Asking Life for More

Some days I am an atheist. For some moments. The madness surrounding my country leaves me gasping for breath. Every day the news of someone getting killed in a senseless war waged by a faceless enemy surrounded by countless controversies for reasons that are … well … just not reason enough. Fear that comes with the realization this may be just the catharsis. Preparation for something more personal, more closer to home. This shaking, terrified person I have met today that I never thought I was just because of a name that sounded familiar and that may be no more may stay here and become me. And every time the feeling lasts for a few seconds. Because I need to have Faith. Believe there is a Heaven … a better place where everything is fair. Where the good are rewarded .. and the bad .. the bad are chastised. If I didn’t, I won’t be able to “be”. Not physically, not in spirit. I’d snatch out my soul and tear it into pieces so I just wouldn’t be. So I need Faith. I need God. So I know that in the end everything’s going to be OK. 

So on to better things! 

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. People have their own ways of celebrating it. Some make morning show appearances and laugh at lame jokes, dance to silly songs. Some will hold glitzy events at fancy hotels. Yet others will go for bicycle rides!!! Dunno what any of that achieves but more power to everyone. Me? I will be at Ala-ud-din Academy with the women no one will prolly ever know. The unsung heroes who go about their daily routines. Women who work; support themselves and families; go home and take on the roles of mothers, daughters, wives; who face every day challenges without demanding any recognition for any of it. Yet who have true grit and determination to do more … achieve more … ask for more from life. They make me feel small and unaccomplished. But at the same time happier for having known them just a wee bit. 

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

DDSS – Different Day, Same SUPER-AWESOMENESS

I hate how Facebook keeps tempting me to say something. That little white bar pretends to be interested in what I am thinking, who I am with, what I am eating. Like an annoying 12 year old who wants to shadow everything you do.

Wow! I am random, ain’t I?

My mind is cluttered with a lot of rubbish these days. On top is WDL, as usual. Not that WDL is rubbish. NOT AT ALL. I mean I have questions and people who will gladly answer the questions but am just not sure I am ready to hear them … just yet. Going in a slightly new direction with it. Have included capacity building to the things we do. Have always been slightly averse to the term. Have you noticed how many people throw that at you … “capacity building”, “skill development” ? It all sounds like a fraud. Maybe because it usually is. I mean what’s the point of skill building if you are not going to follow up on it and actually help people realize how that new skill they have learned from attending your workshop is useful to them? If there is no economic activity generated around it it’s pretty useless IMO.

Millions of dollars are coming into Pakistan and being used for teaching people to fish. But if they live in a desert? How good is that fishing workshop to them? Why would a person who barely gets 2 meals a day send one of his/her 10 kids to your school? What value is there is learning about plateaus and names of planets when what they really need is the 3 Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) and special lessons in farming, fixing machinery, handicrafts, computers even to start earning even while they are in school? Do I sound bourgeois? I really hope I don’t because that’s not my intention.

Look, I am going to women who already have college degrees and am teaching them to harness the power of the Internet to become economically independent. I thought I would just show them how to use Elance and oDesk and then let them see what a wonderland it all is. But I very quickly realized not every one is cut out for data entry or SEO. It’s CRIMINAL I believe if I know it’s not going to work for most and KNOW what will and then not help. So here I am now giving the whole package. We are doing a crash course on these different platforms like oDesk and Elance and Live Person. Then I am going to do simple basic websites with them using free WP templates and tweaking them to look and feel a certain way so that includes basic Photoshop. After that I am doing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest with them. Having done that I will brainstorm what their special skills are. Are they good at embroidery or knitting or baking or do they give tuition etc. Having done done that am going to show them how they can then use all the skills they learned to make a business out of what they are already good at.

So suppose a group of 5 girls say they give tuition to primary grade kids. They can make a WP website, create a page for it on FB and link that to Twitter, and now promote themselves as an academy with female only teachers where the local parents would feel comfortable sending their little girls to for exam preparation etc. They can also add tuition classes through Skype as a VAS.

Similarly another group can come together and make a small catering business.

What do you think? Am I missing something here? What are the other ways you think the Internet can help them actually gain financial independence?

