Life can be crazy sometimes. But that is often when you learn the most – during those unexpected, random moments where you do not really know what you are doing.
Khallil’s career/life is definitely wild. He has seen/done/gone through some absolutely incredible things – all interesting to learn from. This interview is one to remember 🙂
Hey Khallil! Thanks for taking the time to share on Student Hustle.
Introduce yourself! Tell us about where you went to school, what you have done over the past few summers, and what you are up to nowadays.
I’m Khallil Mangaliji did a CS degree at Waterloo, and a business degree at Laurier. I was in a co-op program, so summers were either spent in school, or at an internship. I interned at Facebook (twice), Apple, BitPesa, and Xtreme Labs.
Nowadays, I’m working at a startup I co-founded called Fiix (www.fiix.io). We send licensed mechanics to your house to Fiix your car. It’s like an Uber for Auto Repair.
I’m also working on a YouTube channel, you should check it out (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDkana7GS_UDflhBaZ4kvqQ)
What did you study in school? Have any classes been helpful in the real world? If not, where did you learn what has been most helpful at work?
I studied business and computer science. I would say the CS courses are pretty applicable IRL because the skills are specific. Business school on the other hand was not as useful. I learnt more about business by launching Fiix, but I was more prepared to launch Fiix because of business school – so it was valuable in that sense.
How did the co-op program work at Waterloo? Would you recommend doing something similar?
It’s a lot less formal than you’d think. 4 months before a work term, you just have to find a job. It could be through the school’s platform, or on your own. I don’t think you ‘need’ a co-op program to get a summer job, but if the formality helps you do it, then for sure. My younger brother isn’t in a co-op program, and he got his first internship as a software engineer at Uber – no program needed, he just went out and got it.
How did you find/get your internships at Facebook and Apple?
Both are funny stories.
At Apple, they were looking for a engineer that spoke French. Knowing that I barely knew any French, I applied because I really wanted a job at Apple. I managed to get by with my high school French education, and got the job. The entire summer I didn’t speak a word of French, turns out I didn’t need it.
For Facebook, I got rejected because I couldn’t get passed the in-person code screen. The problem I had was I prefered building frontend interfaces, and all the questions were heavy algo questions. Facebook had no ‘frontend intern’ position for Waterloo, so I applied for a full time job, completed 2 rounds, and then told them I actually needed an internship. I got the job, and now there’s a ‘frontend intern’ position for Waterloo students wanting to work at FB because of it.
What were you working on there and what were some of the really valuable things you learned there?
At Apple I worked on some not-so-secret stuff that has to be secret because it’s Apple. At Facebook I worked on lookback, it was the first version of all those friend videos Facebook makes for you.
At Facebook I learnt how to scale a startup’s culture. At Apple I learnt how to build a cohesive team that wants to spend time together.
Were there any big differences between work and culture at Facebook and Apple?
Facebook felt more like a startup, people were willing to ship things as fast as possible, even if they were on the cusp of being broken.
Apple felt more refined, everything was quadruple checked for perfection.
Interestingly, both companies felt a lot like their products. That’s why they’re both the best in their respective spaces.
If you could go back to college, would you have thought about interning and careers any differently knowing what you know now?
I would work at Fiix (www.fiix.io).
But if Fiix didn’t exist, then I probably wouldn’t change much. I think the ideal set of internships is a balance between large and small, in different areas of the world. My first internship was in Toronto, 2nd and 3rd in SF, 4th in Kenya, and 5th in London. I essentially got to travel the world, get 2 degrees, and work at some awesome places – all through internships.
Extending that, now you are working on your own company, tell us about it! What have been some of the biggest differences between interning at big companies and doing your own thing?
Here’s the blurb we send to press:
Fiix sends licensed, expert mechanics to your home to fix your car within 3 hours. It’s like an Uber for Auto Repair. Fiix was part of the Y Combinator Winter 2017 batch, and the founders are ex-engineers from Google, Instagram, Facebook, Apple, Yelp, and Deloitte. They’ve repaired over 4,500 vehicles in the past year in just one city, have a $1.2M GMV run-rate, and have over 1,000 5-star reviews across Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Recently, they closed a $1.85m seed round and are based out of Toronto, Canada.
Compared to working somewhere, it’s night and day. There’s a lot less of people telling you what to do, and a lot more stressing over not doing enough. The secret is, if you can find a way to survive forever, you have a successful company. Most big companies have figured out the survival problem, most startups haven’t and the work difference comes down to exactly that.
The part I miss most about big companies is mentorship. When I had a problem with Redux at Facebook, I would walk over to the guy that made redux and ask him how to fix it. When I have a problem with Redux at Fiix, I scour the internet for hours trying to solve it :joy:.
How did you get into YCombinator? What was the process like?
When Justin Kan started accepting pitches for Y Combinator’s Fellowship via Snapchat, the internet was not amused. Snapchat was supposed to be a weird place where teenagers sent disappearing pictures they didn’t want backed up to iCloud. Suddenly, Y Combinator was in the game, and a sliver of snappers would turn to the friendly ghost for semi-choreographed, scrappy, and mildly hilarious startup pitches.
Our startup, Fiix was one of those companies. When we applied to pitch, it was just for kicks, but when we got that golden “Fiix is going on Justin’s Snapchat” email, we were feeling like Charlie.
The following week, Justin’s snapchat fans voted on whose pitch they liked best. A few days later we found ourselves in an interview for YC with Adora Cheung (CEO of Homejoy). We read all the ‘How to get into YC’ Medium posts, did the interview, and were offered a spot in the fellowship the next day.
After the fellowship, they put us in the full time program.
How did you find your first customer?
We made a post on Kijiji (Craigslist for Canada).
How was YC for you and your team? What are the biggest misconceptions/surprises about the program?
In the 4 months we spent with YC we got more done than we will in the next 2 years. YC does a great job getting you to focus on what’s important.
I’ve been hearing a lot of people say “YC is getting too big” and it means they can’t focus on the companies now. That’s not true, firstly the more teams in your batch, the better networked you are with other future-potential-billionaires. Secondly, they do an excellent job breaking the batch up into smaller groups, so you still build an intimate relationship with the partners.
You’ve hired lots of people now! What do you look for in employees/interns? What makes someone stand out?
We look for people who actually want to do what they’re doing. We don’t care about where you went to school, but we do care about your experiences (in and out of work).
The best proof of this is side projects, so do those :thumbs_up:
For someone with no connections “in tech,” where would you advise starting out their career?
Do some side projects to prove yourself, and then get an internship! A good place to start looking is the monthly “Who’s Hiring” post on Hacker News.
But, I’m a connection in tech, so message me (m.me/km)!
Where can people find you and what opportunities are you looking for? (Twitter, linkedin, personal site, medium, etc).
Personal Site: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDkana7GS_UDflhBaZ4kvqQ
But Khallil, those are all YouTube links.
Yes, they are :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: