Sunday, December 09, 2007

5 Chances A Day

5 calls every day. Although now i can only hear them when i am at home with my laptop on, i still occasionally hear it.

5 chances a day to renew your faith.

5 gifts a day to put your mistakes and sins behind and have a fresh start.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

More on Google's Innovation

Continuing with the look at Google's innovation drivers, I've watched a video of Douglas Merrill, Google's CIO, speaking about Google's Innovation Plans. Here are some of the points i noted:

  • Start with the User
  • Listen to Problems, not Solutions
  • Pay Attention to Data
  • Live Out Loud
  • Foster Diversity
  • Experiment Often, Fail Fast
  • Let Engineers Find their Passion
  • Chaos Breeds Creativity
You can watch the video here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

9 Notions of Innovation @ Google

Just listened to Marissa Mayer's - Google's VP for Search Products and Users Experience- speech about what keeps Google innovative. They are:

1. Ideas come from everywhere
2. Share whatever you can
3. You're brilliant, we're hiring
4. A license to pursue dreams
5. Innovation, not instant perfection
6. Don't politic, use Data

7. Creativity loves constraint
8. Users not Money

9. Don't kill projects morph them

If you have time you can go and watch it here
. It's worth the time

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Waiting to Call-in a Radio Show!

Yes, I have to call-in a live radio show before i go to class today and if i get in there is extra bonus. The problem is I don't listen to the radio here, and I don't even have a radio. So i went and borrowed one yesterday, and today I'll surf the different stations looking for a call-in show.

This is part of my - Design School - class. Its a boot camp - whatever that means - titled "Experiences in Innovation and Design Thinking". Although this class pushes me a lot of times outside my comfort zone, so far the least that can be said is that it is inspirational. It has the most creative teaching team I've ever seen, and the most non-traditional working environment. Each time i go to our class I am excited to see how they will run the class.

I probably won't end up doing design at this level of detail when I graduate. However, I think I'll understand more how to build an organization that is geared towards innovation.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Biggest Egyptian Gathering in Stanford's History

That's my guess. This Friday 10 of us went out for "eftar" together at Fairuz restaurant in Palo Alto. Nice to see a growing Egyptian community at Stanford. The number of Egyptian students at least doubled this year reaching 14 students. 5 EE, 1 CME, 1, IE, and guess what 3 MBA's :). It seems the Egyptian Association at Stanford will return again.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ramadan Goes Upside Down with School

I've been back in the US for one week now and because of my irregular and inflexible schedule at school Ramadan went completely out of control.

I don't eat enough (lost 2-3 kgms in one week)
I don't sleep enough (5 hrs a day on average)

I don't pray as i would like (no more tarawee7 in jama'a)
I don't exercise (not even once)
& I don't really work

The question is: If that wasn't the case would there be any meaning to Ramadan? Should i not resist?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ego vs. Values

That's what came out when i was talking with Collin today, my Canadian friend and classmate. We were talking about our next career choices. While we both felt that international development is where we want to contribute the most, we were still unable to shift our attention away from big corporate America or its equivalent.

Succeeding in the competitive sophisticated silicon valley culture is very ego serving and image boosting. At the same time if i want to think what value I brought to the world, i don't want it to be an iPod - as much as i love that tiny piece of style.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Kenya -- Parting Thoughts

Right now, I am on my way back from Kenya. Kenya turned to be a beautiful country: beautiful nature, beautiful wildlife, and I believe beautiful people.

I didn't come across signs of extreme poverty or wide spread pendemics. This is in part because i stayed relatively close to Nairobi, and also because Kenya is more fortunate than many other afAfrican countries. Nevertheless Kenya is the center of NGO's and favorite destination for Expats. The striking problems are the lack of security - the wide spread of crime, and the poor infrastructure.

Yesterday i realized this wasn't my first visit to an African country as much as my first visit to a developing country other than Egypt.

I would definitely try to come back on a longer vacation insha'allah. But for the sake of engaging with struggling Africa, I might choose a different destination.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jum'a in Nairobi

Yesterday I thought I have to pray Jum'a in Kenya before I leave. This time I didn't go to the nearby mosque but I went to Nairobi's biggest mosque in the city center, Jamai Mosque.

It is a big mosque and it was full with people, at least 3000. It wasn't exactly similar to the Jum'a i would go to in an Egyptian Mosque.

At started with the normal call for prayer "Athan". It was a beautiful voice he gave the athan. Then an Imam started the "Khutba", Jum'a Speach. It was in Swahili with occasionaly Arabic references from the Qur'an or Suna. The imam had a calm voice and seemed quite fluent.

After he finished another man started another speech. It didn't seem like a relegious one. The man was speaking in a loud voice as if he's calling people to join a fight. People seemed more attentive. There was what seemed to be artificial cheering after some of his statements. He made some statements in English that made me realize he was some sort of politician. Statements like "democracy is not the rule of the majority but the respect of the minority", "Our power is still not reckoned", and "I have 10 million people backing me".

After that there was another "Athan" and the Imam came back and repeated his first speach but in Arabic this time. That was when a non-swahili speaker, like me, would typically come :). The Imam's Arabic was quite impressive, very similar to Saudi Imam's, and so was the arabic of the Mu'athen. Probably they are either Saudi's or have been trained there.

On the way home I asked Simon about that politician who made a speach. He said Muslim's in Kenya are supporting the oppositon lead by "Rayla". The muslims being 30% of the population are definitely a considerable mass. They are angry at Kebabki's goveronment because it didn't bring welfare to the Muslims as it promised, and because it arrests muslim suspects and hands them to the Americans who take them to Ethiopia to be unhumanly interrogated.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dinner with a Kenian Disbeliever

I wouldn't have guessed that a group dinner with a group at work yesterday, an indian, two kenyans, a chinese, and myslef would end with a short debate over creation vs. evolution, a debate between a believer and a disbeliever, between myself and Mugathia.

