At One Concern, we believe that The Vision Starts With You. As one of our core values, this phrase reminds us that achieving planetary-scale resilience — the vision of our company — cannot be realized without first fostering resilience in ourselves and those around us. We strive to create teams of innovators who lift one another up, cultivate creativity and new ideas, and most of all: believe in our mission to create a more resilient world.
Divya Konda is an Engineering Manager at One Concern, leading frontend, backend and QA initiatives. We sat down for a (remote) chat about her time at the company, her new team-building role as manager, and what she’s been up to outside of work.
You were One Concern’s first engineer (wow!). What did your job look like when you first started at the company?
Yeah, I was the first engineer! When I first joined, there were only four of us, and we shared a space with a dozen other startups just like us. We used to do a lot of different things — I was working on engineering, design, customer success, everything really — so it was pretty challenging and exciting at the same time.
My first project was building a scalable mapping server. That basically meant that we were able to show data on the map for larger earthquakes in a performant manner. We had two engineers at that time — me and Nicole — and both of us hadn’t worked on mapping systems before, it was new and I learned a lot. We met people who had experience building these systems for advice which led to very insightful conversations.
Some of the early 1C team celebrating the company’s first birthday
How has your own role changed over the years? What does your role look like today?
I was a full stack developer for most of my career at One Concern. I initially took on a more front end role, and worked on our front end and middleware, building our product features, and building APIs for these features. I also worked a bit with the database — how we store data and send it to the frontend through the API. As we grew in scale I worked on performance of databases for a while, and then I ventured into building data and machine learning pipelines. So over time my role shifted into backend engineering and recently I transitioned into management.
As a new manager who transitioned recently I’m still learning. I’m fortunate to work with a motivated and passionate set of people who believe in our mission and are amazing at what they do. I want to make sure that we preserve this as we grow. As a manager, I want to make sure that we are building the right technological vision for our company, that my teams are empowered to help us build this vision and are given enough opportunities to work on impactful and fulfilling projects. At the same time, from the business perspective, I want to make sure that we have the right team and are building the right culture at One Concern.
One of my main focuses right now is on hiring some amazing people for our long-term success, both technologically and culturally.
What has been your favorite project since starting at One Concern?
I have a lot of favorite projects mostly because we’re a small company, so I had many opportunities to work on things I really liked. That’s actually one of the reasons that I enjoy working here.
I think the project that I’ve enjoyed most recently has been working on our understanding of resilience as a company. The team was assembled to test out ideas, brainstorm, and to basically define resilience — and what that means for One Concern. We were trying to answer very open-ended questions, like: “what are the different elements that play a role in resilience?”.
I was more on the engineering side, but since it was such a small team it reminded me on my very early days, where we were closely involved in everything. We got a very large exposure to different aspects and perspectives that you can think about in a project. It was a challenging project with a short deadline but to me it didn’t feel like work at all because the team was great and we had very positive energy during the entire time. Those are the kinds of teams I want to build here — teams that are supportive of each other, teams that can make work feel effortless. I want to make sure everyone has a similar experience working at One Concern.
Our platform synthesizes data from many different sources, often of varying formats and resolutions. What is the most difficult part of building data pipelines for the product?
That’s a great question, because data pipelines are really the heart of our product. The interesting thing about our data pipelines is that they’re real-time. Every time a hazard happens, a data pipeline runs. I think one of the difficult parts about our real-time pipelines is that they have to be very reliable and very stable. And the fact that we work with disasters means that when everything might be going down, we still need to be up — we should always be working, we should be dependable. When a disaster is happening, anything that can go wrong with the data pipeline has the potential to affect lives.
Last year you were an instructor for Girls Who Code. Can you tell me a bit about that experience? Why do you think programs like this are important for girls who want to become developers?
I really enjoyed it. It was a very fulfilling experience for me personally, to be teaching — giving back to the community in a way. I had teachers in my life who had taught me some very important lessons and I wanted to do the same, and hopefully my students found it helpful.
I used to have mixed feelings about women-centric programs. Even a few years ago, I didn’t know if women-focused focus programs were a good thing. I thought: is it good that we are telling women that they need this “special” program to be good at it? I just didn’t understand why we needed programs like this. Later I realised I was just being naive.
Something that I realized from teaching at Girls Who Code was that I had a really supportive family who stood up for me and protected me. I had a comparatively good environment for learning. But that’s not everybody. That’s something I realized after teaching kids that came from different backgrounds. As I came across circumstances and people I realized that there is a serious issue. There is, in many cases, a prejudice about women in the tech industry. Many times, this is probably an unconscious one and can even come from other women in the same field.
And for kids this plays a huge role or part in what girls choose to become when they grow up. Even if they have an interest in something, when judgments are passed or when biases are held against them, they might not be supported to pursue their interests. So programs like Girls Who Code are important because they provide an open environment, so that they can let go of what others are thinking about them and who they “should” become. They’re free to focus more on growth or learning, focusing more on what they want to choose as a career.
What kind of music are you listening to right now?
I’ve been going through my old playlists a lot. Right now I’m listening to this band called Of Monsters and Men. I go through these phases where I listen to one one thing for a while and then I switch to another thing. And then I find something else and I’m like, “oh yeah, I remember this.” And then I start listening to that band on repeat.
How are you finding ways to unwind, given the ambiguity of working hours during COVID-19?
I’ve been trying not to work on weekends when it’s not needed. Since the work-from-home started we all tend to spend more time working, just because we don’t have much to do at home nowadays. It’s really important that we recharge during the weekend and find ways to do that, so that we are not burnt out.
I started gardening and other things that I can do at home. I started doing things that I used to do during school — like painting. I am also taking dance classes via zoom. Spending time with my husband, watching movies or going on walks is a stress reliever for me. I also talk and connect with family and friends a lot more now.
Finally, what does “resilience” mean to you?
I think resilience can mean different things. For people, resilience can mean how well they can recover from tough times — whether it is relationships or financial hardships or anything really.
For a community, it’s more about how it can bounce back when it’s gone through hardships, when a disaster like an earthquake or a flood has happened. When you think about resilience at a community level a lot of different variables come into play — variables that can change how a community is functioning, that affect how it can recover, for example, power, water, roads, or even vendors that serve a community. All these factors are closely interrelated to each other, and the resilience of a community means fully understanding these relationships.
It’s important to build and be aware of resilience — whether it’s at a personal or a community level, because we can’t really stop disasters from happening, right? They’re always going to happen. But we need to be prepared for it, we need to be able to recover from it, and that’s what we’re doing at One Concern — making disasters less damaging for the community as a whole.
Interested in building planetary-scale resilience? We’d love to hear from you! Check out our open positions or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About One Concern
One Concern is a Resilience-as-a-Service solution that brings disaster science together with machine learning for better decision making. With operations in the US and Japan, the company quantifies resilience from catastrophic perils, empowering leaders to measure, mitigate, and monetize risk so disasters aren’t so disastrous.