Daiyan Alagmir is a Bangladeshi software engineer at Amazon Web Services (AWS). But halt your imagination from painting a Big Tech stereotype. Besides providing big data solutions for AWS clients (from video game companies to government officials), he has done his fair share of 'cool' stuff.
Raised in Dhanmondi, he is a Newyorker now. His Manhattan apartment – just across the East River from Queens – is his workstation.
AWS staff are still in WFH mode. The Covid-19 picture in New York is still grim. But Daiyan believes New York will be back in full swing soon.
After finishing his 'A' Levels from Mastermind School, Daiyan took a gap year. He needed to figure out where he should be headed.
"I do not want to go to America," he screamed inside. But his father said he should. Some of his friends were studying there too. So, Daiyan changed his mind.
He flew to New Jersey and Rutgers University became his address for the next four years. He majored in Electrical & Computer Engineering and Economics.
What was college like for you? We asked.
"College was fun. I got to study what I wanted. I like mathematics. With every passing day, classes seemed more interesting," Daiyan said.
Despite being the only international student at his dorm, Daiyan did not really have to deal with any culture shock. Plus he had cousins in New Jersey. Soon Rutgers became a home away from home.
Rutgers shaped Daiyan's dream of becoming a Big Tech engineer. An on-campus job came as a surprise. In his final year, a Rutgers laboratory was looking for a software engineer. Daiyan applied and got hired.
"The laboratory wanted to create something like 'Gmail' for communication. I took to Google and learned the know-hows, using my knowledge of computer engineering," Daiyan recalled how his first job landed him big opportunities down the line. "It was a milestone for my career," he said.
After graduation, Daiyan joined Barclays as a financial engineer. He was developing equity derivatives risk management software for the bank. He had a soft corner for finance.
"I have been in financial engineering for a decade, starting from Barclays and then JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley in the following years," Daiyan continued.
Our Zoom conversation was disrupted when Daiyan was moving to his 'Amazon' part of the story. We then took to WhatsApp to keep talking.
In 2019, Daiyan got his baptism in Big Tech - joining Amazon as a senior software engineer on the Data and Analytics team.
Being one of the few Bangladeshi born staff at AWS, Daiyan does not feel he has done anything special (something close to his company's rulebook).
For 26 years, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has constitutionalised the belief that Amazon has done 'nothing' yet. According to him, the company has just started its day one; therefore, it should behave like a start-up. Both Amazon and AWS believe that the company still has a long way to go.
Daiyan's one plus year tenure at Amazon has brought him all the toys of software engineering he wanted to play with.
"I work on building tools that allow our customers to build insights and analytics from extremely large amounts of data. They can use these tools to train machine learning models and also create a data governance ecosystem. My team focuses on providing these services as cloud based solutions to various institutions globally. We try to empower our customers to build rich applications and they leave the heavy lifting of the big data infrastructure work to us," he said.
"It is a very data oriented team," he added.
Daiyan champions AWS in two folds: One, the company has always wanted to understand a customer's real pain points. Two, it provides the best solution tech can offer.
"The structure of AWS is phenomenal. You get the freedom to create, experiment, and most importantly, fail often," he said.
When the infection rate peaked in the US, AWS wanted to build data gateways so that Covid-19 stats could be widely available.
Daiyan told us how he and his colleagues spent hours working on one of the first pandemic data from US hospitals.
"During March 2020, we got data from Johns Hopkins Hospital. A lot of people were swarming the hospitals. That made us privy to critical data about the situation. We wanted to find insights from it and make it available for people to use it," Daiyan said.
AWS is currently working with various institutions to streamline their vaccine production.
Speaking of Amazon, there is fanfare around a new CEO after Bezos leaves. Andy Jassy, the head of AWS, will take the mantle from Bezos this summer.
Since Daiyan has worked with Jassy in the same team, we asked him: What will Amazon look like in the Andy Jassy era?
"I have worked under the direction of Andy Jassy. I can assure you Amazon will head to new frontiers when he takes the leadership," Daiyan opined.
With a background in the cloud business, a lot of Andy Jassy's focus will naturally be on the AWS side of Amazon.
Daiyan does not think Bezos and Jassy can be compared. "Both have their own ways of doing things. Both are true believers of the 'day one' notion. For them, Amazon still has a lot more to accomplish," Daiyan said.
Daiyan said if there is one add-on that Jassy offers, it is his 'go getter' attitude. "Jeff Bezos is a visionary. He is one of a kind. But Andy Jassy will be a perfect successor."
There is a saying (among the AWS circle): "No idea is a bad idea." Daiyan thinks Andy Jassy best represents that statement.
At Amazon, Jassy is known as the Executor. "Execution - this is what Andy Jassy does best. He gets things done. That is why we call him The Executor," Daiyan said.
Where do you see yourself down the line? We asked Daiyan what technological field he is currently focusing on.
Daiyan knows the tech landscape will see monumental changes this decade. He is very excited to board the tech revolution train. "For me, AI and machine learning are two fields I want to have a deeper understanding of," Daiyan said.
Bangladesh too has seen a radical leap in technological development in the last few years. What does Daiyan think about Bangladesh's road to Industry 4.0?
"We need more skilled professionals in the STEM fields. The world economy is shaped by technology now. More kids should pursue science. I think in Bangladesh, people's interest in science has waned. It should be otherwise," Daiyan said.
Despite his busy New York life, Daiyan misses home. He craves for his mother's cooking, his childhood friends and the underground metal music scene, among many things.
"When I was younger, people my age were into two things: Either it was sports, or music. Luckily, I enjoyed the best of both worlds," Daiyan said how his love for soccer and heavy metal were an inseparable part of him.
In Dhaka, Daiyan was in a heavy metal band called 'Soothsayer'. He was the drummer. All the underground legends - Artcell, Cryptic Fate, Black - inspired him to play music.
Do you still play the drums?
"No, it will make my neighbours angry," Daiyan chuckled. "But I play guitar every now and then. I also do not miss watching my favourite bands live. I have watched all my heroes live. What more could I ask for?"
Any favourite tracks from the underground era? We tossed our last question at Daiyan.
Daiyan had the opportunity to see Artcell even before it was Artcell. "Many people know that Artcell was previously called 'Tantrik'. Their demo version of the song 'Onno Shomoy' sounds very different from the studio version. I had heard it back in the day. It is a precious memory. And about favourite tracks? That is the hardest thing to say for me."