Mugathia, or Samuel as everyone calls him, is a very intellectual Kenyan. He is a very strongly opinionated person. Through our interactions this month I was impressed by how knowledgeable he is and how good a reader he seems to be. He is 33 years old, married, studied commerce, and worked for different organizations in and outside Kenya, spent some time in the US, and he's an Atheist.

Mugathia, similar to other disbelievers, believes that all religions are man made to cover for their scientific shortcomings among other things. He says that as science uncovers different phenomenas we now know that there is a logical reason behind everything not a mighty creator. If someone from 1000 years ago saw someone talk over a piece of stone to another 100s of miles away, they would think this is God. But now that they understand its scientific explanation they wouldn't see any signs of divine power.

But advancement in science can only be explained in that sense if it makes us more knowledge. But the reality is that it only shows us how more ignorant we are. The ancient man had only the sun, the moon and the relatively few stars they can see as big mysteries. We might have known more about these objects today, but we also came to realize that there is a substantially bigger universe that lies beyond these countable set of objects. The amount of things we need to learn about today as we explore the universe by far exceeds what that ancient man thought he doesn't know when he looked up into the sky.

Our knowledge in absolute terms has increased. But it has dwarfed relative to the growing unknowns.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

As much of Entrepreneurship as i can get :L

I am trying to think what classes should I take on this year. It was kind of frustrating because, first, it is relatively too late to think of this, and second, it is not easy to have classes that don't conflict with each other.

My main goal now is to get as much Entrepreneurship classes as I can. I believe while there are many great things at the GSB, learning about Entrepreneurship is one thing that can't be matched by any other schools.

I am already listed in "Managing Growing Enterprises" in the Spring with Grousbeck, which is great. But at the same time I'll miss taking three classes that i would have loved to take; "Formation of New Ventures" by Mark Leslie and Andy Rachleff, "Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital" by Eric Shmidt, Andy Rachleff, and Peter Wendell, and "Aligning Startups with their markets" by William Barnett and Andy Rachleff. The first two have been filled during the super round last May. The latter has a time conflict with "Managing Growing Enterprises" which I hadn't noticed when I applied.

Still the GSB provides several other options. For "Formation of new ventures", I'll try to get into the Garth Saloner class in the Spring. Saloner is believed to be a very good professor, however, the class will be less tech oriented and will miss having a prominent VC as an instructor. I'll also try to get into the other section of "Entrepreneurship and VC" which is given by John Glynn. I don't know much about Glynn, but i wouldn't expect this section to match one that has the CEO of Google among the instructors.

Finally there is "Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability" - a joint B-School and D-School class. This seems to be a great class. It combines social entrepreneurship with innovative design. This class requires an application, so I'll have to put some effort in that.

Although i still have a "chance" for a great entrepreneurial academic year, if there is one advice i would give to a first year MBA student, it would be to start figuring out what classes to apply to early on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Remembering Ali - My Teacher

Every Ramadan as - like many people - I start reciting more Qur'an I remember Ali. The first and probably the only one who taught me some things about reciting Qur'an. His teachings come back to mind as I try to inhale from the gems of the greatest of all books.

Ali and I might have had our ups and downs. But it is for this that i will always stay grateful to him and ask him to forgive any wrong I might have done him.

"Jazak Alloh Khayran Ya Ali Ya Maher"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Planning for 2008-2009

The biggest thing that will be happening at the GSB for 2nd years this autumn is On-Campus-Recruitment (OCR). Most big companies will come to recruit for full time positions. At the forefront of these will be management consulting and banking organizations.

I don't think i should take the recruitment part as lightly as i did last year. This is especially true given my special requirement of spending only up to one more year in the US after graduation. This means i will be looking for a short-term project-based job, or a job with a company that has an option for moving to Egypt in a years time.
At the same time, my two summer experiences showed me how the right assignment, function, and/or company can make a big difference in the experience you gain. So i'd better do my homework this time.

My goal is to get as much of an working experience in the US before i head back. I want a job that is strategic in scope and is not very detailed oriented. I still want something related to either marketing or management. I want to be working closely with a team and want to report and be in contact with someone I look up to and I can learn from. The industry might vary, but I am likely to start searching technology-related companies or social ventures. Venture Capital would be great but i don't think it can easily fit with my constraints of leaving in a year. Consultancy isn't completely excluded, considering the experience you can gain there and the existence of Egypt office for some of the big ones. Finally i want to work in a place that is inspirational. A place with strong leadership and a captivating vision.

This means i have to work on identifying which companies fall within these criteria. Then networking with everyone i can who works or worked in any of these companies. Lots of informational interviews knowing about their different projects and organization.
I believe I'll have to reach out to people in management positions rather than the companies university relations officers. I'll have to make the best out of our Alum Network. Except for the few companies that will fit in the US-Egypt operations model, i don't think I'll be doing much of the OCR interviews. I expect that any opportunities will appear relatively later in the year considering the short term requirement.

Going back to Egypt right away is also not completely excluded , but it won't be a first option at the current time unless there is an exceptional opportunity.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rapped Women in Islam

An American friend asked me yesterday about women who are raped in Muslim countries and then get stoned to death. My eyebrows went up!! Without thinking I told her, "NO WAY". Then after some little thinking i said, , "Maybe, this happens if a woman claims being raped but can't prove it, so this means she had performed adultery - the punishment of which is stoning to death". Could this be true! That's how several online accounts report was the case in some muslim countries like Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, here is one. Despite the fact that the sentences have never been executed, this can't be true implementation of Islamic Lay . If it is, what is a rapped woman expected to do??? Just say she's raped and she can't prove who rapped her???

Starting my 2nd Year at the GSB. Am I any different??

One week and I'll be back in the US. One week and I start my second year at the GSB. I wonder how different a person i am from the person i was a year ago.

I started school last year one month after getting married. A marriage that went through very rough labour and burdened me for the few months that followed.

I came with no working or academic experience other than the one i had in Egypt. I had never did any social or non-for-profit work. My academic experience was lecture based focused on hard sciences. I didn't know much about the silicon valley or the bay area, except that its' where things like Microsfot start - i wasn't aware that it was based in Seattle, and I had never met a venture capitalist in my life.

