I sit down with the smartest person I know, and close friend of mine, Asad Mahmood M.D., aka Ace. This is a deep interview on how to get straight As in College and High School.
How to Get Straight As in College and High School Transcript
Ian Balina: Hey, what up world. Welcome to Hacking The System. It’s your boy Ian. And I’m here with my good friend Asad, Doctor Asad.
Asad Mahmood: Hello, world.
Ian Balina: Today’s show, we’re talking about how to hack school and specifically how to become a straight A student. I’m here with the smartest guy I know. Let’s get into it.
All right, so thanks for joining us today. I’m here as I mentioned, with my good friend Asad, who also works in IBM as well. This guy is the smartest guy I know. He has both an M.D. and a Computer Science degree. So Asad, welcome to the show.
Asad Mahmood: Welcome, and thanks for having me on your show.
Ian Balina: All right, so give us a quick bio on yourself.
Asad Mahmood: I was born here in D.C., born, raised, so a native Washingtonian. Actually in the city of D.C.
Ian Balina: Actually in D.C.
Asad Mahmood: Not in burbs, not …
Ian Balina: Not the burbs like me.
Asad Mahmood: Nah man, that’s Virginia. I’m like a native, straight down in D.C., down in North West, that area, that North West corridor of D.C. I went to school, everything for me has been in D.C.
Ian Balina: Now, [inaudible 00:01:15] to the same high school as Dave Chapelle and Warren Buffett.
Asad Mahmood: That is correct. Warren Buffett was also one of the [inaudible 00:01:21] alumni of Wilson Senior High school.
Dave Chapelle was there, Warren Buffett was there. Jim Henson was nearby, but he went to the college part. So I came from a pretty famous high school.
Ian Balina: Okay, interesting. Tell us about your high school experience overall. Because I know you’re a very smart guy, very bright. What was your experience like in high school?
Asad Mahmood: I would say very busy. Because not only was I only just full on in academics, but I was involved in a whole bunch of extra curricular activities. I was on the school newspaper, I was on the quiz bowl team, the science bowl team, the programming team, the math counts team. I was trying to get all my extra curriculars ready for college.
Ian Balina: So do you think that was beneficial?
Asad Mahmood: I think it was, because it gave you one thing, activities outside the school to focus on, and another thing, it beefed up your resume even more for college.
Ian Balina: Okay, so would you say having a good resume with lots of extra curricular activities is helpful for somebody applying to colleges?
Asad Mahmood: Definitely, definitely. Because colleges tend to look sometimes even beyond the SAT score and the GPA. They want to look at what else are you doing, beyond just academics. Are you falling back on extra curricular activities. And any extra curricular activities you engage in, it’s only a bonus.
Ian Balina: All right, so what kind of grades where you getting in school?
Asad Mahmood: Straight A’s.
Ian Balina: Straight A’s?
Asad Mahmood: Nothing less than an A.
Ian Balina: Nothing less, right?
Asad Mahmood: Nothing less.
Ian Balina: That’s the guy, right?
Asad Mahmood: That was the only, the expectation. That was not only an expectation my parents put on me, because they’re super strict Indian parents, they always want the best out of all their kids. They trained us from a very early age, nothing less than an A. Always shoot for the sky. Always shoot for the stars, not just the sky, the stars.
Ian Balina: The stars, okay.
Asad Mahmood: Because if you miss the stars, at least you’ll land on the sky.
Ian Balina: On the sky, interesting, yeah.
Asad Mahmood: So that was our mentality just from the very beginning. Even from elementary school, when I was taking reading courses, math courses, like very basic. I was like, reading everyday. Reading, writing, my dad always made sure I would be reading books on a consistent basis. I would be writing and then I would bring back book reports to him and he would check them.
Ian Balina: Wow, so he was checking your stuff way back then.
Asad Mahmood: Way back then, since elementary school. So then I carried that over with me to high school, that’s why I had all those study habits ingrained with me when I enter high school. That’s why I was [crosstalk 00:03:31]
Ian Balina: Now, your parents also professors, right? I mean, your dad is a professor?
Asad Mahmood: My dad is a professor, my dad is a professor at Howard.
Ian Balina: Professor, yeah.
Asad Mahmood: He’s a physicist and he’s also a professor at mathematics. He has like a double degree in mathematics and physics.
Ian Balina: Damn. [inaudible 00:03:43]. So what kind of advice would you have for people who are currently in high school?
Asad Mahmood: I think in high school I would say that definitely study, maintain that good GPA, but also be involved in your activities at school. [crosstalk 00:03:57]
Ian Balina: Okay, so when you say studying, what exactly do you mean? Can you give us action steps, some actionable tips?
