Monday, 26 March 2012

Student from a Pakistani University lands job at Microsoft Corporation

Muhammad Abdur Rauf has been hired by Microsoft as a Software Development Engineer. PHOTO: Courtesy LUMS.

KARACHI: “One should pursue a career in a subject that interests them and that they are in love with. Success will follow,” says Muhammad Abdur Rauf – a talented 21-year-old student from Lahore who has recently landed an enviable job at the Microsoft Corporation… before completing his bachelor’s degree in computer science.

A computer science major at the Lahore University of Management Science’s (LUMS) School of Science and Engineering, Rauf was recently hired by Microsoft as a Software Development Engineer. Rauf’s new job will require him to use his skills testing computer programmes and software for technical faults, or ‘bugs’ as they are more commonly referred to.

It was, however, only after a rigorous hiring process that Rauf secured a place at Microsoft. He applied for the opening through the company’s website in December last year, and was interviewed over the phone by representatives in February. According to the LUMS website, he was then asked to travel to Dubai – all expenses paid – where he gave four technical interviews during which his previous projects were scrutinised and discussed in detail. He was also asked to solve algorithms and do programmed coding. In his last interview, he was given a coding problem which he was asked to debug. After an exceptional performance, Microsoft offered him a job. He soon accepted. He will be required to report to the company’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington on October 1, 2012.

Rauf says that one winning strategy that enabled him to succeed was his in-depth research about his employer, prior to his job application. He had been told that a team from Microsoft’s Dubai division will interview him. As preparation, he says that he studied a research paper of the very team that was to interview him. “I wanted to understand how they work and what their specific interests are,” he says.

In the past, Rauf has freelanced for some local and international companies. He also has experience in developing software applications for Android-powered devices.

Born in Bahawalnagar, Rauf has lived most of his life in Lahore. There, he attended The Trust School and completed his FSc from the Government College Lahore before he was admitted to LUMS.

Rauf does not come from an affluent family; his father is a civil servant. Keeping his limitations in mind, Rauf applied for LUMS’ National Outreach Program – a need and merit based scholarship. Deemed to be a deserving candidate, he was soon admitted in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS.

“However, after taking a few courses in humanities and social sciences, I realised that these were not my cup of tea,” he says. “I switched to the computer science major because I had prior interest in the subject”.

As evidenced, Rauf has done well in the subject of his choosing; he also works as a research associate in the computer sciences department. His research interest is in programming languages.

When asked if he ever thought about what he’ll do after landing a dream job, he says: “this is just the beginning! I want some experience working there, and then I want to think about higher studies in a specialised field.”

His advice to his compatriots? Students should not be afraid to fail; they should learn instead to face adversity and handle it to the best of their ability. After identifying one’s interest, Rauf says, one should stay focused and move in a direction that helps them achieve their goals.

“Success didn’t just knock on my door one fine day,” he says.

I dream of a day!

This dream is not what we see when we are asleep
This deam is what keeps us awake all night.
If we were to stand as one, all our goals would finally be in sight.
Let us keep our differences aside, Let us all finally unite.

-Hammad Suriya

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Students paint world's largest canvas

On the momentous occasion of Pakistan Day, around 1300 ambitious youth attempted to set a new world record of painting the largest canvas in the world at Lahore's National Hockey Stadium. Consuming 3500 litres of paint, 206 teams of volunteers participated in the great event organized by the Message Welfare Trust to paint a mosaic representation of the Pakistan Flag. Some 41,865 square feet of canvas were colored green and white in a record time of five hours and forty minutes, breaking an earlier record set in Nigeria spanning 7 hours. Results have been sent to Guinness World Records.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

For the first time, Pakistani to compete in the world’s toughest marathon

Busy in training, Ziyad Rahim takes part in race after race ahead of the gruelling 150 miles (250 km) Marathon des Sables or the Marathon of the Sands at the Sahara Desert. PHOTO: THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE 
ISLAMABAD: Six days, 150km. Through the Sahara desert, supplies for the journey strapped to their backs, competitors run 150km in the appropriately titled Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands).

Marathon des Sables (MdS), held annually in Southern Morocco, is the toughest marathon in the world where the lives of at least two competitors have been lost in the past. Another Italian runner lost his way during a sandstorm in 1994 and wandered for nine days, losing 13kg.

For the first time, a Pakistani based in Qatar, Ziyad Rahim, will take on the challenging race.

Rahim, 38, is originally from Lahore and is currently working for Barwa Bank in Qatar.

“I have competed in over 70 long distance events in 20 odd countries and five continents,” Rahim said while talking to The Express Tribuneover the phone, a day before leaving for the Antarctica Marathon — a 42km race set in King Edward Island, a peninsula just off Antarctica beginning March 6.

“These are two totally opposite and extreme conditions. The MdS is held under extremely hot conditions with temperatures averaging 50 Celsius in the desert and Antarctica being as cold as it is, it isn’t really humanly suitable,” said Rahim. “I am sure nobody’s ever done this before,” he added.

Following des Sables, Rahim hopes to become the first Pakistani to have run a marathon in all seven continents by competing in New Zealand later this year.

