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 🙂
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! 🙂 Best thing that happened this week, hands down. How’s everybody doing so far this year?

On giving something back to the needy and deserving

The thought of how disturbing a sight it is to see middle aged men and women burning the midnight oil working at a McDonalds or a Burger King has been stewing in my mind for a while. I see them and wonder, “man.. they must be having no other alternative than this to be here, at this hour..” They get paid the minimum wage and being in the fast food industry, don’t really see any prospects for receiving tips either.

Most of them must be having families too. So it is indeed plain sad that they are here at this hour when ideally, they would prefer the comfort of family and home. This vast disparity exists even in America and to an extent, almost unfathomable even by someone who is no stranger to these inequalities, coming from India. Sometimes even a curt smile might make their otherwise awful day. And believe me, they do that here – which makes me wonder of the situation back home.

And that’s when I stumbled upon this video.

Two gentlemen who had their charitable donation refunded, decided to do something novel. They decided to tip fast food workers each a $100 and videograph it to see how they react to it. No prizes for guessing, it made for a truly incredible video – got my heart full and eyes moist. Take a look!

PS: They have a really cool channel with a wonderful initiative too. So please subscribe and help the cause as well.

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]