Asad Mahmood: Okay. When I mean studying I mean that when you go to class, make sure when you come home you go over all your lectures, all the notes that you took for that day, or if you didn’t take any notes, at least open a textbook, read the chapter for that day, and do all your homework. The first thing you do before you do anything …
Ian Balina: Wait, can you go back again? I think some people probably missed that.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, I might have been going super fast for you guys, let me just slow it down for you guys.
Ian Balina: Slower fast.
Asad Mahmood: You come home, straight from school. If you don’t have any other extracurricular activities that day, you come home straight from school, and you right away start doing homework. Do your homework, open up your textbooks, open up your workbooks, start doing your homework. Then not only that, go over your notes for the day. If you had like math class that day or science class that day, go over all your notes that you took that day in class. If you didn’t take any notes in class, what you should do is open the chapter that you’re covering currently in class, and read that chapter. Entirely.
Ian Balina: Entirely. Not skimming, reading it.
Asad Mahmood: No, read it. Read it actively, take notes on that chapter. Take notes. When I mean studying, I mean active studying, like reading the chapters out of textbooks. Not out of like workbooks or eBooks or dummy guides or anything. No, go into your textbook, read the textbook, take notes on it, and then you have notes for the next day. Then not only that, that’s just day one of a new theme, or a new topic that you’re studying in class. You have to carry that over.
Ian Balina: Okay, so during that process, so you’re also reading ahead.
Asad Mahmood: Yes. I’m also reading ahead. For example, if I start a new semester, I make sure I get my books in early, because once I had my books down early I started reading that chapter. I read the first chapter right off the bat, as soon as I get the book. That’s why when I’m in class that first day, I’ve already read chapter one.
Ian Balina: Interesting, interesting. That’s a big tip, I think most people, including myself back in school, didn’t really do.
Asad Mahmood: That’s something I picked up on maybe when I got around 10th grade, when the courses start stepping up in difficulty and complexity, and I started to read ahead. Before, I was doing just like probably everyone else. Starting when the professor started. You want to start before the professor or teacher starts.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:06:05]
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. You want to stay at least one lesson or a couple lessons ahead of the guy.
Ian Balina: Really. So you actually, when you say lesson, like chapters or like chapter sections ahead?
Asad Mahmood: For math and science, chapters.
Ian Balina: So you’re one full chapter ahead of the class.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, exactly. That came in to handy when I was taking advanced placement courses, or AP courses. Especially for physics and for calculus. I would do all that stuff. So I would do a chapter ahead. They were doing differentiation in class, I was already on like the [crosstalk 00:06:34] on my own free time, on the weekends or whatever. But weekends what I do is, when we’re talking about studying, I’m talking about studying during the week, but on the weekends try to tone it down. At least keep one day, just where you don’t have anything to study, or any homework.
Ian Balina: One day to yourself.
Asad Mahmood: One day to detox and just relax. Because you don’t want to burn yourself out too. High school is a marathon, not a sprint.
Ian Balina: Wait so, if you’re studying. You come back from school and study the textbook, take notes on that chapter. Where do you find time to go a chapter ahead?
Asad Mahmood: The thing is you start early.
Ian Balina: You start early.
Asad Mahmood: Start earlier in the semester, you get your books early and just start right away.
Ian Balina: Because I kinda have that, okay, interesting. It’s kinda like your preseason.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, it’s kinda like my preseason, my pregame, whatever you want to call it. You just get ready before the semester even starts. You’re putting your reps in before the actual season starts.
Ian Balina: I think for everybody out there at home, definitely take notes on that, that’s a big tip [inaudible 00:07:33]. Because I’ve been trying to tell my younger brother the same thing, he’s coming out in high school, and I’m trying to tell him you have to be a full chapter ahead.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, [crosstalk 00:07:42]
Ian Balina: I’m trying to ingrain that in him.
Asad Mahmood: Second tip is, don’t go for the PDFs, don’t go for electronic versions of books. Go get the textbook. I know the textbook is a little more, borrow the textbook, go to your library and get the textbook. A lot of libraries these days carry the textbook. Libraries these days are not just for going in and browsing the internet, they actually still have books. They still have books there. You can go in there, check out a book. They have a lot of textbooks, like right on file, just check it out and it’s a lot cheaper, you don’t have to go on Amazon and buy a book. Just go ahead.
But stick to textbooks, because I’ve found that I’ve done all my studies just from textbooks. That is carried with your high school, through undergrad, grad, and …
Ian Balina: So what is wrong with PDFs or eBooks?
