Now Page – May 2020

Posted on aamirrasheed.me/now on 5/17/20.

We’re smack in the middle of Spring Quarter 2020. No matter how much work is done, it never feels like there’s enough time to just stop and smell the roses. What would it be like to be completely worry free about deadlines on a Sunday night? How much would I write? How much music would I make? How much more would I run and exercise?

This didn’t have to be my fate, of course. A single instance of procrastination on the quarter system can lead to a cascade of running up against deadlines, ad infinitum. To break out of the cycle, you have to work extra hard to make back up for lost time. It gets worse before it gets better. And that’s where I am now.

Quarantine

I imagine my future self will read this and want to know – in May 2020, during the height of COVID-19… how did it feel like? Day after day, to be under quarantine? How horrible it must have been to isolate yourself from everyone, shut away with minimal social contact. As an extrovert, it’d be difficult to imagine how this period could be anything but depressing.

It’s not, though. I’ve adapted better than I expected. My mind automatically urges me to reach out when I’m in need of social contact. I Zoom, call, text, or play online pictionary or Minecraft to hang out. It’s not as great. I get lonely more often. But it’s manageable.

In some ways, it’s actually nice. You get more freedom over how to structure your day. You can watch lectures two or three days afterwards, guilt free. There are less FOMO moments that lead to late Friday and Saturday nights. And everyone is in the same position, so pretty much anyone is down for a call.

Some strategies I’ve learned:

Project: Contribute2OpenSource

In my last update, I talked about coming together with my friend Andrew to build a project.

Our initial idea was to take advantage of the grocery delivery craze and build a grocery delivery service that sends ingredients right from your favorite Instagram and Youtube cooking videos (or online recipe sites). However, after about two weeks of being on this idea, we found several other services (AmazonFresh included) that had already done this exact thing. That was discouraging. We learned a tough lesson: due diligence for any potential business idea can save a ton of time.

Back to the idea table. Some more brainstorming. Now: because of various hiring freezes and changing job requirements, thousands of CS students have lost their internships for the summer. That’s a ton of potential talent sitting there, unused. Can we use redirect this talent to contributing to open source instead?

We started looking up how to contribute to open source, and the same bleak picture shows up everywhere: The only way to find an open source project is through haphazard Google searches, random blog posts, word of mouth, or prior knowledge.

In response to this, we’re building a website connecting potential contributors (such as displaced CS students) to open source projects. Our hypothesis is that contributors are far more likely to engage in the steep learning curve of contributing to open source if they

  • Care about the mission of the project
  • Feel like they can learn what’s needed
  • Will gain marketable skills

Will share more updates next time around =)

Project: Ergonomics Classifier

For CS231n, my friend Leo and I are building a machine learning model that can classify images of people sitting at their desks as “bad posture” or “good posture.” In the age of coronavirus, it’s ever more important to focus on ergonomics during long working hours in the same location.

Leo and I are of the same mind on this: Work on the project to learn about practical ML, and don’t worry too much about the project being groundbreaking. To that end, we’re collecting our own dataset and hand labelling it. I’m also learning Tensorflow for the first time. Really enjoying the process with Leo.

What’s ahead for me?

There is just under a month of school left. The next chapter of my life looms. I recently had a walk where I thought through what my goals are for the next steps in my career and how to achieve them. Here are my thoughts:

  • I was considering postponing my last quarter of classes until after school returns to normal to get the “full value” of my Stanford education (networking, mainly). But I have one more quarter worth of classes to take for my master’s program; it’d be best to finish it off and enter the industry instead of risking never coming back to school to get my master’s degree.
  • I want to found my own company someday. So I will continue going deep on the topics I care about, build things with the skills I learn, and communicate my process to the world. One of my goals in summer is to continue working on my robotic tank project from last summer. What can I make it do? After taking CS231n this quarter, adding computer vision-based functionality is high on that list.
  • I want to work for a robotics/AI startup after graduation. Since I’m done with school in December, my prime recruiting season will be August/September. So June and July will be spent leetcoding, refreshing robotics/ML concepts, and shotgunning my resume through my network.
  • My health forms the baseline of my moods. Protecting and maintaining that through healthy eating patterns, regular exercise, and caring for my chronic hand pain will remain staples of my day to day life throughout summer.