Almost all my friends and most of my aquaintences were Egyptians. I had never discussed or listened to someone disucss faith issues, whether they are cristians, jewes, or athiests, and I had never dicussed the middleast conflicts with Israelis. Also, I had never dealt with a person that I knew was gay.

Ironically, i start school this year one month after getting divorced. This experience is closed, nevertheless, its effects on how i experience future relations is still unknown to me.

My work experience was enriched with a 2 month internship in the US at one of the biggest interent companies and a shorter program at a non-profit startup in Kenya. I had a chance to listen to founders of famous startups speak as well as prominent VC's and in somecases had a chance to talk with them. I sat on so many case based classes and had my first economics classes. Now i can speak knowledgabley about strategy, positioning, and organizational culture.

I made a few friends from different places, like Lebanon, Greece, France, Mexicao, and the US, and I made acquaintences from almost every where else in the world. I listened to Christians explain trinity, talked with a chinese about them being athiests, and I attended talks that critisized and brutely attacked Islam. And I had a couple of chats with Israelis about the Arab-Israeli conflict and the last Lebanon war. I started loving outdoor activities; hikes, sailing, and Safari! I am looking forward to experiencing skying and water rafting!! I also started learning how to play Golf.

Did i change? How different I am today from the person who came to the US one year ago?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ramadan at a Different Place!

I never felt in greater need for Ramadan as I am feeling this year. I am burdened with sins that can only forgiven by God, and I have so burning questions that need God's guidance.

Like last year, I miss the overwhelming spiritual atmosphere that hangs over Egypt at this time. However, Nairobi over exceeded my expectations for venues for practicing Islam. Despite its relatively small Muslim population there is no shortage of open mosques.

On the first day of Ramadan, as i was walking up to my room after "Sehour" I heard the Fajr call. Without much thought, i followed the sound and headed outside the hotel. This is quite unspoken of for a foreigner in Nairobi. To walking in streets you don't know at 5 am in Nairobi would not be advisable. It was about a 20 minute away. I took a wrong route at the beginning but found a watchman who redirected me to where the mosque is. The streets that lead to the mosque were quite deserted, not much on its sides. There were several people walking down the street who seemed to be workers hurrying in there long daily journey to work. It was so dark, i could hear the footsteps of anyone coming before seeing their face. I made it to the mosque. It was great. That was the first time i pray fajr in a mosque in over a year.

Later that day, i said maybe they do tarawee7 prayer too. This time i went to a different mosque. Simon, my taxi driver, showed me where it is earlier in the day. He told me the walk i did earlier this morning is very unsafe, and this new mosque is closer and the walk is much safer because it is along the side of a Military Base. I went there and I was very happy to find them praying tarawee7. It was a smaller mosque but it was full. It probably had a couple of hundred people there.

This morning i returned to that same mosque again to pray Fajr. There were less people, but still more than those in the far away mosque. Again, it felt soo good, I had missed that spiritual experience. I also didn't pray tarawee7 last year when i was in the US - there is something there that doesn't make me fully relate to Muslims' practice there as i do in Egypt or even in Nairobi.

Anyways, i have another week and I'll be in the US, so i will probably give it another try when i go back. Meanwhile, i'll keep enjoying my daily adventure to the mosques of Nairobi :). May God accept my fasting, my prayer, and good deeds, and May God forgive my sins, those that were commited and those that are yet to come, those that i know of and those that i am unaware of.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In the Masai Mara!!!

I finally made it to the Masai Mara. The most renowned Safari destination in Kenya. The home of the new 7th wonder of the world - The Great Migration.

A lion honey mooning with his beautiful lioness, little spiky cheetah having a gazelle for breakfast with its mom, Zebras chasing and kicking each other, a Warthog family enjoying their small muddy pool, and hundreds of Wildebeests crossing the masai river some being eaten by hungry crocodiles. That's not to mention the elephants, girafs, topis, hipos, crocs, and a leapord spotted from over 100 meters before it went hiding in the bushes.

It is still not what you would see on animal planet. The many cars you can spot take away from the experience. If there is an interesting scene, like a lioness eating a wildebeest or three male cheetahs having a rest on a bush, you will find at least 10 cars surrounding them to get photos. But it is still very wild, and it is far closer than any animal encounter I had before.

I stayed for two nights and three days. It was 6 of us; a young Irish Lawyer whose doing volunteer teaching in some rural area, a lady from Bangladesh working for the UN in Congo, a Japanese couple on vacation, and a Turkish student working on a summer internships in Nairobi slums. And ofcourse our Kekouo driver, Captain Jackson. (If you r going on Safari do your best to get a GOOD Driver.)

My next dream now is to go on a Animal Planet like expedition, were you spend more time following animals and have no people within 10s or maybe 100s of miles. An experience where you don't spend all your time safely inside a car, where you sleep in real camps sites not on comfortable beds with hot water and electricity. I am not sure if this is possible!

A glimpse of Mombasa

It started with a 16 hour overnight train trip from Nairobi to Mombasa. Despite the long time ti took, i enjoyed it. It was a sleeping train where we had a nice dinner and enjoyed breakfast overlooking nice scenary. I was with Abby and Shu my GSB classmates, and Kweeven - a nice Irish gentelemen who works for an NGO in Sudan with whome i shared my cabin. He had the most equisite Irish accent i ever heard that i hardly understand half what he said.

The first couple of hours after arriving weren't the most recreational. We hadn't arranged for our return so we had to take care of this before fun starts. We couldn't spend another 16 hours in the train on the way back, so we thought flying would be a good option. Unfourtnatly we couldn't make it to the airline office on time. A bus is now our best option, but the challenge was to find the booking office. We wondered for around two hours in the non touristic part of mombasa to know that all first class buses were fully booked. Taking a standard bus was too big a safety risk. So we ended renting a car from Sister Samia at Glory Car Agency. Sister Samia is half Kenyan and half Yemeny and is not a very pleasant person to do business with. It was around 4pm and now we had less than 24 hours in mombasa.

After a quick lunch and some clean-up in the hotel we headed to the old town in Mombasa. A blend of different cultural influences. The arabs influence was apparent in the architecture and nicely built mosques. The proteguese/european influence can also be seen through the many churches and in the standing remains of the the slave trade. Besides some indian temples, Indias' greatest signs is in the Indians that you run into in mombasa. We didn't stay long in the old town, by eight we were heading to Tamarid where we had a very nice dinner.

5:30 am we were heading to Tiwi Beach. I can't describe how spectacular the pacific ocean was by the time we arrived and how tempting a canno trip into the tiwi river would have been if we had the time! We walked by the beach and then decided to visit Shimba - an animal preservation. Now that I've gone to Masai Mara, I don't think that was a good idea.

After driving around the park for a couple of hours and pissing one of the parks elephants we headed to Diana beach. Another spectacular white sand beach. Now that the tide has cleared away it was even much nicer than when we went to Tiwi. The only caveat was that it isn't really swimmable because it's very shallow and full of reefs.

Time was running, we had to head back. By 4 pm we were on the road to Nairobi after some fighting with sister Samia over the time of returning the car. We were stopped for speeding and guess what, our driver - Rafael - didn't have a driver license. What an easy catch? So Rafeal had to got himself off the hock for 400 Ksh (~$40) and we were back on the road. Rafael wasn't a very convincing driver, especially on a one lane road that forces you to go in opposite direction to by pass slow trucks. It was even more worrying when night started. There was no street illumniation and the roads started getting worse and worse until we ended in a choas of buses, trucks, and cars jumping in unpaved roads with clouds of dust surronding them and no clear seperation between vehicales coming in opposite directions.

Additionally the fear of possible hijacking was at the back of our mind. The stories that are spread everywhere about similar incidents made this a constant concern. It didn't help to know that Rafael, our professoional driver, knew nothing about Nairobi, not even how and where to enter the city. Surprisingly, and thankfully, we managed to find our way into Nairobi at around 12am and were at our hotels by around 1am!
Again, one of my hard learnt lessens.

If you go to Mombasa the train is good if you have time. If not, take a flight and book in advance. And don't waste your time away from the beach.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vipani, The Farmers Marketplace

An Indian social entrepreneur funded by US philanthropists to help Kenyan famers with the assitance of a Chinese and an Egyptian. I knew nothing about non-profit work before this summer and I am also sure there is much more to learn, but at least I believe I came a step closer.

Vipani, indian for "marketplace, is still a small non-for profit startup which until recently was
a one man show. It's driven by the strong vision of its founder, Thomas. His vision is to re-establish trust between different players in the small farmers world by creating a trusted marketplace.

I enjoyed the many discussion I had with Thomas about the logic of his model and his takes about
many of the other approaches to helping farmers, he's quite critical of most of them! Although he's not a sophisticated business person and I have some take about some of his strategies, he's definitely a man of high intellect and is a strongly opinionated person. I think i am also learning a lot from observing the founder-funder dynamics - especially how things get harder when funders try to micro manage.

I went to the countryside several times, except for the spectacular nature in some of the valleys, the farmers and unit managers aren't very different from their Egyptian counterparts in terms of standard of living or sophistication. Julius, Samuel, and Elizabeth, the Vipani Unite managers, remind me of salesmen i used to train while implementing SalesBuzz at different CPG companies.

I have two more weeks, my main task is to make sure the new process we designed is in place and maybe have some supporting excel worksheets. So far we did some re-organizational changes and are trying to restructure the pricing model agriculture experts are using to charge farmers.

The experience also goes beyond Vipani. Vipani itself is located inside the famous Kickstart. Kickstart's management are extremely friendly which gives me a chance to get some insights about their operations from time to time. Moreover, Kenya seems to be the land of NGO's. Whenever you meet anyone you end-up listening to some story about some non-for profit.

I'm thankful to God for having this experience. I'll have to buy lunch for Jeff, my classmate, for making the introduction when we go back to school.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bad Choices

For the past year or so, I've been living with the consequence of some bad choices. Choosing to marry the person I married was probably the biggest and the associated turmoil probably played some role in the other choices.

Overloading myself with too many classes in the Spring quarter was another bad choice. Together with my personal grievense negatively affected my ability to do a good summer job search. I ended up only applying to three companies with not so much preparation. But the worse effect they had was he wrong person to marry was probably the biggest. I was also very passive in my GMIX search, only applying to one company after being approached by a classmate who was involved with it.

However, I believe the summer, although not the greatest on the professional level, it helped me recover some of my personal peace of mind.

The really bad effect that these choices had is on my selections for the second year classes. While enterpreneurship / technology are among the main reasons i choose Stanford GSB, I am missing all the big shot course in this area. This means that i will unnecessarily have to compensate for that outside the class.

Sometimes i think there is always a learning behind every wrong decision. It is true that we tend to stop and evaluate our choices when things go wrong, and we don't always do the same when we're up at the sky. But that can't be a valid argument, and I am sure smart people manage to learn from their good decisions as well

The harder part is when you think that whatever happened is not the result of your choice. It is God's destiny. Regardless your choices, the result is prescribed. I went to Yahoo not because i didn't do a good job search and ended up choosing Yahoo, but because that's what God wanted for me for some reason i still don't know.

Although i believe in this las thought, it is a very dangerous one. If that the result is not relevant to the decision, how is one expected to learn from the experience?

Anyways, with benefit of hindsight here are some choices i would have made differently:
- Getting married
- Not finalizing the divorce immediately
- Not exempting the Modeling class
- Super rounding Grosbeck and Leadership Perspective
- Having "Brand Planing" as a top choice in my fall electives
- Not applying to more companies, especially Apple and eBay.
- Spending little time on GMIX search

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

First Week in Nairobi

Or should i say "Nairobory" - as one guy in Mombasa called it. Every expat has security alarms, car security locks, and tracers. Each has a phone number of one or two trusted taxi drivers because you can't risk riding with a driver you don't know. This makes sense because almost everyone has a story involving themselves or someone they know whose car has been hijaked or house has been broken in.