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The Highs and Lows

I have been really pathetic past couple of days. But we all need those days now and then. When you experience something that tears you between what you know is right and what you know will make you happy. It can be professional or personal life. “Succumb” – my heart tells me. “It’s not you” – my mind chastises. Not being a very strong person I always take the easy route. Turn to Him. Lay it all out into the open and tell Him to do for me what’s right because I don’t have the strength. So, when I was weak, He stepped in. I tell you dudettes, His decisions are realllllyyyyy tough and you gotta be a 100% sure you want an intervention. So I was saying … I have been down in the dumps, hating myself, hating on the world, hating on everything. And I am still not all the way OK but the worse is over. I am here writing this blog, ain’t I? So … deep breath … inhale … and EXHALE. Phewww …

Back to my former glory .. almost.

I was at Alauddin Academy. You know about that, right? It’s crazy fun, I tell you. And so gratifying. The online work workshop is going well thanks to the very hard work of Amna Zafar. Initially the plan was to just teach them basics of Elance and let them figure out other things on their own. But seeing how enthusiastic everyone is and what a wonderful bunch of students we have, we are now covering all the basis. So Elance, oDesk, Freelancer and LivePerson. Also, basics of blogging, creating WordPress websites using simple templates (tweaks really), Facebook and Twitter and how to use them for running small online businesses. Exciting, right!

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Again, I request you … if you have any data entry work or SEO article work or some other small thing you think you wouldn’t mind getting done on the cheap while helping these women please ping me.

So long.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

‘Sup, Doc?

Loads of cool stuff happening.

1. My First Event: I suck at organizing events no matter how tiny. But 2014 saw to it that I cross that bridge too. With the help of my very sweet student volunteer, Arooj Perzada, I gathered a group of about 35-45 people at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) in Lahore, Pakistan for GIST’s live webinar “Crowdfund Your Startup Venture” showing from the State Department in Washington DC, US. You can see the album here courtesy of the amazing The AppJuice team which was our official social media partner. You can also read about the event here and here. You can also watch a recording of the live event here (they took a q towards the end from your’s truly ;) )

GIST TechConnect

2. Bringing Technovation to Pakistan: How many times have you heard that technology is just not for girls? That’s exactly what Technovation is trying to change. Its a Not-for-Profit based in Silicon Valley. It encourages school girls to make smartphone apps using a simple software that works like LEGO-blocks. Girls decide on a social problem, find a way to solve the problem via a smartphone app, and then build a business plan around it. Winning entries get to pitch to real investors in Silicon Valley. How cool is that? NO! That wasn’t a question. It was … kind of … if the answer is YES ITS AWESOME COOL!! *glare. OK so I have been in touch with the team for a while and this year I got some schools in dear ol’ Pk involved. We have the Liberal Arts High School from Islamabad, Alaudin Academy Lahore and Sedna School Hunza. I have high hopes for these girls. Also, if you or someone you know is a phone app developer and would like to volunteer their time (2 hours a week) please contact me. Let’s see how this goes.

Technovation Challenge Pakistan

3. The Portkey: I am suffering from a Harry Potter hangover. I miss it. *sob. Have finally found someone I think I can trust my baby with Yeah am talking about WDL. This company is making my web portal. Am super excited. This is something I have wanted since I started the company but just could never muster up the courage to actually work on it. Also, the fact I am perpetually broke didn’t help things much. I realize that now is as good a time as any. Gotta make it happen. So wish me luck peeps.

4. Elance Trainings: Am starting the first batch of Elance training in Alaudin Academy with a batch of 25 women. Amna Zafar, an Elance user and a very successful freelancer from Pakistan, will conduct the training. If you have any small data entry / data scraping projects you can send our way, please contact me.

Alauddin Academy

5. Guest from the US: Took a one day hurricane trip to Islo-land to attend a luncheon in honor of Catherine Russell, United States Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues. Had met her predecessor, Melanne Verveer, during the famous Project Artemis/GS 10k Women. Found out Saba Nazneen Ghori, one of our hosts at the US State Department, is temporarily working at the US Embassy Islamabad. It was so exciting to see her – like those 3 weeks weren’t just a dream. :) Met some exceptional Pakistani women including Dr Sania Nishtar, Sabeen Haque, and Saddafe Abidi.

