Project Sunrise

By Ashu Chatterji, CEO at Caravel Labs

Earlier this month, Caravel Labs concluded the second edition of Project Sunrise - our internship program where engineering students expedite their transition from an academic setting to a professional one, by solving a specific, non-trivial, real world problem in the form of a stable, working software solution that they develop end to end, over a 7-week period. 

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The eight students who completed Project Sunrise this summer came from the Institute of Engineering and Management, Kolkata, India and Dhanamanjuri University, Imphal, India, and were selected from a pool of nearly 70 applicants not just for their academic proficiency but their demonstrated attitude towards their future profession and their approach and aptitude for using technology to solve complex problems.  

The interns worked with a real life customer, in this case Koel Fresh Private Limited, an AgriTech startup based in Rourkela, India. Koel Fresh is seeking to develop a digital platform for aggregating and strengthening the supply chain between farmers, micro food processing units and the consumer market, in a manner that is beneficial and equitable to all. The platform primarily aims to improve the socio-economic condition of the farmers at large, with a special emphasis on women working in the agricultural sector and microentrepreneurs in the food processing industry.  The goal of the current phase of the project was to develop a software solution that demonstrates the innovation and impact of the customer's idea, what we refer to as our Art of the Possible service.  

The team of interns worked in an autonomous fashion, using the standard Caravel Labs process and technology toolset, to understand the problem, design and develop the solution and hand it over to the customer for operation. In doing this they were assisted by experienced Caravel Labs personnel in the role of UX generalist (Tim Kachko) and lead engineers (Meghna Bharadwaj and Subham Kundu, themselves alumni of the first Project Sunrise program in 2020). It is important to note that these roles are indeed to assist the interns, as the notion of servant leadership is fundamental to the Caravel Labs approach. They ensured clarity of goal, showed the interns how to translate a problem into a solution, how to break down a solution into features, how to map the implementation of these features into tasks and then manage the tasks to ensure timely completion. All work assignments and management was done entirely by the interns. Considering it was their first time working on such a project in this kind of unsupervised environment, it was only natural that mistakes would occur. However, mistakes serve as a learning opportunity when care is taken to understand how not to repeat them, and this is something that the interns are encouraged to embrace. Some verbatim feedback from the interns sums up the approach: 

“To be very honest, I have never been this productive in my life as I have been throughout the last couple of weeks. I really loved the environment, - it is about us being agile in a chaotic environment. Waking up to solving bugs, and having to go through daily standups, made me realize how I can prioritize and organize my tasks throughout the day, and still have some free time left to myself. I really loved the work culture and the discipline that is followed.”

“It was a rollercoaster ride filled with ups and downs. The times when I thought I failed to perform a task, I learned a lot from it. The main thing that I understood from this internship is that - you always learn from your own mistakes. It was a very enriching experience for me.”

The purpose of Project Sunrise is to provide an immersive experience for budding engineers so that they just don’t learn professional techniques but actually have a chance to develop the mindsets required to be creative and prolific engineers.  

I would be remiss if I did not mention the role of the customer here. Technology and technologists such as software engineers are enablers of innovation, not drivers. That comes from innovators themselves, and it is not simply from bright and clever ideas, but also from their pragmatism and their willingness to try out the unproven. To that effect, Project Sunrise would have been another academic assignment for the interns, had it not been for the vision, the clarifications and decisions that Asutosh Nayak, the CEO of Koel Fresh provided as the product owner as needed. Deepak Tudu, Koel Fresh's CTO made time to attend the weekly demos and reviews and make sure that any technology constraints were well understood on both sides. Asutosh and Deepak were fully aware of the primarily academic nature of Project Sunrise, but their steadfast vision and expectations meant that the final product was worthy of an entry into two national level startup incubation contests, something that we are all proud of and look forward to the opportunities of further implementation. 

We wish the interns all success as they make the transition from the academic world to the professional, which in our opinion is one of the most critical transitions in life. Our mission through Project Sunrise is to inculcate a creative, problem-solving mindset among the engineering community, as opposed to the "work harder and follow rules better" mindset that is more suited to a rigorous industrial or clerical setting than towards the realization of an equitable, just and sustainable world driven by digital technology. Many of the interns have expressed a desire to work at Caravel Labs in the future, and we certainly hope that such opportunities do arise at the right time. We also hope that through Project Sunrise, the interns will have career opportunities that are more fulfilling, lucrative and numerous. I was greatly encouraged by a note that I received from the only intern who has already completed their academic program and just started their first full-time job, which I share below: 

“I would not be able to make progress if I hadn't been the part of (Project Sunrise). Happy that the entire Caravel Labs team helped nurtured my talent.”

 What the interns of Project Sunrise went through is available for everyone. The content material is exactly what every Caravel Labs employee covers as part of their onboarding and then repeat periodically to remain grounded in our approach. The Project Sunrise approach covered over a shorter period is available to any customer who is looking to jumpstart their software delivery teams' performance. If you are an academic institution, especially one that is focused on underserved or underrepresented minorities, seeking to improve your students' prospects as creative and prolific engineers, we would love to invite your students to the next iteration of Project Sunrise. If you are an innovator like Koel Fresh with an idea that can materially improve the lives of a large number of fellow humans and would like to test it out in an inexpensive manner, we would love to hear from you. 

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