Quick to think, quick to speak and quick to act.
As someone who mulls over ideas before verbally expressing them, I was in for quite a surprise when I spoke with Nishanth Sudharsanam, over the phone.
My first question to him (when did you first come to Singapore?) was met with a response so quick and firm, I was almost certain he had misheard me.
December 26th, 2004.
That’s impossible, I thought. How could someone possibly know their exact date of arrival, seeing as how it was almost 10 years ago?
The doubt in my voice must have been apparent, for Nishanth defended his response by reminding forgetful old me of the Tsunami that had occurred that very day.
This inconsequential incident reiterated all the praises of Nishanth I heard when I was first introduced to him about a year ago; an easy-going guy who is incredibly smart, understands people’s needs and helps with achieving them.
Born in Chennai, Nishanth graduated with a Degree in Computer Engineering from the National University of Singapore. But NUS was merely a stepping stone for the 25 year-old. His achievements include building websites worth over SGD$50,000, founding and chairing the ACM chapter in NUS and starting SPARKZ, an annual talent-show conducted within NUS.
That’s not all, of course. He has been involved in the South Indian Music scene since the tender age of 6. Having started Carnatic singing classes, he grew increasingly interested in the South Indian instrument known as Mridangam, and started classes for it at the age of 15. He currently performs for orchestras and was an active member in the Indian Instrumental Ensemble at NUS.
Having accomplished what feels like absolutely nothing compared to Nishanth in roughly the same number of years, my initial emotions fluctuated between jealousy and depression before I decided that right now, I feel encouraged.
So as an encouraged young individual, I present to you, Nishanth Sudharsanam, Co-founder of Klinify.
How did you and Krish decide to start Klinify?
After a failed attempt at a QR code app, our key insight was to work on ideas we had market understanding on, and hence a competitive edge. That was when Krish suggested we get into the medical industry. We felt technology in the industry was broken, and we could fix it. But it took us another year to understand what was wrong with IT systems in healthcare, and why. And I had to fix it.
Superman of the med-tech industry, your job sounds interesting! What’s a typical day like for the CTO of Klinify?
I am a morning person, so I come in around 9, and start with a quick list of tasks and time estimates for each task.
I have meeting / admin days where I shift to the manager’s schedule (usually 1, sometimes 2 days of the week). These days are lined with interviews, meetings, discussions, clearing emails and taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. I also look for areas where we could improve as a company from a process standpoint.
Then there are work days, where I spend the first couple of hours coding (as I tend to be alone). Then I spend an hour zipping through emails and replying immediately or adding tasks to Asana. After that, we have the “Merge” at 1pm everyday – where all the developers touch base and decide on tasks for the day with estimates. And then we get to work, and get a block of 5 hours or so. After that, I settle admin / email tasks I have to do.
Finally, there are doctor days where we hang around at the doctor’s clinic to test a set of features and get feedback. That usually happens at least once in 10 days or so.
At the end of the day, I go for a swim / light exercise. I read a book for a while after that and try to sleep by 11pm (which happens on most occasions unless I get too involved in some problem/ bug fix).
It sounds like you’ve had an incredibly busy year since Klinify started! What motivates you and what doesn’t?
A lack of understanding motivates me. It bugs me if I don’t understand something at its deepest level, and that drive to understand – be it a bug in the code, or how to make doctors use technology, or even myself – is my primary motivator. Convincing myself that I understood something requires a lot of data and evidence, so when I do achieve something big, it is in the pursuit of better understanding.
People who see possibilities motivate me. The challenge of creating repeatable systems (my version of advancing the world) is also very exciting.
Lack of the above is demotivating. If I am 100% sure I have figured something out one way or the other, then it is no longer fun and I lose motivation. I need to then redefine the problem with a larger scope or shift to another problem.
I guess not understanding is a vital part of everyone’s lives. The fact that you choose to look at it as a motivator is inspiring. How would people communicate in your ideal world?
Telepathy / Brainwaves. And I think we might get there in a hundred years.
Spoken like a true tech lover! If given a choice, what superhero would you be and why?
Dr. Manhattan, because well, Dr. Manhattan. Coming to think of it, it might get boring after a point to be Dr. Manhattan. There would be nothing to learn. So, I wouldn’t want to be him for too long.
You’re the first person I’ve met who would get bored of being a superhero! Which two celebrities would you pick to be your parents?
Richard Feynman, Marie Curie.
Interesting choices. What is one book you think people who are interested in technology should read to better understand the rapidly changing advancements?
The technology section of the newspaper. You don’t need a book to see how fast technology is changing, just find the tech section of a standard newspaper 10 years apart and it should be pretty obvious how fast we are accelerating.
If you must read a book, try “Guns, Germs and Steel” – it will give you an idea of how much innovation has accelerated since humans took their current form. It has not been possible to see such dramatic change in culture and technology within a single generation until now.
And you’re certainly contributing to the rising rate of success. Thank you for inspiring our generation. What song best describes your work ethic?
Imagine a trainee classical musician striving to perfect a complex piece. He sees his flaws, he sees how far he has to go to get it right, and yet he attempts to perform, to the best of his ability and share his joy with his audience and to make a name for himself.
A mixture of that, and Everything is Awesome from The Lego Movie.
Okaaay, that is definitely, uh, different. Maybe you should be taking more breaks every day, Mr CTO. But yes, there is a child in every one of us, and yours is certainly still active. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day for this interview.
Finally, how would you describe yourself in three words?
Relativity. Science. Silence.