We all need a pick-me-up sometimes

So I got this wonderful update from one of the recent campaigns I was fortunate to be part of – something that has become very close to my heart. It concerns the lives of one of the most backward of regions (Elavanchery) in my home state (Kerala) – on an aspect that is very close to my heart owing to my past involvement and experiences (education). Everything about the intent and the expected outcomes of this was so beautiful that I remember getting sold into this by line 3 of the campaign brief. Now, I may have my biases considering that the person behind it has been someone I have admired for a while – from a distance, for various reasons. This woman (in her mid-20s) had quit her very comfortable desk job in one of the Big 4s in the consulting world because she “wanted to do things that she really wanted to do”. Things like this. Wow!

It’s almost an unexplainable feeling when some things (or people) turn out right – I guess this was one such moment. The update read as follows:

A big thank you to everyone who supported my small initiative to help the kids in my village.
Due to the amazing response, we exceeded the goal amount and were able to buy essentials for all the students in the school. 180 upper primary students and 230 lower primary students were given school bags, notebooks and other stationery.
The kids are really, really thrilled and send their love to each of you for your kind gesture ūüôā
Thanks!
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What Athira and her parents are managing to do there is pretty amazing and I wish them all the luck in their endeavors. Just look at those¬†smiles! ūüôā Best thing that happened this week, hands down. How’s everybody doing so far this year?
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A note on the grading system

Maybe it’s just calling for a bit more care or maybe it was just sheer misfortune, but my uploads on a particular assignment failed (I didn’t notice it when it failed the second time) and it cost me a couple of letter grades in Optimization. GPA wise, a dip of 0.6 in one shot. Wow.

Note to self: Perhaps I should start believing my students more often when they say the upload onto the university LMS failed, leading to no-submissions. Haha.

On Satya Nadella

satya-nadella

Not a tech guy by any figment of imagination, but been reading a bit on Satya Nadella’s appointment and as to how damn good a one it is, at that.

  • He doesn’t seem to be the guy who simply “got lucky”.
  • He’s been a 2 decade old veteran with the company.
  • Well known among his ilk to be very very good at his work (both on the technical as well as the business side of it).
  • A family guy.
  • Ever inquisitive with a constant learn unlearn relearn process, amongst others.

So you will need everything in there (unless you are one of those Ambanis) to make it big. Forget what @TheJaggi has to say about it on First Post. Although there is some minor truth to it, he has no statistical proof to that either. But Nadella’s elevation is a milestone to look up to for every immigrant – who has come over hoping to make a meal out of his life. It was a conscious choice, one which got him his dream. Many many congratulations, sir.

A few interesting reads on the man:

  1. http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/01/31/269443258/8-things-worth-knowing-about-microsofts-new-ceo-satya-nadella
  2. http://world.time.com/2014/02/04/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella-indian-americans/
  3. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2014/feb14/02-04mail2.aspx
  4. http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2014/02/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella/
  5. http://techland.time.com/2014/02/04/satya-nadella/?iid=tl-404-mostpop1
  6. http://www.forbes.com/sites/netapp/2014/02/05/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella/
  7. http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/personal/2014/02/04/just-who-is-microsofts-satya-nadella/5067221/

Picture credits: [Mashable]

Hello from the USA

Well, this is the longest since I haven’t written something here. 3 weeks shy of 9 months to conjure up a few lines has never been me. But somehow life had been taking centre stage in a variety of other ways and it just seems to be coming together now. Or so I think.¬†In hindsight, the last eight and a half months have been quite telling of the crests and troughs that come upon us. Like a wave – which hits the shore and takes a part of the sediments with it, leaving behind a few other things which it will take back with it along due course. The last eight and a half months were fulfilling in the sense that this was a time when I ticked off a lot of squares – professionally and personally.

I worked for five months in Bangalore as a transport planner in a very well known organization. What was best was the fact that the tasks involved in finding interventions to common issues of urban mobility. Transport planning in the mega-cities of India has reached a saturation (with no certain end towards a sustainable solution) and the work to make mobility a better experience was thoroughly challenging. I met a lot of people who had the power to influence decision making in the country. Being a positive influence for change, like everyone, gives me a high too. Besides, work took me to the lives of few wonderful people – colleagues who had a lot of stories to share. I love story tellers. I would like to believe that I myself am one of that ilk too. Afternoon conversations with chai became a memorable affair, conversations were largely free flowing and there was no dearth of it. I was a happy witness to a friend overcoming her fears and anxiety about choosing a partner and getting married to her boyfriend. I somehow felt like I had a role there and it was brilliant.

