Author Archives: ahmedriyazi

About ahmedriyazi

gadget freak, internet and caffeine addict, food lover, apple fanatic, android dabbler and self labeled geek

Time for a Change

I started working at Allied sometime in 2001 as a temp, now over a scattered period of 17 years working in different capacities, and after a continuous streak of over 11 years I have ended up as a General Manager for what is, in my opinion, one of the best workplaces in the country.

Without a doubt, Allied has made me what I am today, the opportunities that the company and its management gave to me, the culture of friendliness, open-mindedness, willingness to do things differently and the trust it placed in me helped me do my job to the best of my capacity.

I have also been extremely fortunate to have been working with an unmatched team, without them nothing I have done would have been possible. I am going to miss them the most, above everything else, they are will continue to be more friends and family to me than colleagues.

Ameel, Shafaz, and Wahid have been exemplary leaders to work for, and I am thankful for their guidance, mentorship and all the hours of advice they have given me.

I’ll be leaving Allied to join Mindvalley in May. I hope to continue to contribute to Allied and Maldives in whatever capacity I can.

 

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My Remote working experience and why I think it’s a great idea (Part 2)

Continuing on from my previous post “Thoughts on Establishing a Remote Working Culture in Maldives. ( Part 1 )” I wanted to share my experiences with remote working.

After the first startup weekend (which I also wrote about – Techstars Startupweekend Maldives ) I spent a few weeks traveling around KL and Manilla to chill out and also figure out / work on some plans I had for 2018. I chose to work out of co-working spaces instead of coffee shops mostly.

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One of the co-working spaces in Manilla where I spent a few days

One of the things about co-working spaces that I really love is the overall vibe these places seem to radiate. Everyone seems to be so motivated and involved in doing something awesome and exciting, and it’s infectious, makes you want to do stuff too. I think that’s one of the things a lot of people who have never used a co-working space don’t get.  It’s miles apart from working out of a coffee shop or even from home.

The people you meet along the way is pretty amazing too, co-working space by design seems to attract like-minded people. Designers, developers, other freelancers all seemed to gather at these locations, which is great, you get to meet new people, form friendships and maybe even find yourself a future business partner. Everyone is pretty friendly and they genuinely seem to be interested in what you are doing and learning from each other. I  got a few emails asking me how things were going even after I came back.

I managed to do more actual ‘work’ in those couple of weeks I was traveling than I would or could normally do at the office, probably the change of scenery helped inspire me maybe. I managed to plan out a few projects for Allied that will hopefully see the light of day as soon as the end of this month, and some personal projects that are targeted to be launched in the coming months.

All of the places I managed to visit had amazing internet, and that’s really all you need these days. It also helped that they had good coffee around. Pricing was around 10 USD per day pass on average, and around 150 – 200 USD for monthly passes and cheaper if you go long term (at least in the places I visited).

Considering how expensive it is to rent out land for your own startup here in Male’, I keep wondering why this hasn’t been done in Maldives yet. But I guess there’s hope as Commons Room will probably open up soon and I really think it’s got a good chance of contributing to the startup scene if done right.

Thoughts on Establishing a Remote Working Culture in Maldives. ( Part 1 )

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As 2018 starts, as with many people I have been looking back on 2017, and as far as work was concerned I’ve done a lot of ‘office’ work out of office. It has probably been the most productive I have been in a given span of time.

If it’s not clear enough, YES, I am a fan of remote working, but it’s a hard thing to do when your day job is a ‘traditional’ job where you are required to report to work on a certain time and finish at a certain time.

There’s already a ton  written about remote working, so I’m not going to write too much about what it is, but rather what I think are the opportunities and challenges that are present from a Maldivian context, maybe break it down into a few parts. It’s my individual experience, yours might vary so take my thoughts for what they are; my thoughts.

I’ll start off with some informal discussions I’ve managed to have with a few HR professionals and managerial staff of some bigger (read: public, SOE, govt) companies here, most respond in a similar manner, the most common 5 themes/concerns I’m paraphrasing here for sake of clarity are listed below.

