Five Years At MakeMyTrip – Journey Of A Hacker

After I completed my five years in MakeMyTrip.Com on 28th Sep 2013, an overwhelming retrospection was only natural. This is a diary entry that spans across 60 months and countless memories. Sitting on my desk, I’ve tried to put forth a not so dispassionate account of the people I met with, projects I worked on and processes I created. Some highpoints…

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Welcome to MakeMyTrip

My ‘journey’ here began in September 2008 as an Assistant Manager in the website operations team, a department that usually gets famous only by defaulting!

The first project was a (shared) responsibility to setup Infrastructure at MMT Colocation/Data Centre at Mumbai IDC (Internet Data Center). But a stronger memory is that of the THM (Town Hall Meet) when new entrants put together a stage act for everyone. My character was ‘Sansani’ reporter (chain se sona hai to jaag jao fame) who reported MMT’s sale to Haryana Government. Interviewing my teammates playing the roles of various Leadership Team members and interviewing Haryana Cattle and Agriculture Minister was not something that I’d get to do ever again.It was while preparing for this utopian dystopian parody that I made some amazing friends, most of which remain till this moment. The fun I had isn’t comparable to all the college fests put together.

A Techie’s Tale

This is clearly going to be the biggest part of this post and is best read with cuppa coffee.

I started on a project called Cheetah – Selenium Robot. Seeing NOC team manually monitor the health of makemytrip.com, I couldn’t resist from automating the health checks and functional monitoring using Selenium-RC and used VNC sessions to record using Pyvnc2swf for replay of tests as flash movie. As a foresight, Cheetah is something I’ll be working on to get it open-sourced after improvements.

This was followed by a series of projects on BizEye Sync Tool, MyClient: MySQL Web Client, BizEye Twiki (NOC Web portal), performance tuning, Exception Dashboard and implementation on various monitoring tools and migration of makemytrip.co.in to makemytrip.com.

A good thing about being in MakeMyTrip is that you get to work on business requirements and innovations in almost equal proportions. Being a mid-sized techno-travel startup in an emerging market means a lot of room for innovation. ‘Team Yoga’ – my one such project – saw me working with the best brains in MakeMyTrip. We worked on implementing the next generation architecture (now famous as MMT 3.0) guided by superb Leader The Amit Somani. Team Yoga and our tech-exploits taught me tricks and truths that refuse to leave my memory even after five years.

After Mumbai, next in the line of Colocation/Data Center was Chennai IDC. It was different only that this time we used best standards and solutions, followed by many memorable Hacknights wherein the team got closer, stronger. My colleagues Munish and Ravikant were the superstars.

Apache’ has become a sort of leitmotif in my world! Be it HTTPD, Tomcat, Apache Traffic Servers, Hadoop, Kafka etc. And F5 BigIP and the love for iRules – LTM (Local Traffic Manager) & GTM (Global Traffic Manager) - taught me the best of the load-balancing, availability & performance related stuff for Active-Active DR setup for two IDCs.

For payment card data security – PCI-DSS compliance and SOX assessment brought about changes in processes, applications and security procedures which later also helped company have smoother processes, faster approvals, and easier lives. God bless open source tools!

Being a NASDAQ listed company, MakeMyTrip has had its security woes and measures, which naturally came to my team. My first security revamp here included VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing), setup and configuration of IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) and Web Application Firewall, which was one of our best investments in MMT’s Information Security.

AWeSOM time

Spreading awareness – that impacts everyone but indirectly – is always tough. It was this problem that gave birth to AWeSOM or Awareness Week on Security Online and Mobile (coined by Abhishek, our content chap). In this event I oversaw, we did a lot of stuff to educate folks (read writers, HR, admin, product, finance and legal teams) about technology, vulnerability, secure practices and oh so much more! The success of AWeSOM one led us organize AWeSOM 2, which was another hit. It will be best to read the company blogposts on AWeSOM1 and AWeSOM2 for more details and some implied learning.

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As irony would have it, all the security measures I spearheaded in MakeMyTrip, my new designation was Information Security Manager.

Some Innovations

Business as usual, our team feels rather incomplete without innovating stuff. Which is why at various points of time, we created some amazing products for trippers. MyIdeas – an internal Idea collaboration portal – was one of the earliest. It saw anonymous ideas ranging from new products to grander offsites to richer coffee! And, we did implement :)

An organization chart to search employee in a directory format was quite the need of the hour back in time. It saved lot of time that was spent in hunting numbers and names!

The last such project I enjoyed is Trippervilla, the aesthetic intranet of MakeMyTrip where Trippers read news, updates, policies, access useful links and do much more, till today.