And then USA happened. I already had applied for my doctoral degree in Transportation Engineering in the beginning of 2013 and I hit the North American shores in the month of August. If life in Florida over the past 4 months has to be summed up in one word, I’d say its interesting. I ended up switching research interests after some timely advice and I am still learning the nuances of Autonomous Vehicles (or more simply put, driverless cars like the Google car). PhD is a great leveller. You come in thinking of the wealth of experience that you have been witness to and it simply humbles you yet again. I guess this is what keeps you grounded and sane through the course of the study. Teaching is another element in that category. I am lucky to be appointed as an assistant instructor for an undergraduate course here, at USF. Tasks involve lecturing, grading and evaluating the students over the course of the semester. Not bad for someone who is just into the doctoral program. Teaching in US schools requires an attitude shift, especially if you are from Asia. It’s a nice change though and I am wholeheartedly embracing this.

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Learning to let go is something that has come up in my personal resume over the course of this year. When things are not going great, you understand and appreciate the fact that you are only in control of the one half of many things that you intend to be good at. So long as you are doing your bit about it, there’s only so much hope that you can pin on the conflicting elements that together make these things work. Essentially, I learned the important difference between being a bad loser and being a sore loser. I realize I am the former.

Tampa has led me to a newer set of wonderful people and life has merely become an optimization struggle – every time something happens to you, you go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate. Like a never ending SWOT analysis. Somebody told me I was too complicated and wound about, with my thoughts. I told them that they were too plain for my liking.

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PS: Hopefully, I have seen the last of prolonged inactivity here. Wishing you all a merry Christmas and a very happy & prosperous new year 2014.

A little something on what I am working currently (well, broadly..)

[Photo credits: self]

Master Degree, check!

Successful¬†defense¬†of the Master Degree Dissertation (Thesis Report)¬†happened last week. Although it got a bit debated on the nuances, still made for a grand stand finish. There is a huge sigh of relief right now. and its a good feeling. But then, you are not so much into relishing the relief that apprehension starts once again. Thoughts of the next step grab the attention of the voices from within. And that ofcourse doesn’t get any help or a move – on when you have a lot of people showing a whole lot of concern (untimely, unnecessary and often with ill motives) on what is going to be the next step. Anyways, some things that I think I have learnt deserve to be penned down here.

  • Everyone has his/her way of working through the research work. No hard and fast rules, some slow starters, some lift off and then subside. All the same towards the end.¬†
  • Spoon feeding never made you a good academic or researcher. Being constantly told what to do is not something anyone should be proud even if that comes in the way of “guidance”. Your work, your rules.
  • Extensive¬†literature¬†review always helps in building a strong case. A lean¬†literature¬†review is always like a sand castle. Just a matter of today or tomorrow.
  • Know your capabilities well and only then commit to anything on the abstract. Big words such as micro-simulation, econometric modelling etc should be backed up by your abilities (unless you pride in being a quick learner and get it done).
  • Confusion is always a good thing to have. Being confused tells me you have been thinking.
  • You have to fail once or twice to win. You have never won it hands down, unless you have failed and then won over your failure.
  • Be on time and stick to your limits. Your superiors may not agree to listen to this, but you do your bit. A 20 minute presentation can be of 19 minutes, but not 21 minutes. Again, these rules may not hold for your superior, but never mind.
  • Lastly, have a life while you are at the thick of things as well.¬†Occasional¬†breaks during the midweek, football weekends (if you are me, ofcourse), time spent with people whose company you enjoy should never be compromised over work. After all, there is more to life and more often than not, all these may not matter in 20 years if you are alone and depressed.

Next on the agenda is to complete the official formalities, take a break from everything, go on a holiday (Rome for me) and then back home to be with family. And then go on a holiday again for some much needed peace and calm, sort your life and get back on the grind.