The Bottomless Cup

Category: Uncategorized

My advice: dealing with post-graduation blues.

It is quite common for graduates to give advice on how to become more successful at networking, or navigating around the workforce. All of that is definitely very valuable. However I wanted to write a blog about understanding the difference between the personal development that happens in university and what you learn from the struggles of being out of university. I have just returned from Carnegie Mellon Qatar‘s “Ignite” networking event, and I was asked by a student (forgot who!) “what is the one piece of advice I would give to someone who is about to graduate?”

Source: Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar Facebook page.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar Facebook page.

I would say this: be patient. While at university you have a community of professors and student affairs staff to help you out, in real life, people are too busy to hold your hand and guide you.  There will be  times  when you feel that your life isn’t going as planned. When you feel that way, be patient and continue to work hard.

Post graduation existential crisis: rise to the challenge.

For a long time,  I was depressed thinking about whether the exciting or “unknown” part of my life is gone. When I joined finance, I realized how much I miss the other disciplines, and the option of pursuing them. In university, every day seemed to be exciting because I would learn or be a part of something new.

This only means that more effort is needed to continue to pursue your other interests. Take 15-20 minutes to read about something else before going to bed  and engage in discussions unrelated to work with your colleague. In Dubai, I’ve joined a book club in order to force myself to read for pleasure and meet new people outside work.

Don’t let your work make you feel trapped in terms of opportunity. Every now and then, think about whether you want to pursue something different for graduate school. Just thinking about other possibilities will help you stay excited about the future.

You’re on your own now. Stop comparing yourself to your class. 

Unlike many of my peers, I was not lucky enough to find a full-time job straight after graduation. I had to intern, and then intern some more.  I had friends who were living the dream after graduation, and those in an even more desperate situation than I was. However, keep in mind that that in university, you had a similar goal of getting good grades, being involved on campus and just getting a job. Now that you’ve graduated, you need to pave your own path according to your goals in life. You path is completely unique, so defining your success with reference to your classmates is a futile exercise.

Had I compared myself to the rest of my class on the basis of my salary, I would’ve easily considered myself a failure. However, I love the industry I am a part of and the future opportunities that it represents. According to my goals, I’m finally on track  – but I am sure that many of my peers would consider me not so successful. At the end of the day, if you’re growing in your own eyes, you’re on your way to success.

Your education doesn’t mean as much as you thought it would.

I was surprised that most people here in Dubai don’t know what Carnegie Mellon or Education City is. No one will treat you differently because of your education. It’s the quality of your work, your ability to learn new concepts and your dedication that will matter. Hopefully your university education has instilled those qualities in you. However, never try to define yourself as successful because you have a fancy college degree – your team at work couldn’t care less.

The Balancing act – a new challenge

Whenever you feel like the exciting parts of your life are over – think about the new challenges that lie ahead. Using your own salary to survive will make you appreciate how your parents built what they have. Paying your bills while still saving for the future will be hard. Thinking about how you want to proceed with your life, be it grad school, marriage etc will make you realize that the excitement in life is still there, it has just changed in form. Your future will only be as exciting as you imagine it to be. So stay positive.



Missing in Action

I know this blog appears to have died, but I promise I’ll get back to writing – primarily because I miss those friday mornings when I used to wake up early, get coffee and think of something amusing to write about. In the meanwhile, you can check out my study abroad blog at

Suspending Judgment: Bringing out the Anthropologist in Us

“The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.” – Ruth Benedict

My trip to Rwanda was so much more than service; I was able to learn a lot from this extraordinary society that had gone through so much and was now stronger than ever. The lessons that I learnt from simply observing were meaningful; and as I was talking to this McGill anthropology graduate student, I realized that I was an anthropologist in my own way. Jessika was a courageous person; she came to Rwanda all alone to study the effect of ICT in learning and the role the government can play in it. What makes her even more courageous was that she was completely uncertain of what the future would hold; she had not received a visa that gave her the license to do her study, she knew barely anyone in the country and more importantly, she was pursuing a career that did not guarantee her any kind of job security. Yet, she was visibly happy with what she was doing, and was a tremendous support to all of us.

During our conversation, she was telling me that the purpose of anthropology was bridging the gaps between “stereotypes and people”, which leads to explanations that can “open people’s eyes.” To do that, she has to firstly suspend any kind of judgment (which is probably the hardest thing to do!) and become a first hand observer.

Some of the names of the victims of Rwandan Genocide at the Memorial we visited. Photo by Joshua Debner

What she had taught just helped me articulate my thoughts on Rwanda. However, what I was unable to do was to suspend my judgment, as I was exposed to so much negative media about the African continent. The images of an underdeveloped, uncivilized and poverty stricken Africa is all i saw before visiting Rwanda. When I got there, I saw probably the best display of civility I have seen. The roads were very clean, and I had barely seen any kind of littering. Crime was almost non-existent and I felt very safe there. However, what completely astonished me was that the society was so ordered; people were busy doing their set tasks, and one could see that everyone on the streets had a purpose. The people were very friendly and well mannered, and everyone dealt with us very professionally. I think Pakistanis can learn a lot from the Rwandan People, particularly how they rose from the tragic genocide that appeared to have devastated the country irreparably.

Our global leaders need to do the same. When applying a certain policy and when dealing internationally, they need to suspend their judgments and make an effort to base these judgments on first hand interactions. This could in fact be a solution to world peace; because not only can we appreciate and understand differences, we realize the similarities in our humanities. If politicians were anthropologists, they could perhaps prevent wars that are based on human differences.

