Pulkit Gupta is a Senior Staff Software Engineer at Twitter. At Twitter, he has worked on scaling products from a handful of users to millions of users. More recently, he has been focussed on User Privacy, Data Protection and Product Safety domains.
Outside of Twitter, he is a seed-stage investor and advisor for multiple startups. Currently, he is serving as a mentor at Brinc.io, a Hong-Kong based startup accelerator. He is also a Senior member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Pulkit holds a Masters degree in Computer Science and Engineering from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and did undergraduate studies at Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India.
How did you get started in this business?
I have been interested in computers and coding since a young age. I learnt to code in the 7th grade and created my first computer game in 12th. In college, I tried my hand at programming robots and even tried teaching basic programming to high school students. All of that led to a job offer from Twitter after completion of my graduate studies. Twitter was still a smallish company at that time. That was perfect for me because I wanted to work at a smaller company in the hope of getting more responsibility than what you would normally get in a big technology company.
How does your company make money?
Twitter primarily makes money through paid advertising. Twitter injects what it calls “promoted tweets” in the home feed of users along with the recommended tweets and tweets from the network. Twitter also makes a small share of its total revenue by licensing data to data partners.
How does your company go about acquiring new customers?
Most Twitter’s customers sign-up for Twitter by hearing about Twitter from their friends or through news. Twitter has a very limited marketing budget so that drives only a small portion of new sign-ups.
How did you work your way up in this business?
Just being a great coder is not enough for being a great software engineer. The ability to influence people with your ideas and challenging yourself to step out of the comfort zone are equally important traits. I have always strived to pursue opportunities that would challenge me and force me to learn something new. These behaviors have translated into career growth for me.
What made you want to work in this industry
Marc Andreessen boldly declared in 2011 that “Software is eating the world”. His words could not have been any more closer to the truth. He literally predicted the future. I was already interested in coding at that time and given the exciting time in tech, it was compelling for me to pursue a career in the tech industry. More recently, I decided to focus on Privacy, Data Protection, and Product Safety domains because these are probably the most pressing issues in my field right now.
What is it that you feel makes you good at your job?
I think my ability to place myself in the other person’s shoes – be it a customer or a peer on my team – makes me very effective at my job. Being empathetic is probably the most valuable but underrated skill. It is especially useful in a work setting where you are working with new folks with whom you haven’t built any trust yet. In such a setting, leading with empathy generally leads to positive outcomes. A lot of this is applicable to personal life as well.
What are the perks of working in this type of business?
Tech industry is famous for its employee wellness programs ranging from free meals to generous vacation days. But one perk stands out – ability to work remotely. Being able to work from home during the pandemic was a privilege.
Another perk of working in tech is that if you have computer issues, you can solve them on your own. This is huge given the fact that everything around us runs on computers these days.
What are the disadvantages of working in this field?
Software engineers have to sit at a desk for long hours which is not healthy for their cardio-vascular health. Also many tech industry professionals suffer from muscular disorders due to poor body posture while working. It is very important for folks in our field to lead an active lifestyle by exercising for at least 30 min on a daily basis and taking regular breaks throughout the work day.
What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
Twitter can affect people and society in both positive and negative ways. For example, Twitter can help a minority group to raise their issues in front of a bigger audience. My work can help amplify the positives and keep the negatives in check. In other words, my work can affect real people in real ways. Knowing that makes me believe that my work is very meaningful and that is very rewarding.
Where is your industry headed? What excites you about the future in this line of work?
There are two major trends in the Social Media industry. One is Metaverse and the other one is Decentralized Social Networks. Both of them are very exciting but nascent areas.
Metaverse is still being defined but I think the book and movie Ready Player One provided a great glimpse into what our social lives could be like after the advent of Metaverse.
Decentralized Social Networks is the application of blockchain technology to social networks. In the decentralized version, like the name suggests, there won’t be any central entity controlling what content is allowed to be posted and what content gets recommended.
What advice do you give people who want to get into your field of work?
Trying to land a job at a tech company can feel intimidating especially for folks who don’t have degrees from the leading universities. Folks shouldn’t worry about their credentials. Instead they should focus on building coding and communication skills especially if they are just starting out. There are a ton of free programming courses online to help with that.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Yes, I am always available for helping out and giving back to the tech community. Contact me on LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you!