Asad Mahmood: You can’t really take notes. The thing is I like to sometimes take notes, sometimes in the margins. Not literally, or I have a book right there, and you have something like …
Ian Balina: So actually taking notes inside the book.
Asad Mahmood: Taking notes, and then you have something to carry around with you sometimes. You’re eating at lunch or wherever, you have a book or something, a workbook. You are taking notes, or you have something to carry along with you.
Ian Balina: Interesting.
Asad Mahmood: Instead of, you’re not gonna lug your Lenovo laptop with you to lunch or whatever, [crosstalk 00:08:44].
Ian Balina: Right.
Asad Mahmood: Text books have been a big boon and have been a big part of my success.
Ian Balina: That’s interesting. All right, so while you’re in high school, when did you start preparing for SAT’s?
Asad Mahmood: I started really early, I started from ninth grade, actually.
Ian Balina: Ninth grade.
Asad Mahmood: Ninth grade, because I was just taking the PSAT in eighth grade. So when I took the PSAT in eighth grade, I was like I gotta get a leg up on the SAT, because that’s the next step. Basically that’s the first thing they look at. All colleges look at your SAT score.
Ian Balina: Not the GPA, not that, but SAT.
Asad Mahmood: SAT. The SAT is like the first criteria on their list. They want to look at if you break the minimum SAT score to get in. Once you match that score, then the next thing is the GPA. Then after that is everything else that follows, the extra curriculars. But it’s basically the SAT scores and GPA. That’s it. That’s why a lot of your success in high school and a lot of your success that goes into getting into college depends on those first two points. The SAT score and the GPA.
Ian Balina: Now, for me I find the SAT is kinda more like, kinda like an IQ test. Because there are people who have horrible GPA’s, but they’ll be the smart by nature, right? [inaudible 00:09:54] do well on the SAT. For example, a friend in college, Romaine, he didn’t really do much work in school, right? But he was super smart, like, he would just come into a class, then do the lab, didn’t do any homework, and just ace the test just on like instinct, right?
Asad Mahmood: Wow.
Ian Balina: Some people are like that. I find kinda like an SAT is kinda your, I guess your IQ, while your GPA kinda measures your effort. Some people, they put in effort and they’ll do well and get a good GPA, but they will not be that smart with a high IQ.
Asad Mahmood: I agree, I agree with that. Not only that, I would add to that that the SAT score is basically a measure of how well you know the test.
Ian Balina: Really?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah. If you are good with practicing the SAT. Basically, the SAT doesn’t test your knowledge of reading comprehension or writing or mathematics. No, it tests your knowledge of the test. Of the rules of the test, the sections of the test. If you’ve done enough, practiced SAT tests on your own, or if you bought like an SAT book, like a [inaudible 00:10:52] book, and you’ve gone through all those tests, those are usually the people who score the highest on the SAT.
Ian Balina: Really, so it’s possible to hack the SAT’s.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: What kind of hacking tips do you have to hack the SAT?
Asad Mahmood: I would say that learn the question types, especially for mathematics I can say, because I got a perfect score on the math portion.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:11:09]
Asad Mahmood: I can tell you that the math portion is just know the types of questions, and just hammer those questions down. Even when you’re doing homework or whatever, you take that little break.
Ian Balina: I mean, so you mean hammer, how often are we doing it? Because for example, you began in ninth grade. Was that like two years or three years of just SAT practice?
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. It was just like every day.
Ian Balina: Every day?
Asad Mahmood: Every day for two years. I put in my reps.
Ian Balina: Wow. That’s insane. Every day for two years.
Asad Mahmood: Every day for two years. Not weekend, just week days. Five days a week.
Ian Balina: That’s crazy. You come back, you do your homework, read a chapter ahead, then you prepare for the SAT?
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: Wow. That’s insane.
Asad Mahmood: Things got a little hectic as I moved to 11th and 12th grade. In 12th grade I had seven courses, all seven were AP courses. Imagine how many chapters I was reading a day.
Ian Balina: Wow, interesting, interesting. That’s crazy. Okay, so, once you’ve done the SAT, what tips do you have in terms of applying to colleges, picking majors?
Asad Mahmood: The next question you want to ask yourself is do you want to stay close to home or do you want to go outside your area, your region of the country. For me I wanted to stay kinda close by the home. Plus my parents are, my dad especially, he’s a professor here at Howard’s, it was convenient too, I have access to his domain. Sometimes I came with a lot to him, for like, when I needed some advice on like mathematics or physics. But I did all that stuff, I studied on my own. But even then I would come back to him and say, hey, there’s an interesting problem I’m dealing with, so.
