200 days !

August 22, 2016 § 4 Comments

So, I have crossed the 200 days mark in the Netherlands. Reflections are in order.

So, far last 2 months or so, my wife Swati has been here and it has been a great time with a lot of trips and socialization and richly flavored food.

Some key experiences before the internship started:

Collage-making workshop. Probably the most transformative 20 hours at TU Delft yet. I had no idea collages could be so powerful. Ultimately it’s the familiar concept of combining ideas to generate new ideas. But here, these are visuals. And the power of visuals – can have a solid impact. Have a look at these I found on the net:

 

And the things other participants made in the workshop had even more impact.

New friends. I also made some new friends – people from contrasting backgrounds. One comes from a Bengali family and was raised in the USA, whose mom works at Princeton. One is a Brazilian designer who recently found a boyfriend. He is the first guy I know who is gay. And others. Sometimes I think people too are collages of different ideas. And the more collages you see, the more your mind expands (yeah I don’t like saying ‘mind expands’, but what else to call that feeling?). Sometimes I just think ‘mental model upgraded‘.

Old friends. I also met some longtime friends who traveled to EU in the summers and they gave me fresh eyes to see this place.

For work, I have been researching the applications of Virtual Reality and I found a whole new world. There are a lot of things I experienced and came to know – as this is my first (though mini) working assignment in the EU.

Stuff about workplace – UNITiD:

  • People come on time and leave on time. No work on evenings or weekends.
  • People speak Dutch. I should have learnt it. Picking up bits and pieces now.
  • We had lunch together. Everyday. The food was very different from the food offered at TU Delft. But I found you can have healthy and efficient lunch.
  • There is no visible hierarchy – open floors, no CEO offices. No dress code at all. This might be due to this being a design consulting firm.
  • Slack is an awesome tool for workplace communication.
  • I worked with Multiple screens for the first time and found it so cool to move a window from one screen to another.

 

Office Lunch

Lunch table at office. Love the red ship outside.

It was mesmerizing to see the ships in Rotterdam from those large windows while working on cool concepts in Virtual Reality.

VR Walkthrough

Workstation.

There is an awful lot I can talk about about my work here. But I will make a separate presentation for it and I guess add a link to it later. Most interesting: I got to experience latest gadgets like the HTC Vive and Microsoft Hololens (Oculus Rift too, but it made me sick).  Here is a pic of me with the Hololens (and a stock picture showing the experience).

These gadgets can expand the human experience and the applications are pretty astounding. I am eagerly waiting for the awesome future. But sometimes I worry that tech. is moving too fast and I may not be able to keep up with it. Just like cultures do not embrace technology at the same speed, individuals too have varying rates of adoption. And while human brain surely has an upper bound for speed of learning, tech is advancing way too rapidly. Way too rapidly. I mean, self-driving cars are already there !

While I experienced the future, I also explored the past. Made a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Swati and I spent 6 hours there and I spent 4 more reading about the guy.

While he did go nuts before he died a horrible death, he was painted with great care and discipline and wrote insightful, feeling-laden letters to his friends and family. Some people even assert that he was a natural writer who taught himself painting.

He learned a new ways of painting when he moved to Paris (the place to be for artists then) and his paintings became better. I could not help but think – Silicon Valley today is like Paris of that time – a hotbed of new ideas. How would a creator change if he went there? Also, Van Gogh was very much of a prolific doer who ‘executed’ and ‘failed fast’. In the last year of his short life, he averaged 1 painting a day !

Here are some of Van Gogh’s interesting works. In 2-D, their impact is greatly diminished. Significant power of a painting comes from the thick effect of a passionate artist’s brushstrokes.

I also visited the Magritte Museum in Belgium and dipped into surrealist art. I had heard about “Ceci n’est pas une pipe. But had no idea it was from Magritte. Check out these interesting ones :

It is tempting to think that looking at paintings is a pretentious exercise. But these painters took far-fetched leaps of imagination and again, I can’t find words to describe the experience of looking at these except ‘mind-expanding’. This quote by surrealist painter Salvador Dali comes to mind:

Blog Dali

And then finally, it has been so good to discover new places. We visited the Scheveningen beach in The Hague and Kralingse Lake in Rotterdam.

So well, there has been a lot of good time and mental-model upgrade in these days. And I hope there is more to come.

I see that this looks like it is just fun and happy time here. But there have been days of guilt and insecurity. And strong ones. Adjusting to a new culture is hard. Our hardwiring is very strong. I can opt to remain in my comfort zone and only talk to most Indians or people in international companies. Or I can soak in the new as much as possible. I choose the latter, because that’s what I see myself as. But it is hard. And it is definitely not for everyone.

Let’s see what the next 100 days have to offer 🙂

 

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