Testing Guru with musical talents

Innovation is his middle name, and it’s what he does for a living. It’s no wonder that Hyderabad based Ashwin Palaparthi composes great music along with software testing techniques. This articulate 31 year old, a VP at AppLabs, is a man of many talents and had even launched a software venture ValueMinds which is credited with a number of award winning software testing tools.

The Interview
Techgoss (TG): Please introduce your techie avatar
Ashwin Palaparthi (AP): Innovation is what I do for a living. Be it innovating new tunes from the heart, or new techniques in software testing from the mind. I am 31, living in Hyderabad (though I travel a lot around the world). In the sunlight, I am Vice President at AppLabs (the world’s largest software testing company) and compose music alongside my heartbeat.

Music is my better half, if that conveys the essence of what I got to do with it. Be it my reaction to incidents in my life or the events that I watch, be it the instincts or thoughts, be it the merrier times or sad ones, music is the language in which I communicate. For most of my music I write the lyrics also simultaneously to the tunes that I create, but my core is composition.

I started my career in 1992 (when I was 13), and spent 7 years running a courier/logistics firm in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India before entering IT. I came to Hyderabad in 1998 originally to do business in hardware but fell in love with programming incidentally and landed up as a tutor in small institutes. I involuntarily started training people in programming languages and became famous in 1999-2000 period after starting to tech Java (the JavaAshwin avatar those days). A self taught programmer, I have worked in various positions in renowned companies handling technology solutions and presales in Software Testing and has successfully managed several complex testing projects and architected customized test harnesses for his customers. I also handled consulting and training functions world-wide on different test engineering topics at companies such as Accenture, Adobe China, AppLabs, Invensys, Mastek, Novell, Pitney Bowes, Wipro, TalentSprint, Edista and PureTesting.

I joined AppLabs after my company ValueMinds, was acquired by AppLabs. This is my second stint with AppLabs. I moved out of AppLabs while serving as an AVP / Principal Architect to start my own venture ValueMinds. As the Founder / Chief Architect of ValueMinds I lead the development of many award-winning testing tools including the well known TestersDesk.com a free community based tool for test design and test data generation helping quality and testing professionals globally.

TG: What is your basic formal education on? Have you done any additional learning in any area?
AP: Not sure if this is a surprising factor, but I am a college dropout. For the things that I was doing and wanted to do, I found formal education to be a slow poison. This of course is not true for other fields and I am saying only for my context. That said, I have been reading books on Philosophy, Technology and more.
TG: How does your job relate to your passion? Is it a help or a hindrance? How does your workplace accept your music?
AP: Tough question but the answer is simple – I don’t see the job as any different. Everything is about innovation, 24/7/365.

The rest of the management knows the musician in me and do accept my activities in that area. Our CEO, Dr. Sashi Reddi even gave feedback to me on a few songs I composed, so I assume I am in good books!

The open secret is that I love innovation in Software Testing equally well. So I don’t have feel obligated to produce more value than expected in my job, so.

TG: How is your family connected to music, how come you took up a job in software in spite of the talent in music? Have you ever thought of being a musician full time?
AP: My grandmother is a violinist. Not sure if there were any genes inherited there but my family never comes into the road I walk in life except for wishing success. I will surely be a full time musician after two years but until then I will release more albums for sure. I have a home studio that I spend nights and weekends on. My father sees a great future for me in music and I am happy about it.

TG: You have penned the lyrics for the pl…vinnadu album; do you have a literary talent as well?
AP: In fact, after starting doing the album and while talking to folks in the industry I came to know that tunes and lyrics are done separately. For me, it is a unified function. I am not saying that I can write on par with the professional lyricists but so far for most part of my music, words dwell in parallel. May be going forward, I will just stick to creating tunes and composing the musical tracks and leave the lyrics to others. In the current album I wrote lyrics for 5 songs, Kedarnath Parimi wrote 3, and Krishna Chaitanya PV wrote one.
TG: Tell us more about the album
AP: “Plz… Vinaddu – You will get addicted!” (plzvinaddu.com) was originally named as Raagaavesamlo (a new word I coined) but later my student / friend / brother Krishna Chaitanya PV (a well known young lyricist of the Oye-Sahari fame) suggested it to be renamed as “Plz… Vinaddu” to generate more interest. By that time all the album work was over, though I renamed it to make it more appealing and different; something was pinching me on the negative aspect of the new name. This disappointment became a source of creativity, I flashed an innovative theme where a girl will be sharing with her friend all the praise that a boy showered on her, and her friend in turn advises her not to listen all that stuff (Plz… Vinaddu, Don’t listen). I composed this imaginary theme as a slightly hip-hop style song instantaneously, did an overnight musical work along with lyrics scribbled by Kedar and me together, got the singers (Pranavi and Sahithi) by 7:30 AM the next morning to the Super Good studio in Filmnagar and the title song is ready! Ironically, this 11th hour work stands as one of the yo-yo songs in the entire album. The main song of the album “What happened to me naalo yedola” is a high-voltage song composed and written by me over a period of one month to externalize some of the true happenings, direct from my heart.

Every impulse is a new tune. When Mumbai attacks happened, I did a patriotic song on India. When I visited river Godavari, I externalized the way it attracted me into a song sailing on a boat. I composed a symphony style song on confidence which was worded by Chaitu in praising the two facets in me (a mentor in software testing to several thousands of students and an equally serious music composer). When a cold wind came, made me feel good and escaped to create sultriness, I tuned my suffocation into a song questioning the breeze and why can’t it be back. In the end, I penned and tuned my relationship with music as an unplugged song without an audio project (just a raw voice and guitar strumming openly recorded).
TG: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
AP: As one of the best music composers from Indian soil and as a noble gift to music lovers all over the world. The journey has started with plzvinaddu.com though I have done some music in the past.
TG: Anything else you would like to say?
AP: I believe that there is a lot of silence as well as noise in this world that can both be replaced by music and has an ambition to architect my bit in times to come. Do visit plzvinaddu.com for one minute samplers of my songs to test if I am walking in the right path to reach my ambition. After all, the outcome of all musical innovation is for you friends.

An Interview With Ashwin Palaparthi.

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