Hello. This article is part of a new series where we speak with professional software developers, ask them what it’s like to write code for a living, and perhaps gain a few insights into the software development industry along the way.
Today we’re talking to Sunil Kumar Arora also known as “Digitiger”. Sunil is a based in Shillong, Meghalaya, India. He is an Embacadero MVP and long-time Delphi developer.
Hello Sunil, thanks for talking to us.
Thank you for the opportunity.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I think of myself as one who continues to attempt to travel the road less traveled, and step out of comfort zones, time and again. Still a child at heart who enjoys fantasizing & also passionate to learn pure and rational sciences, my real professional journey has its roots in Software development, Sales & Marketing and above all managing and nurturing relations of all sorts. I think I am an analytical, insightful, & highly disciplined problem solver with a demonstrated ability to identify & secure project resources & provide the quality leadership that invokes committed professional participation from all involved. Maintaining meticulous attention to detail, inspiring team accomplishment, & delivering quality, on-time project execution are areas in which I am reported to excel.
As much as I care about human relations, I feel that the approach to work and quality of work is equally important. I have had accountability for the design, implementation, and execution of development / Support projects for all technological platforms including SMAC. During that time, I have developed a solid reputation for successfully and profitably managing numerous concurrent projects through all project phases from conception through completion within targeted cost, schedule, and compliance parameters. Sustaining a high-performance reputation, maintaining quality standards, and minimizing corporate costs and liability have been a consistent result of my professional commitment.
Last but not the least, my empathy and compassion also drives me to voluntarily remain engaged as a social worker through several organizations/NGOs including FOMI (Friends of Mentally Ill), Rotary Club of Shillong and many others.
Which Embarcadero product(s) do you use a) the most b) regularly?
Even though I use RAD Server, Interbase and so on, Delphi has been the most regularly used Embarcadero product I have been using since very long. In fact, I started using Delphi with version 2 sometime around 1996 if my memory serves me right.
How and/or why did you become a developer?
You may laugh but as a matter of fact I feel my two main habits / likings are the main reasons for me becoming a developer. One is my passion for creativity and second is my laziness. Because I love to be creative but also like to get things done in easiest possible with least efforts or confusion so becoming a software developer perhaps was most logical option.
Do you think you will ever stop being a developer? If so, what would be next?
I do not think that in real sense there would be a full stop till the time my brain is working, yes, the quantum would surely decrease sooner or later. In fact, if I compare quantum of work or time spent by me in development related activities say about ten years back with what I do now, it has already decreased significantly but then maybe on quality front it has moved to altogether a different level.
To answer the next point in your question as what I will do next if I stop being a developer, I think next best thing which I sometime miss, specially since the pandemic arrived with prolonged lockdowns, is exploring …. exploring the world in all its dimensions. I really enjoy expanding my horizon and explore through reading, learning, observing and most importantly travelling and making friends. So given an opportunity perhaps I would shift into something related to that, maybe a travel blog sort of thing 😊
What made you start using Delphi?
In mid 90s I used to work mostly with VisualBasic / C / Lotus123 / FrontPage / Foxpro / OracleForms / Shell Scripting etc. I was Certified AIX Unix Administrator in 90s and certified Oracle DBA by the way. It was sometime in 1996 that a senior colleague who returned from San Fransisco, brought an installation set and manual back to India. But fortunately, or unfortunately that colleague was busy with Air Defense systems (we both were working for Indian Air Force at that time) and so he reluctantly requested me to spend some time and look at this new language and see if there could be any possibilities. And on that very first day on Windows NT 32-bit system (I think it was a 2nd generation 586 processor based), I spent almost 18 hours with Delphi. That was my first day with it and my mind was blown off. I was really amazed at the efficiency with least of code, I could hook it up with any of those databases around from Oracle to Foxpro to DBase to flat files and even in memory database that too all even at design time without writing even a single line of code in most of the cases. The famous fish fact was the hook which got me hooked to it since then.
If you could give some advice to a student who is considering a career as a software developer, what would it be?
In my humble opinion few main abilities which a developer need to have or cultivate is ability to observe and more importantly to visualize to an extent which is even better then mind reading because more often then not, even the potential user does not even know what exactly they are looking for so during the development, one has to visualize lot of those things which are not explained or anticipated by users but still developer has to cater to. Next is assume that the users would like to follow a well laid out route with least possible clicks or efforts, so the software design and implementation needs to take care of that. Another most important thing is the habit to keep learning in all ways possible because in this field even a year of stagnation could result in death blow, and one could easily be thrown out of market. But most important of all is to be prepared for a Change. One should code and develop assuming that all the requirements could change, and all the assumptions could prove wrong in the long term.
What’s the best day you ever had as a developer?
