The Cooking Challenge: for once not stirring data!


Bangalore, September 2017. Our tech hub is like a giant melting pot. Some colleagues are surfing like pros through a dense soup of new data partners adding the last ingredients. Others are stirring or preparing neatly proportioned data segments for when hungry advertisers return from their summer holidays around the world. Eventually they themselves become as hungry for good food. Conversations are shifting from optimizing algorithms and developing new features to the extraordinary particularities of their native cuisines. The conversations heat up around which cuisine is the tastiest but they are not ready to settle! “Let´s have a cooking challenge” — someone suggests. And so it began…

“You are what you eat — at least to a certain degree. I love food the same way I enjoy developing new machine learning algorithms. Living in the USA, Sweden and India has taught me to appreciate different flavours, but I have to say there is nothing like an authentic Oriya dish”, Swapnasarit Sahu, VP Data Science.

As the day of the cooking challenge comes closer, our talented coders have almost become master chefs and while searching for solutions on Stackoverflow during work time, their heads are overflowing with recipes, ingredients, and identifying the right spices at home. Sprint meetings are followed by discussions about who should take over the cooking lead and what dishes from their region are the most promising candidates to become yet another champion outside of the data world.

Getting closer to the event, the energy and passion from these foodies become only too graspable.


Finally the day has arrived. The entire zeotap team has all gathered into six competing teams completely geared up wearing aprons and chef hats, and switching their weapon of choice, the laptop keyboard, against naked ingredients and smiles. Recipes are being adjusted and menus finalised until the last minute. Becoming the new Jamie Oliver at zeotap certainly wouldn’t be as easy as they thought. But hey, after all our team is not known to succumb to despair. Used to mastering new tech challenges every day, this cooking challenge seems like a piece of cake.

“There are so many similarities between building a great tech product and cooking. It is all about the right ingredients, the passion for mastering a discipline, love for the process and others appreciating the results.”, Richa Gupta, Senior Software Engineer

It was 8 o’clock in the morning and light was coming through the window of the 5th floor of the zeotap offices, illuminating the tables full of dishes that minutes later would be the focus of the first cooking challenge in the history of zeotap. Footsteps of excitement and murmurs among the employees began to be heard. “What’s happening here?” asked one of them when he realized that everyone had left their t-shirts and jeans back home. “Have you forgotten?” said another, “Today is the day!”, replied another colleague while pointing to the phrase on the apron reading “The Cooking Challenge”.

The timer beeped and the challenge had officially started. In the same way they usually run through long lines of code, as things spiced up everyone was now running around as if stung by chili peppers until it was time for lunch. “Change this, change that!”, you could hear as they debugged their dishes waiting to be compiled on the final plate.

As every effort has its reward, by the end of the morning you could glance over 12 perfectly scripted dishes placed in line ready to be strictly tested and verified. The cooks had a grin of pride on their face, as if they had just given birth to the holy grail.

“Hmm….”, “Wow…” uttered the judges as they went around scanning the dishes and deciding which one to magnify. “Litti Chokha!, Bhengan bartha!, Poori!” exclaimed the judges as they announced the historic winners of the prize. Namita, Richa, Jyoti, Shubam, Ananth, Karthik, Divanshu, Abhiram, Rishab and Ashish celebrated with yet another team dance as they became the most talented chefs of zeotap.

Now if you ask some of the Bangalore office team members what zeotap does, one could say we work with data, others though, might smile and say “it’s complicated”.

“It was a great event that fostered team spirit and helped us overcome a tough challenge together. The team is very talented. Even those who did not cook before tried their best to support the rest of the team. We had a blast! ”, Namita Kumari, Senior Engineer in Test


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