Ajith Looka, software QA engineer at AOL, tells us why he chose Ireland as a place to live and work, and how GAA and the cost of healthcare has surprised him.
Where are you from?
I was born in Kerala (also called God’s own country) and brought up in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), which is in the south of India. Bangalore is known as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’. Bangalore has a tropical savanna climate with distinct wet and dry seasons, where the temperature varies from 20°C-35°C.
Cricket is the most popular sport in India and many national cricket heroes hail from Bangalore. It has a rich mix of inhabitants from different religious and cultural backgrounds. The diversity of the cuisine available is reflective of the social and economic diversity. Roadside vendors, tea stalls, South Indian, North Indian, Muslim food, Chinese and Western fast food are all very popular in the city.
How long have you been in Ireland?
A little less than a year.
Why did you move here?
I lived in Bangalore most of my life and I am fond of travelling. I had never been to Europe before so it was a good opportunity for me to learn a new culture, food, traditions, and continue to do what I love.
Also Ireland in general is renowned for the friendliness of its people and I didn’t have to learn a new language. Ireland’s IT sector is rapidly expanding and there are a lot of opportunities for me, so moving here wasn’t that hard of a decision.
What work do you do?
I am a software QA engineer in the ‘Adlearn Open Platform’ team at AOL. My job is to make sure that the product we deliver is of the highest quality, so it starts from the planning and design phase, where I work with the product team in identifying business scenarios.
Once all the requirements and scenarios are defined and finalised, I work on getting them automated and tested. This process happens in parallel with development. We have a fully automated pipeline flow that has several stages – the product has to pass each of these stages before it can be shipped.
At AOL we put a heavy emphasis on automation. In order to move things efficiently we need a very good framework that is easy to use and maintain. One of the challenging things that I work on is addressing issues surrounding the automation framework compatibility and productivity with respect to certifications and implementations on multiple technology stacks.
How would you describe your working environment?
AOL is one of the best places I have worked. The work/life balance is good and it’s less stressful working here. AOL organises several events throughout the year, which is good for me because I get to meet and interact with my colleagues outside of work and visit new places in Ireland. We take fun seriously.
The workplace offers good facilities, from canteens to table tennis and pool. We enjoy a good time playing football and basketball during the week.
What do you like most about your job?
I have been in the IT industry for over seven years now and the tools and technologies are changing rapidly. AOL gives me the freedom to learn and implement new things without the worries of repercussions, and no red tape.
The project I am working on is a fast-paced business and there are lots of challenges which you need to be ready to face. The management is very focused and my peers are very knowledgeable. We work on the latest technologies with automation as our priority and a lot of emphasis on test-driven development. All of this has given me the opportunity to learn and innovate.
Was it difficult to adjust to living and working in Ireland?
I had been living with my family back in Bangalore, so it was a bit difficult for me to move to a new place and live by myself. The weather is quite different from my place, as well. So it was an adventurous ride in the beginning but now I am adapting to the life here.
What surprised you about moving to Ireland?
There are several things that surprised me here in Ireland like the weather, Irish sports like Gaelic football and hurling, and the different Irish accents. Also the healthcare system here. It is very expensive to be ill.
How does your working life help to make you feel at home here?
AOL helped me move to Ireland by providing me with all the information I needed to start my life here and also provided me temporary accommodation until I found a suitable place to live.
There are many nationalities in the company so I don’t feel like an outsider. Also, we have a social club, which I am a member of. They organise various social events where all of us come together and have a good time. It’s fun to go to work in AOL. The work hours are flexible so I have enough time to take care of personal errands.
What do you like most about your adopted home?
People are more relaxed here. The community is diverse, there are people from all over the world and Irish people are very approachable and always ready for a chat.