1 –  “How do you know they will work? They will slack off, they will exploit the system, supervisors are incapable/can’t/won’t monitor them! How can I measure their work? “

This is a trust issue, the employer is not able to trust their employees they selected through their screening process, to do the work. But somehow, they still keep them at the company. And worse, it seems most of the time they don’t even seem to be able to trust the capabilities of the supervisors whose job it is to monitor the work progress of the team.

This has NOTHING to do with remote working, if you can’t trust your employees to do the work maybe it’s about time you replaced them with people you can instead, if you already feel that they won’t work when they are not being watched like a hawk, they probably already are slacking off anyway the moment you turn your back.

As for measuring the performance, most remote and onsite jobs can be broken down into tasks and deadlines which can easily be measured using widely available systems and tracking tools. This is not a hard thing to do, provided your supervisory team are doing their job, in fact there’s a massive benefit to catching issues and doing course corrections early on.

Also, this also has nothing to do with remote working. If you are tracking the work, its measurable either remotely or on-site.

2 –  “They should be present in meetings, I need to see them all!”

It’s 2018! Laptops are as cheap or cheaper than desktops considering TCO, video-conferencing is a thing. Run the quick meetings and presentations online! Sure, it’s strange the first few times, but it’s not something new or untested. everyone’s doing it. why are we not?

Most meetings here are long winded, without an agenda, and everyone seems to be out to show how much ‘work’ they have done and to give an opinion on everything. I think video conferencing might force people to be more to the point.

3 –  “If I let some people who can work remotely do that, others who can’t work remotely will complain. why have this problem? “

Treating all employees fairly does not mean they needed to be treated the same, this comes up a lot, specially in government offices / companies. Different jobs come with different responsibilities. It’s in no way practical or even sane to demand a front office counter staff in customer services should be able to work remotely because, the job by definition requires you to be at the counter to actually do your assigned work. On the other hand a developer who hardly interacts with customers on a daily basis is quite capable of getting their job done regardless of the location.

We already do it anyway, companies already practice shift-duties for certain staff. Some employees don’t get all public holidays off while others do. This is just another one of those things that needs to be put in a process.

4 –  “We’ve always done it this way, this is just going to complicate things and I don’t want to take the risk.”

We’ve always done it ‘that’ way until someone else did it some other way, but I guess the concept of changing up what you are already doing is a hard decision to make, even if it may come with massive benefits.

We’re perfectly ok with demanding someone who’s in an island move to Male’, with all it’s difficulties while they might have been perfectly capable (especially true for technical and creative jobs) of  working and delivering from where they were from. Internet access is pretty decent nationwide now, there’s no excuse.

5 – “There’s no process for it, and I’m too busy to do this / management isn’t asking for it / Probably will create additional workload for my department, so why take the additional workload!”

Fear of failure of doing something new and, and it not working out is a common theme too, its far easier in the current work environment not to do anything out of the norm and be ‘safe’ in the job.

Doing something new opens you up to criticism from the very same people who don’t do anything new or drastic, because they are programmed to look for ways things can go wrong. If things don’t go smoothly these are the people who’d be out with the “I told you so” signs first. We have a massive culture of avoiding doing something new because no one wants to be responsible for a ‘failed’ attempt which is inevitable at some point if you keep challenging norms.

Encouraging new things and establishing a culture of failing fast and learning from it is not something we are used to. Most likely if you do something new and succeed nine times and fail once, you would probably be singled out for why it failed , given a couple of cautionary notices and be summoned to the boards and whoever else for ‘javaabdhaarivaan’ while your successes will not be celebrated.

If the last point sounds aggressive and a bit out of topic it’s because it is meant to be. I’ve had to deal with a lot of flak for doing things out of the norm from people who don’t do anything and are perfectly content with the status quo.


 

Most of the top issues or concerns that seems to be on the list don’t seem to be specifically about remote working as such, it seems more so that they don’t have faith in the systems, processes or the people. This is a systemic issue with processes here, but needs to be broken.

This is not a new thing, this can be done.