I can't speak to the toursistic part yet since i didn't explore that, but it seems that most of the touristic action happens outside the city.

Despite bad traffic an pollution, I liked the city. You can find various forms of green spaces everywhere and there are some beautiful residential areas. The city center has buildings with different styles that are well layed out. I had a nice lunch with GSBer's a couple of times at the Thorne Tree restaurant. There isn't so many fancy places to shop, but we've been to the Village market which had a nice variety of small shops and a big grocery store. Everyone speaks English, even all the street billboards are in English, which makes your life easier.

One of the week's highlights was going with Sam - a nice guy from Kickstart - to the Moutain Club of Kenya. This is one of expats typical gatherings. Serious mountain climbers/hikers meet every thursday to share their experiences and plan expeditions/trips. There was a big group of at least fifty people. After casual chats and food, they discussed the calendar of upcoming activities and one person gave a presentation about his recent attempts to climb some mountain. These are not typical hiking trips where you follow a given trail, but they could involve exploration of some virgin routes.

As for politics, the county is expecting elections at the end of this year. It seems they are a little ahead of Egypt when it comes to democracy. The former president who had been in power for more than 20 years stepped down a few years ago, and there is a more fair contention over the presidency seat. Some people are not very happy with the current president and think he will get changed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And the lesson goes on ....

I didn't know that going thru the divorce procedures in Egypt would take more than 30 minutes.
But it seems that Mama Suzan - the queen of Egypt - has managed to scare every "Ma'zooon" in the country from attempting a divorce if the wife is not present.

Besides, the valuable learning, the biggest downside is that I had to live with the shadow of my ugly marriage for the bigger portion of my very short trip to Egypt. And of course this was full of highlights of how naive i am and what a big fool i was.

Anyways, Thanks God, the sixth Ma'zoon was made brave enough to undertake the daring task, and now I am officially Single.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Whisper of Discontent

When i went on and took the strengthfinder questionnaire they gave us at Yahoo!, my number one strength was Achiever. The book describes it as follows:

"... a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by "every day" you mean every single day - workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied ... After each achievement is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. Is the theme that keeps you moving. "

"Whisper of discontent" ... I wonder whether that is a bless or a curse.

Dry Creek not that Dry!!

My friend Dave and his fellow ward members are continuing to amaze me. This weekend i went with them to a place called Arroyo Seco - Spanish for dry creek. It was anything but dry.

I was still suffering from my knee injury from the Half Dome hike with that same group three weeks earlier, but again the pain wasn't for nothing. It was very different and a lot of fun.

We spent around 5 hours on the hike. It was mostly wading through shallow waters over a rocky bed. When it got deeper we had to swim for as long as 40 or 50 meters - not being a good swimmer this was tiring. Everything gets wet.

The most beautiful parts where when we had to swim through very narrow passages less than 2 meters wide and there were those amazing reflections from the river on the rocky sides of the mountain.

Out of Place :(

For the past two days i found myself having dinner with a group of married couples! It starts off ok. Some are discussing how there summer jobs are going, others are talking about golf and hiking, and others are talking about some weird forms of mental disorders. But it doesn't take long until the inevitable happens and they revert to their social status as couples and start talking about how they first met, funny things about each other habits, anniversaries, and even pregnancy. Romance kicks in and that's when i release it's time for me to leave.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Don Corleone!!

"I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend; not an Italian. She went to the movies with him; she stayed out late. I didn't protest. Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made her drink whiskey. And then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her, like an animal. When I went to the hospital, her nose was broken. Her jaw was shattered, held together by wire. She couldn't even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again. I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison - suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastards, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, for justice, we must go to Don Corleone."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Friendly Factor

Here is one thing i miss about Egypt. U meet a stranger for the first time, probably for the last time, in a random public setting, but it doesn't take you minutes maybe seconds to talk like friends. You quickly make jokes, might offer to help, and u r will most likely look for each other when u leave to say good bye. This doesn't seem to be the norm in America.

In Egypt, if u go on a day trip with someone, or even just play a game of football, the next time you meet u might great each other as lifetime friends. In America, you might get a very brief high, not to mention that you can be completely avoided.

There is something about this friendly attitude of Egyptians that develops in minutes that i miss. I am aware that's very different than friendship, nothing substantial can really come out of it. But it makes life despite its many inconveniences and difficulties more "friendly".

The Geekness Factor

Today i gave up most of my Saturday to attend communityNext - the viral marketing conference. I was hoping to get some insights similar to those you get from reading something like "Tipping Point", but this time hearing it from those experiencing it first hand. Unfortunately i got very little of that.

Except for one or two speakers/panelists, i really didn't get anything concrete that can be reapplied. Telling you that the main thing is to have a really good product, doesn't really add much. The over emphasized fun factor was starting to sound like irresponsible and goalless. This is not to say that there weren't a couple with meaningful things on their hands. But there was a big portion of people that are doing things that "they" think is fun and period; a not seemingly-interesting person broadcasting his life 24/7, a blog that has to do with cats and cheese burger, and a guy who thinks its extremely obvious that booze is so cool with email and have nothing to add more than that.

It's a different world out there. And they are the ones millions of people are downloading their apps on facebook. It's interesting to get to see it from the inside, but i don't seem to belong to it. Maybe I would have a different opinion if i were in their shoes playing around to start the next big thing, or maybe the next not very big thing.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Just & Generous

If u ever think life has been unjust to u, think again. Think again and remember that life is not a random event, it's the will of a Just God. Not just the most Just but also the most Generous.

Not only are the misfortunes we face - what we might think of as the miseries of our lives - balanced by God's countless gifts to us, but they are also nothing if compared to the bad deeds we commit repeatedly despite those gifts.

