Maisem Jaffer Ali was among a group of two hundred odd students who sat in on a talk given by Omer Iqbal - a Computer Science (CS) alumnus who was the first graduate from LUMS to secure a job at Microsoft. Mr. Iqbal was at the School of Science & Engineering (SSE) to speak about the multitude of opportunities available at Microsoft for aspiring young scientists and engineers. At the time, little did Maisem know that he would soon emulate Mr. Iqbal in writing LUMS history - by becoming the first SSE undergrad to secure a job at Microsoft, that to a year before graduation!
“He recommended that we should all apply to Microsoft. He said that applying doesn’t hurt and even if you don’t get hired the interview experience would be worth it,” recalls Maisem. Taking Mr. Iqbal’s advice to heart, Maisem sent in his application for an internship at Microsoft. He was selected after a rigorous and thorough interview process – four telephonic and one onsite - during which he was asked to solve a series of problems that ranged from simple algorithms taught in class, to complex puzzles that he had not encountered before. After the interviews he was extended an offer by the Microsoft Silverlight Media team as a Software Test Intern at Redmond, Washington. He was given the task of developing tools to test their new Silverlight-5 and Windows-8 platforms. “Over the course of my 12 weeks I worked on developing tools for manual and automated testing and was also asked to write some of their SDK samples” says Maisem. So exceptional was his performance during this time, that on the last day of his internship he was offered a position at Microsoft. “The entire experience was amazing. The city, the people, the work, the environment, the perks of being a Microsoft employee and the campus itself were all unforgettable,” enthuses Maisem.
He credits his SSE experience with equipping him with the proper tools to come through such a demanding period successfully. “SSE played a huge part in me being where I am today. All that I know is because of the rigour of the core CS courses like Discrete Maths, Algorithms, Intro to Programming and Data Structures that provided me with different skills with which I could I tackle any of the problems put before me, some which I had seen before and others which were entirely new,” says Maisem. Though he acknowledges the entire CS faculty for supporting him, he is especially grateful for the mentoring of Drs. Fareed Zaffar and Naveed Arshad. It was one of Dr. Arshad’s classes, Introduction to Programming that was instrumental in Maisem changing his major from Electrical Engineering to Computer Science in his sophomore year. He was also helpful to Maisem in convincing his parents that this switch would prove to be beneficial for him. Dr. Zafar too played a significant role in Maisem’s success story at Microsoft. Not only did he tutor Maisem during the arduous internship interview process, it was he who invited Omer Iqbal, his batch mate, to speak to the SSE students about Microsoft. Maisem’s current work as a Research Fellow at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) is also is part of ongoing research collaboration between Dr. Ashish Gehani at SRI and Dr. Zaffar. He is working on novel data structures that allow fine-grained auditing and tracking of data provenance in distributed environments Maisem has taken the fall semester off as he works at SRI. He plans on joining Microsoft after graduating from SSE, following which he also plans to pursue a PhD degree.
On October 8 ,2008 when SSE opened its doors to its pioneering batch – the Class of 2012 – the hope was to produce a generation of scientists and engineers that would not only be technically competent but innovative and globally competitive. Maisem’s success story is a testament to the fact that SSE’s great expectations from these students were not misplaced.