Amit Pansare is a senior engineer and software developer at Kiva. He’s been at the company for nearly 5 years altogether and continues to demonstrate his Kiva passion every day!
Interview conducted by Casey Miller and Claire Primack; photography by Euri Park.
Hey, Amit! Thanks for joining us today! First question: how did you get into this field, and how did you get to where you are today? What has that journey been like?
Before Kiva I was in LA and I was working for a lot of software companies. One of my uncles, who is in San Francisco, told me, "What are you doing in LA? You're just working for media companies. And honestly, you need to do something better with the skills that you have. So just come to San Francisco."
But at that point, I didn’t really feel passionate about any company. And then he talks about Kiva, and I had no idea what microfinance was, so this was actually a happy accident. While I was interviewing here, I started learning more about Kiva and really understanding what they do. It was funny; at the start of the interview, I was just doing another interview and by the end, I was like, I want to work here.
How would you describe your role here at Kiva?
As a senior engineer, there is a lot of responsibility in terms of doing the best code that we can produce in a timely manner. Every single line that we write and every single thing that goes on the website, we have to make sure that it actually makes sense. Basically, Kiva is tech and microfinance coming together.
So we need to make sure that whatever we print on the website, it makes sense not just for the partners, but also the vendors and the borrowers. Along with that, there are security implications. So when we work, we are also keeping an eye on all these small intricacies and making sure that if something doesn't feel right, we speak up.
If we are pushed on some things that are not totally correct, we are still making sure that we are having a good conversation around that. That’s another big additional responsibility that nobody actually asks us to do, but we expect of ourselves.
What core value of Kiva resonates with you the most?
The Kiva value of "extreme ownership" speaks a lot to me. Sometimes, there are some features missing on Kiva. When we are sent out to the field and we see how partners operate our website, we know that some things are missing, and we have to be their voice and talk about what is being missed, and come to a conclusion with everybody. Our management also gives us extreme ownership so that we can work on new things. I think that's one of the biggest strengths of Kiva.
Tell us what you’re passionate about! And how does this passion tie into your work and your outside life?
I was originally an electronics engineer. When I came to the U.S. and I started to do my Masters, I realized that my real passion actually lies in programming. I used to do side businesses in programming as well during that time. That was my passion, and I actually changed my career because of that. I feel like I'm now living my passion through that.
So, working at Kiva made me join my programming passion as well as the great work we do. It's great that I can pursue my hobby, which is also now what I do for my bread and butter, here at Kiva. That's what makes it a really special place.
As someone who has been in the field for a while now, do you have any advice for those young engineers who are trying to break into the industry?
I mean, everybody says follow your passion. But also I would say envision yourself. Because passion is one thing. But if you envision yourself thinking, "Oh, I would be in this role and I would be doing x-y-z things." And when you actually envision yourself somewhere, that's when you really, really know what you really want to do. I mean, hard work is there. But only when you envision yourself in that position, that's when you really know what your true passions are. I wanted to be a doctor at one point, I wanted to be an astronaut at one point. Of course all kids do, but I couldn't envision myself. I couldn't picture myself in that profession.
What are some challenges you've faced at Kiva or in the field in general? How did you make it past those hurdles?
Challenges do come daily. Professionally, it was when I was working here and somewhere else as well, when I was making the transition. When you're talking about extreme ownership, it is not just about yourself but also communicating outside -- what you're facing. Peer support. And again, Kiva is really great with that.
What has been your proudest moment at Kiva?
You have a lot of those moments at Kiva. Between 2010 and 2014, we just had a basic website and we were thinking of how to engage the Kiva community. One of the projects was to create a "loan meter" and have the team rally around it. It actually generated about one to two million dollars extra than what we expected from that particular team. I think that was my proudest moment. I envisioned our product and actually built it completely on my own. Then I had support, and it made sense, and the community was happy -- everyone at Kiva was happy. That was my proudest moment.