Life experiences

5 min read

Prologue

I am writing this, from my apartment, scared, and defiant, trying to adjust myself to the new realities of life and finding calm in the chaos. My brain still can’t handle the fact that we’ve been caught up, in-between what they call, once-in-a-century pandemic. Spanish flu, infamous as pandemic of twentieth century, infected one-third of the world’s population. And today, we are struck again by a novel virus.

Bill Gates — “The next outbreak? We’re not ready”

Interestingly, Bill Gates had warned us about an outbreak like this in one of his TED talks, dated April 3rd, 2015.

If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic

If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Now, part of the reason for this is that we’ve invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents. But we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.
The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola.


Ebola killed about 10,000 people that year,  and nearly all were in the three West African countries. Because of nature of the virus, it didn’t spread more. Ebola does not spread through the air. And by the time you’re contagious, most people are so sick that they’re bedridden. 


So next time, we might not be so lucky. You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market. The source of the virus could be a natural epidemic like Ebola, or it could be bioterrorism. So there are things that would literally make things a thousand times worse. 
In fact, let’s look at a model of a virus spread through the air, like the Spanish Flu back in 1918. So here’s what would happen: It would spread throughout the world very, very quickly. And you can see over 30 million people died from that epidemic. So this is a serious problem. We should be concerned. 


In fact, if there’s one positive thing that can come out of the Ebola epidemic, it’s that it can serve as an early warning, a wake-up call, to get ready. If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic. 

From Bill’s Ted talk

How bad is this?

Covid-19, a name rarely heard three months ago, is on the lips, and in the mind, of every living individual on the planet today. Coronavirus fear is deepening in our hearts, with each passing day, forcing us to reassess our priorities. The panic is real. The threat is real. I am waking up to new heart wrenching numbers every morning. The day isn’t far, when it would reach every nook and corner of the world. Soon, each one of us, may know at least one infected person. We could have contained it. But we didn’t. USA downplayed it. So did Italy, and Spain. Countries with 2003 outbreak scars, seemed to control it well — South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong — until cases started rising again.

As I type this, USA and Italy have surpassed China’s numbers, with Italy — “The China of Europe” — accounting for one-third of world’s Coronavirus death toll. It has only begun, far from done, pushing the world into a fresh recession, as bad, or worse than, 2008, and challenging & overwhelming world class healthcare system.
If this is the situation in developed countries, I can’t seem to think what would happen in India, for it scares the hell out of me. I suspect the official numbers may be vastly dwarfed by the actual numbers. 21 days lock down is only a beginning. After effects will be far worse, and daunting. The blog — Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now — says a lot of things, things one should know.

Coronavirus cases worldwide

We can mitigate it

Exploding number of cases is blowing whistles and raising alarm across the globe. It took 67 days to reach the first 100k, 11 days for the next 100k and 4 days for the next 100k. Before it becomes catastrophic, uncontrollable (are we already there?) and renders us into history — like World War – II, 9/11 — it needs to be taken very seriously. And for that, each one of us, have to play our part seriously, patiently, and wisely. One infected person can reignite the sparks in regions where we have successfully extinguished the fire.
We still don’t understand the virus enough. It took nearly twenty months to find a cure of less 2003 outbreak. We have got one chance of saving the humanity, going into flames, by doing nothing. Let’s not waste the opportunity. Do what a hero does in situations like these. Please stay home. World War – II and 9/11 have given us enough scars. We don’t need a third one.
As they say, nothing lasts forever. We will come out of this, stronger and better. It’s a war of resilience, more than the fittest.

Is technology making it worse?

The advancement in technology has greatly eased our lives. But it comes with side effects. Coronavirus originated from Wuhan, a province in China. Before we took it seriously, we had cases in every other country and territory in the world. We are more connected than ever. Cheaper air travel and change in how we run businesses, exposed us to greater risk of spreading the virus much much faster. The question is not, who or what to blame. The question is, how do make best use of the technology in our hands, while avoiding its side effects.

Coping up with stress and anxiety

News channels and social media, flooded with Coronavirus, are polluting air with distress. With all these around, the question is, how do we cope up with stress, anxiety and fear. Once a hypothesis has become a reality. What-if is shadowed by Now-what.

I’ve been staying at home since March 20th, have stepped outside for groceries only twice for short while. I am writing, playing Piano and reconnecting with people I lost touch with. Most of the conversation I have over audio/video calls, revolves around the pandemic. I am trying hard to hold my sanity altogether — to not allow my mind to wander in distress. I am keeping my hope up — the darkness will clear up, and the sun will shine again.