6. Hunza on Elance: Great news coming out of Hunza. Just so haters won’t call me names, I am not taking credit for this. The IT Centers are run independently by KADO. I merely advise on best practices, chalking out course work, help with marketing and whenever possible, connect them to work. Trainess at the centers are finding online work. They are involved with writing projects with AllVoices, formatting eBook on Elance. I am soooo psyched for them. Can’t wait to meet them in the summers. Here are some of their stories that they shared independently. WDL NEVER shares personal stories of its service providers.

freelancers in Hunza Gilgit-Baltistan

Didar Ali Hunza KADO

7. Celebrity: 2013 was super awesome. WDL has finally started getting the recognition it deserves if I may say so myself. Was featured on Mashable, Virgin, Ashoka, ForbesElan, Express Tribune, International Business Times, WAMDA, Muftah, TechPresident, The AppJuice. It’s just been CRAZY! I am happy, proud, humbled, nervous.

Mashable

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

*The Elance Training at Alauddin Academy is not an official certification workshop. It’s conducted independently by users of Elance to help trainees use the platform.*

Early V-Day Love

In Pakistan there is a big debate every year over whether we should celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. The debauch liberals are all in favor. The enlightened moderate ones (ah Musharraf … you made the term famous) say sure, but only with your spouses. The flag-bearers of our morality, the ones who have sworn to save their brethren from hell-fire are strictly against. Either way, here is 2014’s V-Day just a few days away. And this brings me to my new love.

Basecamp is a co-working space in … wait for it … PESHAWAR! Yeah ok so 2 weird things there. The name, Basecamp, itself. Isn’t that an online project management website? Then second even CRAZIER thing. It’s in Peshawar!!! Isn’t that the crazy city at the Afghan border hit by the worse strain of terrorism of any urban area in Pakistan?

Hang on. Let me get to each separately before I get sidetracked and this post never sees the light of day like so many others.

I asked Muhammad Uzair, cofounder of Basecamp, some very tough questions over our Facebook chat.

Q1. Dude, why Basecamp? Why not “Khyber Goes Cool” or something?

A. “We are Basecamp Pakistan, they are/were 37 Signals. Basecamp is your temporary stay with us before your big startup summit, your next big mountain to scale.”

Q2. Peshawar? Seriously? Are you crazy?

A. “Yes we are are we needed a space to get the rest of the crazies together. At first we were meeting at Cafe’s, organising events in Universities, and brain storming at friend’s drawing rooms. So it made perfect sense to combine all three and get a co-working space of our own.”

Uzair, that was cheesy but OK I will accept.

Happy peeps? The Digital League is also one of the very first of the “crazies” that has made this place home. Got a couple of kids sitting there handling social media and web dev for clients. As a “thank you”, Basecamp gave TDL (and all other registrants) free swag. Check this out and be jaylus.

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I think it’s really cool. It doesn’t matter what you think … at least not on my blog. *grin

OK two more photos so you know how cool it is. All Google-like grunge-garage look (you can’t see the ceiling – that’s where the garage look comes in).

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Oh, yeah, asked one last very important question after which the lazy co-founder refused to answer any more.

Q3. What are the perks of working at Basecamp?

A. “We give you a starter kit to just get you started, and then there’s everything Basecamp offers. Top talent of the region to work with, weekly talks that range from cutting edge research in biology to trends in digital marketing, an acceleration/incubation program is also just around the corner by one of our partners. Not to forget access to world class mentors (and investors!).”

So this February 14th, Basecamp is my Valentine. *what a sad life. I know*

Uhh whatever!

You know how sometimes you read something and you feel better for it though if someone asked you to explain it you’d prolly draw a blank? That’s how I feel with Hardy, Arundhati Roy & Jon Elia. Don’t understand most of it & neither do I try. You can’t understand a sunrise or rain or love – you just know it makes you feel better, happier.

People been telling me I need to read biz books. Books on entrepreneurship, life lessons, making money. I tried. I swear I did. It was interesting. But only for like the first 20 pages. These books are too practical. I feel like they sap the “human” right out of me. No disrespect intended. That’s just me. How does learning to make money enrich your soul? If your soul is empty, unnourished, boring, how do you live? Does the money, fame, success matter? I mean 4 years ago just being called an entrepreneur made me giggle. Today, deserved or not, I am pretty famous. But does it make me happy the way quietly helping some young woman to a tiny online task made me when I started? That gratification, personal satisfaction, it’s almost gone now that I have to go around blowing my own trumpet telling the world how awesome I am having helped xyz number of people.

I have a headache & nausea. I think I need specs. If the doc prescribes them I will get those round kinds Harry Potter wears.

This post is making no sense but I feel good.

Ok byeeeeee