2024-05-25

by: mathurah

your undergrad fr just finishes on a random wednesday

end of the iconic 4b term.

Time went by way too hecking fast and I can't believe I'm writing my very last term in review. No more thinking of my life in 4 month intervals or facing the iconic question of - "so, are you on school or co-op"? at the beginning of each term.

This is the first term I felt a sense of continuity, having an 8-month back-to-back school term for the first time ever in my degree. I didn't need to take down my posters, move out my books or think about what's next just yet. It was unfortunate that this was my first Waterloo winter in person, and there really is something special of the cold and dreary weather that retreats all of us to gather in library basements to hack and keep the fire going.

I have much to say reflecting on my experience on Waterloo as a whole, but I'll save that for after my convocation. Without further ado, here's my Waterloo 4b term in review.

courses I took

  • SYDE 462: Capstone Design Project
  • SYDE 548: User Research
  • SYDE 312: Applications of Linear Algebra
  • SYDE 352 & 352L: Introduction to Controls Systems & Control Systems Lab
  • ENGL 335: Creative Writing

making up 3b courses because of exchange

SYDE 312 and 352 are 3b (third year courses) but I had to take them in my 4th year because my exchange school didn't have the course equivalents. I probably had the worst configuration this semester out of everyone else who went on exchange (I'm not sure if I know anyone who took both courses) as many people took a math faculty version of linear algebra online during exchange or on a co-op term. I opted not to take it at the time because I didn't want to spend time during exchange learning proofs for the math version of the course or spend extra money taking it during co-op.

Things ended up going okay but it was stressful ending my 4b term with courses who's grading scheme weighs heavily on a final exam. It was definitely a lot of late nights at the library and I even delayed writing this post until I got my grades back.

Locking down in a lil study carrel in DP is so unmatched - honestly kinda missed burning the midnight oil studying away surrounded by books and other students in their grind session.

Although I got through it somehow, it was a good lesson for me to always do everything you can to make life easier for your future self. Things are always going to get busier and you never know what stressors you'll face later on, so doing as much as you can now to make your future self happy goes a long way! I'm not sure if I'd exactly do things differently because things panned out at the end as the SYDE courses were much more straightforward to prepare for, but a good food for thought regardless.

SYDE 548: User Research

This was a really interesting course! I got to work on two user research portfolios - one focused on secondary research and another focused on primary research for a side project I created designs for. I found it pretty relevant as my work is in the intersection of engineering and design and opened my eyes to the research part of the design cycle. The work does add up as there are two major portfolios due - learned my lesson after cramming the first portfolio to work on my second portfolio in smaller chunks over a longer period of time.

ENGL 335: Creative Writing

This was the first time I've taken a creative writing/arts course at Waterloo - I wish I had taken these earlier on instead of ECON 101 as an elective. It was a good change of pace from all the other technical courses I was taking and cool to get to analyze different bodies of work with my classmates and work on a few creative writing projects including poetry and a short story.

This class taught me not to be super attached to my work along with the power of iteration & feedback - my work changed drastically after peer workshopping and I want to apply in my regular writing here as well :)

SYDE 462: Capstone

Capstone this term was much more heads down - after all the research and starting on our initial engineering components in the fall term, this term was focused on connecting the individual features into a cohesive flow working end to end. We built a tablet application powered by computer vision that supports the independent learning of early braille through providing audio feedback as they move their hand across the page.

The main components of the application includes scanning the page, processing it into a braille character recognition algorithm, classifying braille letters, and finally identifying the user's position on the page and playing the corresponding word.

getting back into investing

After a serendipitous introduction from a twitter friend I became a scout for Bain Capital Ventures in February! For those who might be unfamiliar how a scout program essentially works is that as a scout, you're allocated a certain amount of capital per year to invest in early-stage rounds (my check sizes are between 10-25k), and I get the autonomy to decide on which investments I want to go forward with.

It's only been a few months, but I've learned so much. I wasn't super confident about getting dealflow especially as I haven't moved to the Bay Area yet but I actually realized how much of a special position I'm in being surrounded by incredible builders from Waterloo and the awesome people I get to meet through the community initiatives I've been organizing.