Coronavirus is giving you a gift,
The gift of time —
To rekindle relationships,
To spend time with your loved ones,
To read a book,
To reflect on your priorities,
To realize there are far more important things in life than money —
A gift of self realization.
Use it before it’s gone.

How are you coping up with the situation? Let’s share and stay strong. This too, shall pass.

Copyright © 2020, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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3 min read

Years, lovers and glasses of wine must never be counted

Another year has passed. My quest to seek the meaning of life and true source of happiness continues. A question oftentimes pop up my mind, what would you do if you get a chance to design your life the way you want. Would you still choose to do the same work? Would you prefer more friends or solitude? Who would you want to wake beside to? Would you stop chasing money and start earning experiences instead? Possibilities are endless.

I wish life had a pause button so that I could enjoy precious moments longer. It has been said that when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to make it true. I wonder why it never works with me.

If I paint the picture of 2019 highlights, it would be rendered quite vivid and colorful. 5 countries, few photography accolades (invited for guest talk at photography exhibition and others) and encounter with a sweet girl.
Experiencing coldest day of my life, -13 degrees Celsius in the Swiss Alps and much awaited family vacation after 16 long years were icing on the cake.

However, there weren’t only sunshine and roses. I had my own share of rains and thorns too. There was a time when my life became directionless. I didn’t enjoy the work like I did before. The girl I was talking to vanished. Photography didn’t fascinate me anymore. There was nothing much to look forward to. I vividly remember spending days staring at the ceiling of my room doing nothing. These are the kind of days when you contemplate on missing aspects of life, chances you took, opportunities you missed, decisions you regret, people you lost, moments you wish to relive, successes, failures, so on and so forth.

Here is a list of 21 things I learned in 2019:

  1. People always leave
  2. You don’t find excellence. You build it and then it takes you places
  3. Financial knowledge is something you can’t ignore. You are gonna need it at some point in life. And when you do, you would regret how much you have already lost
  4. Sometimes you give your best and yet you fail
  5. Things can go well when you least expect it
  6. Sooner or later you succeed. You just need to keep trying
  7. Some things in life are inevitable. You can’t change them no matter how hard you try. But you can always prepare to minimize surprises
  8. Never lose people who were with you in the dark times. That’s when you know their true colors
  9. Life of chances always trumps life with regrets. Wear confidence, take calculated risks and be expressive. Had I done it 5 years ago, my life would have been different
  10. Trust is a rare thing in this world. Truth is, people who harm you are the ones you put most of your trust in. They change and so do their behavior towards you
  11. If you have a secret, don’t tell anyone
  12. You can be a nice guy and yet lose the girl
  13. When you feel left out, there is always a community out there you can connect to
  14. You always sacrifice one thing at the expense of other. It’s a zero sum game
  15. You are human. You can’t work with the same efficiency all the time. But people would expect you to
  16. Sometimes you don’t measure up to your own past performances
  17. Family trips are awesome. You should do it whenever you get the chance
  18. Buy only what you need
  19. Car is not an investment. It’s an expense at the cost of comfort and luxury
  20. Family, friends, work, hobbies — You get to choose any three
  21. Life rarely unfolds the way you plan and anticipate

Happy new year! And remember, Years, Lovers and Glasses of wine… these are the things never to be counted.

Copyright © 2019, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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3 min readFew years ago, a personality test revealed that I am an INFJ, the rarest of 16 personality types that exist in this world. Most of the time I was in senses, I used to ponder on why my brain is wired differently from the people I hang out with. Words that describe me are conscientious, determined, organized, planful, creative, thoughtful, introspective, value-driven, private and altruistic.

