Being Self-Aware: A Personal Reflection
Guest Blog by ELP Student Nahiyan Abu Bakr – Interdisciplinary Physics – College of Literature, Science, and the Arts – Class of 2018
A few weeks ago, I moved to not-so-sunny San Francisco from Ann Arbor for my summer internship. This was my first taste of adult life; an internship in a start-up at the entrepreneurial hub of the world. And so far it’s going pretty well. I’ve been enjoying work, enjoying living in this lively city, and enjoying watching in my personal growth.
During my time here, I’ve realized I’ve grown to learn how to listen better and discovered my inclination to hard work. In this post, I attempt to document the changes and growth I’ve noticed in myself.
Learn to listen
Let me preface this section by saying I’m not a shy person by nature. I consider myself to be more of a war-time general than a quite backbencher. What does that mean? It means I’m always at the forefront, trying to get involved, trying to get stuff done, and to an extent trying to be heard. This does not mean I didn’t listen to advice, but more often then not I was suspect to wandering thoughts when I had my mind made up.
Coming into this internship, this changed and not by choice. The work environment was so efficient yet welcoming, I felt nervous. Everyone around me was so accomplished, and I had set out to learn a craft of which I had little knowledge. I felt out of my element, even intimidated. So, as is human nature, I shelled up — back into that once shy middle-schooler who would speak unless spoken to.
If you’d like to read about what I’m working on, why I felt out of depth, and my goals for the summer, please refer to this link.
Now, now — it’s not all that doom and gloom. I may have curled up in my shell, but I wasn’t a middle-schooler anymore. This helped me unknowingly become more of a listener. I started off being quiet and just listening to discussions and decisions in meetings, and would agree with everything everyone else said. Eventually, I got back to being more confident and putting my $0.02 in. This was a major shift on my part and I didn’t even notice till I reflected upon my time here because of this post.
Having shelled up and listened, I learned a lot more a lot quicker — how people in the firm approach problems and projects, how they think, what they expect to deliver and how they expect to. I absorbed all this information, which allowed me to later tune in my thoughts in a constructive manner rather than imposing my opinions. It’s become a regular part of how I think and approaches meetings and issues now, and I believe this has been a major growth on my part.
Enter the workhorse
Now, we’ve all heard of the term unicorn — those special beings or companies that come few and far between, and have the potential to change the world. Well, I used to think I was one. In fact, I feel like most students in a university think they are very special, that they are already the best, untouchable. Maybe it’s because of the sheltered environment universities product these days to make students feel as comfortable as possible, I don’t know for sure. But I know this feeling is real, we expect things to be handed to us, even when we may not have put in all our efforts into this.
I still think I am one but to a lesser extent. Having lived in the valley for a few weeks, I’ve discovered the workhorse in me.
Let me explain.
San Francisco, from my experience, is one of the hardest working cities in the world. The people here are always on the go. Everyone here is out to make a name for themselves in their respective fields, trying to make an impact, trying to do something big for themselves and for a larger community. Take my boss for example — he’s the first one in the office at 7 AM, last one out around 6/7 PM but still is sending out emails at 11 PM. BACtrack is very well placed currently in the BAC monitoring devices space but he wants to stay there and do more, revolutionize the industry. I would like to say that the energy and dedication he brings to the table every day is unparalleled but to be honest, most people here are the same. You can see it in their strut, their eyes, that unquenchable thirst for making a greater impact.
Everyones smart here. So how do you climb the ladder when the intellect isn’t the currency? You work. And work. And work.
I’d like to think I’ve slipped seamlessly into this track. From work to personal growth to personal branding to networking to conferences, I’m trying to do it all.
Alongside my internship, I’ve reached out to countless alumni, through networking events and cold emailing, learning some Alexa skills on the side, volunteered at two major events in the city and still the list continues. I do not intend to stop anytime soon. And I don’t seem to get tired, you know, unless I didn’t get my morning large iced coffee.
I would like to think this was always in me, this fire and drive. I’d like to believe this was a part of me that was brought to the forefront having rubbed shoulders with people of Silicon Valley. I may be wrong. But I’m just glad to have gotten to this point.
“What do you do when no one else is watching?” — Instagram of DRock
I feel I’ve become a better leader from my experiences during my internship — I’m a calmer version of my former loud self who is much more open to listen and learn, while also unlocking my dedication to me the best version of myself by putting in the additional hours when no one is looking.