One of the biggest takeaways is that you attract what you put out. My first investment in Playbook actually came inbound as a result of the AI creative tools essay I published which helped establish my interest and my overall thesis around the space. Another investment I made was in a Waterloo founder building Datacurve, curated coding data for LLMs, and Embedchain working on LLM personalization pre-YC.

Being a scout is the best of both worlds - my value comes because I'm integrated with other builders, I get to reach out on my own volition, and treat it more like an angel investment without the burden of using my own capital. I still am really new to the space, but it's so cool to see some introductions I make turn into investments, and so rewarding when founders are excited about working with you! Venture is one of those roles that truly compounds with time - where I'm able to reconnect even with people from old internships as potential introductions or support friends from the past who are now becoming founders.

If you're reading this and building something - I'd love to support - please email me if you want to chat - I'm excited to continue scouting :)

Thank you so much to Lisha for introducing me to this opportunity and Slater and Aaref for believing in me and working with me!

4th-year traditions

Eng prank day

This last year was truly the most fun year at Waterloo and the highlight of my undergrad. Canadian engineering programs ftw - we had a disorientation week filled with a ton of activities, culminating with all the final year engineering students taking over the engineering building on a Thursday night and turning each floor into a themed prank. There was a carnival-themed floor, a beach volleyball court with real sand, biohazards by the biomedical floor, and even a small car driven into the first floor for shits and giggles.

Iron ring ceremony

This was all followed by a lil pancake breakfast for our class and counting down to the iron ring ceremony the next day. The iron ring ceremony is a tradition for Canadian engineers to take an oath for the ethics and responsibility we have as engineers to uphold public safety and ethics. The "iron" ring symbolizes the material from the Quebec Bridge Crash. I got ringed by my sister which was so special, who just completed her engineering program 5 years before.

fun events!

rabbitholeathon

In late January we hosted the 4th rendition of rabbitholeathon in Austin, Texas, and invited ~ 20 curious technologists to spend the weekend rabbitholing topics of interests. Topics were explored from flying cars, the american healthcare system, gatekeeping, and the impact of food on culture.

Each rabbitholeathon gets better and better as we iterate each time - this time we mandated rapid fire presentations at the end and it made a huge difference in terms of the depth and quality of the rabbitholes, along with making the retreat a day longer. We also experimented with using different platforms like hyperlink for everyone to document and follow along their rabbitholes. Eventually I'd love to build something custom for it!

Rabbitholeathon is one of those things where a silly little idea somehow ended up being a core part of my university experience for the past two years. I got to meet curious friends all over North America and finally carve out some time to go deep on my personal curiousities with the support of a community. My piece earlier this year on AI and the creativity cycle was something I worked on at a previous rabbitholeathon!

So grateful to have gotten to work with Amir, Jaclyn and Arjun to bring this to life, and we're excited to continue iterating on new formats for rabbitholeathon starting next fall.

wabi-sabi-thon

Right after the weekend of rabbitholeathon (and iron ring ceremony!) some friends hosted a designathon at waterloo (shoutout to Aileen, Hudzah, Lagan, Lina, Ansh, Brayden, Jake + more for bringing it to life). It was so wholesome with plushy prizes and making hackathons feel casual and fun again.

I hosted the Rizz challenge as it was perfect timing leading up to valentines day, for people to make something special for their signifcant others or friends. We had a lot of cute "will you be my valentine" websites that absolutely would not take no for an answer, lettuce love letters, and funny dating app designs.

personal computing hackathon

It all started with a tweet - an idea I had about a hackathon dedicated to cozy and personal computing. A lot of people seemed interested in the concept, so Jacky and I banded together to plan it in less than a month. This is another surreal part of twitter that I still find it hard to wrap my head around - you can just do things and people will help make it happen.

Neel was really awesome and hosted the hackathon at Betaworks. Soon we had ~120 people registered, ~100 people on the waitlist, and within a few weeks friends and startups started to pitch in to support prizes, snacks and other logistics of the hackathon. The timing worked out well since I was planning on coming to New York anyways to visit my friends during reading week!

