For Ahsan Ali Khoja ’19, once he knows something, it’s hard not to share. Voluntarily sharing skills has been a way of life for him.
In February, when Earlham hosted a Software Carpentry workshop, Khoja attended and learned that the instructors were volunteers.
“Given my previous volunteering background, this excited me quite a lot,” he says. “Giving your skills back in a way that you are helping others is part of my upbringing.”
After a five-month waitlist to gain certification and then completing the certification training, Khoja taught his first Software Carpentry workshop at the University of Minnesota in January. “I find it very satisfying to give people knowledge and resources that help them make their computers do what they need them to do more efficiently.”
Software Carpentry offers two-day workshops at universities and industries that teach researchers computing skills that allow them to work more quickly and effectively.
“In the past, I’ve conducted three- and four-hour workshops that I have designed myself,” he says. “This time the course material was set in place, and it was a new audience and a new curriculum, not designed by me. It was very fulfilling that at the end of 16 hours someone could say that ‘I can now do x, y and z,’ instead of being terrified of a black screen that they can’t click their way through.”
Workshops have two instructors, who divide the teaching responsibilities. Host institutions provide or pay for the instructors’ travel, food and lodging.
“I want to do one more workshop this semester,” he says. “I realized by doing this that I really enjoy teaching, and even if I don’t end up in academia, this will allow me to continue teaching.”
Khoja came to Earlham as a math major, but he knew he wanted to add a second major.
“When I came I did not want to be a Computer Science major,” he says. “I became involved with the Data Science Applied Group, and I began seeing value in how computer science can contribute. I began to explore a little, and CS 128 and the Data Science Applied Group showed me that you can apply computer science for social good. You can do so much with computer power and mathematical analysis for the social good. The more I started doing, the more I began liking it, and it’s been that way ever since.”
At age the age of six, Khoja joined the Cub Scouts in his hometown of Karachi, Pakistan. The year prior to enrolling at Earlham, he became a Boy Scout trainer and began presenting trainings on knots, lashings and CPR.
“Voluntary teaching has been part of my routine in my community whether it’s related to scouts or my religious education system,” he says.
Also at Earlham, Khoja is a co-founder of Earlham Hackers.
“The three objectives of Earlham Hackers is to provide workshops, to make space for computer science-oriented folk to meet and have community, and to provide hackathons,” he says.
After graduation he hopes to work in the scientific software development industry for two to three years before pursuing graduate school.