At some point in my life i felt bad because i was deprived of a close relation with and support of a dedicated father. But on the other hand i had the most dedicated mother - God's gift. On the other hand, i sometimes gave her really hard time - my own bad deed. More than that, others might have suffered an abusive father.

At different point in my career and also my study, i didn't get the result i felt i deserved. But to start with, it was a privelage to be in a position to expect those results. And almost invariably whenever the results were very bad, i was not on good virtuous standing.

And coming out of a failed marriage - an experience that leaves a bitter taste - that put me under the control of people who i hold the least respect to, i think of different people i've hurt or taken advantage of, whether for the sake of some personal satisfaction or out of sheer insensibility.

I've definitely got more than i deserve.

Just and Generous is our God.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Where will our Weakness take Us?!

"Kolema Natoub Na'ood" - Whenever we repent we go back (to our sins). A phrase or statement that i always remember from Imam's Do'aa in Ramadan Prayers back in Egypt. "Kolema Natoub Na'00d".

Is it lack of faith? My mind tells me it must be. If u believe in hereafter, if u believe in all the rewards that await the obedient, there is no way u should disobey God's orders. There is no way any rational personal can give away an eternal paradise for a perishing life. There is no earthly pleasure, no matter how it lasts, that is worth moments in hell. If one believes.

Is it weakness? Are we so weak to resist earthly temptations? Are we so weak to pass the tests God puts in our way? Maybe not all of us just don't have those strong characters that enable us to pass those tests, the integrity to remain honest even if this will bring others resentment, to be virtuous even if u lake a devoted one, to be firm in the face of any assault to your beliefs.

Or is it God's Mercifulness that we're taking advantage of. Is it God's mercifulness that encompasses everything - "wase'at kol shay' "?. To believe that God would forgive everything other than ascribing a partner upon him is an integral part of our faith. The story of the blind man who was spared hell after he was destined to it just because he attested to God's mercifulness is good example.

But what does all that mean? As long as we believe in God, weakness would be forgiven so so long as we're repentful?! I don't think its that simple either.

"Crossing The Chasm" a playback of 4 years of sales

Yesterday i finish reading "Crossing the Chasm", which i started reading less than ten days ago. I am usually not that fast with books, but this one was very special. It took me through a series of flash backs to the years i spent in software startup selling enterprise software. Lots of "Aha's". I believe anyone who's embarking on selling software to business would find it extremely useful.

The main theme is how a startup go mainstream with a disruptive high-tech product targeting the enterprise customer. There are a lot of basic marketing covered in the book. There is the typical segmentation, targeting, and positioning, and various elements of the 4 P's. However, the books main proposition is superimposing the product lifecycle and identifying different types of customers that are served in each stage - technology enthusiasts, visionaries, pragmatists, & conservatives. It adapts those marketing elements to the stages of that life cycle, and fleshes those high level concepts into more concrete images and tactics.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

US Military Spending

How does the US choose to be the worlds super power? Is it by lue of being the richest of the worlds economies? or by having the strongest military power?

The fact is that definitely thru both. The US forms 27% of the worlds' GDP. A balanced approach economy/military would suggest a similar proportional in terms of military spending. But the fact is that the US forms 45.7% of the worlds' defense spending.

Looking at the other countries with the largest military budgets: Britain contributes by 4.9% of world's GDP and 5.1% of world's defense spending, France contributes by 4.6% Vs. 4.6%, China by 4.3% Vs. 5.5%, and Japan by 3.8% Vs. 9.8%.

Does this clearly suggest that it is the military force that's driving the US world dominance more profoundly than it's economy.

Friday, July 06, 2007

What it takes?

A few days ago, I was happy to know that my former company -eSpace - is making progress towards kicking off its new products development. Going back to consumer products was the central theme of the company's vision as i was leaving a year ago and as Medo was stepping up as the new general manager.

Considering the lack of highly skilled caliber and being constantly under the pressure of demanding clients, I know how hard it is to stay committed to this vision and reach that point. This only shows the kind of intrisic motivation the current leadership has. It was easy to give in under those pressures. This is especially true if u look around and find that u r far beyond the average. But that's not what leaders do. Leaders set standards. Leaders never look below.

It would take such leaders to take the country where we all want. They choose to take Egypt where they want rather than letting Egypt take them where it is. The would not settle for an above average position.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Independence Day @ San Francisco

Two Greek guys, a Mexican, and myself headed to San Francisco today to see how American's celebrate their Independence Day. We arrived at around 1pm, and unlike what we expected, the streets downtown weren't as lively as they usually are - not so many people, and the no side street performers which adds the charm to the city. We wondered around, and at about 5pm headed to Pier 37. It's were the days action takes place: the fireworks.

By the time the sun was down tens of thousands of people were waiting by the pier side for the action to start. Besides those, there were 100s of boats around Alcatraz also waiting for the fireworks. At the end the fireworks started at around 9:30 but to my disappointment they weren't that fascinating - not what u would expect the Americans to do on their independence day.

Going home it was very similar to leaving Cairo Stadium after an important game for the Egyptian Football team - very crowded and extremely hard to get a cab.

I took two lessons with me: (1) to enjoy 4th of July fireworks at San Francisco make sure to be among those in the sea,
and (2) if u want to experience an American holiday better have an American on board.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Getting more out of my internship

I've been feeling i am not making the best out of my internship. This is not to say i am not excited about the project i am assigned to. It is more that i don't feel i am applying much of what i learned at school. This is partly because the nature of a project deals with relatively new concepts that have very little theory behind them. At the same time, I am not consciously trying to bridge the gap between what i've learned and what i am doing. What i think i should do is go back and revisit the key learning from two or three of my courses - most probably Strategy, Marketing and maybe OB - and see how can they fit with my current project.

If they don't, then what i do is i find chances where i could talk with people at Yahoo! who are doing things that fit within the scope of these key learnings, and either have some long/regular chats with them, or even audit some of their projects. I already talked with my manager about that and she welcomed the idea.