For that type of stuff, it’s important for me to at least stay close to home. Some people might be a little bit more adventurous and want to go up north to Harvard, or go up west to Caltech, to Stanford if they want to seek more prestigious universities, and that’s fine, they can do that as well. You want to get that in your mind from a very early point. Maybe 10th grade.
Ian Balina: What are the schools you’ve looked at or [inaudible 00:12:58], when you’re applying to colleges?
Asad Mahmood: No, I don’t think I had any of those schools in my list. I had basically just the local area schools, because I wanted to stay in the area.
Ian Balina: Wanted to stay in the local area.
Asad Mahmood: I wanted to stay in the area. Another thing is, I wanted a full ride. I went into scholarship to get in. Because I didn’t want to deal with debt so many years down the road, paying off that debt.
Ian Balina: Coming from somebody who just paid of 60 grand in loan, I completely understand.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: For those who don’t know, Asad and I actually worked undergrad together.
Asad Mahmood: [crosstalk 00:13:24]
Ian Balina: What it was on to GW, the George Washington University here in D.C. So tell us about your experience in college.
Asad Mahmood: The first thing was the, the real eye opening experience was that I got the scholarship to go [inaudible 00:13:38]. I was actually initially thinking of going to Maryland, to study engineering. I was gonna do maybe electrical engineering or computer engineering, not even bio med. That’s because they didn’t really have a bio med engineering program at that time at UMD.
Ian Balina: UMD, okay.
Asad Mahmood: UMD, but they had like biological engineering. Not the same thing, not something I wanted to pursue. I was thinking, if I get into Maryland, I’ll do electrical engineering or computer engineering. Because even at that point, I was thinking medicine. But I was thinking, here in the states, you gotta study something before you go into medicine. Elsewhere, out in the west, you can go directly into medicine straight from high school. You have to take like a qualifying exam, if you score high, you can go right into med school.
Ian Balina: When you say west, do you mean west coast, or western world?
Asad Mahmood: Or I mean, I mean East. You’re going eastern hemisphere, like India, China.
Ian Balina: India, China.
Asad Mahmood: Even like Europe. In Europe you can jump right into med school as a 17, 18 year old.
Ian Balina: You were looking college work right? [inaudible 00:14:31] and GW, George Washington university?
Asad Mahmood: Actually, I wasn’t even thinking about GW at the time. But I had heard that there was a scholarship named after the president. President Trachtenberg at that time. I decided to go ahead and qualify for that, because that scholarship was incidentally only for high scoring, very academic D.C. students. As a D.C. public student, so I decided to go ahead and sign up for the scholarship. There’s just something that I just, in the back of my mind, I wasn’t even expecting to get the scholarship. I was like okay, it was something that my dad had read in the newspaper and told me to go in and sign up for it. Those days people used to read newspapers and these kinds of things. This was way back. Like 2006.
Ian Balina: So your dad helped you apply for this. I know it was a full ride. [crosstalk 00:15:15]
Asad Mahmood: Full ride. $200,000.
Ian Balina: $200,000 scholarship?
Asad Mahmood: $200,000 scholarship. I went ahead and applied to it based on my SAT scores and my GPA and my extra curricular activities. I had like four or five extra curricular activities at that time, and this was at the end of 11th grade, going into 12th grade. I went ahead, I applied for that scholarship. I didn’t hear anything back from that, I was like, I’m probably out of the running, they probably someone lined up with the scholarship, so I’m not gonna bother, but I’m just gonna focus on finishing year on a high note, and getting into maybe college [inaudible 00:15:45].
I heard about it later on, I think my dad was hinting that they’re already awarding the scholarship to some folks, some students from the D.C. area. I was like, oh that’s nice, I probably didn’t get it. They probably gave it to someone from one of those private schools in D.C. Like [inaudible 00:16:01], or school Woodrow Wilson.
Ian Balina: Yeah, the president schools right?
Asad Mahmood: The president schools, exactly. Then one day, my computer science, my AP computer science teacher told me that, hey Asad, we want you to go to the library together with us, downstairs at the library. I’m like, the library? I mean, we’re in class right now, we’re having like a test. He’s like, don’t worry man. Just go to the library with us, I want you to come too. I was like okay, yeah. Are we all going as a class? He’s like, yeah, let’s all go.
Ian Balina: Oh, the whole class went, okay.
Asad Mahmood: The whole class went. I’m like, okay. We went down to the library, and the library was packed. This library was always like a ghost town, there was no one in the library, except for some kids like watching like YouTube or whatever. Did they even have YouTube back then.
