Meet Kaiju: Ahsan Aslam, Software Developer
"My father is my mentor. He prefers people and relationships to money."
Ahsan Aslam has lived a lifetime of adventures in his 32 years.
A few years ago, Ahsan and a group of friends braved a death-defying trail to visit one of the Himalayas’ highest lakes. The mountaineers encountered a major snowstorm and braved a terrifying trek across hazardous ice. Ahsan has also zoomed across Pakistan on his motorcycle, visiting his homeland’s riverlands, deserts, and peaks.
We should add here that Ahsan does not ride motorcycles purely for the thrill. Though his father owns a car dealership, Ashan can’t drive a car. His attempt to get a licence ended in a fender bender… at the testing facility
Ahsan has managed to squeeze in all of this big living amidst a dual degree program at university and several demanding jobs. Read on to learn more about this multifaceted adventurer.
Q. Tell us about your family and where you grew up.
A. I was born in a small city called Sahiwal in Punjab, Pakistan. My father is a car dealer. He has a used car showroom and a service shop. My mother is a homemaker and my four younger brothers are on varied career paths. Two are in the family car business, one is an accountant, and the youngest is following in my footsteps a bit. He is at university studying computer science.
My father did not get a chance to go to college, but he provided us with the best education. He is my mentor. He taught me how to deal with people. His negotiation skills are amazing, but his interactions with people are always respectful. He prefers people and relationships to money. He is also a giving person and works with charities that support orphans.
The funniest thing about me is that, even though my father and brothers are in the car business, I don't know how to drive a car. Ten years ago, my younger brother gave me driving lessons, but during the test for my driver’s licence, I had a small accident. I pressed the gas instead of the brake pedal and hit a wall. No one was hurt, but I did serious damage to the front of the car, which my father had bought two days earlier.
I like riding motorcycles, which I do have a licence for, and I have three. I like hopping on and taking road trips around Pakistan.
Q.What activities did you like as a child?
A. When I was a kid, I always loved to fly kites. I went up to the roof of our house and sent them floating into the sky, but this particular joy ended early for me.
Kites are a big deal in Pakistan. People want to win kite competitions and show off their skills during Basant Panchami, a springtime festival that takes place all over Pakistan. Unfortunately, kite flying was banned in the country when I was 16 in 2006. Kite enthusiasts began putting wire and glass into their kite string to gain an advantage in “duelling”, a popular competition where opponents try to bring down each other’s kites. During duels, the sharp string sometimes shot out over the roads, cutting or killing motorcycle riders. Kite duelling is still happening at some festival sites, which is sad for Pakistan.
Q. Tell us about a big adventure.
A. After university, I did a lot of travelling in the northern areas of Pakistan. Once, a group of us hiked to Teardrop Lake, which is one of the highest lakes in the Himalayas at 4,245 metres above sea level. Tour guides were advising us to not go, but we decided to have an adventure. The trek to the lake takes 8 hours from our starting point and the path is very difficult. It’s covered in snow and there is no room for mistakes; a slip can mean serious injury or death. When we were returning, the weather got very bad. A blizzard started as we were walking down the mountains, which are covered with glaciers.
We set up camp, but the weather got crazier and heavy snow started. The night was very scary. The snow stopped after 5 hours and our camp was covered. On the way down from camp, there was another lake that we had to cross. We did not trust the ice. One misstep and we would have fallen through the ice into freezing water. While crossing that lake, I was praying to God to reach our hotel safely. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.
Q. What were your first jobs? What were the companies like?
In 2011, I worked for another Pakistani company developing a web application connected to the U.S. 2012 presidential election. The app was a survey of political opinions that also directed survey takers to Meetup.com groups based on their interests. It was a small company – only 7 people – but it was full of learning experiences.
Q. How did you end up at Kaiju? Was it planned or sheer luck?
A. I have the luck to know Kaiju's former Frontend Developer, Waqas Ajaz. He introduced me to Director of Technology Chris Carragher. Chris contacted me, but unfortunately, that first job had been filled. Then, 4 months later, Chris contacted me for another job and here I am.
Q. What is special about Kaiju?
A. The best thing about Kaiju is its cultural diversity. Working for Kaiju allows me to interact with different people from different cultures. I find everyone to be very friendly, cooperative, and professional.
Q. How do you see Kaiju evolving in the future? What are you interested in pursuing here?
A. With the way the company is progressing with machine learning and AI, I can say that the future is very bright. Perhaps I may eventually like to move into another area of the business. The reason I like Kaiju is that it provides me with tremendous personal growth opportunities.
Photo by Ricky Flores
Tamara Kerrill Field’s writing and commentary on the intersection of race, politics and socioeconomics has been featured in USNews & World Report, the Chicago Tribune, NPR, PBS NewsHour, and other outlets. She lives in Portland, ME.