Staff interview #28 Andri Kurnia Akbaludin

Introducing my role at Quipper

I’m a software engineer on the Learn & Subscribe team at Quipper Indonesia. Last year I moved to the online try-out project, which is connected with Learn. The try-out is a mock test for the national exam which is taken by Indonesian students to enter university. Since we didn't have this feature in the new Learn, we are porting existing functionality from the old Learn and making some improvements so the online try-out can be distributed to all students.


We have a team of around ten developers in Indonesia. Most of the team building the new Learn system are in Japan and there are three global members including me. We didn’t create special functionality for each country, but created a unified system. I was involved in porting the functionality from Learn in Indonesia to the new system.

Keeping up with the pace of change

The new Learn runs much faster as it’s built on newer technology like React, while the original Learn was developed using technology from five years ago. The new version loads and runs at speeds up to three times faster, which really shows the pace of change in software development. React was developed by Facebook and is also used on the Facebook website, which is one of the reasons it’s popular with the developer community.


We’ve also started using TypeScript, which is more secure than JavaScript. There are so many challenges with learning a new language. JavaScript is a dynamic language, which means we can type anything and store anything in a box. With TypeScript, we have to keep in mind that a certain box is only for books or only for pencils or only for erasers. So it’s more structured, but in a good way because the new Learn is really big with so many features.


Globally, users of Learn see the same dashboard design, but different features are available in different countries. We used to include a lot of gamification. For example, users who watched a video could earn coins. But in the last year, we’ve removed most of the gamification and shifted to a more professional user interface. The icons, color scheme, and look of the dashboard have all changed. It definitely feels like the Quipper brand is maturing.

Having your own product makes a huge difference

Before I joined Quipper, I was working as a developer at an agency. The last agency project I worked on was an application that offers special purchases at restaurants or gyms. We didn't have a large team like Quipper and we weren’t working on our own product. We would just build something for a client and there was no real need to make it better, unless there was a critical issue to be resolved.


Quipper is my first time to work at a company with its own product. What this means is that we never stop thinking about the users’ needs. We also have to set priorities and make tough decisions about what we should create next. The other new thing is the importance of communicating with other business teams internally to understand their needs.


When I was asked to switch to the online try-out project, I was actually a bit hesitant at first. I couldn’t see the value for Quipper. But our team leader on the business side told me how students feel about this project, and how it’s useful for building relationships with schools. I finally understood that the online try-out has a huge benefit for our business team, so now I’m really positive about the project.

Adapting to new styles of communication

At my previous company, I didn’t have a mentor or direct communication with senior colleagues. At Quipper, there are so many experienced software engineers and I can ask them directly about my code or what I’m thinking of building. My engineering manager is really experienced and I learn a lot from him. My Japanese colleagues are really strong in their field, which also helps me learn. It’s fun to work here.


I noticed that the Japanese way of communication tries to be more public. If you want to communicate something, it’s better to use a group channel where it can be seen by others. If I ask a question to the group channel, anyone can answer and there’s less waiting time as a result. Everyone benefits.


Previously I was used to working alone, but now I have a lot of discussions in my team about system flow, code review, and so on. I also try to chime in with other team discussions and ask other developers to review my code. As part of my self-assessment, I understand there are times when other people get the wrong idea from my explanation. If I explain A, they understand B. That’s something I’m working hard to improve.

What the MVP award means to me

I’m so glad to be recognized for my work at Quipper. Of course, I’m disappointed that I can't receive the award in Japan due to Covid-19. I’ve been to Japan once before to meet the developer team working on Learn. What I remember most about Tokyo was the quality of the air. There’s much less pollution compared to Jakarta. I’d love to go back there again.


My only regret about joining Quipper is not joining sooner. The way of working here is more mature than I experienced in previous companies. As an MVP, I want to make an even bigger contribution to Quipper. I love learning, so it’s always great to work on new things, especially when you have teammates to learn from as mentors.


During Covid-19, most schools have switched to conducting lessons remotely. E-learning is suddenly gaining wide acceptance, so Quipper has a great opportunity to get more students and teachers using our platform. I still think we can improve in certain areas, like providing a better user experience or better explanations to help students answer questions. I’m looking forward to seeing what else we can build together.


* The business (including business name and business description), people and titles introduced in the article are those at the time of the interview. It may be different at this time.

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