Why I'm #TeamEdstruments: Ashwin, Chief Technical Officer
This gifted coder at one point used his skills to pull pranks. Now, after having a previous startup acquired, he’s building a transformative product at Edstruments.
Ashwin is a man of many talents.
A self-proclaimed hobbyist, he’s dabbled in swimming, weightlifting, and filmmaking. Raised in a household of different languages and cultures, he’s also traveled around the world. As captivating as he is now, though, he says things weren’t always that way.
“I wasn’t part of the ‘cool kids’ or the ‘smart kids,’” said Ashwin, who changed friend groups frequently during his childhood in Bangalore. “I was always somewhere in between.”
Ashwin’s mother comes from Karnataka, a tech-hub state in southwest India where most residents speak Kannada. His father grew up in Andhra Pradesh, a Telugu-speaking state that produced the Koh-i-noor, the world’s most (in)famous diamond. While his father was raised Hindu, his mother was raised Christian, making their union unusual but also giving Ashwin an early appreciation for diverse backgrounds.
Ashwin grew up attending an English-speaking all-boys school, but in 11th grade, he took an outside computer programming class that changed his life forever; once he learned the basics of coding, he was hooked on tech.
“The teacher taught me how to crash a PC, which was super cool for me back then,” remembers Ashwin, who often took pranks he learned from this instructor back to his regular school. “I used to get into trouble sometimes.”
When it came time to choose a course of study in college, however, Ashwin had to choose between computers and his other passion: theoretical physics.
“I liked how the world is ruled by certain rules, and just by observing these rules you can predict what will happen,” says Ashwin of physics. But the draw of computer science was too strong to resist. “With [theoretical] physics, you really can’t build tangible products, where with computers you can make software that makes people’s lives easier. I felt like that would have more impact than writing [academic] papers.”
Ashwin explored different parts of computer science, including stints designing operating systems and building information centers. Soon, he found himself focusing on product development.
“The coolest product I built was a bookmark manager,” recalls Ashwin, who (rather brilliantly) said he built it because: “let’s be honest, we don’t organize our bookmarks.” He then moved into developing a workflow organization product in a startup. 6-months in, he became Chief Technology Officer. Two years later, they were acquired.
“I’m a big believer in extreme ownership,” says Ashwin. “One thing I really liked about a CTO is that you have to take ownership for everything. If something needs to be improved, you have to take initiative.”
Ashwin used this attitude to continue driving impact at multiple startups where he worked after the acquisition. This also gave him the opportunity to see the world.
“I’ve traveled to the United States and within India as well. I was supposed to go to Budapest, but that actually fell through,” Ashwin said, the latter sentence being the only time his enthusiasm about tech and work ever seemed to dip.
Outside of work, Ashwin especially enjoyed his trips to Geneva and Rome. “I really loved the architecture and the history.” In the US, Ashwin has visited several places: Texas, Utah, California, and Washington DC. He particularly liked the relaxed yet ambitious work style he saw visiting The Golden State, and the Mexican food in Texas.
“In India, everyone is always hustling trying to get out the next big thing. It’s really strange for a stranger to speak to you, but everywhere in the US people were more sociable. I thought that was really cool.”
Despite enjoying his travels abroad, Ashwin has a deep love for India and its environment. He often helps his father, an avid wildlife photographer, support a conservation NGO in Karnataka. Ashwin’s love for his home country makes it fitting that a transformative moment in his journey with Edstruments happened not on a Zoom call, but right in his hometown of Bangalore.
Before CEO Aditya Kaddu explained the need for the product, Ashwin recalls initially not seeing Edstruments’ potential. As he learned more about the K12 education system in the US, however, he realized the product was special.
“I wasn’t aware of the fact that, in the US, you go to a school that’s close to you. In Bangalore, you go to whatever school you can afford,” Ashwin said of the conversation. He quickly understood that empowering underfunded and under-resourced schools to better manage K12 finances from local, state, and federal sources is a powerful lever for education equity.
“I feel like education, as a whole, needs to be equal,” said Ashwin. “Knowledge is power, in my opinion. Making sure everyone gets a good education is a super noble cause, and this is a really innovative way of going about it.”
Ashwin is excited to focus on the K12 finance management aspect of education equity using his skills in tech. As CTO, he is a critical part of Edstruments’ innovative, user-friendly, and evidence-based platform that makes school budgeting best practices more accessible to education leaders of all titles and experience levels. Edstruments is thrilled to have Ashwin’s talents and experience as we work to promote equity in K12 finance by streamlining school administration.