What everyone over here seems to have read

I started reading "Crossing the Chasm" - the book that everyone here at Silicon Valley seemed to have read. I just finished the first chapter. The idea behind the book is that there exists a big gap between what is called early adopters and early majority, and it is at this gap where so many startups - to everyone's surprise - fail.
The book supposedly develops a framework to cross this gap, hence the name "Crossing the Chasm".

So far it is interesting to read. The only caveat is that - being a relatively old book - most of its references are to enterprise clients. This raises the question of how applicable is that to the world of consumer technology.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Catching up with Outdoor Action before my Thirties

[This is a long one]

The trip started with 5-hrs on the road, half of which going up a curved mountain, no wonder i felt car sickness at the end. We arrived a little after midnight, luckly the car sickness went away after a few minutes from getting out of the car. We were all set - headlights, water, power bars, and a Full Moon in a clear sky.

We joined the rest of the group. Ah, i forgot to mention the group, it was predominantly members of the Palo Alto ward of the Mormon Church, this was part of the wards social activity and i was invited by one of my MBA classmates to join - probably this will deserve a separate post.

We started the hike, the first section wasn't much different than any other hike i guess, u just follow a trail thru the mountain under thick trees - some times its was a little steep, but its not that hard. It was only harder when i had to carry someone's else backpack.

We kept going and going .. and going and going .. dreaming of the cables, not knowing exactly what
they are, but I knew they were the last stage in the hike. Finally by 5am we were out of the thick trees and had two more stages. The first of these stages was going up a big rock, mostly thru big steps and sometimes by walking on its surface. That's a little harder than the previous section specially that we were dead by now.

Finally, we reached the final step, The Cables. This is were we turn into ants climbing an 80 degree flat surface of granite for a distance of about 100 meters holding on to 2 think cables. If u lose grip of these cables, u die. That was scary. But after 5 hrs on the road and more than 6 hrs up the mountain, there was no way i would have gone back without finishing this.

By around 7am we were there. Dead but we were there :). Many other people where there too at least a 100. Boys. Girls. Men. Women. Kids. Adults. Anywhere from 12 to 60 years old.

We stayed there for an hour, had some photos, rested for a while and then headed back. Going down the cables was as much "fun" as going up. Remember its flat rock surface 80 degrees steep, hands tight on two thick cables. Lose ur grip and u r toast. But surprisingly everyone makes it

We then hiked
down through the woods - no rocks and less steepness. The first part of that wasn't any special except for coming across a pair of dears :).

The nicest part was the water falls. Although i was told they are not as gushing as they are in the spring they were beautiful. I saw rainbow coming out of the waterfall bed. The peak of the trip was when i climbed down to a rock that was close to one of the waterfalls bed and stood there with the water flashing into my face.

By the time we came down to the valley, i guess it was around 3pm, that is after at least 13 hours of hiking, my brain was exploding and i could hardly move my right knee. Nevertheless, i was happy with the stretch.

We couldn't do much after that, so i napped for an our, we went and ate something, and then went to the camp site where we slept till the morning.

No much activity the following day. We drove around a little to some special spots in the valley. We then went to a place that was full of those huge trees called Sequoia Trees - claimed to be the largest trees on earth. After that my friends went to their Sunday service, and by 2:30pm we were heading home.

This is probably the most interesting recreational activity I did since i came to the US.

The place we went to was
Yosemite National Park, the mountain we hiked was Half Dome. The waterfalls we came across were Vernal and Nevada falls, and the giant sequoias were at Mariposa Grove. And the people i was with were very nice, friendly, and ...... hardcore hikers.

Friday, June 29, 2007

My First Golf Class

No no! Don't get this wrong. It's not my new MBA character surfacing - lol. It's just that Golf turned out to be an addictive game. If u spend 30 minutes and at least get one ball right u r hocked, u r in it for some time.

I remember i made an attempt back in Alex a few years ago but I gave up after two failed strokes. But a couple of weeks ago i went with Nicolas, my French friend, and he managed to get me to hit my first golf balls high in the sky, and it felt good :).

Now here at Stanford, if u like a sports u'll have no problem watching it, learning it, or practicing it, and u won't have to pay much either. So here i am today taking my first beginners class.

It was funny to find a few of my MBA classmates out there as well. But still this had nothing to do with MBA ... lol.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2 Weeks @ Yahoo!

Yesterday I had completed my first two weeks at Yahoo! It was interesting to see the CEO changed two days after being there. Since then i had a few chanced hear Jerry speak - to the company, to our business unite, and to the interns.

I also had a chance to hear David Filo as well as a couple of the key executives. This was very good to get the thoughts of the company's top leaders.

Aside from that i was encouraged to have one-on-one meetings with different people in my business unit. I talked to several people at different levels which gave me some sense of the dynamics of the mobile industry.

I spent my last Monday at the beach with my business unit, because "they" had worked hard for the past few months :). I also had a chance to sit in feedback sessions that was held to key in people's concerns and that was very insightful.

I also had a chance to listen to a couple of outside speakers addressing marketing related issues. One was focusing on the mindsets of teens/tweens and the other was more focused on the marketing organization and its role.

So far It's Great! I have a challenging and fuzzy project on my hand that i hope i would nail down.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How close did i get to Startups & VC's @ the gsb - A reflection on my 1st yr

Much closer than I would have imagined 2 years ago, BUT not as close i could have or would have liked.

The closest i got was once having dinner with a founding partner of one of the big VC firms in the silicon valley, and the other was having dinner with a partner of another reputable VC firm, this time with a group of his portfolio companies. These dinners allowed for a deep discussion of how they think as VCs and what they are looking for in a startup.

I attended a handful of panels or presentations made by entrepreneurs, VC's, or both. Although those featured entrepreneurs with very catchy startups - Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, SimplyHired, Meebo, and others, they weren't as insightful as dinners, and didn't have the one-on-one feeling.

One thing i wish i did was seeing VCs and Entreprenuers in action. One chance to do this that i missed was this program that allows GSBer's to audit startups pitching their ideas to VC's. I should try to get into a similar thing next year isa.

