Earlier this month, we celebrated National Coding Week. To mark the occasion, we caught up with Abishek Ramasubramanian, one of our coders. He told us about his career path, gave us an insight into a working day as a WhiteHat Security software engineer and offered some practical advice for anyone thinking of becoming a coder.
Can you tell us how you came to work for WhiteHat? What was your career path?
I was first introduced to computer science and programming as an engineering undergraduate. At that time, I was really much more interested in electronics. That was my passion. But something clicked with me, and the more I learned about computer science, the more I knew it was a path I wanted to follow. I think it came down to the problem-solving element, which I really enjoyed – and still do to this day. The result was that by the end of my first year, I wanted to move into IT.
It was for that reason that, upon graduating, I went to work for an Indian tech company and got my first taste of being an IT professional. Spurred on by this and several other very positive corporate IT experiences, I started a Master’s degree in computer science at University at Buffalo in New York a couple of years later. I graduated in 2018 and have been working at WhiteHat ever since.
What do you do at WhiteHat today?
These days, I’m one of WhiteHat’s software engineers. I’m part of the SAST team and am very heavily involved with the WhiteHat Sentinel product suite and API-related projects.
What does your day usually look like? How does coding play a role?
My first job of the day is to check for any serious security issues our customers are having and resolve them as quickly as possible. Once that’s dealt with, I get on with whatever plug-in or customer feature I’m working on. This might be a new project, a fix or an update. Whatever the case, it’s my job to make sure it’s simple to use, efficient and that the customer can use it to get all the information they need. Behind the scenes, that means deciding which tables and databases to link to, which APIs to invoke and designing the most appropriate look and feel. In the end, my work has to be simple, elegant and not over-complicated. That’s where coding comes in. It helps you make the most structured, efficient and pragmatic choices – but leaves room for creativity, originality and flare too!
What keeps you up at night as a coder?
Choosing the right system. There are lots of options out there, all with different pros and cons. If you make the wrong choice about a very small detail, you can inadvertently affect the whole environment. I’ve learned over the years that there’s really no such thing as a ‘small choice’. As a developer and a coder, you can make the wrong choice and cause a snowball effect. So you need to be calm, collected, logical and focused at all times.
WhiteHat is all about making things easier for developers. Do you encounter security issues yourself when you’re developing – is that a real problem?
After I started working here, I became much more aware of the coding mistakes I’d made in the past. And I began to see how bad code could impact the applications I use myself outside the office. WhiteHat is addressing many of the issues faced by today’s developers. As a team, we are making them much more conscious of security considerations and helping them develop good security procedures and protocols.
What advice would you give someone interested in the space?
I have had a lot of friends try to switch into software development and coding – and I won’t lie…it’s hard. But patience and hard work will pay off. There are a lot of internet resources that you can tap for more knowledge and current thinking. There are also plenty of industry groups – virtual and ‘real world’- that you can attend to build up a support network and even make some new friends. Computer science is a really growing, interesting field. If you’re interested, go for it. It’s very exciting.
How do you switch off when you leave work?
It’s important to switch off when you’re home from work – but it’s not always easy. Try to leave work at work! At the weekend, I make sure I have time to relax with my friends and do the things that are important for me. That way I’m fresh and ready to help my customers and colleagues again on Monday morning.