A challenging yet rewarding year comes to a conclusion

They say endings are not a time to grieve, but to be glad that the stories happened. This describes the way I feel as the year and with it, the decade comes to a close. It has been an eventful year which brought many challenges when it started and now that it’s ending, there are new challenges to carry forward into the next year and decade. However, I keep my head up and look forward with renewed hope and energy. Many of the experiences I got to live through in this year resulted as being a part of the Aalto University, which fills me with gratitude for being a student in this university.

When the year started, I was struggling within a global team as part of the course, ME310 – Global Innovation Program at Aalto University, which was also my minor. The struggle was to come up with our proof-of-concept prototype for the water infrastructure optimization project that we had been working on in the course. Since the scope of our project was based in China, and half of our team members were from China, we visited China earlier in the year to validate some of our concepts with the users and gather insights to incorporate them further into our concept. The interviews and user testing we conducted in China was vital for the development of our final concept.

Here’s me, excited, with one of our prototypes

Overcoming the challenges, within the team, we came up with the final concept “Repaira” for fixing the leaks in the service line pipes. This was to be used together with an already existing solution for detection of leaks, “Sahara”. Together as a global team, we presented our concept at the final Sugar Expo in San Francisco, California. As a team, we explained and demonstrated the working of our concept to the audience which included students and academics from universities around the world and partners from international companies.

Here’s me, while delivering the final presentation at Sugar Expo 2019

Here’s two of the project team members, me and Asutosh, during a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge after the Expo

The conclusion and delivery of this project represented the first half of my 2019. The second half was equally challenging, if not more, considering this was my final year and consequently, I wanted to take part in most of the activities as a student. One such activity was the volunteering experience for Slush 2019. I had volunteered last year as a simple volunteer as well, however, this year I wanted to take it a step further. So, when the opportunity came to become a Team Lead for the Stages at Slush 2019, I accepted it as another challenge alongside my full time studies and part time work as a student consultant. During fall of 2019, there were times when it felt like there was too much on my plate and I was thinking to myself that perhaps it was not a right decision to opt for so many things. However, I convinced myself to push myself further in order to learn the most from these diverse experiences I was involved in.

The event, Slush 2019 was another significant highlight of my year, as I witnessed how a bunch of like-minded and driven people were capable of executing one of the biggest entrepreneurship events in the world. Being responsible for one of the most critical areas at the event, that is, the Stages, it gave me immense pride to observe how the team I had recruited executed the tasks with full dedication and responsibility. From this experience, I learned how to manage and lead a team, and communicate effectively with the diverse bunch of stakeholders.

Slush 2019, Founder’s Stage

Alongside the events mentioned here, there were many other significant projects related to studies and work that provided me with significant learning opportunities. Reflecting back as the year draws to a close, I believe the experiences I have gathered will go a long way in shaping me positively to prepare for the future and the challenges that lie ahead. I am filled with gratitude for all the people who trusted me with these opportunities to deliver, without whom I would not have been able to live through these experiences. In these last few hours of this year and decade, I am reminded of a popular quote, which fittingly describes my outlook on the year that’s leaving and welcoming the new one that’s approaching; “Success is knowing that you did everything in your power to achieve the best possible outcome”.

Afnan Ahmed
Master’s Program in Industrial Engineering & Management

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *