Born in the city of Joy, Kolkata, Sandeep Kanabar grew up in Veraval in Gujarat, enjoying a happy childhood. However, an affliction caused Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) when he was 6 years old. He learnt lip reading on his own, and aced his school exams with a high confidence level. However, things changed from college days, where he found it difficult to lip-read college professors in classes crowded with nearly a hundred students.

During college placements, companies rejected his candidature due to his hearing impairment. Refusing to let this daunt his spirit, he began taking tuitions in Physics. “The day after finishing my engineering, I started coaching class 11 students in Physics, a subject that I loved. With an investment of Rs. 47 – a 40 Rs blackboard and a 7 Rs chalk box - I began classes. Starting with 8 students, a year later, I had 83 students.”

Despite building a credible reputation in coaching, Sandeep yearned to have a corporate career and work on new technologies. A friend told him about a company named Lasersoft in Chennai that she had read about, which was open to hiring PWDs (People with disabilities), even when inclusive hiring wasn't well adopted. Sandeep seized this opportunity and moved to Chennai to start his tech journey, where he was soon introduced to AWS.

Sharing his first experience with AWS, he says, “I was asked to help a team with their AWS Elasticsearch (ES) cluster. They had high costs and even with their data split into 9 different ES Clusters, their performance lagged, and costs kept rising. That was the first time I got to work with Lambda code and learn how it indexed to ES. I got to learn about IAM policies, S3 buckets and a plethora of other things. It felt amazing and humbling, for this was an excellent cloud technology provider I knew so little about. There was so much to learn, and it seemed pretty exciting to write quick python and Boto3 code to get things working.”

There was no looking back after that. Later when his career moved him to Pune, Sandeep began speaking at Elasticsearch meet-ups, where he met Jayesh Ahire, an AWS Community Hero, who was the founder of the AWS User Group in Pune. Jayesh’s passion and enthusiasm were infectious, he encouraged Sandeep to speak on AWS Elasticsearch at AWS meetups, but Sandeep hesitated, wondering about his hearing impairment.

I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time.

Braving his fears, he submitted a paper to AWS Pune Community Day and was selected. “I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time. But as I stepped on the stage at 4.15 pm and looked at the audience, my fears vanished. The next 15 minutes were one of the best times of my life, and the applause and appreciation is etched in my mind. I had never imagined the community would welcome me with such open arms,” he shares.

He applied to the AWS Community Builders program and was accepted. He is thrilled with the benefits of the program and to be a part of the community. “AWS credits, free certification, super cool SWAG items but most of all, it's the access to the webinars by AWS teams, and the networking and learning opportunities with the community over the Slack group that are irreplaceable.”

The exposure to AWS has enriched me both technically and in peer networking.

Being a part of the AWS community has helped Sandeep take his career to new heights, deploying multiple AWS Elasticsearch clusters, Lambdas, AWS Glue Jobs, including entire deployment pipeline. “While the exposure to AWS has enriched me both technically and in peer networking, I have been able to help my organization achieve substantial cost savings by refactoring existing designs and improving their performance. This has helped me scale up levels in my company,” Sandeep explains.

Sandeep never looked back, and with the support he gets from the AWS Community, he sees only dazzling futures ahead. He is also encouraged that things have changed for Persons With Disabilities (PWD) now, with the awareness and facilities available for accessibility and inclusion such as closed captioning, accessible venues, audio descriptions for visually challenged to name a few.

Be open, kind, genuine, and respectful.

His words of inspiration - “Practice inclusion from within. People come in different forms, but they are all PEOPLE FIRST. Remember that everyone is NOT privileged. And every individual is unique and outstanding in their own way. Appreciate the inherent diversity and beauty within. Be open, kind, genuine, and respectful.”