Memories of Masdar: 2011 – 2013

I wrote a memories of Ife piece after completing my bachelors and it would be just as well to write another post about my time at Masdar. Masdar is a great school, has an international student community, extremely nice people, an awesome nearly unbeatable welfare package and a great beautiful environment.

I arrived at MASDAR in the fall of 2011 as a young naïve man with some basic development experience. Something unexpected happened just before I resumed; that event, which left an unpleasant indelible mark, propelled me to give my all and Alhamdulilah I emerged as a better person in the end.

The first few months were somewhat lonely – it was an unfamiliar emotion as I was used to being alone and far away from family all my life. The feelings of loneliness soon vanished when lectures went into full gear. I had thought everything would be super easy however I soon realized I had grossly underestimated the coursework involved as I struggled to understand some of the material and complete projects.

My interest in socio-mobile computing got me involved in the joint SCAIlab-MIT social fitness project. It involved extending a Pedometer app with social networking support, data collection, accuracy tweaking and influence mechanism design. Although the project was not completed, I got to learn more Android programming as well as Git.

I spent my first break solving Project Euler puzzles (a way to simultaneously hone my new Python skills), polishing my résumé and hunting for internships ( I applied to about 10+ software firms).

During my second semester, I got to learn more about Algorithms, distributed systems (hadoop, Skype, networking etc) and social computing. In my spare time, I learnt vim (and I am glad I did) using the excellent byte of vim book. Alhamdulilah, I spent the summer as a SDET intern with the Microsoft TFS Agile team.

In my last year, I finally took the dreaded software engineering ( got to learn about C, valgrind, make etc.) and sustainability courses. I also had to work extremely hard and at an insane pace to make up for the time I lost duing my internship. My first attempt didn’t turn out well so I had to start afresh.

Gains at MASDAR

Sometimes the loneliness and extreme levels of hard work got to me – the emotional drain and stress were just too much at times. I had to force myself to persevere ( giving up was easy but too costly) and I repeatedly prayed to Allaah to bless my sacrifices and efforts. Looking back, I am glad I got to improve on some of my weaknesses.

I improved my time organization, goal setting and progress tracking skills. I learnt to focus ( after getting burnt out a gazillion times) and also realized that I had a limit and couldn’t do everything. It was good to learn that being consistent was much better than alternating between periods of high and low productivity.

It was also at MASDAR that I started making conscious efforts to improving the quality of blog posts. The goals were quite clear: I wanted to create a knowledge repository for myself (something I can always refer to when I am in doubt), improve my writing and inform people. Now, when I write, I ask the ‘so what?’ question :).

My academic training equipped me with lots of computer science / software engineering knowledge. I got to conquer my fear of public speaking, honed my leadership skills and teamwork contribution. Oh, and I picked up the habit of continuously enrolling in online courses. Learning never ends…

I made a couple of true friends: the camaraderie, the teasing, the play, the talks and the sharing actually enabled me to come out of my shell. I met people who were extremely nice, friendly and wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for better companions and I do hope we’ll keep in touch for life.

It wasn’t all fun at MASDAR though – there were a couple of unpleasant experiences as expected. However I am glad because I learnt from such experiences too. In the end, I think I became more mature and discovered the meaning of self-worth.

I have left MASDAR now (I actually felt bad leaving MASDAR because I had become so attached) however I hope the lessons I learnt there would stay with me, that I have friends for life and have become a better person for it.

Memories of IFE…

White House
White House

Some weeks ago, I was walking past a tree near the former rotunda café in OAU. Its bare branches sagged under the weight of hundreds of bats. Bats! The creatures that dropped poop on me in my third year! This got me thinking about my undergraduate days in OAU.

My first year was somehow fun. Being a young teenager, I seemed to have no worries apart from the usual ones of feeding and study; ah…, the wild rush for lecture halls. I had never been so far away from home, was homesick and called home often to ease my loneliness. Hostel life was new and exciting;  the constant banter, soldier ants and nasty tricks – I was the architect of some of them. ;).

I got introduced to FORTRAN in my second year and instantly fell in love with programming. By taking on pro bono work, I tremendously improved my word processing and programming skills. I remember the math course I took in the second semester – all my colleagues do too – the exam was one of the most exacting that I wrote. The students appropriately labelled it ‘tsunami’.

The first and last time a bat dropped poop on me was in my third year. I was rushing to class and suddenly felt a wetness on my head; it was very embarrassing. During the same year, I was heavily criticized at a presentation, wrote a great piece of assembly software and traveled to the North.

My fourth year started well, the semester was short, very short and I got to improve tremendously on my Arabic. After the semester, I spent six weeks looking for an internship; it was an unpleasant experience. Just when I thought I was going to give up; I got a place at Neo-matrix experts. The better part of 7 months was spent learning about web development and Linux. The Neo-matrix job showed me programming jobs were demanding jobs requiring high levels of focus and dedication.

I switched platforms and moved over to Ubuntu Linux just before starting my final year. I found Linux to be reliable, interesting and challenging. The decision to change was fueled by my curiosity and my desire to stay away from all forms of pirated software.

My last year at OAU was my most challenging year in school. I’d never been so so busy in my life, I had too many things to do and had to constantly deliver at high levels of performance. It finally ended with my final exams some weeks ago and my project defence.

Though I didn’t get to visit the dam, climb all the three inselbergs (I got to climb only one), or get to the oxidation area unit during my time in school, I got to learn so much in the sheltered environment OAU offered me. I learnt honour, hard work, integrity, sacrifice, brotherhood, loyalty, courage and responsibility. These values are some of the greatest assets anyone can have.

They say OAU has the largest population of bats in Nigeria; I don’t know how true this is but I know that my experiences in OAU will sure remain indelible. Long live Great Ife! Another Great Ife is a counterfeit…