  1. I don’t quit. I work on my growth relentlessly until I achieve the goal I have in mind. I am my biggest critic. I always have a burning desire to achieve more. For me, it’s never enough. I have a purpose in life — To become better in my abilities and sharpen my skills with each passing day and I strive to make it happen no matter how long it takes.
  2. I choose friends carefully. I have few friends whom I trust. I don’t regret it. Less people I sit with, less bullshit I would have to deal with. And this gives room to pursue my hobbies and expand my horizon in personal development.
  3. More than people, I find solace in solitude and art. Be it writing or playing piano or do photography. But I also find it torturous to spend long time alone.
  4. I don’t share my knowledge in person unless asked. Instead my curious mind often comes up with zillion of questions for the problem the other person discusses. And sometimes, it helps them out. My contribution to the Tech community (GeeksforGeeks) is pure altruism.
  5. I give time to people who are worth my time and energy. Selfish, self absorbed, judgemental and negative people turn me off. I prefer to spend time on my hobbies instead.
  6. I am an easy going person because of good listen quotient and great understanding nature. I have been seen from many people at work as a great team player. Rarely have I met someone who didn’t enjoy a face to face conversation with me. From English literature to urdu poems, from politics to fantasy, from finance to technology. I can talk it all except sports. I don’t very much like talking about politics with serious people. I have seen it turning relationships sour.
  7. I choose who to travel with. Good companions make amazing trips.
  8. I walk out of an argument when it’s getting worse and not going anywhere. I cut off people when they sound judgemental and make comments unless they know me personally. It makes people think of me as a rude and arrogant person.
  9. I take constructive criticism very seriously and use it in my benefit. It has helped me in every aspect of personal and professional development in life so far.
  10. I am on open book if you know how to read well. Otherwise I might be the greatest mystery.
  11. Precaution is better than cure. I try my best preparing for a situation before it disturbs my calm mind and sleep. I like plans and value punctuality. I tend to be more of a meticulous person than a spontaneous one. My brain works like a decision tree and it likes to ponder on the various possible outcomes of a decision and decisions of that decision.
  12. I appreciate talent. You might not be the greatest pianist in the world. But if you play good, I feel fortunate to know you in person.
  13. I care for people I am close with. I usually put thoughts and conscience before saying something.
  14. I am fascinated by high quality things — Good food, nice cloths, great ambiance. I appreciate beauty and craftsmanship. I might disagree that looks don’t matter to me. But that would be a lie. I like beauty around me. Minimalistic by nature, I prefer to dine at finer restaurants twice a week than chilling out in below average eateries every alternate day.
  15. I am quite social and often come out as charming. I make friends instantly when they share some mutual interest.

What is your personality type? Have you tried rewiring your brain to improve it?

I am working on #8 and hope to come out of it soon.

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2 min readThe hobby I stuck longest to in life is writing. The very first piece I penned was in 2002. A story narrated in the form of poem, of a goat and fox in a Zootopia type environment where animals lived in harmony. That was so much liked by my teacher that I was asked to read it in front of whole school in the morning assembly.
Writing is a craft that requires years of patience and honing. Even after one and a half decade of efforts into it, I feel lacking many aspects and there are times when my words are inadequate to best describe the intensity of situation I find myself in. One of the biggest mysteries I’m yet to unravel is, how do I not write myself into one of my characters. My mind keeps pondering on never ending questions. The more I dig deep, the more questions I am left with. How do I know my writing is good enough? What I am so profound of one night, I throw away the next morning. Even my mind is so shaky.
I write a lot and delete a lot. Many nights I have spent, lost in thoughts of an intriguing plot. Surroundings inspire me. I keep my eyes and ears open to pick slightest of hint. I often try to walk in shoes of others to understand their situation, to feel what they feel in the hope that the character I am working on would be more developed and mature this way.

I need to master the art of blowing words to silence. I need to be excellent at walking into the imaginary scene and painting its perfect picture through my writing. In my pursuit of answers, I have been following work of great writers. What is it about their writings that made them great? What is the secret ingredient to keep a reader hooked till the end? How much detail should I capture with my words to bring a character into life?

In this journey of blowing words to my imaginations, thoughts and emotions, I’ve slowly blended into a character I never intended to. My self has transformed into a more compassionate, empathetic and patient soul. I understand things better than ever. And I’ve not walked very far from where I started. There is a long way to go. I wonder what this path holds for me. When an average human bleeds, all you see is red. When a writer bleeds, an astouding piece of work sees the light of the day. I’m ready to bleed as long as I can, as much as I can. I don’t know if I would succeed. I am unsure if it would work. What I know for sure is that not every stone thrown fetches a fruit. But don’t you throw a second stone if the first fails?

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12 min read

Vampires, we’re. Bright screens are our sun. In broad daylight, we love to stare at the geeky characters under shiny roofs. Caffeine is our rescue, in times of exhaustion.

Before I begin with my journey at Microsoft, let me tell you that the views and opinions expressed are completely mine. Please bear with me, as I speak, for my style is pretty inconsistent. Drowned in the pool of experiences, I am reinventing myself while writing all this. This post is bit long even for me. After all, squeezing 5 years of experience is difficult to fit in one blog. Go and grab a cup of coffee. I will wait.

