Meet Kaiju: Hassan Ajaz, Lead Front-end Developer Q&A
I was looking for startups in the US in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic when my brother Waqas, who works at Kaiju, told me there was a job opening. He had already sung Kaiju’s praises, telling me of the amazing work he was doing at the company, so I knew it was a great environment.
Kaiju Capital Management prides itself on its talented team, which includes professionals from far-flung burgs around the globe. They hail from diverse cultures, speak different languages and offer a wide array of perspectives. In one case, however, Kaiju hired two employees who grew up just a stone’s throw away from each other… well, probably a lot closer than that.
Kaiju is truly a family affair for Hassan Ajaz, lead front-end developer. When Hassan joined the company, his brother Waqas was an established member of Kaiju’s technology team. Chalk it up to good timing. Hassan was looking for opportunities at startups in 2020 and Kaiju was looking for someone with Hassan’s qualifications. And just like that: The Ajaz brothers — who share a house and an office — became the closest thing to a bricks-and-mortar outpost in the Kaiju universe.
Fast forward to the present. Things have changed. Waqas recently left Kaiju to start his own business. Hassan is moving up the ladder. Yet the Ajaz family legacy endures. Hassan’s excellent work has taken him right into Waqas’s former job as lead front-end developer: one position, two brothers.
Q. How did you become interested in being a software engineer? Was it something that you always wanted to do or was it less planned?
A. When I was a child, my elders had a saying that a lot of people around me took to heart: you could either grow up to be a doctor, a civil engineer, a lawyer, or a disgrace. I didn’t want to be a disgrace of course, but none of the other choices was as interesting to me as the chatter that I was hearing about “tech startups.” From what I understood, these startups were changing the world in the same way that Facebook changed the traditional approach to connectivity or the way Airbnb changed the tourism industry.
I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to go into software engineering and build more of the products which would change the world. So I enrolled at the University of Management and Technology in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2012, and my software development journey began.
Q. How did you end up working at Kaiju?
A. After graduating in 2016, I started working as a software developer at a vacation rentals management startup based in California. I loved the fact that it was a startup because I was facing new challenges every day, and the job kept me motivated to learn new technologies and solutions. Unfortunately, that business wasn’t successful, so I had to move on.
I was looking for startups in the US in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic when my brother Waqas, who works at Kaiju, told me there was a job opening. He had already sung Kaiju’s praises, telling me of the amazing work he was doing at the company, so I knew it was a great environment. Chris Carragher, Kaiju’s technology director, interviewed me, and we hit it off. I got the job and it's been a very rewarding experience.
Q. How would you describe what a senior software developer does to people without a technology background?
A. At Kaiju, we have many meetings with people who don’t necessarily have a deep understanding of technology. I always check the list of meeting attendees beforehand, just to prepare my mind for the way I’ll need to communicate. Generally, I avoid using jargon and prefer to use visual diagrams when I have to explain technical information.
I focus on how the development of a given technology will affect business. For example, if we implement new monitoring protocols for our network, I would want to focus on how cyberattacks cost US businesses $654 billion in lost capital in 2018 alone, rather than going into detail about authentication process technology. People may not grasp the complexities of a given technology, but they all understand what it means to lose a lot of money.
I had to learn quite a bit to be able to do my new job to the best of my ability. When I was hired, I didn’t know much about the market or trading. Chris encouraged me to take some basic courses. It was the first time I was exposed to the financial world, and the information has been invaluable when communicating with traders.
Q. What's it like to work for Kaiju, and how is the company different from other places where you've worked?
A. Kaiju has a very healthy working culture. Most companies are only interested in their business growth, but Kaiju management also focuses on employee growth. We’re a remote team, and our work requires a lot of communication to keep everything flowing steadily. While Kaiju certainly values our hard work, the company prioritizes our work-life balance. I’ve been at Kaiju a little over a year and it’s been one of the best times of my life.
Q. What are your long-term professional goals at Kaiju? Are there plans that you'd like to implement?
A. The company is growing very quickly, which means we’ll need more scalable and stable architecture in the near future. Anticipating my new role as lead front-end developer, I have started thinking about technical solutions to keep our operations running smoothly. I’m excited to be a part of a team that will be playing a key role in the growth of the company.
Q. You had mentioned that the entire Kaiju team is remote. Do you ever find that difficult, or is it easy to work together?
A. We have teams from all over the world and people from different cultures and backgrounds, which might be a challenge for a lot of companies. Luckily, Kaiju’s not like that. It’s a friendly environment for everyone, and we’re very comfortable talking to each other. I always say, “I’m just a phone call away.” But even if there is a communication issue, it can always be solved. The team members are invested in making everything work and we solve problems very quickly.
Q. What do you predict for Kaiju in the coming years? What does the future look like?
A. I always say that companies don’t succeed, people do. Kaiju invests in its people, encourages them to explore new technologies, and gives them the freedom to come up with innovative solutions. We have a team of industry leaders – Chris Carragher, David Schooley, chief technology officer, Ryan Pannell, Kaiju’s founder and chief investment officer – and they’re always happy to guide us. Kaiju is already on a successful path, and everyone is working hard to keep it that way.
Photo by Ricky Flores
Daniel Bukszpan's reporting and commentary on finance, technology, and politics has been published in Fortune, The Daily Beast, CNBC.com, and other outlets. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.