Published: Nov. 17, 2017

FaisalI received an email a few weeks ago from a professor who recommended that I interview Faisal for The Neural Network. The email was an exciting reminder of the subtle ways community is built, and served as an example of the community that is already present within our department. Faisal is a Junior in CS whose passions for traveling, computer science, and humanity, are already beginning to change our world for the better. Faisal is a humble and kind person with inspiring aspirations. He helped me remember how grateful I am for the opportunity to meet so many people and learn so many lessons through The Neural Network. 

What is your path in getting where you are today?

Faisal has always been interested in computer science, but when he and his friends developed a social network last year he realized that he wanted more than the money and fame that comes with traditional computer science routes. Faisal wanted to develop technology that could directly help others. After learning about the field of Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD), Faisal traveled to Nepal for study abroad. His experiences helped him realize what he wanted to do with his passion for computer science. His aspiration towards a more worldly career has led him to take a variety of classes this semester, from Islam, to theatre, to a graduate level course in ICTD.

What are some of your hobbies?

Faisal has read the Harry Potter series multiple times and is an avid reader of biographies. There are so many lessons to be shared and learned from other people’s stories, and Faisal loves to seek them out. Faisal also loves learning about outer space and goes to Fiske Planetarium every Thursday.

What are some improbable facts about you?

As an introvert, nobody expects Faisal to do the things he does. For example, Faisal is an adrenaline junkie and has bungee jumped from the third highest point in the world. Faisal also loves public speaking and adventuring.

What did you do and learn while in Nepal?

Faisal studied rural pedagogies in engineering education, research that let him live and observe in Marpha, Nepal for a month. Faisal noticed that these rural schools had poor infrastructure and were often lacking funding, resources, and even basic necessities. Despite what they were lacking the children had enthusiasm and motivation to learn, and picked up basic computer skills and english quickly. These students were just as capable as those in other places—what if they had the resources to develop these capabilities? This question has inspired the goals towards which Faisal now strives.
The biggest lesson that Faisal learned while in Nepal is that despite the consistent warnings of dangers and malintent, the world is not bad. On his travels Faisal eaten with, laughed with, and lived with some of the kindest people he’s ever met. He has celebrated the New Year with others in the Himalayas, showered from a frigid stream, and traded his hoodie for a yak-wool scarf. It’s easy to assume danger in others and see the badness in the world, but Faisal has found that there is kindness and humanity everywhere.

What part of what you do makes you most excited?

Faisal loves to create new technology but is most excited and energized by getting to meet the people who use it. It’s more motivating to be able to ask the user what they need than to impose one’s own views and intentions.

What advice can you share with us?

Faisal often reminds himself, I know nothing. Never assume you know more than somebody else. If you have a humble mindset, you are more open to other points of view and able to learn new things. In the space of all knowledge, our understanding is sparse.

Icebreaker Suggestions:

Faisal loves to hear other people’s travel experiences, share his own, and build new understandings of the world through doing so.