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Santosh Yadav

Out of the slums and into open source

Using software development as a path out of poverty, Santosh knows a little support goes a long way.

Santosh Yadav // @santoshyadavdev

Hello there! I am Santosh Yadav. I’m a Google Developer Expert (GDE) for Angular, GitHub Star, Auth0 Ambassador, an active contributor to Angular and NgRx, and a tech writer. I’m also the host of the podcast “Tech Talks with Santosh,” the creator of the ng deploy package, a source-map analyzer, and part of NestJSAddons and ngWorker core teams.

The ReadME Project amplifies the voices of the open source community: the maintainers, developers, and teams whose contributions move the world forward every day.

I spent most of my life in a very small, 10-by-10 room in a slum in Mumbai. Back in 2002, we couldn’t even afford a TV, and I didn’t know what to do with my life. Neither of my parents were educated, so they also had no idea how to guide me. They could only urge me to study.

It seemed God had something already planned for me: I applied to college, and while I didn’t get admitted into the electronics program I had hoped to pursue, I was accepted into the computer science program. I had never even used a computer before, but I decided to go for it.

I was lucky to get into the program, but I still struggled because courses were taught in English, and I was not a native English speaker. I remember I used to cry in classes because I couldn’t understand anything. I just knew I had to persevere, and my situation started to improve.

Up to this point, I had met one guy who was an engineer, and he advised, “whatever you do, complete your bachelor’s.” Around that time, I learned that my father had lost his job a year prior, but hadn’t told anyone—and now he wanted me to get a job. Thankfully, my mom was focused on the bigger picture: She knew the doors my degree would open, and helped advocate for me. My Dad understood, and somehow, they figured out a way to pay for my fees for the next three years, and I completed my bachelor’s degree.

During those years of schooling, the cost of textbooks was beyond what I could afford at the time. I initially had no means to study until a few kind professors allowed me to borrow the books I needed. This help came at such a crucial time for me and is one of my biggest motivations to help others, when I’m capable enough, by providing my content for free.

Santosh working at a desk and computer while wearing headphones.

Inspired by his daughter to change both of their lives

In 2012, my daughter was born prematurely. She was hospitalized but stayed strong—and she gave me hope. I thought if my daughter can fight this hard for her life for three months, I can get her out of the slums. When she was hospitalized, we had no insurance, and our bank balance was $0. I tried to find money for weeks, and vowed to work even harder to give my family a better life. 

The year before, I started working at a startup as a senior software engineer, and they supported me during this difficult time. I accepted money offered by friends, and borrowed even more from the bank, so I had huge loans to pay off. I put in a lot of effort to ensure I was the best at my job, and it paid off: I moved from senior software engineer to team lead and the promotion enabled me to support my family. 

After five years at the startup, I was handling three or four departments, but didn’t want to be a manager anymore. I moved back into individual contributor work, and to another city, Pune, in 2016. I knew I wanted to work on the front-end, so I started learning Angular, and took all the courses I could through my employer.

In 2017, Angular version four was released. There were not many people who knew Angular, so I was in a good spot to start teaching it. By the end of 2017, I had enough money for myself and my family, and knew it was close to time to give something back to the community. I had needed money all along my journey, but I had none, and I got support almost every step of the way. Now, I wanted to give back to the community and help them learn, too. 

Author Santosh gazing out a window in his office

Representing India with an important first

In 2018, right when I had landed a good job at Deutsche Bank, my daughter got tuberculosis. Thankfully, my manager was amazing and very supportive. We had to travel From Pune to Mumbai every month to the hospital, but my manager said, “Don’t worry about your job. Take care of your daughter.” Sometimes my wife had to travel alone with our daughter, but we both worked hard to make sure her health was our first priority.

Thankfully, my daughter pulled through—again—and by the end of 2018, I came across an upcoming Angular conference and decided to attend. I met so many great people at that event, including the Angular team. Without even really knowing me, they started supporting me and talking about my work. And I thought, “Wow, these people are so welcoming.” They even helped me draft my first blog post, and it became really popular. 

Five days after I returned from that conference, I raised my first pull request—a state management framework for Angular called NgRx. Once it was merged, I decided it was time to push further and go all in on open source. So I kept contributing to NgRx; I picked up some issues from Angular, kept contributing, and created some open source packages and utilities.

On November 13th of 2019, I became a Google Developer Expert (GDE) for Angular: It was a very special day as it is also my birthday. In 2020, I gave a talk at an Angular Conference. But then, of course, everything closed due to the pandemic, and I was pretty disappointed because I wanted to speak at more conferences. But the community figured out how to move things along virtually, and I kept giving talks wherever I could. I became the first GitHub Star from India, which was huge. I was so proud! It’s amazing to see yourself somewhere representing India, especially when you’re the first one. 

Author Santosh sitting and smiling as he works on his laptop

From searching for a job to getting offers

After being invited to become a GitHub Star in 2020, I decided to explore a few other career options and left to work for another client for six months. Then, largely thanks to the GitHub Star program, I was able to start consulting. There were so many people who wanted to work with me. It was no longer me saying, “Okay, I need this job.” It was them saying, “Do you want to work with us?” 

At 36, I decided to come to Germany for a great opportunity with a new company and a chance to build a better life for my family. My daughter lived in that slum for eight years before we moved out. She’s 10 now, and I’m still working full-time in Germany with Celonis

Also in 2020, I joined my friend and fellow GitHub Star Lars Gyrup Brink Nielsen (who is from Denmark) to start “This Is Learning” with idea is to foster a community that promotes free, open and honest software education. I joined as a co-founder in 2021 and we’re still growing, now with more than 150 contributors helping us with blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, and more.

Earlier in 2022, I reached out to Free Code Camp to see if they wanted to collaborate. They loved my 18-hour Angular course—which reached 450,000 views in five months—and agreed to publish it to great acclaim. A lot of people still reach out to me to ask questions or get help about Angular, open source, and contributing back to the community.

 It keeps me motivated that a lot of people come to this community to help others. Because we’ve all been there, right? When my family had no money and we were without a home, one of my friends got us a small place to stay. At one point we were sleeping on the floor. And when I think about those days, it makes me even stronger. We once had nothing, but we had people who could help. So now, it’s time to support others.

A bright future for Santosh, his family, and his community

I’m a night owl: Once my family goes to sleep, I start working on content. I remember back in 2019, my schedule included a working block from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., which is when I could really focus. And still, my wife never complained. She knew I was doing it for our family. And now that I’m home 24 hours a day, I can finally spend more time with family, too.

When I think back on it, it was so important that my parents understood education was the only way out of the slums. They knew it would allow us to survive, and they were right. They did the best they could, and now it’s my time. My daughter is very good at studies, but I won’t ever force her to do something—I want her to be able to follow her own ambition. I’ll continue to give back to the community, and my family, and we’ll strive to let our daughter chase her dreams and choose a career of her liking. 

Author Santosh gazing to the side as he stands on the street in a neighborhood

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