Now you know what I did last summer


This summer was undoubtedly the most productive summer I've ever had. And it only makes sense to share it with the rest of the world.

You know how they say - when you're in a grad school, summers are a blessing. And they are - only if you know you can use them to shape your future. I was presented with a few internship opportunities during the Spring semester. I decided to decline all of them. Sounds like I was out of my mind but before you jump to that conclusion, let me explain to you why I did what I did.

I knew I was going to graduate in December. I knew very soon I'd either be looking for full-time employment, PhD schools and/or incorporating my organization. But all of that needed work. So I took a leap of faith in myself, read a few motivational articles, listed down 15 goals for the summer, and started working on them one goal at a time. I'll let you be the judge of whether this strategy worked out for me or not once you've read this post.

My summer started off with a trip to Dublin, Rome, Florence and Paris. This was made possible by the IBM People with Disabilities Award to attend the Web For All Conference, which is colocated with the WWW Conference every year. I was given the opportunity to present my work on accessible graphs, which won the Delegates Award for the Most Significant Accessibility Research. My next trip was to Mountain View, CA to attend the Google Scholar Retreat, which was a dream come true. As Google Scholars, we were introduced to other Googlers, the Google Campus, and activities that have truly changed the way I see Computer Science as a whole. My final trip was to Austin, TX to attend the Student Professional Development Workshop. This was funded by CMD-IT and gave me an incredible opportunity to get an insight into developing a successful career, getting myself ready for technical as well as behavioral interviews, and looking past my disability.

Besides traveling, I had other goals to complete over the summer. My research on a jQuery Plugin to Create Web Accessible Graphs was accepted at the Graphical Web Conference in Pittsburgh late September, and all thanks to AccessComputing for covering all my expenses. Another one of my research on Hadoop Data Security was accepted for publication but I had to withdraw my paper due to lack on funding (wish I had known about AccessComputing at that time!). I was also given the grant to volunteer at SC15 this November at Austin, TX. I was able to plan out evoHaX SE - a Hackathon on Accessible Wearable Technologies; second in the series of Hackathons by EvoXLabs, which is scheduled to take place in October. I started the renovation of SCI Video Blog, which is a video blog to help people with spinal cord injuries, as well as initiated a project with my university to map the campus for accessibility. I also developed free and accessible websites, and promo videos for non-profit organizations of Philadelphia to push the concept of Web Accessibility in the local community. I was also assigned the responsibility to lead a team of other Google scholars to initiate a nationwide initiative to foster an interest in computer science among middle school age children in our communities. And I also won the Geek of the Year Award at the Philadelphia Geek Awards 2015.

I was also able to enjoy my summers by doing some gliding organized by Freedom Wings International, surfing organized by Life Rolls On, and paddle boarding organized by Bacharach, which are all daring activities for any C5 Quadriplegic, like myself. I'm also going to a waterskiing event in CT this week (hopefully I'll survive that as well) and getting back to playing Quad Rugby regularly.

Was I able to finish all my goals? No. But I can tell you that I learnt how to be realistic about goals, manage time effectively, handle pressure, multitask, and motivate myself to keep moving forward. For ages, I've struggled in being my own boss, but I can now check that off my list.

Published on: 1st August, 2015.