Where do I start? Sticking to one place is no joke and I don’t expect anyone to stay this long, unless they are really happy. My chase for money faded away long ago and work contentment, for me, has been the driving force ever since holding the utmost importance in this agile Tech world.

When you reach the stage where you can afford all the food you want, all the travel, the cars, and the entertainment, you want, what else is remaining? It becomes a never ending battle to reach to the top. A rat race, I would say. A wise man once said, “Save nothing but experiences”. If not, you would end up having all the materialistic pleasures, but your life would be wrapped up in emptiness. It would lack the sense of fulfillment you seek. While slogging away in the name of money, a day will come when you’re gonna ask yourself, “Was this all worth it?”

It doesn’t seem long back when I set foot in the Microsoft campus. But when I look back over the years I spent here, I oftentimes, get overwhelmed. Microsoft, as a company, what has always seemed to me, is a great place to work at, while leaving my imprints across the globe as billions of users get to use its products.

My fascination for Microsoft products goes back to as early as 2002. In those Windows 98 days, we used to have sixty minutes of computer class once a week with one PC being shared between a class of ten students. I used to wait passionately for just 5 minutes of my hands on the PC.

May 2009 – When it all started

Memories of the tough time and the difficult decision while joining Graduation college are as fresh as morning dew. 2008 recession had plagued the software industry and associated opportunities adversely. The sheer fear of decreasing market demand of software engineers had panicked young blood to not pursue engineering in Computer Science. Despite the risk involved in those times and an admission in not so famous university, my passion & optimistic mind entwined their wings and somehow worked together, and here I am, penning half decade of my experience at Microsoft, in astonishment and all flabbergasted.

July 15, 2013

Fresh blood joins. All the vampires rejoice.

5 years it’s been and it feels like it were only yesterday, when I wandered the corridors of the humongous campus for the first time. Days bled off into years. I have seen people come. I have seen people leave. Life moves on. Everyone is replaceable. The higher, one is at the management hierarchy, lesser is the tolerance for mistakes.

The time I joined Microsoft, peers around me were celebrating 5 years of completion and I had one naive question — “How come they never thought of a switch?”. Spending long time at one place is quite a thing, and more than the place, it tells a lot about the person — Happiness, Patience, and sometimes they just let life go with the flow. Well, for me, it never really occurred to me that there is a world outside Microsoft that also builds awesome products and has huge user base. Having worked on world class products like Microsoft Excel and its underlying complex architecture, I feel my existence in this universe is making a mark upon people changing their lives through technology.

In this short span of time, I got to work on 6 version-1 projects each having different complexity and its own problem space. The journey has culminated in a great experience, adding a check to my learning curve at every stage.

The world of flow-charts and diagrams – Office Visio

My career started as SDET in Visio team, a part of Microsoft Office division. It was embarrassing that I was going to work on something I never heard of. Visio is an enterprise software not so famous among students. It captures a huge market for clients looking forward to create flow charts and diagrams. In a nutshell, it is something that simplifies tens of millions of human life. As a test engineer, I designed test suites and wrote automation for various features to make sure the regressions are caught early and help stabilise the product.

January, 2014

K2 phase: It’s Android baby

When I had a feeling that I have learnt enough that would help fasten my deliverable, a reorg happened and devalued most of the things that I worked upon. As they say, only skills acquired through the process matters in the long run, skills to understand and solve a problem. New team and new manager, it was a tabula rasa. Satya’s vision to focus on mobile and services landed me in Android team. Familiar environment and some prior experience, starting was as smooth as butter. Nightmares begun when I was assigned a problem to apply effects on an image. The office codebase is huge, medieval and it’s an ocean if you don’t know where to start. I still remember those hard moments when I was just looking through the code to pick hints, searching keywords like pImage, IImage in the hope that at least the naming convention would lead me somewhere. It was one of the fastest paced project and I was (un)lucky to be a part of it. Learning was great and sleeps were compromised. My team owned low level Graphics rendering stuffs, everything that you see on screen.

