The Engineer & The Entrepreneur.

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“I am an Engineer.”  What does that mean in today’s society?  When I was little,  it would evoke a sense of awe and I could see it in my  parents and I could see how they longed to see me be an engineer.  But when I finally became an engineer, the only thing I could observe on the faces of anyone whom I told about my profession was a slight nod and sometimes even a look of pity, that to my best of knowledge meant, “You too?”.  With engineering colleges, sprouting up at every nook and corner of the country, you couldn’t expect more.  The profession itself has lost its meaning.  Millions of engineers are recruited by the so called mass recruiters who are on the lookout for cheap white collar labor.  Engineers from every stream are absorbed into the black hole of Indian job market, IT.  But what awaits them at these offices are repetitive and mostly mundane code writing.  The poor standards of systems implemented by Indian Engineers are often overlooked, over a better cost-benefit ratio.  I have many a friend working in large Indian IT giants, who feel that they made a wrong decision in choosing engineering as profession.  Recently, at a startup meeting I attended, I can safely say that most of the people were disappointed engineers, who got tired of the mundane-nes of the Indian IT guy saga.

Now comes those few who realize this earlier own, mostly while in college, that Engineering is not what they thought it would be.  It isn’t filled with fun and excitement and solving practical problems using science and mathematics as what the engineering coaching centers told us it was, but rather memorizing outdated textbooks, and listening to subjects that are of no use to anyone.  The best of these lot are lazy, unmotivated and barely have a GPA above 5.  And when they feel they have had enough of the engineering nonsense, they become entrepreneurs, trying their best to beat their system.  But, this is immediately met with sarcasm and objection.  Parents who would happily spend lakhs of rupees to get children into a third rate engineering institution suddenly has no money to spent on the so called “startup idea” that their child came up with.  The children object to the parents citing stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  The parents would have counter arguments, even sometimes going to the extent of telling their kids that their family astrologer had predicted a government job for the kid.

Out of these, handful of wannabe entrepreneurs, most of them succumb to the pressures of countless deterrents and go back to being a miserable engineering student, their hopes and big dreams squashed, left with more self doubt than ever, ready to accept any career that is offered to them.  The few who survive, become successful entrepreneurs.  Because these few know, that there isn’t anything anything more challenging than not being an engineer in today’s world.

The quarter-life crisis and an impending new year.

2013 has probably been the toughest year of mine, and it looks like 2014 is gonna be even tougher.  Life is going to change this year, for better or worse.  A lot of decisions will have to be made, that will determine the course of my life, both in terms of relationships as well as in my career.  With Shreya finishing her course in the summer, things are gonna be different for a while.  And it is crucial that I find a way out of the idiots teach idiots scenario in college and start working my ass off towards a better career either with a good company or with my own.

On a personal note, I have decided to keep my interactions with people to a minimum, my reasons for the same is not to be divulged here, but most of you can easily guess.  People say I have a huge ego problem, but I have a strong feeling, that my observation skills are impeccable that I can measure the depth of relationships far easier than others, but my problem is that I am a nice guy most of the time and I try to not to pay attention to these voices in my head that keeps telling me, to ask them to die.  But I realized over the past few months, that it has to stop somewhere.  One of my key resolutions this year, is to perfect those relationships that needs to be perfected and prune those relationships that have just existed just because they existed.

Aside from that, my startup is beginning to take shape, and my prototype will mostly be ready by the end of this month and the betas would be deployed in a months time.  The startup has been a one-man show up till now and I am looking for a technical co-founder as of now.  I will be writing a startup related post soon enough.

On a personal note, I have been busy with the interiors of my new apartment, and realized that I would have made a kick ass architect, but drawing is not a skill that comes naturally to me.  But give me a computer, and I can show you magic.  Anyways, the apartment has a good view of the sea and the setting sun in the evenings, and in a years time, I would be moving to the new apartment and setting up base there.  Well mostly my mom would live there, as I would probably be running around with/for a job.

Another, important resolution I did take for the new year is to read and write the old fashioned way, and maybe even read a couple of Malayalam novels.  I still love Malayalam more than any other language out there.  And write, yes, you can see that from the blog.  My writing is definitely going to get more frequent now.  But I may switch platforms from wordpress for some posts as I think Medium is the next revolution in online publishing.  The interface and the the overall UX is quite refreshing.

The other things on my list of things to accomplish this year would be:

  1. Lose weight – This has been on the backburner for a couple of years, but I think with placements around the corner, I think its time, I shed a few pounds.  And then there is the fact that my girlfriend would chop me up into little pieces if I don’t lose weight.  She is my only hope, seriously.
  2. Learn a new language –  I know this is cliched, but I am not talking about language as in a foreign language.  I am a comp-sci student, language would mean C, C++, etc.  I’m thinking advanced Python, and some data analysis frameworks and tools in Python, should help me introduce more intelligent features for my startup.
  3. This is perhaps my most ambitious dream for 2014.  – 50,000 rupees in profits from my startup.  There is a long way to go before, that, but this has to be done within 2014 or else, I have vowed to myself, I will never go after a new venture ever again and would lead a normal life, working 9 to 5,6,7,8,9 in a company.  I will write a post on why I want to be an entrepreneur soon.
  4. Do an epic event, that I and a few others have been planning for months.  CodeX, that is how I will leave a mark for my college career.

That is more than enough, If I can accomplish even a few of these, I win.

Love and keep loving till you love!

