Rahul Padigela: Nurturing minds and nourishing stomachs

As Technical Lead in the San Francisco office, Rahul Padigela has a lot on his plate. His main role involves designing a feature and then engaging with a large team of developers to get it built, from start to finish. Rahul also takes on the bulk of training new hires. Shivani Pradhan, Director of Software Engineering, remarks, “When the team was asked about the quality of the mentoring, Rahul emerged as the top favorite mentor.

Rahul Padigela

Rahul Padigela, Technical Lead at Scality

Rahul seems more than up to the task. For one thing… “I thrive in chaos,” he admits. “I’m kind of bored when there’s no chaos.” For another, Rahul has teaching experience going back to his early years. One upside to his Catholic school upbringing in Hyderabad, India was an early exposure to computers and programming in BASIC. When he changed schools at the age of nine, his new teacher quickly recognized his talent and requested his help in teaching his schoolmates. “I had that advantage and I used it to help my juniors, to teach them how to write some basic code, how to use a mouse, how to use a keyboard, and how to play a game on a computer. That ushered me into moving into computer science.

For Rahul, mentoring juniors is not only one of the most rewarding aspects of his work, but also part of his larger philosophy of the role ‘nurturing’ plays in workplace productivity. He explains, “There are a lot of junior engineers who come from various backgrounds. Different people learn things differently at a different pace. I can put that into context and help someone to grow and to be whatever they want to be.” This fostering of individual growth is an essential ingredient to team success. “Nurturing also means making sure everyone integrates well within the team. It’s not individuals who become a success, but the team. So making sure that everyone gets equal responsibility and that everyone is equally proud of what they’re doing—this is the nurturing aspect of what I do at work every day.

Like many others, Rahul relishes the problem-solving aspect of his job. “I like taking a concept and building it from scratch, turning it into a feature that a customer can use. The whole process is really rewarding for me,” he says. “Rahul is very good at determining complex designs and solving complex issues,” Shivani affirms. Rahul first discovered his knack for building things when he was 12. It all started with a Yanni concert: “I asked my dad for a piano. I was hoping for a professional one but instead my dad gave me a Mickey Mouse piano—the two ears were the speakers.” He recalls his extreme disappointment and continues, “It had these pre-recorded songs that played when you pressed a button. I was really curious about how that worked, so I took the whole thing apart. It took me a month to fix it but I put it back together. That was my intro to breaking apart and fixing things.” He adds, “I always think to myself that if I was given a professional piano at that time, I probably would not have become a computer science engineer.

Aside from his role as engineer and mentor, Rahul is known for his extraordinary culinary talents and for keeping his team well-fed. “He’s earned the reputation of being an expert foodie and a very good cook,” Shivani enthuses. “He’s had the team over for potlucks and dinners. Those who’ve been lucky enough to taste his cooked delicacies can’t stop raving about the attention to detail.” Although the creativity he applies to problem-solving also comes in handy when he experiments with fusion cuisine, for Rahul, cooking is also a means of carrying on family tradition. “I learned my grandmother’s recipes, and when I go back to India, I cook for 30 people in my family. They always say that it tastes exactly like her cooking.’” Indeed, one of Rahul’s ideas for a restaurant is “a concept-style kitchen” that brings together ‘grandma recipes’ from different cultures to create “a moment when you’re like, ‘I ate this as a kid!’”

When he isn’t in front of the screen or the stove, Rahul can be found at the beach with his five-year-old Labrador, Tyson or volunteering for local animal NGOs. And he is full of ideas and goals for the future—learning French (it would be his fourth language), taking up guitar, creating a new product, and cultivating his musical and literary tastes. And not surprisingly… “I want to start my own restaurant someday. I really like coffee as well so maybe I’ll just end up starting a coffee shop that serves brunch.

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