20150710_014510

It was an exhilarating roller coaster ride as I had never worked on a project of that urgency before. K2 is the second most dangerous mountain to climb and so was this project. Satya’s leadership and his vision for the company was as clear as a bell. We didn’t want to box ourselves in the Windows world. This was a big leap from our past rusted thinking and it was the beginning of reinventing the company. In Satya’s words, we needed to Hit Refresh. Even if we lost the war in Mobile Operating System, Microsoft could make a mark by releasing products on other platforms. SaaS (Software as a Service) was on the top of mind and Microsoft wasn’t behind. But to truly unlock its potential, we needed to annihilate the platform barrier. The world was transitioning at steep pace and the way users used the computing devices was reshaping. Desktop PCs and laptops were no more in trend and to succeed as a company, users needed to feel connected wherever they go. What is the benefit of all those technologies when users can’t edit a document on mobile while going to office and resume on laptop? Delaying this project could have been catastrophic. Decisions are good as long as they are taken at right time.

The idea of Shared code had always fascinated me and I got a chance to see how it works. The biggest challenge of developing apps on Android was device fragmentation. Apps you build might work like a charm on one device, while it might be completely screwed up on others. This project literally boosted my confidence as I was really quick when it came to building something on Android. It was an honor to be recognized as Subject Matter Expert. When I got empty hours, I contributed to Android community on StackOverflow and earned many medals. As of now, I hold 12 gold, 48 silver and 89 bronze medals.

July, 2015

Apple, A costly affair

Satya’s vision for efficient engineering annihilated the concept of tester & developer and rendered everyone a Software Engineer. I moved to Graphics team for iOS where I made core design changes and wrote code to be shared across various apps cross platform. The biggest challenge was to think of design that could sail well across multiple platforms and apps. Making changes at such a lower level was risky, heart throbbing and required solid understanding. Tolerance for mistakes was minuscule and the impact was so huge that making even a small mistake had big ripple effects breaking many features across the apps. Some of the nasty bugs gave me nightmares. It becomes worse when you have to fix the bug overnight and when you do it, you get response on the top of your fix mentioning that your change would be impacting twenty millions customers. Even 1 millisecond of performance regression raised eyebrows asking critical questions related to the design and the solution. I have learnt that this is part of life and as long as the learning curve is steep, things would just work fine. It has taught me the skill to never give up. Perseverance and grit are great virtues to survive in this industry.

Before the release of K2, shared code was a myth. As much fantastic as it may sound when discussed, it was practically not possible given the platform differences, language barrier at different end points and the engineering cost involved to bring the complex humongous codebase together. With the release of WXP on Android, we proved it to be doable and sealed it after moving iOS codebase to the same shared codebase.

Having got familiarized with both Android and iOS, I must say that I would choose Android over iOS any time of the day both as a developer and a user. Apple’s developer tool XCode hangs and crashes every now and then and sucks. Things that can be achieved in a straight forward way in Android can be pain when it comes to iOS.

October, 2016

Recalc or Die – Excel

About 30 years ago in a place far, far away, when C++ was still in diapers, Microsoft Excel was born. We even shipped Excel on floppy. We didn’t have much of C++ that time. So we wrote our own wrappers.

Shared rendering was over and I moved to Excel iOS team where I worked on Excel rendering component. Excel is one of the most complex projects and there are dozens of layers of architecture. Few of the bugs literally drove me crazy. I remember frying neurons of my brain for days without a clue on where in the code the problem might be. Some bugs were in the Apple library itself.

March, 2017

Excel on Mac

Another year, another project. Some familiarity with how Excel works, at least a part of it, landed me into another Excel endpoint. This time, it was Mac. It was way more complex than iOS. The quality was super important, for most of the people with big names use Mac, all of them being paid customers. A simple screw up could motivate one of the journalists to write and given how powerful social media are these days, it could have gone viral in no time. We did get good detailed feedback from a NASA scientist which reemphasized the impact we had been making.

February, 2018

SharePoint

While working on Excel and rendering technologies was fascinating because of the huge mass reach, lack of opportunities to add much design and code in Excel troubled me. The Data Structures and design used were fascinating. But they were written in 90s. Another good thing was that I never had to explain Excel to anyone. I remember meeting a college friend in Seattle who was widely surprised when I mentioned that we are fixing bugs in Excel. She always thought Excel to be super stable.

My restless mind, always looking forward to swim out of comfort zone to try and learn new things, found its medicine when a new SharePoint team in IDC was formed. I never realised the sheer potential of SharePoint until I started working on it. New technologies & tools, two decades old product, unknown territory, ownership of core components and never ending challenges, I couldn’t have asked for more.

