Chess prodigy, and Cybersecurity enthusiast Arif’s journey of becoming a Software Developer

Arif Iqbal Shaikh

Arif was born in a small village named Dahiwadi, which is located 150 km from Pune, Maharashtra. His father is a farmer and his mother is a housewife. 

Arif has been a dreamer since childhood. He has always been fascinated by computers. He used to take part in Capture The Flag competitions which are a special kind of information security competition.

During his college days, he developed his interest in cybersecurity, which eventually led him to become a software engineer. Arif is currently working as a software development engineer at Ola Electric.  

In our recent conversation, Arif talks about his beautiful journey of becoming a software engineer in less than just 30 weeks! 


From where did you complete your schooling?

I completed my schooling at Dahiwadi itself. 

What are your educational qualifications?

I completed my B Tech in Civil Engineering from Dnyanshree Institute of Engineering and Technology in 2020. It is situated in Satara. Dnyanshree is a Marathi word that means prosperous property of knowledge. 

How was your experience with college placements?

I did not sit for college placements at all because the companies that came for recruitment were not as per my expectations. I felt that those companies will hinder my growth and there will be no learning. Plus, the package offered was not sufficient for me. Most of the recruitments were open for all streams which again led me to question my degree.

Were your parents not worried when you did not sit for campus placements?

No, they were not worried at all. I was preparing for government exams for a long time and they were aware of that. So, it was not an issue. 

What kind of government exams were you preparing for?

I was preparing for general exams and was aiming for UPSC.

Were your friends also preparing for government exams? 

Even though I had told them to start along with me so that we all can prepare well, they were having different plans. Some of them have started preparing only after the campus placements.  

What were the problems you faced during your college days?

Although the teachers are good enough, the syllabus is old enough to make education a boring exercise. That is the biggest problem everyone is currently facing out there. Unnecessary assignments and submissions of useless projects take away the fun from learning. It did not make sense to me and I found it an unproductive and utter waste of time. The syllabus is outdated now.

How did you discover Masai School?

Because of the pandemic, after graduation, I could not move anywhere for a job or prepare for exams. So, I started taking up cybersecurity challenges online. That is something I really love and I am passionate about it. To understand it better, I started learning programming languages like Python. That is when I came across a Masai School in March 2021 and decided to give it a shot. 

When you discovered Masai School, did you check other coding bootcamps?

I did not research much about any other bootcamps. I did check Newton School but eventually joined Masai School without further research. 

How did you trust Masai School?

I did not trust Masai School initially, like everyone else. I was not at all serious about it. But, when I talked to my mother about Masai School, she told me to give it a try. She was the only reason I enrolled in Masai School. 

When you joined Masai School, what were your doubts?

I was doubtful why would someone hire us, when they can hire CS graduates? I was also wondering if I could have studied on my own or not, rather than paying for it. 

When were your doubts cleared?

After I discovered my pace of learning, I realized that having mentors who guide you through your journey is a blessing. That is when I felt that my decision of getting into Masai School was justified. 

What kind of challenges did you face at Masai School?

Since I was taking up a lot of things at the same time, like learning other programming languages and actively playing CTF (capture the flag competitions), Chess, the biggest challenge for me was to manage time efficiently.

Has chess helped you in any way?

I am not sure but I feel that chess has improved my visualisation, logic and calculation capabilities. 

When did you start playing chess?

I started playing chess long ago but dedicated chess competitions were started only in Oct 2019.

What kind of projects have you worked upon at Masai School?

I worked on a project where we had to merge two MPL websites of MPL. I also worked on Pepperfry and YouTube clones. I worked alone on the Tic-tac game, weather API, Marvel App and a few other backend assignments which were integrated with Google Authentication. 

What are your learnings from these projects?

We learned to work efficiently with our team members. These projects also taught us the thorough processes of the frontend and backend. 

What are your thoughts on the 9-9-6 curriculum of Masai School?

It has boosted my time management skills. It definitely improved my learning capabilities. Masai School has also taught me self learning which will help me throughout my life. 

How has mastery-based progression helped you?

That has improved my time management skills and my learning capabilities to a great extent. It taught us how to learn. 

How did Masai School teach you self learning?

The assignments and projects in Masai School are not ordinary. You can not find anything remotely related to them anywhere. So, you are forced to deal with them on your own and apply your own logic and learning. The teachers will guide you, but you have to do everything on your own. The electives also help you a lot. 

Has your communication skills improved in Masai School?

Yes, undoubtedly. You get to interact with a lot of people. You get to speak publicly and that absolutely helps. My time at Masai School has helped me become a better communicator and thus has made me more confident about myself. 

What advice would you give to Masai School students?

Masai School has a very good curriculum and everything necessary is already there. My advice is that, stick to the curriculum and do it repeatedly. Complete the assignments regularly. Do not get into FOMO and take up other tasks.

What are your future plans?

My aim is to keep learning new skills and excel at what I am currently doing. I also want to spend some more time on chess. My priority is to make it big in cybersecurity challenges. My job and they both go hand in hand, so that is good. I am also looking to explore more about reverse engineering and also claim some bounties by finding vulnerable cybersecurity lapses of big companies.

How did your parents feel when you got placed?

They were very sure about me getting placed, as they trusted me with my work ethic, and knew that I am hardworking. Even I was very confident that I will get placed. So, it was not that surprising for them. But, yes, they were really happy. 

I was not hopeful about getting into a company like Ola Electric, so that was surprising for us. I was very happy with the company and the package. 

What are your plans for spending your initial paychecks?

Some of my college friends are not financially that well. They are in need of laptops to learn new skills. So, my plan is to invest in something which will help them upskill themselves.

In which areas can Masai School improve?

I think the time and schedules can be managed more effectively. The students should get a short break between classes and assignments. I think that will boost the productivity of the students.