My Journey to Retool — Part I

Sachit Bhat
7 min readSep 2, 2021
Image Credit:

After just over two years with Deloitte, I’ll be starting my next chapter as a deployed engineer at Retool. I’ve felt energized and inspired from my first encounter with the product to my final interview, and can’t wait to begin learning with such a high-performing team. The purpose of this post is to document my journey from first musings of new opportunities to applications and decisions. Many articles discuss the technical preparation for software roles but often gloss over the emotional aspect and techniques for decision making, which I hope to bring to light.

Starting Off

Since graduating from Vanderbilt in 2019, I’ve worked as a software engineer in Deloitte’s Digital studio. The studio is a branch of the broader consulting arm, though focuses on digital experiences (web/mobile applications, architecture modernization, augmented/virtual reality solutions, etc). I didn’t have a clear picture of the consulting landscape starting out, though was intrigued by the mix of technical project work and client dynamics. I began as a developer on the Salesforce platform, where I primarily worked on internal apps (foreboding?) and various internal tooling processes. Salesforce was a valuable introduction to commercial software, as it touched on the necessities of application architecture, object modeling, and user permissions. I eventually transitioned to more traditional software engineering, where I most recently helped devise and build a front-end React framework for consuming, manipulating, and beautifying backend metadata.

What Happened

Consulting is cross-functional by nature, and certain realities take shape over the course of time. Most consulting companies are comprised of many individual, discrete projects, often with their own methods and structure. This is necessary to properly support individual clients, but can create friction when shifting between one another. Each project and the subsequent product has unique use cases, clients, goals, and technologies, which makes it difficult to fully immerse in the product and employ longer-term strategic product thinking. There are undoubtedly opportunities for longer-term projects within the studio, but most still rely on unforeseen influences and inputs.

Initial Search

I first began my self-reflection around December of 2020. In my head, I always had a feeling I’d be moving back out to the Bay area though had no practical reason why, how, or for whom. Over time, I did start to form opinions about the lines of work I enjoyed, processes that made sense, and general wants. I started listing specific values and tenets that stuck out with little regard to their usability in the future. I prescribed to the thinking framework ‘strong opinions, weakly held’ as a way of filtering new opportunities, and with the abundance of potential next steps, realized it was a game of both logical reasoning and gut feelings.

With certain ideals in place, I began mapping out options I could pursue. All were serious options that I wholly considered while embracing their realities and long-term sensibility. I framed my thinking under a few general questions:

  • What would the potential work look like?
  • What would be the short/long term risk and reward?
  • Would this contribute to my longer-term goals?
  • Would I enjoy this type of work?
  • What would a realistic day in the life look like?

Some top-of-mind paths:

Go back into Salesforce App Development

I was fairly well versed with the Salesforce platform and could architect moderately complex apps. I had a few developer certifications with a clear path to advancement. Many of my teammates had gone on to work at Salesforce as technical consultants, though I was more interested in the Application Engineer roles at other large tech companies, which build internal tools using Salesforce.

I was initially quite bullish about this option but slowly realized that I could become pigeonholed into a proprietary technology with its own languages and infrastructure.

Remain at Deloitte and apply for an MBA

The post-consultant MBA route is fairly common and I felt my tech background would bode well in applications and potential fit. That said, I didn’t have a clear reason for why, other than using the degree as a conduit to product management. I figured there were ample hands-on ways of working with products that would accelerate this process.

Continue at Deloitte while studying for FAANG interviews

There were a few engineers who had recently left the studio for big tech, and I thought it sounded promising. I set up a few calls with them to hear their process and schedule. The news was not entirely motivating. Both had spent 4–6 months grinding out data structures and algorithm review, problem-solving techniques, communication skills, and system design preparation. Most of the posts I had read online had followed similar schedules and timelines.

I chose this route for the first few months. I (re) opened the holy grail of software interviewing — ‘Cracking the Coding Interview’ — and got to work. I worked concurrently across a few different tutorials, books, and online resources all while figuring out how to best track progress. I was filling my time with resource after resource without clear intent. I wasn’t deliberately breaking down topics, but rather going rapid-fire on everything at once. It was clear from early on that my primary learnings were through consumption and copying. I would read the questions and answers and break down why they made sense, rather than implementing the logic myself. It was a simple way of fabricating learning, and one month later I wasn’t much better off than where I started. I needed to rethink my approach and decided to enroll in Coursera’s popular ‘Learning How to Learn’ course. It was mentioned in a few other articles by folks who had hit the same wall I just hit. I ran through the course over a weekend and restarted my learning, this time properly splitting time between consumption and application. I studied before and after standard working hours, and kept strict tabs on each question, page, video, and thought.

Within a few weeks, I had fallen into a routine that didn’t allow for time with roommates and friends, taking breaks to cook dinner, or simply enjoying life. I wasn’t happy and was lost on how to balance all obligations. I enjoyed certain aspects of problem-solving and visualizing progress but had internalized the months that still remained and the life I was missing out on. I planned the entire process around 4–5 companies I didn’t have a strong, sincere affinity towards. It simply did not fit into my broader happiness.

I have awful handwriting

Again, I took a step back to reconsider.

Apply for Associate Product Manager (APM) positions

I naturally enjoy working with and observing products and have sat in between product and software throughout and after college. An APM position would allow me the necessary frameworks to properly lead and manage products while still learning from mentors and leaders. I again felt this to be a strong, viable option and purchased multiple overpriced ‘Break into Product Management’ courses online. Product interviews often rely on structured, framed thinking, which I had adequate experience with through previous case prep and writing. I began applying to product positions in California, mostly at medium to large companies. While doing additional research on those that I did hear from, it became apparent I again didn’t have an intrinsic love for the products themselves. I chose such companies because of their APM role offering rather than a pure love of the product. If I were to work as a product manager, I had to appreciate the underlying product in its own right.

I knew I wanted to stick to a role close to the product, but these applications revealed the importance of natural appreciation of the existing problem or solution space. With that, I needed to find a company I felt genuinely connected to.

Find a Startup

At this point, I had my initial constraints plus a few others that emerged through my search. Startups need to move fast and act efficiently, which would help me receive feedback quickly and iterate. I had exhausted most of the options that felt ‘safe,’ and knew I wanted a startup that had an element of risk but higher potential reward (personally and professionally).

This initial decision immediately relieved certain stressors that arose from other considerations, and I started to feel a sense of optimism. It enabled a freedom to apply my own frameworks to the startup process, with the understanding of the mutually beneficial dynamic between startups and employees.

I’ll explain the intricacies of this process in Part II, but the newfound excitement carried into my conversations and thoughts. I trusted myself to act in my own best interest and only focus on roles that I would love. I challenged my own assumptions and created discrete steps I could take to set myself up for success.

I had also just finished the show Silicon Valley, so I’m sure there was some influence there. Who knows.

In part two, I’ll discuss my personal curation process, the application/interview loop, and my decision/takeaways. Check it out below: