How a Girl Geek Dinner applies to saving the world.

Ok, so I am clearly not saving the world but I am so inspired that I need to write down my thoughts before they dissipate into the universe.

My sister, a product designer in tech, often lovingly nudges me to attend design meet-ups and talks. Today, I had the privilege of attending a Girl Geek Dinner that my sister organized on women in design. People in San Francisco are always surprised that I do not work in tech–yes there are other industries in San Francisco,shocking. Though it is apparent that I am not in tech, the design talks are often very applicable to my work. I am thinking about human centered design constantly at work. I am obsessively racking my brain about creating a transformative plan that will enrich the lives of the residents in Sunnydale. So hearing about design approaches, whether it be human centered or even product centered, offers a new and fresh perspective.

Today was particularly transformative and inspiring to me. There were three talks that wowed me in particular. The first talk was by my sister, Samihah Azim, which was delightfully humorous and informative. She highlighted the surprisingly low number of women in design and need to increase this number. The next talk that I enjoyed was by a designer named Alice Lee and the third inspiring talk was by a designer named Elle Luna.

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The photo above was the opening slide to the talk by Alice Lee. She really touched on the idea that we all go through impostor  syndrome (yes, apparently that’s a thing) and that it is important to realize that everyone is just “figuring things out”. This really resonates with me since it’s really easy to feel lost in the shuffle. I often slip into the belief that I am not an expert and thus have not earned my place at the table. Her most memorable anecdote was that when children are young they are wildly creative as unaware amateurs. A child will paint despite lacking an art degree. Similarly, I should not stifle my creative voice simply because I have less work years than others. This is something in which I have truly been struggling with as a new young professional.

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The photo above is from the talk by Elle. Her talk was about figuring out if you have a job, career, and calling and why. I feel blessed to say that my current job is my calling! My calling right now that is. Elle stressed to follow clues that surround us and that life is a treasure hunt. I believe this and hope to actively be aware of this on a day-to-day basis. I truly believe my work is my calling since I whole heartily believe in the work I am doing to help transform Sunnydale. I crave to be an expert so I can change the world and I get so much anxiety because I am afraid of failing. I am afraid of not getting into grad school which scares the living shit out of me. It scares me simply because I believe I was born to work to make people’s lives better. I know I have so much to offer so I cannot afford to fail. I crave the work that I do and I crave knowledge on the field so I can improve.

So now I wonder what the clues around me are that lead me to my next step. How can I be better at strategizing and how can I be more of a creative thinker? These are the questions I hope to thoughtfully ponder and find answers to.  

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In the spirit of the New Year and reflecting on the past, my dad showed me some prehistoric documents that belonged to my grandfather, Mohammad Nurul Azim. This one’s particularly interesting to me since it’s a payment installment for the land he owned in Chittagong and ended up building on– he was into development without even knowing it! Though I say prehistoric, this document is from 1983.

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According to this document dated September 5th, 1949, my grandfather served as a doctor in a prison in Hyderabad, Pakistan– must explain my affinity for working in prisons. This first document was given to him as he left his position to join the army medical services and the second one is a recommendation.

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Naturally, I’m changing the purpose of my blog–again. I’ve decided to capture the different scenery and seasons of the sf housing project!

Forever Searching for a Panacea

Working with disenfranchised communities is so emotionally and physically draining. Earlier this week I attended a planning camp which consisted of bright eyed individuals who in some way find themselves working in the realm of city planning. Most individuals there worked for municipality, studying urban planning, or in some way professionally working in the space. During the sessions we theoretically discussed how to create successful and vibrant cities, which is clearly very broad. It’s obvious that no city is the same, each have their own identity. The sessions made me wonder, how can cities really be defined or branded. Each individual is going to have their own perspective of a city so how can it every really be branded. Also what is the purpose of marketing or branding a city, is it to bring more economic development? perhaps to find more people to invest in businesses in the city? As someone who is interested in planning, I find it very difficult to find the best practice of balancing the needs of a city to stay economically thriving and the needs of the people in the margins.

Later this week I went to an emotionally draining day at work. In my professional work, I am working to revitalize a very disenfranchised community that has generations of distrust in institutions. This week was a perfect example of how holistically approaching this work with cultural sensitivity is so necessary but often a catch 22. A meeting  was held that intended to create a common vision for the service providers working in a specific public housing community. There were residents who also work as service providers and they expressed their contempt towards institutions. They have experienced generations of disappointments and promises which now lead them to entirely distrusting those who enter the space. however, for service providers, this leads a very sticky situation. It feels that there is discontent that service providers do not live in the neighborhood, thus do not know the entire culture that exists there, however residents are often not organizing to provide services, so then not having the service providers would also bring discontent. Eventually, service providers can only take so many lashings until they burn out, causing a high turn over rate, which further exacerbates the mistrust with residents, who then have to learn to trust new case workers. So what are the next step? How can we be sensitive of the history communities have gone through without living in the neighborhood? Also, how can we create trust with a community that has been marginalized for so long? They have complete validity in their mistrust;  funding is such an unstable thing and breaking ground on construction is to be determined. These are questions I hope to grasp as I work professionally.

I’ve clearly been MIA for a good minute and my explanation is short of pitiful–life got in the way. However, I have learned that unfortunately having a full-time job and extenuating life circumstances leaves little time to finish self paced programming courses. I would have been a bit more effective if I signed up with an in person class; I clearly need structure. That being said, my temporary failure is what kept me from blogging. Luckily, I realized I don’t need to only blog about learning to code. In fact, I am still a 20-something year old attempting to figure out work-life balance. Though there are probably one million blogs on this topic–here is one million and one. As for programming, due to the particularly transitional time in my life, I will attempt programming once my ducks are all in a line.

Instead of programming, I have been stressed out with learning to cope with my work experiences(will explain), attempting to study for the GRE, volunteering for Get on the Bus, and trying to figure out my personal life.

Work can be particularly stressful at times since I directly assist those with sensitive and tumultuous life circumstances. Due to my minimal social work experience, that aspect of work is particular difficult at times. It is difficult to not internalize the struggles of  clients who are homeless. Though my work is often taxing, it is breaking down my sheltered life style and allowing me to meet a variety of people from all walks of life.

I also recently went to CTF/Salinas Valley State Prison with the nonprofit Get on the Bus, which takes children to see their parents in prison on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I went this past Father’s day  as a Bus Coordinator and chaperon to a 15 year old. For most of the trip, I listened to an inmate  discuss his life experiences from his 30 years of prison; it was quite insightful. Though I knew this already, but he reiterated the fact that people do not change unless they, THEMSELVES, feel the need to change.

Since the nature of my professional work and volunteering has so much to do with helping those in need, I feel that my following rant about the concept of knowing when to walk away is fitting for this post. This is a concept I have no real ability to grasp. I want to help people– no matter how detrimental to myself. It is also particularly difficult for me to refuse help; I am probably a bit smothering at times as well. This need to be selfless leads to a vicious cycle of holding on to something that isn’t working rather than walking away. Hopefully this flaw will not prove to be my downfall.