Next: My Remote working experience and why I think it’s a great idea (…in part 2)

 

 

Techstars startupweekend Maldives – The first of Many (hopefully)

It’s been a while since i’ve updated the blog, life happened.. andits been a week since we held the first startupweekend here in Maldives, (27th to 29th Oct 2017) that experience has been enough for me to dust off the old blog and put some of the thoughts i’ve been having about the event and the startup culture here in Maldives on metaphorical paper here!

Being part of the organising team has been an insane experience, even though Techstars provides a ton of reference materials, checklists and other support, this has been a learning experience personally, draining but hugely rewarding, and we couldn’t have done without the amazing team we had, some of them i met for the first time, others i have known for a while. All of them committed to making this happen, giving their time and effort out of passion for starting and developing a startup culture here in Maldives. Thank you guys, it has been a wonderful ride.

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Our team minus Niushad and the amazing facilitator Anurag from Techstars 

I was involved in running a number of similar-ish events before, couple of hackathons, by kickstart , other community talks, and events. I have to admit I came into this with some assumptions / reservations / worries / concerns about the event. I’m glad to be proven wrong… i’ll list down just 3….

 

Assumption 1 – The right people might not show up!

Considering the events held previously, and the questions we got pre-event, i was wondering if people would come for the experience that is startupweekend or for the prizes, the organising team along with guidance from our facilitator anurag decided not to publish any prizes before the event.. surprisingly, we sold out all our seats regardless, people were interested, they were just unaware of how it worked.

Assumption 2 – Most participants won’t pitch the 60 second pitch!


So glad i was wrong about this, it was incredible to see the participants line up immediately. i think all of the organizers were pleasantly surprised by the response. the guys just rocked the pitch, 41 ideas in total for the first one out of 50+ participants is just an amazing ratio.

Assumption 3 – Mentors wont have the time!


The mentors were absolute stars! We brought in experts in multiple fields who are really super busy, but they set aside everything and spent a huge chunk of the time with the participants, some even flew in! the participants soaked up their expertise and it could be seen in their change of conversations and approaches to problems from day one to day three.  We couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of mentors.

So the big question is, did we make a difference? i think we did. The conversations with the participants post event most are committed to try to make their idea a reality some are already in talks with potential investors, they loved the event in general and want more of it. Some talked about how it altered their thinking towards a more all encompassing approach towards starting up something.

We’ve already met with some participants who want to help organize more startupweekends here in Maldives and thats encouraging,

The road to building a proper startup culture wont pave itself in one weekend, its a concept thats new here and will take a lot of time and effort,  but this has been one time i think i’ve genuinely believed that theres hope for such a culture.

Looking forward to being involved in a bunch more of these events!! Till next time.. this has been Fun!

 

Myanmar getaway – day 5. Inle Lake (On the Lake)

I know the post is delayed, been caught up in other things to press the post button…

Early day today… wanted to head off to the lake before the sun came up and made everything unbearable.. even on the lake….  a day hire of a traditional boat costs around USD 15-18 depending on the ‘package’ you choose but generally includes the hotspots.. which would be

  • The moving market which changes location every day (5 days a week)
  • The floating gardens
  • Silverwork, weaving, and handicraft villages
  • The Kayan people or the ‘Long-neck’ ladies of Myanmar
  • Jumping cat monastery
  • and general riding around the lake watching the fisherfolk do their thing

Although some locations such as the workshops feel like obvious tourist traps, it seems like its locally and community owned, so if you want to help out the community it might be good to spend a little money there as a little will go a long way.

lunch on the river is a must, its an experience to dock to a restaurant hut on the lake and have a great lunch with a good view and then head off on the boat again.

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The view from our lunch stop… not too shabby

tomorrow, its back to yangon, and heading off early morning back to KL and onwards to Male’.