As I reminisce my time here, I worked with 6 managers in 6 different projects. Lots of learning, challenges, obsession to achieve the best and never ending work. The journey has been no less than a roller coaster. I have sailed unfamiliar ships to unknown territories. I wrote and debugged code in more than ten languages (C, C++, Java, C#, Objecttive C/C++, Javascript, Typescript, Python etc).

Normal days at Microsoft

If you wonder how normal days as a Software Engineer at Microsoft look like, well it can be summarized something like:

  • You get a feature and are asked to come up with a design and various approaches to develop this.
  • You discuss various pros and cons and why one approach should be preferred over others.
  • You write code to develop the functionality. If the code is not shared, Bingo! your life just got easier. If it is shared across apps and platforms , you have to make sure it doesn’t regress anything. There are tons of test cases your code must pass.
  • If you get a bug due to your code and it is hi-pri, a hot mail thread starts overnight stating it impacted ‘X’ millions of customers.
  • If you get a bug not related to your code, well happy debugging. There are tens of millions of lines of code and you don’t have slightest of clue in what layer of architecture, the issue might be. I remember debugging a bug for 8 continuous days and at the end, I found that it was a race condition issue. The bug reproduced every once in 30-40 attempts.
  • Your code performance is super critical. I remember being part of a burning mail thread once because my code regressed the performance by 1 millisecond. I couldn’t see the difference manually as 1 millisecond is something your eyes can’t perceive.
  • You think you’re smart. Well think again. There are smarter people talking to whom is so much fun. You are stuck debugging an issue for 2 days. You don’t see anything working. You are pissed off. You send a mail to the people asking for help. They read your issue on phone, respond with a fix and it works.

In a nutshell, the emphasis is more on reading and understanding code than writing a new one. If you can’t understand well what is written, how are you going to modify it? This varies from team to team. Since office was released in medieval time when C++ was still in diapers, making changes in the code becomes a bit difficult, especially when you are making changes to an existing feature.
Microsoft is full of smart people. You can learn something from almost everyone.

Why I chose to stay at Microsoft?

There were many times I thought of a switch. The thing that always seemed to hold me was the thought that I would be doing the same kind of work that I am doing here. Besides, I am happy here, living life as I always wanted, trying out different things, exploring the world around me and pursuing my hobbies one after the other.

While we’re busy in earning money, life is busy in deducting time

If you ask me if I’m happy with the salary I get here. I would probably say, Yes. And I will shortly explain why. Pay is decent, but it is lesser than what competitive companies offer. Many of my friends have switched to other companies for higher pay. There was hardly a day in my 60 months of career at Microsoft that forced me to think of a switch, because of following reasons:

Work-life balance

The best thing I like about Microsoft is the work-life balance. The timings are flexible. If you get a good manager who knows how to handle pressure well, you won’t have to work overnight unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Company culture and vision

At Microsoft, we strive to build products that amaze customers within thirty seconds of usage. If we fail to wow them, we lose them for life. That’s the underlying principle behind every Office product. Productivity and efficiency are taken very seriously. Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference.

Pursue hobbies

I chose to stay at Microsoft because while working here, I can pursue my hobbies. You get plenty of time for things you want to do. I travel, do fashion and landscape photoshoot, play piano and write blogs, all while writing code in week days.

Money is a good servant but a bad master

The money I earn here is enough to survive and buy things of interest. If I would earn more money, I would buy bigger car or dine in more luxurious restaurants. The standard of living will improve. But the question is, how far are you willing to go for the sake of money. Run for money never ends. Having lived my fair share of life, I realized that life should be made up of moments. As long as you are happy with what you have, you are living a good life. With more money, comes more responsibility. Yes, there are times when I regret not being able to afford a Grand Piano, but I can settle with a smaller version of it.

Brand value

Although Microsoft pays lesser than few startups, I love it. My granddad proudly says that his grandson works at Microsoft. Microsoft is one of few companies that has survived four decades while staying relevant. People are still crazy about it.

Impact

Products that I work on are used by billions of people. I can say that the part of picture manipulation code in Word/Excel/PowerPoint has been written by me. This kind of huge impact can only be felt by working at some of the biggies like Google and Facebook.

Hit Refresh

When Satya Nadella took over, the change was visible sooner than we had anticipated. The company was at the cusp of transformation and is going through a significant transition phase as we speak. It’s not just a Windows company anymore. The focus has gradually shifted to its mobile first, cloud first business. The reason is simple. With so many technological advancements and automated home & car systems generating a lot of data, the humongous data has to be stored somewhere. 90% of the world’s data has been generated over last two years. Microsoft is pushing hard to make a dent through providing cloud services and thereby, stay relevant.

