We talked to Tejas Kumar, a Frontend Lead at Contiamo, an author of add-gitignore and restful-react
Tejas Kumar started his web development career at the age of 15. He later immigrated to Germany from Qatar for work and stayed there ever since. In this interview, he shares his inspiring story of a lifelong struggle with his own health, self-image, and the impostor syndrome. He also talks about his favorite tech stack, OSS projects he maintains, and the importance of the community. Tejas gives a talk and teaches a workshop at React Day Berlin, Dec 5-6, 2019.
I grew up as a sick child. I wasn’t allowed to do things that required much physical movement like walking up/down stairs or carrying a backpack to school. Because of this, the only thing I really could do was play on my computer. Eventually, my brother showed me some programming code and the idea of creating something from nothing with text really spoke to me. From there, I started writing code. I was 8 years old at the time.
I grew up in Qatar. My family somehow miraculously moved there when I was a child. It turned out that that was where the medicine required to sustain my life was freely available (it costs around 10k euros per week in other countries, including my country of birth). Eventually, I relocated to Germany for work.
It was a big culture shock coming from the conservative Islamic culture of Qatar to Germany. Moreover, according to a local survey, 1 in 3 Berliners have no one they would call a “friend” – only colleagues. Moving here was extremely lonely and difficult, though I managed to find a great community at Saddleback Berlin – many of whom are now my friends.
Can you, please, at least briefly, describe your previous work experience culminating in your current position at Contiamo?
I started my “career” relatively early – being a Junior Web Developer for the University of Qatar at age 15. From there, I would go on to develop the website for my high school at the age of 17, and finally land a job at an amazing creative agency in Qatar shortly thereafter. I was part of the digital team.
Eventually, after learning a lot from the incredible team at Grow, I moved to Germany primarily for better healthcare prospects, but also to work at a startup called McMakler, where I was the front-end team lead. There, I learned a lot from other engineers — specifically Adrian Huminiuc and Sai Satchitanand. I eventually left to join Contiamo in the same position but for greater technical challenges.
My current area of expertise is learning and communicating. I am not as strong technically as I am with soft skills.
My favorite technology stack is: React, TypeScript and GraphQL in a serverless architecture with an intelligent ORM, kind of along the lines of Hasura because these technologies provide significant safety guarantees while maintaining a sense of “connectedness” to the everyday developers by being fairly straightforward and declarative. React, in particular, does not try to do too much, but does one thing and does it well.
To be a Frontend Lead at Contiamo, or to be a Lead anywhere, means to be a servant. It means to empower my team and encourage them to do incredible work. It is significantly less technical than I previously thought and involves having a deep, authentic interest in my team and genuinely caring for their souls. This is something I try to do as best I can every day. The technical stuff comes after.
I do maintain some OSS projects of my own (
add-gitignore et al) that are relatively small and don’t require a lot of upkeep. For work, I maintain primarily
contiamo/operational-ui. I do not keep count of all my contributions because I do it for the fun.
A lot of the projects that I’ve worked on make me happy. I think
add-gitignore is one of these. It’s a simple project that automates and simplifies something developers repeat on every single greenfield project – ever. This one helps out by making the process interactive and fun.
Another project that I love is
restful-react. I wrote it because we wanted to standardize our data fetching across products at my work. Let’s give credit to the author here:
Eventually, my incredible coworker and friend Fabien Bernard ended up adding a type-declaration generator that reads OpenAPI/Swagger definitions and outputs ready-to-use type-safe React components! This is something I’m quite proud of that I’ll be talking about at React Day Berlin.
I think it’s important to participate and organize such conferences in order to bring people together, mix ideas, and generate a sense of community and belonging. After all, we are all better together.
Also, there are people in the community I genuinely consider my brothers and sisters — watching them work and serve the community always inspires me. To name a few, @cassidoo, @mweststrate, @left_pad, and @gabe_g2i are people I look to for real inspiration.
I’ve often neglected my physical health in favor of work, and the results were that I felt like a failure and got fatter – I hated what I saw in the mirror on many levels. I think maintaining a healthy work-life balance is pretty important for keeping myself in the right headspace and being mindful of why and for Whom I do the things I do, without getting sidetracked.
Tejas KumarClimbed a mountain today.19:01 PM - 02 Sep 2019
I have definitely struggled with impostor syndrome, and I still do because I have no formal education in computer science. I have not yet overcome it, but what helps is realizing I have stuff to contribute in my own way that may add value.
I love the great outdoors. Sports, swimming, mountain climbing, bicycling -- all of it makes me happy. I am also a musician! I play the guitar and sing. Most recently, I’m a new husband. My number one hobby is my wife.
Tejas Kumar14:41 PM - 04 Sep 2019
Are you excited about the upcoming conference in Berlin? What are you going to talk about and what are your expectations from the event?
I am excited! I’m going to be talking about our OpenAPI/Swagger code generator! My expectations are AT LEAST 20,000 INTERNET POINTS. Just kidding. I have no expectations; I am simply looking forward to having a good time!