Related : Myanmar getaway – day 5. Inle Lake (Nyaung Shwe)

https://noodlydoodly.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/myanmar-getaway-day-5-inle-lake-nyaung-shwe/#post-107850007

Myanmar getaway – day 5. Inle Lake (Nyaung Shwe)

Flew in from Bagan today to Heho airport, another small airport, got sorted using the stickers as mentioned in the previous post. few interesting points…

  • boarding passes were un-named, and no seats were allocated. free seating option! this was a first for me at least!
  • AirKBZ 248 we were on does a circuit route Yangon-Bagan-Heho-Yangon…   you are visiting and you want to fly to these destinations might be a good route to take as it helps avoid multiple hops most flights here have. but i’m sure there’s other alternatives.. air KBZ was what we chose.
  • the entrance zone ticket costs USD10  or EUR 10… which isn’t exactly the same exchange rate, but not too far off.. pay with whatever makes you happy.. this ticket is purchased on the way to inle at a checkpoint…

we are staying in Nyaung Shwe, a tiny township north of inle lake, it feels primary like a guest house town with tons of guesthouses/hotels and a bunch of restaurants around… but feels a bit more remote than bagan even..

this time we chose to rent proper bikes and explore…  tip.. get a mountain bike with the gear switching ability, its amazing how useful it is under the changing conditions of the road, you will be glad you did.

the town is small, surrounded by canals of water and paddyfields… which contribute to a great panoramic view. the bike ride was breathtaking as we crossed paddyfields, into tiny villages, and through the bamboo plantations… totally worth the physical effort.

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the rain was unexpected for us at least, bagan was having such a dry and hot weather…. we were unprepared.

but the kindness of the locals was amazing, twice we were stranded in the rain and both times we were invited into the homes of the locals to get out of the rain and they tried to make conversation as much as they could, offered us tea.. to complete strangers from a foriegn land… and to be honest i’ve been seeing this trend everywhere here.. its people are just so friendly and genuinely curious.

Food

food today was interesting. lunch was at a small italian sorta place called the star flower, surprisingly they did have their own wood fired oven for pizzas and fresh basil growing outside. they even showed us their oven with a lot of pride. the pizza’s were good! specially the one with the fresh pesto… and their milkshakes and lassi was pretty darn good too.. creamy and full of flavour.

for dinner we went to another lonely planet recommended local food place called the Lin Htet…  had a mix of local curries and rice with the accompaniments that come along with a traditional meal such as soups, anchovies, pickles etc… kinda reminds me of a thali meal from india.. as far as the concept goes. food is good here and the price is reasonable too.. under USD 3 for a full meal without drinks. looks like the LP recommendation is working, whole bunch of backpackers/foreigners show up here.

Tomorrow is the day for the lake 🙂 ..

Related : Day 4 – Bagan :https://noodlydoodly.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/myanmar-getaway-day-4-bagan-exploration/#post-107849973

Myanmar getaway – day 4.Bagan exploration

Managed to get a proper nights sleep… and a good thing too.. a jam packed day… Hotel’s breakfast was pretty darn good. international spread with a few local items thrown in as well.. wasn’t disappointed… i must say lonely planet advice on this hotel (Aye Yar River view hotel) was good but their pricing was way higher than what we got it for… we almost managed to get it half the price than on the lonely planet guide.

grabbed a couple of e-bikes, strange pricing tho… in a 2 seater bike if one rider is there they charge the same as they would do for a 1 seater. but if a passenger is there. the price doubles… oh well.. i guess its for a rider not per bike… we paid USD 8 per rider for 8 hrs.. could have probably got it cheaper if we hunted around but it was more convenient and we get to start our exploration immediately.

as for the pagodas and temples… you really had to be there to understand the beauty of the place.. no photos could really describe it… but its still better than words so here’s a bunch of photos…

This view was surreal..

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The Vast expanse covered with temples and ruins..

Food:

We tried to stick to local food, with a slip up here an there.. but really the local food is very yummy, specially if you like the food around the region.. most seem to be a fusion of thai, indian, and other south and south east asian cuisine… but in a unique way.. not too spicy..  lunch was at a lovely place called black bamboo in Nyaung-U and we drove to new bagan our trusted little e-scooties to have dinner at a hidden little place called sunset garden. would recommend to try the set menu’s there.. seems to offer a better value than picking individual items, if you have a party of 3-4. Both places were on the lonely planet guide… 

Bagan was great! but tomorrow early morning after breakfast we head off to inle lake!

related:

Day 3 – Bagan : https://noodlydoodly.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/myanmar-getaway-day-3-bagan/