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Employee Spotlight: Anurag Agrawal

Anurag Agrawal was born in Jaipur, India, but shortly after his birth his family moved to Kurud, Chhattisgarh. A small town where he was raised before ultimately leaving to attend University. He still remembers his University days wistfully, the carefree times when students could just enjoy life and weren’t yet troubled by worries of the future.

Anurag joins me remotely. I am based in St. Louis, Missouri, America. Anurag is Strayos’ Solutions Engineer in India. Though we met briefly on one of my trips to India, this interview gave me an excellent opportunity to learn a bit more about one of Strayos’ newest team members. To look behind the screen and see the man.

Anurag immediately strikes me with his patience and politeness. He laughs at my jokes and ignores my constant interruptions as well as my over sized coffee mug. Which I’ve just refilled and is also the reason I’m three minutes late to the interview, but Anurag, wisely, doesn’t comment on my tardiness.

We discuss some pleasantries, the weather in St. Louis (miserable- its winter) and the weather in India (beautiful- its winter), family, how we’re feeling.


After a while I set down my mug and get to business. “So, what do you do at Strayos?” I wish I had one of those old school tape recorders reporters used to use, I feel like pressing a button would add an interesting sense of formality to the process, but instead it’s a Google Form and a Google Meet.

Anurag smiles politely at the soft-ball question, “I am a Digital Solutions Engineer. I do research in the field of mining for the development of software modules and instruct clients on how to best use the software for their particular needs.”

I throw him another soft-ball, “What interested you about Strayos? Why did you apply?”

He pauses a moment as he organizes his thoughts, then he gives me an answer he’s probably repeated a dozen times in the interview process and to anyone else making polite chit-chat. I’m not going to say it was rehearsed, but it felt comfortably used.

“In the virtual realm of mining, Strayos begins where everyone else ends. The software, which is AI-based, aids in blast design planning, mine planning, and blast result prediction, ensuring that mine workers are working in a safe environment. My first preference was this company due to its big platform, which allows me to develop and learn.”

“AI as in, Artificial Intelligence?” I double check, but we both know the answer. We both work for Strayos. We both know it’s platform is based on AI. But I'd rather write the clarification in interview form then break the narrative by defining AI.

“Ah, yes.” He nods.


So to mix it up, see if I can catch him a little off guard I ask one of my favorite corporate retreat icebreaker questions: “If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be and why?” I love the irony of this kind of corporate morale double speak because we work in small fast paced agile start-up.

He’s surprised. It takes him a minute to gather his thoughts. I watch patiently while the wheels in his head turn, putting together an answer to a question he was not expecting. Finally, “Since no vegetable can become tasty without a tomato, and the color red is one of my favourite colours, I would love to be a tomato.”

I pivot back to another standard interview question while Anurag waits patiently for me to continue. But first, another drink from my oversized coffee mug, which is happily, still half full of coffee. “How has your role with Strayos evolved?”

"I assist clients with the planning of Mine to Mill operations as a technical and digital solution engineer. Without a doubt, over time I have become more proficient in language acquisition and client demand in the blasting industry since I’ve been engaging with more global clients and co-workers.”

“Like me?” I ask him.

“Yes, absolutely.”

I shift in my chair and look at the left side of my screen where I keep all the interview questions. I want to make sure I hit the major points and they don’t get forgotten while we converse about more fun topics. So I scroll down and ask the next relevant question.

“What is something you've worked on for Strayos that a customer would recognize and what’s a hidden gem- something awesome, that customers may not know about?”

He smiles again, his enthusiasm is contagious and I find my self eagerly nodding along. “Yes, the customers always recognize me because I’m always saying that the Strayos software is amazing and you are in a good place. Your operations will develop and learn with the software. Something that’s unknown is my background. Even though I'm not an expert in software development, I excel at the technical aspects of the program. Fragmentation and ground vibration optimization were the main topics of my blasting research.”


Time to pivot. “If you were stuck on a deserted island, what 3 things would you bring? Why?”

