Hackathon in Abu Dhabi

Marhaba! (hello in Arabic)

  1. Why Abu Dhabi ?
  2. The Journey (in brief)
  3. What I did ?
  4. Takeaways

Let’s start with why I went to Abu Dhabi. So NYUAD – New York University Abu Dhabi organizes a hackathon for social good in the Arab region. I came to know about the event from a mailing list at CMU. As the event required a student to be nominated by a professor, I asked Prof John Vu to nominate me. Lo and behold, I actually got selected to represent CMU in the 2013 NYUAD International Hackathon 🙂 The university covers travel, food and accommodation for all students. So I just had to get my visa (UAE has e-visas) which I got in a jiffy thanks to Omeir Travels (authorized travel agent of the university).

I flew from Pittsburgh to Abu Dhabi via Chicago on Etihad airways. The flight was great, very comfortable and nice food. I met the other guys(Daniel, Aysha, Antoine and Jessica) at the Chicago Airport. Along with people from JFK etc, we were taken to the Hotel from the Airport in a bus. The hotel was great (much better than the Westin in Times Square, New York). On the first night, Dan, Mahmood and me ventured out to eat Shwarma, Falafel. After searching for an hour, we finally found “Automatic” restaurant. This was the best Shawarma I ever had. So yummy!

2013-02-22 00.42.52


I spent the entire next day on deciding the idea, forming a team, hacking and eating. In the evening, all of us were “taken” by the university to the Corniche beach. Surprisingly it was very clean. I made more friends there(Ghadeer, Hasan, Shahd) and realized Bollywood(Shahrukh Khan) are popular elsewhere too.

2013-02-22 20.12.10


The second day went in hacking, eating and having fun. The third day was the best. Starting with breakfast – I had Chana Masala and Paratha (loved it). The major part of the day was spent in finishing touches, refining presentation, rehearsing and then we finally presented. After the event, we went to the Mosque, the Emirates Palace and the beach at night. It was an amazing night.

2013-02-24 23.43.18

It was time to say Good Bye to all the new friends and return back to “real” life. I am already missing all the fun we had. As people say – its the people who matter.

Breast Cancer, Osteoporosis, Depression(Arab Spring) are common in the Arab region and because of the culture and social stigma Women are generally reluctant to get outside help. So, we developed a social community around Women to share their experiences with Chronic diseases via Voice(IVR) and Web. It also had the certified resources and doctors nearby. We(Aysha, Caroline, Daniel, Tahar and yours truly) named the product Laha (for her). We used a highly customized version of WordPress and Twilio for the IVR. Woohoo we won the third prize!



  • UAE does not have any taxes which means I am going to work in UAE at some point of time. 
  • Water is precious – Water is as costly as gold. (by the way, there was a gold ATM)
  • Keep travelling – each adventure will only make you more mature.
  • Talk is cheap, show me the code – Yes, networking(talking) helps but in the end code(work) is what matters
  • Make new friends and keep in touch – Glad to say that I have a friend in almost every Arab country
  • The Word is your playground, Go Conquer – there are plenty of opportunities in the world, we just need to seize them
  • Be more open – Assume nothing!

Thanks to the organizers of the hackathon, Prof Sana, Michael and to my awesome team mates. Also a big Thanks to all the new friends 🙂

More photos here – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151374930498124.456829.600923123&type=1&l=8bedef1283

One hell of a trip – Delhi to Pittsburgh

Who could imagine a trip from Delhi to Pittsburgh of 15 hours could turn into 49 hours !

Delhi -> Amman, Jordan -> Chicago -> Pittsburgh (roughly three hours layover)

At the Delhi Airport :  

The flight was supposed to depart at 6:25am but it got delayed due to heavy fog. After 6 hours of waiting at the terminal, it left at noon. The airline was kind enough to give a breakfast box. I passed time by sleeping and reading a novel.

Delhi to Amman:

The flight stopped at Al Ain(UAE) to refuel ! Who knew that international flights also need to refuel. So, the journey of 5 hours turned into 8 hours. Inevitably, I missed my connecting flight to Chicago and spent a night in a hotel at Amman. The room sucked but the food was great (buffet breakfast and dinner). Queen Alia airport at Amman is horribly mismanaged . I was one of the last people to board the flight to Chicago.


Amman to Chicago:

Thankfully, this leg went peacefully and we arrived on time even though we had departed an hour late.

Chicago airport:

Immigration took more than 2 hours which meant I was standing all the time. After clearing customs, I had to hurry to check in for the flight to Pittsburgh.

Chicago to Pittsburgh

I got 1A seat which meant a direct view of the cockpit and a good talk with the flight attendant. It was a small flight (<50 people).

Pittsburgh airport:

Murphy’s law was once again proved true and my baggage was delayed. Apparently, it was still at Chicago. I got it the next day.

Lessons Learnt

  • Always keep cash – it helps in foreign countries when you need to convert. I barely had any money.
  • Keep clothes in carry on baggage
  • Keep something to eat – more importantly chewing gum – something to avoid getting dry. Some airports(countries) don’t have water.
  • Take a renowned flight –  especially which has multiple connections to your destination country – Royal Jordanian (no way)


Thoughts on Gene Sequencing

After the human genome project, it costed a billion dollars to sequence a human genome and guess what it just costs a thousand dollars today. A billion to a thousand in ten years. That’s a big impact. There have been reports suggesting that it would cost $300 in the near future(2-5 years).