A techie’s tale will never be complete without Hackathons! I was a part of various Hackathons focused on innovation, business, technology and mobile. Some really quirky and stunning ideas were turned into reality overnight, and literally saw what we called ‘light of the day’. I think every company using technology should try this at least once, and see the awesome results that 24 sleepless hours can produce. But don’t forget to include coffee, Red-Bull and music :)

DevOps @ MMT & the Tools Arsenal

DevOps was pioneered to enable collaboration and alignment between developers and Ops team. We made use of various Open Source tools for automation and streamlined various processes for better communication and clarity between the teams.

Some tools we used / developed/ integrated like, for Configuration management – Puppet, NOCMATE-Rx/ DB Poller, Inventory Management System, Syslog-NG, Logstash, Revamping Monitoring Solution using Graphite, Neerikshan etc. Here’s its logo…

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I was so excited with the product and logo, couldn’t resists sharing this on Google+!

The best part of the best-practices of DevOps is that they aren’t forever! This journey of recurring innovation still continues. Above all, it leaves me with ample free time for other pursuits :)

The number of workshops and conferences I attended is overwhelming! Here are some names I could think of…

  • DevOpsDays India – Started as an attendee and currently a humble speaker here
  • PyCon India – Here’s the workshop I and Konark delivered here on Celery Tool For Background Task Processing
  • OSSCamps: Helped organisers conduct the un-conference at various places
  • AWS Meetups, Startup Weekend, Barcamp
  • Tedx – Gurgaon, Delhi and Chandigarh events
  • Nullcon, Security Byte and OWASP InfoSec India Conference
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Luckily, I also got a chance to host a small DevOps Gurgaon Meetup at MMT.  Luckily again, Karanbir Singh: CentOS Project Lead was visiting India. On 12th July 2011, he presented on “CentOS: Beyond Distributed Engineering”. Check more details on DevOps Gurgaon Meetup.

The five years I spent here have made me a better professional, and not just a smarter techie. I’ve had the humble opportunity to train and mentor some teammates. Must say there’s no better way to learn than teaching.

Don’t know when or even how, but I got the tag of a problem solver, someone who gets the job done. These memories make me truly humbled, delighted and proud of every right or wrong thing I did at MakeMyTrip.

The Advent of Python at MakeMyTrip

The beginning of Python was when we started developing Python-coded tools like Cheetah, BigIP Ops Panel: LBManager to manage F5 BigIP LTM and GTM.

Then I met Konark Modi in OSSCamp (Chandigarh), and hired him in 2010. Once on board, Konark was on a Python spree. With a swiftness that still amazes all of us, Konark developed many applications built on Python stack. Some names on the top of my mind are NOCMATE-Rx (our monitoring solutions suite), Inventory Management, Dashboards, Small ETL framework (Pollers). But believe me, the list is much longer. Konark later elected as Vice president of PSSI for his contributions to Python Month & PyCon India.

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Business Intelligence at MakeMyTrip

The bumpy ride to build DWH (Data Warehouse) & Business Intelligence (BI) started with 2013. After initial discussions, we started our reconnaissance with collecting use-cases of data requirements and analysing internal and external data sources. This understanding led to delivery of projects like LMetric (service for near real-time clickstream events and User behaviour analysis), BigData, NoSQL, Cassandra, and Hadoop.The most memorable part of SpagoBI was its implementation at Hoteltravel; I went to Phuket (Thailand) for 15 days. Besides learning and exposure, the entertainment and refreshment that trip presented are incomparable.

Today and Tomorrow

After roller-coaster ride of five years, I’m presently working on “Personalization Service and Recommendation Engine” and enjoying the fun of learning / implementing data services, Machine Learning algos and developing platforms for same.

Every company has folks who do good work, but not every company rewards them. Must say I am glad to be at MakeMyTrip. Following are the work-related awards that I’ve been humbled to receive here, for my contributions to technology:

  • STAR Performer – Twice in two years
  • MakeMyTrip’s Most Creative Team award
  • MakeMyTrip Mega Mind Award for Innovation

These obviously exclude awards or recognitions received in sports, conferences and office events.

Phew! If you’re with me till here, you must know dear reader, that I’m truly nostalgic seeing these five years flash by me in 1500 words. And I’m sure many more memories are in waiting as the journey continues.

Instead of picking high-points from About Us page of MakeMyTrip, I’d like to tell you why I love this place. I love it for:

  • Freedom
  • Flexibility
  • Love for open source
  • Scale and impact of technology
  • The playground that it is for a hacker to experiment, solve and learn

MakeMyTrip is truly A FIT RECIPE! I’m afraid only fellow trippers will know what that means :)

Disclaimer: The opinions, descriptions and other information given above are shared with an intent to narrate my story. It doesn’t seek to harm or offend any individual or organisation. Neither has it sought to share any sensitive information.