Summer 2009

Last edited on Sat, 24 Jul 2010 17:27:50 -0400

The Return

April came so fast. After a little over 3 months in Bangladesh, where I had lots of good times, it was time for me to once again return to the Great White North. In many ways, I was excited about returning. The thought of once again seeing my friends in Waterloo was something to look forward to. The academic term was going to be interesting since I had the option of picking my courses for a change. Summer school meant that the weather would be great. And I would be able to continue working on our fourth-year design project aka fydp. All these thoughts, along with many others, ran through my head during the 2 day ordeal of a journey from Dhaka to Toronto. The weather was perfect on the day I had landed in Toronto. However, in spite of the clear sunny skies, my mood remained dull and gloomy. Arriving at Toronto just wasn't the same as arriving at Dhaka - there was no one to pick me up from the airport, no one to help me carry my luggage, no one looking forward to my arrival, and no real place for me to go that I could call home. The 2-day long journey had ended with one long subway ride, and two very lonely bus rides until I had reached Faisal's place where I would be staying until school began.

Turning 23

Something bad always happens around the number 23. I hate to be superstitious but when two of my grandparents had passed away on the 23rd - the very same date that saw my birth - I had to conclude that 23 is just not my number. And this time, I was turning 23 on the 23rd. Double the probability of having bad luck. But then there was the other part in me that spoke very softly and said "It's only a big deal if you make it one". The other me is always right. Too bad he only gives me advice once in a while.
What actually happened on the night of 22nd May 2009 will never be put in writing, but on the afternoon of the 23rd, my friends came over to my suite. Surprise! They took me first to play mini-golf (which rocked), and then to watch Terminator Salvation (which sucked). But in the end, it was a great day.

Recession and Interviews

As the global economic crisis continued, job hunting became considerably difficult. I would argue that I was at a greater disadvantage than most of my peers - because while they were looking for jobs in a discipline they were majoring in, I was looking for Software Engineering jobs with a major in Electrical Engineering. When jobs are limited and Software Engineers are abundant, it takes a fair bit reasoning to convince an employer that an Electrical Engineer could write better software than a Software Engineer. Predictably, I ended up with very few interviews, and was forced to take one really low-paying albeit exciting job offer from a small startup - Kontagent. The highlight of my interviews was the one with Mozilla where I screwed up the answer to the question "What is a closure in JavaScript?".

Projects, projects, and more projects

An interesting consequence of taking mostly software courses is that all your work becomes project-based. For our fourth-year design project, we built a system that allows efficient grocery shopping - GroceryXpress. And for ECE 452, we built a system that allows anyone on the web to control a 100cm x 80cm (10x8) LED matrix display. For ECE 428, we had two projects, one was to simulate a communication protocol, and the other (which we haven't started yet) is to emulate an encryption algorithm.
Projects are fun. They are a lot of work and when they don't work, things get rough, but in the end they just always work and the feeling of seeing a working project in action is just wonderful - you feel like you can achieve anything. It's moments like those that make engineering worth every bit of the effort. But it's also moments like those that get really confusing because that's when the other me comes back and says very softly, "But Shams, you never really put in any effort".