This cost makes me think about the future of gene sequencing and I strongly think the following would happen in a decade or so:

  • A fancy little kiosk where you give your saliva sample and it tells you about your ancestors, future diseases. This information can potentially help you to live longer by empowering with the information beforehand.
  • The True Personalized medicine – all drugs are prescribed after a gene analysis





Find free food right from your mobile in real time

FreeFood App

Who doesn’t love free food ?


  • Data sourced from Twitter and Food Bot
  • Crowd Sourced
  • Real Time
  • Confidence scoring algorithm – based on the user’s Twitter profile(followers, tweets) and number of shares at a specific Lat,Lng
  • Convenient to add events
  • Color coding on the basis of confidence


  • Post API: posts a event – takes a Lat*,Lng*,StartTime,EndTime,Location,Confidence
  • FETCH API: returns all events in a X radius of the given Lat,Lng
  • Public Release: Expected Soon

Idea: Send available timings easily

Problem: Whenever someone asks me my available timings, I need to go to the calendar and manually type it taking care of timezone etc.
Idea: An app which takes free/available times from Google Calendar and formats them nicely.

What do you think ?

Starting now, I would be publishing ideas here. Feel free to develop on them. If you get around to do it, just drop a comment here.

PS: I get these wacky/crazy ideas all the time.

First few months at Carnegie Mellon

Its been 3 months since I came to the land of opportunities and there’s just one word to describe it. You guessed it right – Awesome 🙂

I still remember the day I got my admit – June 11th 2012. I remember reading the mail multiple times ! It was completely unexpected. Since that day, it has been a mad rush to finalize documents, financials. passport, visa, college presentation, shopping, good-bye’s and then the dream trip to the United States of America ! I was in a trance until the immigration officer stamped my passport – Oh, yeah ! Guess what ? I just entered USA. The day I was waiting ever since I used my first personal computer finally arrived. I was a small kid back then and playing with my computer was my hobby. Hobby developed into a interest which made me take Computers in my high school. I still remember I completed the entire syllabus for class 11th (Sumita Arora -C++ etc)  in the summer vacations because I simply loved it. The interest transformed to passion and I took Computers at Manipal. Then I discovered the best place on earth for Computers is Carnegie Mellon (Ok, I maybe exaggerating). Since then, everything has been a step towards Carnegie Mellon (totally exaggerated to make it dramatic)..

Its been three almost three months since I landed here. If you can’t figure out how time passed then that means you are either having a very busy frustrating time or living your dream. No prizes for guessing.

[Update: Month wise breakdown]

August: I landed on the 7th (lucky number !) and went straight to my uncle’s place. He lives near Pittsburgh and has a wonderful home. First impression was like the movies.

Thanks !

This post goes out to all my acquaintances, friends, family and well wishers. A BIG thanks to all of you.

Its been one month at Carnegie Mellon and I feel that I achieved one of my dreams. Coming to Carnegie(USA in general) was one thing which I badly wanted since my first year of college . So, a big thanks to all my friends. Each one of you played a important role in this big dream of me 🙂

Spoils of the Job Fair

So, the Technical Opportunities Conference ended today and all the big names were present. Seeing my School of Computer Science badge, companies were literally after me. They didn’t even let me eat in peace :/ So, I picked up a lot of goodies and here’s the list:

  • 17 T- Shirts ranging
  • Google Android walking toy
  • Facebook iPhone cover
  • Stuffed dinosaur
  • Johnson & Johnson Toiletries Kit
  • Mints
  • Cisco Bottle
  • Ultimate Man Soap – (??)
  • Pens, stickers etc

My first month at Shareaholic

I still remember my first day ( ie Feb 27th, 2012) clearly. I reached office at around 9 and immediately started with the HR formalities. It was a long process where I had to sign documents. Some forms asked for a nominee, I jokingly said what will happen to me as I am so young. All formalities done and I officially started my most awaited project at Shareaholic. I met the team and was assigned a laptop with everything installed which was great considering that I hate setting up softwares. Jay had already told me about the tradition of making a deploy within 48hours of joining. I was pretty excited that my change would affect 270million people.  Woah !!thats like 27 Greece(s) 😀
My first commit was pretty easy as I had just done the same thing in Greece.

First week passed quickly and I realized “Woah ! I coded much more than my entire 8 weeks at Cisco”. I directly worked on the entire product channel from fixing critical bugs, adding new features, talking to customers and creating all together new products. The team in the Delhi office was very experienced and helpful.

The key things I learnt at Shareaholic was “think before you code”, “each line of code matters”, “Customer is the boss”.

After almost 6 months of working, I left Shareaholic to join CMU. All good things have to come to an end.

Friday Nights @ CMU

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you read Friday ? Party, Weekend, relaxation time ?

So, I was working on a project at Carnegie on a Friday night till late midnight and was surprised to see the campus full of people. Unlike portrayed by the hollywood movies, Carnegie students indeed were working.

On my first day of orientation, my director told me that you have three things: Study, Eat and Sleep. Choose only two and study is not an option.

What is it that makes people tick ?

Is it the plethora of opportunities ? Is it the dedication/knowledge level of peers or is it a blind rat race ?
For me, its the level of innovation, knowledge, hard work and creativity of Carnegie (USA in general) which inspires me to keep ticking !