Microsoft is in right hands. Its stocks are soaring all time high. Investors have confidence and they’re betting in its bright future. It’s far from pinnacle of success and there is a long way to go. But I believe in the company’s vision. And as an employee, it’s a great feeling and amazing place to be at, while being part of the major transformation. I can either watch it happen or be a part of it. Well, the former doesn’t excite me enough.

You might like my other posts along the same line:

Journey of a boy from small town to Microsoft – An untold story Part 1

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal, All rights reserved.
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4 min readI never ceased to marvel at the astounding beauty of the nature. Of all the wonders in the world, night sky intrigues me the most, for it obscures the path I walk on, yet it shows me the reason to do so. That’s life, isn’t it?

Stars and milky way have fascinated me since I gazed the sky the first time. As a child, I always fantasized about far away untouched lands, bright night skies and galaxies millions of light years away. The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart. Night skies, as dark and gloomy as they may sound, reminds me of the pleasing childhood routine to lie down on the roof and gaze the stars, slowly drifting in space at the peak of night until I fell asleep. The time when gadgets were less and skies used to be darker. I must say I found that curious child in me again in these cold dark winter nights.

Continue reading The wonders of night sky – Part 1

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2 min readIt’s been a long time since I penned my last post. Few incidents in life wound you so deep that take lifetime to recover. The pain goes away. But the scar remains. And that’s what hurts the most. You are not YOU. Things aren’t the same. The coffee shop you loved stepping into, become your reason of mood swings overnight. All it takes a moment to tear your precious small world apart.

I travel because it reminds me that nothing in life holds permanence. One who is very close to you today might not be tomorrow. Life is a journey. You meet someone. strike a conversation, drink a peg or two, laugh and fall in love unknowingly. You see, falling in love is very easy. It happens at the speed of lightning. You don’t think much. You know why heart breaks are so painful? Simply because you think you are the luckiest. Thousands of unlucky people you have read about, yet you think your love is for life. And one day, she leaves you, with her wonderful memories.

Travel has enlightened me that I ain’t alone. There are many unlucky souls wandering in the beautiful world with their rusty heart.

I travel because there are memories I don’t wanna live with. I travel in the hope to reset my brain cells which home those memories. Each travel rejuvenates me with new positive energy to help me become a better individual and a more compassionate person. Meeting strangers and acquaintances on the way and listening their stories helps me forget mine.

I travel to feel alive, to see the unseen, to hear the unheard and meet noone whose story holds no value, yet it feels so connected. I travel to stumble upon another me, to share my happy moments, to share my grief, to talk about her. And it all starts with, “About her? Where do I start? I haven’t known a more perfect person in my life. She is crazy. The weather changes and the flowers bloom wherever she goes. She has the power to awaken the deadliest of souls and blow into them a purpose to live. Meeting her would make you realise that you reached the unreachable, achieved the unachievable and fathomed the unfathomable. You feel strong and weak at the same time. You know love to be the deadliest of all weapons, yet you don’t hesitate to put your neck under it. That’s her.”.

Farewell! Until we meet again.

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal, All rights reserved.
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2 min readI knew this was coming. But I wasn’t really prepared for it.

It was a happy jolly day in office. It was then I got to know from you. That’s how life is. When you are at the peak of happy moments, it drags you full down, reminding you that life can’t be pretty all the time.

My productivity dipped to zero. Absolute zero. I couldn’t think of anything. I was submerged in memories of our conversations in the past. Surrounded by Dementors in the broad daylight, I was being sucked of my sane and happiness.

You know since our very first conversation, I have liked only you. I don’t think I talked that many things with anyone else as I talked with you.

You had asked, “BTW, do you have something new to tell? Please say you have something new”.

Well, how could I have. The news you broke had shattered every bit of my sane mind. Things I was planning, suddenly seemed to hold no value at all. The distress was creeping inside me like hell, drowning me into the pool of sadness. I was like a pirate who had lost the most prized possession of his life.

I wished it to be one of those bad dreams, which when you wake up, you thank god that it wasn’t real. But as we know, real is different from the reel. And reality hurts, a lot. In the reel, the hero either gets his angel or steals away the show by hiding his pain under the hood of smile with finesse. I guess I ain’t an expert in either of the two.

