This is what Karen Greaves says about Aslam:
Aslam is a developer at heart, but able to speak to senior managers to help them solve their problems. He’s most at home pairing on complex problems and helping others learn techniques to take their coding to the next level. But that’s not what I most enjoy about Aslam. For me (and my business partner Sam) he is our business mentor. He is always willing to listen to your concerns and give you open feedback, to help you find the right path. He is humble and doesn’t judge. Every discussion with Aslam, leaves me feeling calm, in control and inspired to try something new. Sam and I have come up with nicknames for Aslam. I call him buddha, and she calls him Yoda. If you meet him you will know it’s not because of his pointy green ears. He definitely deserves to be featured in “Who Is agile”
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
The first moment was in 1986 when I was in my final year of high school. My older brother was beaten by police and arrested during a political protest against the apartheid government. He remained in detention without trial for 6 or 8 weeks. It was the first time I went through distinct emotional phases of fear, anger, despair and sadness.
In 2000, my wife almost died while being pregnant with my first child. My child was born 2 months premature, spent the first 2 months of his life in an incubator. I recall being told by our doctor that they will save my wife first, then my child. That was surreal, to say the least. Anyway, I became a father, walked into neonatal ICU, peered into an incubator at a 1.2kg human being that looked older than my father. I had no idea what to do, so I went home. It’s insane trying to figure out being a father when you have no opportunity to bond physically.
More recently, my second child suffered a brain hemorrhage at the age of 1 month. She had less than 5% chance of survival. Five days later she awoke and started feeding again. That was scarier than the medical trauma 5 days before. She is now 8 years old, has a terminal liver disease and lives life from a wheel chair. I learnt that “being in control” is an illusion. We can only react to things that happen.
Oh, and what most people don’t know is that I married the girl that I fell in love with in high school, and we have been together for more than half of our lives. If that doesn’t define who I am, then I don’t know what will 🙂
If you had not been in IT, what would have become of you?
The obvious candidate would be to be a medical doctor which is the default career in my family. My parents were both doctors and so is my brother and his wife, and there are enough other medics in the extended family to host a conference. But I was quite determined not to be a doctor, so I studied Electronic Engineering. But, my first job was writing software far from transistors and op-amps. So, software development is my alternate career . If I hadn’t done software development, I’ve often thought of going into animation. I think the fluidity of the medium is similar to code – just magical.
What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
Oh no, that’s not a fair question. All challenges are equally big! If it’s not big, it can’t be a challenge, right? Seriously, one of my challenges is trying to be a parent. Oh boy! Just when you think you’ve figured it out, you find something unexpected that humbles you. It’s the mirror of my life with no photoshop effects. Consequently, the challenge I give myself is to understand myself, my behavior and my feelings. A lot of Why did I do that? is asked frequently within me. Right now, for all the questions, in all those contexts, there are a few things that are gaining some clarity. I hope that this clarity changes my behavior so that I am a better person. Ahhh, so that’s my biggest challenge. I take back “all challenges are equally big” 🙂
What drives you ?
The notion of something being impossible excites me. Nothing should be impossible. In a pure scientific sense there are things that are not possible, but from a practical sense, even impossibilities can be converted into something that is practically useful, even if it is not ideal. I love the promise of simplification. I guess what ultimately drives me is that I know that it is just a matter of time when the simpler option will emerge. The trick is being patient, that’s a slow feedback loop. So, being patient drives me.
What is your biggest achievement?
I don’t like to rank achievements. I think all achievements should be celebrated equally. I have learnt that even “small” achievements caused big changes in the journey of my life. The frustrating aspect is that I seem to have very little control over the feedback loop from achievement to realization of value. For example, understanding pointers, and pointers to pointers in C resulted in a decade of elegant problem solving, and not to mention the deep appreciation of a garbage collector. Or perhaps that I do understand that multiplication is short-hand for addition and decades later, I can try to find creative ways to help my daughter understand such crazy, abstract concepts as increasing in discrete and exact quantities.
What is the last book you have read?
Fred Brooks’ Mythical Month Essays (again). And also Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Last night, I finished reading Roald Dahl’s Danny, Champion of the World with my daughter. That’s the best father/child book ever (read it with my son too). At the moment I am reading Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves – sci-fi/fantasy is like mental detox material for me.
What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
Whom do you think I should ask next?
Samantha Laing and Karen Greaves of Growing Agile. I have seen them convert their own scary ideas into reality, taking leaps of faith, tripping and getting up – and smiling most of the time. Just insist that they steer clear of that agile games thing 😉