The hacks were all so so cool - you can see the highlights here. Some of my faves include pogi - your own digital tamogotchi, Jackie's scrollable comic maker, and a photo sentiment timeline app.

For some that came it was the first hackathon they've been to and had a really positive experience. We also had some awesome speakers from the nyc tech community including Linus, Jackie, and Apu who shared the work they've done in the space as inspiration. I'm also super grateful for Jaclyn and Daniela for hosting us along with Taryn and Rishi for helping with a lot of logistics for the day of :)

neo boston retreat

Earlier this year I became a neo scholar which I'm so grateful for to be a part of a community of ~30 other student builders across the U.S and Canada. For the east coast scholars to meet each other, we had a weekend retreat in Scituate, Massachusetts. I came to Boston a few days earlier - literally the day after my last exam ended to spend some time with friends in the city. It felt like a full circle moment because the last time I was in Boston was in the end of grade 11 - it was a nostalgic experience to be back in the same place at completely different periods of my life. Also boston is so beautiful and extremely walkable!

Reuniting with Taryn!

intramural dodgeball team

I started an intramural dodgeball team with a big mix of friends - some socratica, systems, and combination of other people I know! It was a fun way to get different friends to hangout together at the same time often as it's hard to schedule specific hangouts when school and other things get busy. We were all hilariously terrible at dodgeball (the only games we won were when the teams didn't have enough players 😅) but it was all in good fun! It felt like bringing out my elementary school self playing dodgeball in the 5th grade. Definitely one of the things I'm going to miss after university having the opportunity to do organized sport activities together!

cansbridge fellowship annual conference

I was a 2021 fellow for Cansbridge and each year there's an annual conference for alumni to come together and send off the new class of fellows at the beginning of May. Communities are really easy to fall through sometimes but I was really intentional about showing up and making it out to this year's conference (even though many of my friend's grad trip plans were slated to start earlier).

I helped organize a house in brooklyn for the week for the covid cohorts and it was definitely a fun way for everyone to bond together! And it wasn't much overhead at all - when you get the right people in you don't really need much planning! We cooked perogies from scratch, explored NYC together, and I also ran a vision boarding workshop for the 2024 fellows at a Girl Scout camp in upstate NYC, and had an extremely funny f*ck up night where people shared some of the big fckups they've been through. I'm always so inspired by this group because everyone dreams quite big, which in turn makes their fckups much more on the edge.

still, you're not done yet

Even after all of this stuff I got to do this semester, there's still a lingering feeling in the back of my mind that I'm not done yet. Being a student is nice - you don't have to have everything all figured out, your closest friends live 10 minutes away, and there are a ton of opportunities and resources for growth if you seek it out. I don't think I'll ever stop being a student - if anything these past 5 years have taught me that I have so much more to learn.

There are things of course that I wish I did more of - and whenever I feel this way I make a list of the things I did get to do and feel much better about it. It's all in context, and you can't do everything - you have to pick and choose what ends up being a core part of your story!

what's next for me

starting at netflix

I'm super excited to starting my career at Netflix as their first new grad on the design technology team. I wrote a bit about why I joined in my earlier post here.

My manager was so incredibly kind to invite me to join Netflix's annual design conference in LA at the beginning of May which was a ton of fun to meet all the design org in person and get a lil preview of what's to come before I join full-time. I'm so stoked about the new experiments being explored!

I'm looking forward to continuing hacking on things of my own, writing, supporting early-stage founders, and growing my technical skills learning from my teammates at Netflix working in the intersection of creative tech and consumer.

travelling southern europe

I'm currently wrapping up this post in the Athen's airport! I'm not sure when I'll get the chance to get a long vacation once I start working so I'm travelling for a month from mid-may to mid-june in Southern Europe. It's always been a dream of mine to have a coastal summer so I'm so stoked about it.

Here are some pictures from the trip so far!

asks for you

  • Let me know if there's anything you want to hear about as I embark my travels! Will continue to be journaling a ton and would love to share the journey with y'all :)
  • book recs are my love language! Would love to read some new stuff while I'm travelling.

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