One of the biggest and widely used suit of applications developed using Delphi is used by medical fraternity specially in Department of Veteran affairs (USA) along with lot of user groups in Europe, middle east, and other countries. It relates to Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VISTA), CPRS and its peripheral applications. Most of the developers related to this have been working “pro bono publico” or through some volunteering associations like WorldVista One of its dependencies for more than two decades has been on MS Office for things like spell check.
When Office 365 was released, in a way it broke the traditional COM world of applications to a certain extent, and it was the case for this CPRS too. Co incidentally I was just attending one of the Skype conferences of WoldVista developers as a sort of onlooker when several senior attendees shared their concerns about the negative affect of this break. Now because it was a real prestigious and useful suit of application that too in medical domain and affecting veterans too and most importantly Delphi based, so naturally I took it as a challenged and within a few days was not only able to analyze the complex code base and its workflow but also replaced that MS Office based spellcheck with open-source alternatives. When I shared my work with the community, most of the developers there, most of all have been developers for almost 40 years were almost shell shocked and very appreciative. I think that that was my best day as a developer. Even though in monitory and other materialistic terms I might not have received anything at all but nevertheless, the satisfaction and the real joy of that delivery is un-surpassed till this day.
What’s the worst thing about being a developer?
For lot of passionate developers Work-Life balance is almost always the first causality. For myself I remember the times, when I was trying to resolve some tricky issues even in my dreams while sleeping and it did happen not once but multiple time that I will wake up with some solution, all of a sudden in the middle of the night (actually early morning hours which is equivalent to mid night for late sleeping people like me) and would have to hear another lecture from my better half.
What’s the coolest development tip you know?
Ability to learn from other’s code. This is more applicable to Delphi because Delphi being made with Delphi, most of its source code is available. So for example during the early days when I was not sure as how a Delphi code was able to hook up with the database and fetch and display the live data even at design time (when theoretically my application was not running) then I just had to look under the hood at the source code of related components like TDataset, TDatasource etc to understand and learn as how it was working behind the scene.
Work from home, work from an office, work in an open plan / shared space? What do you prefer and why? Do you get to choose?
In this regard, I have been very lucky. For almost 20 years now, I have been working mostly in Hybrid mode. That is though I have been travelling across the globe for user interaction, team working from onsite client locations etc but mostly have been working remotely from one of the most beautiful corners of this globe. Even when internet was extremely slow, and broadband was not even available the speed used to be just few Kbps still I used to work remotely even in those days! I really love to work from my corner room in my house, in yet unspoiled natural surroundings in a north easter corner of India in a city known as Shillong very near to Cherrapunji which holds the record of being wettest place on earth.
Have you been to Silicon Valley? If so, how was it? If not, have you ever wanted to?
Yes, it was a dream come true, when I was engaged by a big NGO named EMQ Families first, who are based in Silicon Valley. I travelled twice to their offices spread across the valley and it was a real pleasure to be there. Now again, the valley is on top of my list of destinations to visit the moment travel restrictions are lifted. I would really love to spend a month or two in & around San Francisco Bay – Mountain View – San Jose area and touch base again with friends amongst developer community in Silicon Valley.
Do you track bugs? If you do, what do you recommend?
Yes, bugs always need to be tracked. It could be very simple as comments on top of the source file or ToDo tags or some word list or it could be formal bug management though tools like Jira, BugZilla, Mantis, BackLog, TFS etc. Fortunately, or fortunately me working as a consultant most of the time except for my early days when I was too junior to have a say in selection of tools or perhaps a few longer projects where I played the lead roles, often, had to adapt to whatever the client’s team has already been using. Like in my previous project till a few months back, I was using BugZilla but now in my current project which I started working with since last month, we are using Jira for bug tracking.
What is the best developer/hacker/tech/geek movie?
This indeed is a tough question for me to answer. Since my early teens I had been attracted to and enjoyed fantasies as well as Sci-Fi type of movies. If I need to specify Sci-Fi movie or series then “Star Trek” is undoubted choice but as you are asking about developer/hacker/tech/geek movie then I think I would say perhaps “Office Space” starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman and Ajay Naidu, released a little before Y2k. Another movie titled “War Games”, released in eighties and starring Matthew Broderick, could be in my “two of the best”. I also liked, but on a different genre, was “Untraceable”, released I think around 2008-09 and starring Diane Lane, Colin Hanks.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Oh, if you wish me to fantasize on that, then surely, I would love if Morgan Freeman played me!
Do you have a book, product or service you’d like to mention?
A few books have been in my bucket list since long. In fact, a major publisher was almost able to make me sign on dotted line and start on a Delphi book with focus on Web interfacing (I was planning TMS WEB Core for that) but somehow or the other the constant push and pulls from live projects and my passion for hands-on coding has always been able to keep me away from authoring books. As for services, yes, I am always available for any challenging software development, especially the one involving reverse engineering or upgrading an old legacy product for which even the original source is not at all available.
Do you have a website people can visit?
If you use Twitter, what is your Twitter handle?
Thanks for talking to me Sunil and thank you for all you do for the developer community.