Ok, this post might seem mundane or out rightly ridiculous to some, but these are wise words, pay heed.  When do you actually fall in love?  Is it the moment, you think in your head, that a girl is cute and you feel butterflies in your stomach, or is it when you cannot live without the countless hours over the phone with him/her?  Is it when she accepts your proposal or perhaps, she rejects it?  Up until a few days back, I had no idea, I just knew I was madly in love with her, but didn’t quite understand what love was.  But the last couple of days with her, I think I am beginning to understand.

Love, for me is when the distinction between, me and her disappears, the line between girlfriend and boyfriend, disappears, it is when you feel as one, like team, you feel everything the other feels, her pains are yours, her sorrows yours, her happiness yours…  It’s love when you would sacrifice anything in the world for her, without the need to think.  It is when you realize that you will love her till the end of time, no matter what happens, even if she hurts you.  You know in your heart, no matter what happens, you would always be a good person, because she would want you to be.

Okay, what started out as an idea to express love, seems to be a failure.  I cannot explain love.  I feel it, but to express it is beyond the scope of language or literature.  It is the most wonderful feeling.  It’s precious.

ACM ICPC, Bangalore!

I just touched down in Trivandrum after my ACM ICPC, Regionals in Bangalore.  It’s been quite an experience.  To all those non-CS guys out there, ACM ICPC or the Association For Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Competition is the Olympics for programmers.  One of the toughest programming competitions in the world, we managed to qualify for the regionals for this year at Bangalore and Kanpur.  On the 18th morning, I reached the Amrita University campus in Bangalore early in the morning.  Chilled to the bone in the Bangalore weather, we checked into the rooms provided.  Soon, the other competitors filled in, from all over the country, I saw the largest collection of serious coders from India.  Some of these teams have been participating in the event for the last 2 or 3 years and we were certain that we would never crack the challenges.

ACM ICPC Regionals - Bangalore

Food was free and after quite a heavy breakfast, we proceeded to the practice sessions.  The practice sessions turned out to be a disaster with server issues delaying it almost 3 hours.  But we could feel the excitement in the room as impatient coders waited for the portal to open.  The portal was up at almost 12 in the afternoon and we managed to crack one of the two questions during the practice challenge.  All systems were go, for the event.  After the practice session we had yet another heavy meal and retired to our rooms.  I spent the afternoon watching a movie, while other teams were busy battling it out on CodeForces and revising algorithms.

Early in the morning of the contest day, we got dressed in the contest t-shirts and proceeded to the contest arena.  The atmosphere was quite different now, with some teams mumbling algorithms and tricks in their mind as they filed into their respective nodes.  We could see a couple of teams were quite nervous.  We were relaxed as this was our first attempt and we hadn’t done much of practice.  Anyways at 9:05 am, we received our question sets and we got lost trying to crack at least one question.  We are quite proud to say that we managed to crack one of the 11 questions with relative ease, and started working on another question, which we almost solved after considerable effort.  Our question worked well for the given test cases but went wrong with large test cases.  The solution wasn’t accepted by the system, we believe we cracked the problem.  A couple of teams were cracking away with easy, like a team from Dhaka, managing to crack almost 8 or 9 questions.  These guys had done their homework for at least an year before they turned up.

The contest ended at 2  and as I had prior commitments, I left the contest site.  Let me tell you this though, a serious coder needs to get into ACM ICPC.  Programming is not just learning to write code, it is about learning to write good code, solving tough questions that needs solving.  Anyone can learn to write code, but being a coder, is an altogether different thing.  Live to code.

Adios

New found passion!

Namaskaaramundu machaane!

Been quite a while since I whipped something up to write on here.  So, here I am!  An interesting observation I made as I sat down to write this, is that I write most of my posts during my one month long sem-break.  Yup, I am taking my much awaited vacation in Trivandrum, Kerala, my current hometown.  My ‘current’ home-town I say because most of my family is here and I have been staying in this town since 2004.  It’s almost Christmas in God’s Own Country and I can feel it in the air.  Christmas in Chennai is a rather grey affair.  Here in Trivandrum, the countless bakeries have already started filling up with cakes and wine, the markets are flooded with christmas decorations and the TV channels have already showing teasers of Christmas movies and shows.  We Malayali’s are notorious for celebrating every festival you can throw at them and there is no religion that can stop us from doing it.  I’ve been eating Christmas cake and decorating Christmas trees, since I was a little boy!

Two days back I had done the unthinkable, go back to my old school to attend the alumni meet, and met quite a few of my old schoolmates.  I didn’t feel all that nostalgic though.  Anyways, it was a fun evening out.

Tomorrow I am all set to leave to Bangalore, to attend the ACM ICPC Regionals and to meet my beautiful girlfriend, who is probably the only reason why I am alive right now.  Though it sounds a little cheesy or lame or perhaps even out-rightly alien to some of you guys, I love my girlfriend.  Call me old school, I still believe in love.

Anyways, that aside, the last year was probably a turning point in my life.  Life turned into a big puddle of shit last year, and I was confused by it.  So confused that I made a lot of wrong decisions, put my trust in the wrong people one too many times, and ended up getting hurt.  I believe, Chennai will make me ready to tackle anything that is thrown at me in the future.  And a word of caution to all the so called ‘nice guys’ out there – Stop being a nice guy.  Do not trust so easily, evaluate every relationship routinely and clean them up just like how you clean up your Facebook friends list.

The last couple of months, I have been evaluating my life quite thoroughly, setting my priorities right.  Dissolving bonds, that were emotionally expensive to keep.  True, friendship it happens just like that when you least expect it but be warned, these so called true friendships usually end, the moment there is a conflict of interest arises, that is the way the world works now.  Get used to it.

Anyways, I am looking ahead into a wonderful new year.  An year where I will fight the vermin, that festered my mind for so long.  Things are definitely looking up.

Merry Christmas!