Ever the engineer, his answer is eminently practical: “Food, water, and a knife or other equipment to protect me against potentially harmful animals. With what I have with me on the island, I believe I can appreciate the beauty of nature.”

I take another drink of my coffee, setting it down carefully on the coaster so it doesn’t leave a ring on the desk. My boss takes drink rings on my desk personally. He gives me coasters all the time. I take the hint and try to make sure my cup lands on it when I set it down. Then I turn my eyes back up to the screen.

“What has been your favorite part about working with Strayos?”

He responds immediately. He is not drinking anything. “I love every software module, but I was particularly impressed by how artificial intelligence was able to distinguish haul road margins, highwall slopes, crests, toes, and other features. As a mining engineer, I'd be curious to learn how to code for artificial intelligence.”

I follow it with: “What are you working on right now?”
”I’m working to improve software tools and modules to meet consumer needs and improving the configuration to adapt the program to the Indian mining industry.”

Having hit almost all of my obligatory interview questions I follow it with another fun one: “If working at Strayos was a movie, what would it's genre be? For example: Romantic Comedy, Mystery, Sci Fi, Film Noir, Horror, Tragedy, Dark Comedy, Bollywood, Action? and why should we watch it?”

He grins. “Strayos is a Mystery. The reason Strayos belongs to the Mystery genre is that everybody who uses the tool is astounded and shocked by the job that artificial intelligence has accomplished, which is akin to VFX in motion pictures.”

“So we should work at Strayos because of the cool special effects?”


I’m not going to lie, Strayos does have pretty nice graphics. Perhaps its because I enjoy teasing our engineers if they make something ugly… Perhaps I give myself too much credit…

“Tell us something personal about you!” I ask next, “Help our audience get to know Anurag the person, not just Anurag the marketing gimmick…”

He laughs and runs his hand through his hair. His black eyes sparkle as he mulls over the question. “Something personal…”

“Yes! Do you have any hobbies? Any guilty pleasures?”

“My hobbies are gyming, reading about new technology, and travelling... and my guilty pleasure would have to be when I eat meat. My family is not allowed to eat non-veg but due to the harsh conditions of the hostel mess and friend circle, I started eating non-veg. Most of the time, I try to avoid it, but sometimes it would be difficult to control, and I feel guilty for it.”

I can’t tell if that counts as a guilty pleasure or survivor’s guilt, but I decide to move on in the interest of time. “What inspires you? Do you have a superpower?”


"I’m inspired when I get respect from the industry and academics, it motivates me to learn more and give free education to the world. And my superpower is to judge any person's instinct in the first meeting and always remember any person by face and voice.”

I must admit, I’m jealous. While I generally trust my instincts about people my memory for names and faces is horrible. I’ve met people three and four times and still struggle to remember a face if it’s out of context. To me, that is one hell of a superpower.

“Do you have a hero?” I take another drink of my coffee, its gotten cold. But that’s fine. I drink coffee for the caffeine and for something to do (getting more coffee) when I don’t want to work. I don’t share this dirty little secret with my coworkers, but I suspect they all do it too. In some form or another.

Anurag doesn’t even hesitate. “My hero is my mom. She always motivates me in every stage of life. She never compared me with any other person's qualities and success. She always replies with a positive note.”

That makes me feel like the world’s worst kid. My hero is Themistocles. I’ve linked to his Wikipedia page in case you care to learn more.

I have two last relevant questions so I shoot them off, we’re approaching the top of the hour and I’m almost out of coffee.

“What’s on your wish list for the next 5 years of working at Strayos?”

"I want to take Strayos to each sector of the mine and digitize the complete mining industry. Every mining engineer should always talk about Strayos.”

“And… What’s one thing you wish employees thinking about joining Strayos should know?”

"This technology, which is more than just software, may instantly address everyday issues for any mine owner or employee. Artificial Intelligence software is capable of being employed in situations where no one else can access it.”