Though the adrenaline junkie adventurous athlete runs out of passion, his athleticism isn’t without a cause. With every race, he aims to raise funds for medical and scientific research.

This year, a part of his entry fee and all proceeds from MdS will go to the cure for Noma — a gangrenous disease leading to tissue destruction of the face especially those in the mouth and cheek. Noma has affected over half a million people, with 140,000 new cases reported each year according to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Mostly children below the age of 12, in the poorest countries of Africa and some parts of Asia and South America are its victims. According to WHO, about 80-90% of Noma victims die.

Fully supported by his employers, Rahim intends to raise a large fund for sending medical teams to treat Noma patients by performing reconstructive surgery.

“I also intend to contribute towards fundraising for charity in Pakistan, but organisations there have yet to respond to my emails,” he said, adding that he will continue his efforts to reach them.

Training for the challenging MdS, Rahim has gone at it tenaciously and determinedly, running races in Colombo, Amman, Aqaba, Beirut, Reggio Emelia, Pisa and Dubai in the space of three months as preparation for des Sables. His final two races will be the 72K Wadi Bhi in Oman, and the Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania.

As part of the des Sables, Rahim would have to carry in his personal belongings, a sleeping bag, headlamp, distress flare, survival knife, portable stove and an anti-venom kit, but he believes “living in Qatar would give me an advantage over many others.”

Published in The Express Tribune.

A sign of the times: Pakistan’s first online art magazine makes a scene

William Lawrie, an Islamic Art specialist, flew in from Dubai for the launch . PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
KARACHI: It was in December last year that William Lawrie, the co-owner of a gallery in Dubai, was so inspired by an art catalogue that he decided to visit the country to check out its art scene.

“I have seen thousands of catalogues in my life but the one on Rising Tide at Mohatta Palace struck a chord,” he said. “The very next morning I decided to come to Pakistan.”

Lawrie came to Pakistan in early January. He met 30 artists and appeared to love Karachi’s art, which he describes as ‘a mixture of delicate and gruesome issues with a sense of humour.”

He is the director of the Lawrie Shabibi Gallery and is a specialist in Islamic Art. He joined Christie’s Islamic Art department in 2004 and worked for seven years before moving to Dubai as its first special resident in the Middle East.

It has just been over two months and Lawrie is back again in Karachi. He spoke at the launch of ArtNow, the country’s only bilingual online magazine on contemporary art. Although the magazine has been in print for six months, its official launch took place on Friday at Port Grand.

What blue-eyed Lawrie finds interesting about Pakistani art, is its focus on craftsmanship and miniature paintings. “Also, there are a lot of political and social issues involved in the paintings,” he said. “What struck me the most was that there is so much cultural and political activity on which many artists base their work.” He is inspired by Sara Khan’s miniature paintings and Adeela Zafar’s love for guns, for example. Lawrie also praised the art studies in Pakistan. “I think the standard of art education is high in the country,” he said. “What the National College of Arts (NCA), the Indus Valley of Art and Architecture are doing is great.”

While paintings on conflicts, death and politics occupy Lawrie’s gallery space, he promises that the work of Pakistani artists will also be exhibited there soon.

Meanwhile, the magazine seemed to be received with enthusiasm among the young artists. An NCA graduate, Irfan Hasan, who makes miniature paintings, said, “It is [the magazine] a great database for upcoming artists.” His recent exhibition “Dolay Shah kay Choohay” was held at Koel Gallery.

A jubilant and excited editor-in-chief, Fawzia Naqvi, said that the aim of the magazine was to highlight young and upcoming artists and to create a space for Pakistani artists in foreign galleries. “We want to portray Pakistan’s positive image on the international front,” she said. “We want to establish the magazine as an authentic source for contemporary art.” Naqvi made it clear that the ArtNow website was not a selling point for paintings. “We have pictures of the galleries but we don’t buy or sell art.”

Art collectors had also come to the launch with art critics and artists. “I used to collect paintings of Naqash and Chugtai,” said Mirrett Mumtaz. “Now I’ve passed them on to my daughter.” Her daughter, Amirah, said that she was more interested in the contemporary work of Moin Farooq. The web address for ArtNow magazine

Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2012.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Pakistani activist gets US’ International Women of Courage Award

WASHINGTON: A Pakistani woman activist from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been conferred with the International Women of Courage award by the US.

Shad Begum was presented the award by US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a ceremony on Thursday, which was also attended by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman.

Shad hails from Lower Dir district of Malakand division, which was briefly under militant rule before the Pakistan Army launched an operation in May 2009. She has been recognised for her contribution to the improvement in the lives of women in conservative communities.

Shad is among 10 women who were given the award from as many countries, which are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, Sudan, Cambodia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Turkey and Brazil.

Born in 1974, Shad founded the Anjuman Behbud-e-Khawateen Talash (ABKT) in Lower Dir in 1994 to work on women rights and development. The organisation has now been renamed as the Association for Behaviour and Knowledge Transformation (ABKT).

Last year, a Pakistani woman named Ghulam Sughra, was given the award.

-Express Tribune