Anthropology could also enable learning; I myself have been wondering how there could be so much peace in a country that saw so much violence and devastation in he past. Pakistan is going through a similar phase, where it is not only battling with terrorism, but also suffering from inter-sect wars, which is probably our own version of the Hutu-Tutsi war. I wish to do more research into how this problem was possibly solved. Once I am done, I’ll be sure to dedicate a blog post on that.

“Six Quotes”: A lesson in Narrative

I’ve been trying to find ways to be a better blogger and my friends have been amazing  in giving me positive criticism and pointing out areas where I can improve. I’ve gone so far as to read a book “Blogging for Dummies” to help me find my niche in the blogosphere.

The day before yesterday, I was supposed to go for this session on interfaith dialog organized by Northwestern University but I don’t remember how I ended up going for my Dean’s farewell speech instead. In retrospect, I’m glad I did.

The reason why I thought the speech, “Six Quotes from Six Years in Qatar” was so inspiring had little to do with its content. Speeches about one’s memories, especially those spanning over 6 years, are often told chronologically, with major events being highlighted along the way. Such presentations, almost always lose the audience’s attention half way through the presentation, as they are presented with monotonous PowerPoint presentations along with their explanations.

This one was different. Each quote was so excitingly strange that the audience would anticipate how that specific quote would be so important for the dean to summarize such a long and fruitful tenure. My favorite quotation was the second one, “A4” (yes, just A4!). He talked about how the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Carnegie Mellon Qatar said that the biggest challenge they were facing while setting up the IT infrastructure in the yet to be opened Qatar Campus was adopting to the A4 size paper instead of the US 8” x 11.5” standard. From a superficial level, such an issue seems small – but when one is sending faxes back and forth, important texts ended up being cut off!. From this very trivial quote, the Dean managed to put his message across – that details matter. He also managed to put across the idea that we should take nothing for granted. From this he managed to call events where the people from US felt lost in this completely different culture and way of life as an “A4 Moment”.

Another thing that I liked about the Dean was that he never had this elitist attitude about him, and I felt like he really accepted the Qatari culture for what it is. It was obvious that he had not come to Qatar to Educate the Uneducated, but instead to cause a change so that Qatar could hold its values and move forward with them. As he aptly said

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

He will surely be missed in Qatar.



Updates on the Blog:

More on the happiness Series Soon: I’m thinking of doing either a Philosophy or a Theology piece on Happiness.

I am doing a roundtable on "Personal Branding” with regard to my blogging experience on Sunday as a part of CMU’s Professional Fluency Series! yay!

I also need a name for my blog. I’m really having a hard time choosing one. Your suggestions will be greatly appreciated (you may read the “About” page to get an idea about what my blog is about.


We woke up early in the morning extremely sleep deprived but excited to see all the different sights in NYC before we departed for Pittsburgh. We packed all our luggage, checked out of the hotel and headed off to a famous bagel shop somewhere near our hotel. This was the first bagel i’ve ever had, and even though i had heard a lot about them through american television, i couldn’t have imagined them being so good! even the variety of cheeses at the bagel shop was confusing. But what i did not get is how american people manage to walk fast, with a cup of coffee and a bagel in their hands. We tried doing that and ended up having a lot of accidents, especially fatima – she tends to be very ungraceful with food.

We then headed off to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, which was just a couple of blocks away. It was an interesting experience taking pictures with wax models of famous celebrities, politicians, historical figures etc. Some of the figures were better than others. For instance, the Beyonce one was just terrible as it was hard to figure out whether it was actually Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez.  Varun did a very funny social experiment. There was a placard saying “George Clooney” and an empty seat but no one was sitting there. He went and sat there for around 15 mins, completely still, like a statue and two people approached him:

Person 1: is that George clooney?

Person 2: No! it doesn’t look like him at all!

Person 1: Maybe it’s him when he was young.

I wasn’t there to witness it but we had several people testifying to this. Oh and we also song “Down” (Jay Sean) at the american idol karaoke stage. Simon Cowell said it was “It was extraordinary …. extraordinarily terrible”.

Soon, we were back on our feet walking from block to block trying to reach the Rockerfeller Center to go to the “Top of the Rock”. It was funny how a lot of us thought it would actually be a rock and it ended it up being a skyscraper ( i know it sounds really dumb). The view of NYC from there was amazing and we ended up taking some pretty awesome pictures from there. After our visit, we were short of time and were hence divided into people who wanted to go to central park and those who wanted to go to the really awesome Apple store right across the street from the park. I opted to go to the park, since its one of NYC’s signature locations. But before I get to that, I want to mention that I FINALLY got the Dwight bobblehead! Jill was actually getting annoyed by my keeping the group waiting as i stood in line to buy the bobblehead, but when she saw what i had bought, she totally agreed that it was worth the wait! And ofcourse, everyone agreed that i look like Dwight. Yeah, i know its not a compliment, but its still cool to have a celebrity lookalike.

Central Park was really nice, with the trees and grass covered with snow. I took a picture with this guy dressed up and painted as the statue of liberty, which was funny.

The most interesting thing that happened that day was when we were at this bridge at the park. There was this freelance photographer there, trying to capture the “human element of Central Park.” When he saw a group of Hijabis walking across central park, he thought a picture with them and the central park would be perfect. He therefore took several pictures with them, which was pretty cool in my opinion. I wonder if he ever sent them the picture as he promised. The guy was really nice though and I took a picture with him and his awesome camera (right).

Fast Forward – JFK airport, tons of security checks , delta flight to Pittsburgh.

We arrived at Pittsburgh airport and it looked extremely gloomy at that point of the night, a big change from the 24-hour lively NYC. I don’t really remember what we did that night; i guess we just crashed when we got to the hotel.