Navigating the Challenges and Milestones as the First Member in Zoom Video Communications — India R&D team for Contact Center

Ashish Muralidharan
4 min readJan 27, 2024

When someone asked me about my 5–10 year goal, I always had the same answer: ‘I want to become a Technical Architect in a team, taking responsibilities for key technical decisions, architecture, and design.’

About 1.5 years ago, after an amazing 4-year journey with Freshworks, I made a tough decision to move on and embrace new challenges. Freshworks, being an Employee-First company, had set a very high bar for me when looking for a new employer. I knew my options were limited, as very few companies have a similar culture.

Fast forward to April 18th, 2022, when I read in a tech blog that Zoom Video Communications had decided to open its R&D center in India. On April 21st, I received a call from HR, who helped me schedule interviews. During my interview round with the Hiring Manager, he said one sentence that made me reject all other interviews and offers I had — ‘You will be the first member of the team, and we will give you the opportunity to build something from scratch.’ I knew how rare this opportunity was. With all the excitement, I joined Zoom on June 6th, 2022.

The harsh reality hit me when I realized one person is not a team. I had to wait until the other team members were onboarded. I knew from my previous experience that the initial days in a company are tricky. In the beginning, there is hardly any pressure to deliver tasks or do anything. I understood that I had to utilize this time period and make it productive. However, I struggled because everyone I had to talk to was in a different timezone. I learned about the product, business, architecture, and competitors. I documented everything I did and created an Onboarding doc to make life easy for the next person joining our team. This went on for 4 to 6 weeks.

We got a new manager for the team in India. Soon, I was assigned a few tasks to build a small integration with another product. After many days of no real programming work, I almost forgot that the whole idea behind joining Zoom was to build something from scratch. After around 5 weeks again, during my regular 1:1 with the manager, Zoom delivered what was promised. We discussed a new project, the idea behind it, and its roadmap. Then started the real work. Most of the team members were new, and I, being the oldest member (1 to 2 months older than others) of the team and having a little more knowledge about the product, started driving the tasks in the team. I didn’t even realize that I was already leading a small team. I was clearing product doubts, redirecting to the correct team member, helping in getting all the accesses, and setting meetings with the experts to learn how things function in Zoom.

There’s a special joy in turning your idea into a real thing. It’s like solving a puzzle, facing challenges, and seeing something completely new come to life. This experience is unlike anything else. The process isn’t just about reaching the end goal; it’s about making constant improvements and refining your creation. I utilized my rare opportunity by building a very generic Authentication module that helps integrate any third-party application without needing any code adjustments. I also built a Reverse Proxy Module that takes care of all the authentication-related tasks for third-party API requests. In the end, the pleasure of building something from scratch isn’t just about finishing it; it’s about the satisfaction you get from the entire experience, the lessons you learn, and the impact you make. Soon, the small product we built was transitioning into a platform, as other internal products wanted to use it.

Looking back at what I achieved in a year is amazing:

  • Learned a new framework — Java Spring Boot
  • Designed and Architected a new REST API microservice from scratch
  • Continuously improved and transformed the Service into a Platform
  • Designed and Built an SDK from scratch
  • Designed internal processes for better functioning in the team
  • Organized team-wide ‘Bi-weekly Technical Friday’ knowledge-sharing sessions
  • Became a stakeholder for overseeing Engineering best practices in the team
  • Transformed into a Tech-lead for a team of 6 members
  • Conducted my first Technical 1:1 with peers while sitting on the other side.
  • Planned tasks with technical debt in mind; negotiated to pay it down incrementally and consistently
  • Cross-team collaboration with so many people in different timezones.

As I look back, the challenges I embraced, the lessons I learned, and the experiences I gained have brought me a step closer to my goal of becoming a Technical Architect. This journey has not only brought me closer to my career dreams but has also helped me learn more, broadened my perspectives, and made me more determined to keep getting better. I feel fortunate and deeply grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. I’m excited about what comes next on this exciting journey.

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Ashish Muralidharan

Tech enthusiast and problem-solver on a mission to turn ideas into reality. Software Engineer @ Zoom | Programming Nerd | ashishm.dev