“It’s early April and I am sitting by the glass window in the cafeteria, looking out to a strangely sunny outside. It’s April, sun is a blessing during these times considering we had just been through one of the harshest winters in Chicago. I am drinking a glass of milk, slowly bidding my time as I await a Brazilian friend I am about to dine with. At this time during the semester, was making enough money to from two on campus jobs, recently gotten paid by the BOG for a party I had just been DJ for and my grades had survived the last two midterm assaults. In essence life was sweet cakes a few weeks before finals and I was feeling really good about it drinking my glass of milk. “Don’t settle for mediocrity, like don’t just be ok with comfortable, always aspire to better” were the unbelievable next words I hear as I turn my head to see Raed standing next to me with a baseball hat on and a big package from the post office in arms.”
I am not stunned for too long as my mind comes up with a quick comeback while trying to figure out why this statement had been directed to me. “Why do you say that, my friend?” “What makes you think I haven’t always aspired to be better?” I respond with a more inquisitive than defensive gaze. “Oh, I didn’t say this referring to you specifically, I just said it as a general advice to a friend” he responds. My shields come down and mentally, I am back in control because regardless of the innocence of the remark, it was actually quite true to me at that point in time. I had over time become comfortable with my life and not daring to do more than what was required of me. It had been a while I had involved myself in something hands on and really exciting for me, like working a UAV project with other aerospace and mechanical students. So, somewhere at the back of my mind I was feeling a tad bit ordinary when Raed’s innocent comment caught me off guard. Of course all these analysis took place in my head with a smile on my face as we talked for the most part of dinner about dreams, goals and our current state in life.
The next week, Raed appeared on Tedx IIT using his quadro-copter drone, (the package he had in hand when we spoke at the cafeteria) to talk about drones. It was quite an amazing talk and presentation as it made me also realize that although I have been doing ok, I could do more. Now it will be quite erroneous to perceive me as someone who hasn’t been making progress since my first day in IIT. I have definitely climbed up a good amount of the success ladder here at IIT, and reckon that I am definitely not where I started. In my freshman year, I used to design and work with UAV and HAB (High Altitude Balloon) projects which were quite exciting when it came to building and making components fit but as we see in this current age and time being an just an engineer is no longer adequate, you have to be an engineer with some coding skills/experience. As a freshman coming from a country with little or no exposure to programming language/ computer skills in the secondary education system I got pretty disinterested in the projects when it got to times when we had to write computer programs for these machines to follow. I would sit for close to an hour looking at the computer screen of one of the computer science student in the group writing copious lines of what looked like alien symbols jumbled together. It was utter nonsense to me at that time because these sentences made no sense in reality as I read lines of code like I would read lines from a Hadley Chase novel. After taking a few stabs at understanding this foreign language I lost interest in these projects as a whole but I did keep myself updated with other projects in coming semesters. Through the following semesters, I involved myself in quite a number of activities on campus and developed other qualities that I didn’t know I had in me. I took my classes as normal and did an introduction to programming through MatLab, but this was nothing out of the ordinary as every other student in my major did the same classes. Three semesters later, after my “little talk” with Raed that evening at the cafeteria and watching him present about these very exciting machines, I began to feel the rising urge to be not just good but better than the average engineer.
I intend to pick up on these aerospace projects next semester once again but not before I spend my whole summer learning a new programming language. There are definitely many qualities one must develop to better at what one is good at, but it is quite impossible to know all of these qualities or realize the need for each one by one’s self. Hence, the necessity to surround yourself with friends that have the same goal and drive for success as you, so on those moments when you begin to rest on your small accomplishments, these friends are there to remind you of the bigger goal ahead by giving you a helping hand to get back on your horse, which can sometimes come in the form of little talks. Now I know there are many things an engineer of this age needs to set himself apart from the rest and I most definitely do not know all of them. But indirectly a friend has helped me see one way of taking a step closer towards my perfection. Its barely 5 weeks into summer, but now when I read lines of code in C++ or python, I no longer see alien scratch but I see an engineer striving to be better because he was sitting at the right spot when his friend made an innocent remark. I have been an inspiration to some and in return, I have friends from all over the world here at IIT who constantly re-ignite that fire in me through my “little talks” with them. Little conversations can inspire marginable results, so when next you sit next to someone it doesn’t hurt to be a medium of inspiration. Little Talks bro, big Leaps.
3rd Year Aerospace Engineer
Student Ambassador, IIT
West Africa, Nigeria