The "Numbers" courses @ the GSB - a relection on my 1st year

Financial Accounting, Finance, and Managerial Accounting are the "numbers" classes @ the GSB.

Financial Accounting was the first course, it is mainly about insights on how managers manipulate financial statements to reflect a certain image of the companies operations. Of course to reach that point u have to understand the language of financial statements, and sometimes it is mentally challenging.

Finance was the second course. It finally brought me close to the mysterious world of investors and financial markets. Investment decisions and pricing of stocks were among the first step, but it started to get really interesting with stock options, and even more interesting with pricing of Real options and Debt financing.

Managerial Accounting was the third course. More about real accounting vs manipulative one.we dealt with in the first course. It mainly dealt with how to allocate costs and what measures can you use for long term decision making.

Of the three, Finance was the most intellectually challenging despite having a young professor who wasn't very good at running the class. Accounting is a must have, i enjoyed that class the most, and the professor did a good job. Managerial Accounting is a good to have, unfortunately i didn't put a lot of effort in this class, had i put such effort I could have benefited more.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Probably everyone already knows about this book - Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a very nice book to read, it helps u make sense of viral spread of products and ideas and Who doesn't want to make sense of that?!

The book is very smooth, with many stories that help u grasp the author's point, and has very interesting research studies - u can just read it for those.

One of the thoughts i got of the book is that viral spread is about a spread multiplier. If it is 1, nothing happens, if it is 1.000001 it will grow exponentially and if it is 0.999999 it will die exponentially. That's were the tipping comes from.

Another thought is not all viral agents are as useful, and its is not those at the center of a network that matter, but it is more of those that connect networks.

The one thing that Malcolm doesn't address is the effect of number of users/patients on the multiplier. His approach was that the multiplier is more a function of the stickness of the idea/product.

I looked for Malclom material online, he seems to be a very interesting speaker , check his videos on YouTube at TED and with Charlie Rose.

An Israel's Appeal to an American's Dream

John: David, I am in a very difficult situations because of what u've been doing for the past years

David: What difficult situation are u talking about?

John: I am getting criticized every where for ur practices that defy all the laws of humanity

can u be more specific?

John: For one, u've been expanding the occupied terroritory and building settlements all over the place. U've been voilloting international laws and the international community

Hey Jo!! U can't be serious. We're expanding those settlement in uninhabited land, the only difference between that land and the ones the Early Western Settlers the build the US is that ours is that we're expanding into desert. I wonder what the international law would have said about that.

John: Things change David. Other than that, those masacars that u've had over the past 60 years and not helping either. The ruthlessness by which u handled the natives of the occupied lands in unacceptable.

David: Natives as in Native Americans. Come on Jo!! u more than anyone else know how ugly and savage the natives can be if u don't show them a red eye. But guess what, we started providing them citizens from the very beginning, i don't remember how many generations of native americans had to wait until they had similar privelages.

John: Yeah! i kind of agree with this one, those natives really forced us to be cruel to them. But the problem that even with the citizenships, u discriminate against those u give citizenship.

David: Look!! i promise u that in less that the 200 years that it took u to abolish slavery and give African Americans equal rights, we'll solve this problem. After all, we didn't treat them like animals at any point and didn't pile them in loads into ships.

John: You know what. I guess ur right. Now i think i understand Ur dream it is not any less than the American Dream. The 48 war was nothing less than the war of independance, and the wars that followed are not different than our Mexican war.

David: U see my friend. Give us 200 more years and we'll be as good as it gets.

John: God Bless U David

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Even worse than i expected :(

I just got my Spring results which don't look so good. I knew that was a bad quarter, but results were even worse than what i expected - I got an LP for the first time.

Although grades are not that important at the GSB, I know that this drop in performance is not just in grades, but in mostly everything - in class and out of class, at school and at out of school.

I feel so pissed off at myself. I can't blame this on the difficulties i had in my personal life. I helped screw things up, I was weak, irresponsible, and didn't maintain self respect.

Now i need and ask God for forgiveness. How many times have I done that? How long will it take me to do the same mistakes again? I start work tomorrow, a new context, new relations, how will i behave? how will my mind behave?

"Same7ny Ya Rab... E'3ferly Ya Rab"

Monday, June 11, 2007

My Inspirers at the GSB - A reflection on my 1st year

When thinking where to start in my reflection on my first year at the GSB, professors come first to my mind. This is because they can have this long lasting inspirational effect that transcends what you can learn in text books.

I had for 17 different professors (associate professors) this year. Out of these three names had this kind of effect; Charles O'Reilly, William Barnett, and Christian Wheeler.

Prof. Charles O'Reilly taught us how leaders can play significant roles in sky rocketing organizations and how they can take them into a downward spiral. His experience coupled with the depth of his teaching made his class one of the best.

Prof. Barnett made us think as CEOs. He taught us how to evaluate strategies at a birds view level, how to manage change, and how to think about corporate leverage. Besides his obvious exposure to different business he was so much fun - very theatric - in class.

Christian Wheeler made us understand what the mindset of a marketer should be. It is not enough to describe your customers needs, u need to live their thoughts. The rest is detail. Besides being very talented, he's very witty, dedicated, and raises the bar of student's participation, and about all he loves his job.

The rest of the professors left different impressions. Professor J. Patel seems to be of the top league but the subject matter of his class (modeling) put me off. I enjoyed the teaching of Ian Gutman (accounting), Peter Henry (Macroeconomics), and Peter Oyer (HR).

The teachings of most of the other professors (8) were normal, not bad but not inspirational either. Out of the 17, two were very disappointing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Reflection is due

I've just finished my my last final exam as an 1st year MBA. What had it changed in me? What did it take away? Some reflection is due.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Judging Vs. Judging

"You are judging me!". That's a big no no for many people. These people expect u to limit ur judgement, if at all necessary, to actions and not extend them to judgments about people. If u see someone cursing another person, u should think cursing is a bad thing, but u should not say this person is offensive.

I wonder if they are separable, at least on the long run. After all judgement about people are nothing but a statement about their most likely behavior.