I don’t think I would ever meet a girl like you in my life. You weren’t just a pretty face. You had a class, and panache. You were everything I dreamed of in my to-be-partner. To me, you were just perfect.

I will miss you S. Stay happy, wherever you are. You have lots of potential. I think I have already told you this many times, haven’t I?

There are many things I want to say. But my mind has stopped coordinating with the lips. Let those words unsaid. And those stories veiled.

Farewell!

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal, All rights reserved.
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4 min read

Success is a subjective term. I believe every step you take towards reaching your goal, is success. Once you reach a goal, you set a bigger goal. That’s the way life is.

Here are few things that work for me:

Starve distractions and Stay focused

Ask any wo/man who has succeeded in life and s/he will tell you that one of the most important ingredient was sharp focus. Distractions are anti-catalysts in the journey of success. Study says that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after a distraction. A lot of context switches while you are doing something important , affects productivity. Put your phone on silent and try not to look at phone for notifications. Avoid using social media while you are at work. The best solution is to make a habit of checking notifications or messages twice a day.

Choose a hero to look up to

In the life of every person, there is someone who (s)he looks up to. It is the human psychology. We tend to choose a hero whom we appreciate. Why? The reason is obvious. Sometimes, we love the way our hero lives. Sometimes, it is his popularity. Sometimes, it is just because his dreams were what ours is now. He kept on improving each day, each week until one morning he became what he always wanted. And we start seeing the perfect version of ourselves in him. Each time we come across his story and picture, our inner self echoes, “Yes, this is who I would like to be one day”. But just choosing a hero is sufficient? No. The detailed reason is here: Choose your hero, but…

Set smaller goals

Big goals can sometimes be frustrating and frightening. Break them down into smaller steps and work towards them. Not only it will help you with better planning, it will also change your psychology that it is do-able. For example, instead of setting a goal to reduce 50 pounds in a year, strive for 4 pounds a month. Or better, a pound per week.

Choose your company wisely

Be in company of positive minded people. It has been said that you are the average of five people you spend most time with. To succeed, your mind needs to be full of positive vibes.

Don’t be afraid of failures

After failing thousand times, Thomas Edison said, “I didn’t fail. I know thousand ways in which a bulb can’t be made”.

Success is a journey where you just have to be right once. It’s a long process and it requires patience, perseverance, sharp focus and dedication.

Learn from your mistakes

It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Make a mistake once, and it becomes a lesson. Make the same mistake twice, and it becomes a choice.

Get to know why are you doing this (Passion)

Last night I was watching a movie on the life of dancer. Her mentor asked her, “Tell me, why do you dance?” The answer was important for her success, simply because it defined her passion. She had the passion of a bullet. Passion keeps you going no matter how difficult the path is.

Get great mentors

Being in touch with great mentors helps to streamline your vision and get guidance in right direction. I was fortunate to have mentors like Sandeep (GFG Founder), Venki (GFG moderator) and Narasimha Karumanchi, especially Venki with whom I used to discuss technical problems for hours.

If you like this, you might my other posts in Hack your life Archives

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

 

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2 min readIt was a lazy evening. I had Quora opened on my cellphone, Fringe on my big monitor and an article about Elon Musk on laptop. Something was not right. A cold feeling of void was crawling inside me. With Valentine’s Day shy of less than 2 weeks and seeing happy couples all around, I was thinking all over again. If you are wondering, let me unveil that it wasn’t the first time.

It might sound weird. But I ain’t quite fond of very big changes in life. I very well remember an incident from my childhood. I was at my dad’s clinic in late noon and my eyes fell on an envelope lying on the desk. Out of curiosity, I pulled it quietly and tore open. There was a letter inside, with my name from a school I never heard of. And followed the details of all the facilities and academics which were not of my interest. My eyes grew wide in fear. I didn’t want to leave home. You see, it was a big change for me. And I didn’t like it. Albeit I have grown to be an adult, my fear has not gone away.

I think this is the exact reason why I stayed at Microsoft for this long. Yes, the culture, work life balance, people, familiar faces, all are valid reasons. But for me, it’s that big change I want to avoid.

Arrange marriage scares me to hell. Marriage itself is a big change. But if you get to marry someone you know for relatively longer time, it’s kinda comforting. Afraid to say, I am running out of time set by my mom to find a girl of my choice. And that is worrisome. I always thought that this is not a great deal. I must say, I underestimated it deeply.

Will I ever learn to embrace big change with open arms? Let time be the judge of that. Till then, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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