched a guided and contextual tour of the product. Then we started tracking all errors and warnings, feature usages funnels, etc. This resulted into a huge improvement in UI/UX and customer satisfaction.
Now I’m a part of creating a turnkey platform that others can use to quantify their customer experience, satisfaction, and journey. It’s super exciting.
Was Wootric a fit for other reasons?
PJ: Being close to the end user appealed to me. Most of my prior experience has been on enterprise software development. You build a platform which some developer then builds a product on top of for an end user to use. I was three or four steps away from the actual user. That was exciting and I loved doing that, but the same time you have one life to live. I wanted to do something different. Lastly, I like startups, man! After Apigee acquired my company, it grew a lot on the way to IPO–for all the right reasons. At that scale though, you cannot be involved in as many aspects of a business. Wootric is at a stage where not only can I help drive the technology but I can help with fundraising, assessing the competitive landscape, helping with the sales and marketing. If I do a good job, I’ll see my fingerprints on lots of areas. Fortunately, Deepa and Jessica have done an amazing job to this point, and I hope I can contribute to that going forward.
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