Ian Balina: Probably in the early days back then, yeah.
Asad Mahmood: Early days, [inaudible 00:16:42]. Anyway, we went down to the library, and then what tipped me off almost immediately was I saw my parents there too at the library. I was like, why are my parents there? And my brothers are there too in the library. I was like, what are these folks doing? Then all of a sudden everyone breaks out in applause, I’m like, what is going on here? Am I getting punked here or something? I turn around and the Mascot from GW, the colonial guy was there with a big ass check, and he was like dancing.
Ian Balina: A big check?
Asad Mahmood: A big check. Publishers, [inaudible 00:17:11]. Who man. They just came and then there’s a representative from the [inaudible 00:17:15] scholarship. The lady, she came in and then she basically made the announcement in front of the whole crowd. She goes like, so we’re awarding Asad a full ride TGW for a scholarship that’s a little less than, and people are like okay, so it’s not that much. Then she said, a little less than 210, 200,000. People are like whoa, $200,000, whoa. Then I was like a celebrity for a couple weeks at my high school. Everyone was like, he’s the guy with the scholarship.
Ian Balina: That’s the guy with the scholarship.
Asad Mahmood: That’s the guy with the scholarship. I was getting like pats on the shoulder, high fives, hand shakes.
Ian Balina: That’s great, son.
Asad Mahmood: It was, upon getting that scholarship that I was like, okay, GW is not bad. I’ll go to GW. I’ll check it out. Because people were asking, are you still gonna go to college [inaudible 00:17:55], because you’re all about going to college [inaudible 00:17:58] for life. I was like no, I have full ride, I’m not gonna say no to a full ride.
Ian Balina: Yeah, that’s nice, isn’t it. So GW gave you a full ride, did college [inaudible 00:18:06] give you anything, or?
Asad Mahmood: No, they just gave me admission there, but they told me that they basically will monitor my performance for one semester and then they’ll give me some sort of a scholarship.
Ian Balina: Yeah, the same thing happened with me. I also got into GW, didn’t get a full ride like you did. No one gave me the half scholarship. The half tuition. But they kinda gave that to several people. But the president scholarship, I think that’s only like what, four people, they give it to, or?
Asad Mahmood: They give it to yeah, about like four people that year.
Ian Balina: Out of all the people who applied and got into GW? Only four people got that, and you were one of those?
Asad Mahmood: I was one of those, yeah.
Ian Balina: That’s called greatness people, that’s called greatness.
Asad Mahmood: Thank you.
Ian Balina: All right. So you applied, went to GW. Tell us, walk us through that first semester in college.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, definitely. I joined up at GW in 2006, and then I signed up to do bio med engineering. Because at that time, I was thinking, okay, I’m gonna do something like engineering and medicine. That’s what I’m gravitating towards, I want to do a field that incorporates both of those fields. Because I was a real good bio student. I’ve good grades all around in all the subjects, but it was a subject that was particularly close to me. I wanted to go into medicine.
Ian Balina: Has that always been something you wanted to be since you were a kid?
Asad Mahmood: I think I wanted to be an inventor.
Ian Balina: Inventor?
Asad Mahmood: That’s what I wanted to be. From a very young age, my idols were like Da Vinci and Thomas Edison. I also wanted to invent something. I wanted to do something ground breaking, life changing for people. That’s what I wanted to do. But I don’t know, somewhere down the line medicine entered into that equation. I was like, I like bio, I want to learn how the human body works and I want to cure diseases. I was like okay, let’s do something that does medicine and engineering, while keeping close to the innovation aspect.
Ian Balina: Inventing something new.
Asad Mahmood: Inventing something new. That’s why I entered into bio med engineering. The first year was just like, all these, [inaudible 00:19:52] engineering courses and stuff. I’m a [inaudible 00:19:55] in fact on the first day, one of those intro to engineering courses.
Ian Balina: Yeah, it was the first day. I think it was in the lab.
Asad Mahmood: In the lab, exactly.
Ian Balina: The CS lab.
Asad Mahmood: In the CS lab.
Ian Balina: The rest is history guys, here we are. We’re in the same company, right?
Asad Mahmood: So yeah, at GW and then at the same time in bio med engineering, not only do you have to do all those engineering courses. You have to do some of those medicine, pre med type of courses, like organic chemistry, chem two and so forth. And biophysics, you have to take those courses. I was able to do all of the bio med courses in three years. I had basically one year leftover to do just like.
Ian Balina: Wait, so did any of the AP classes you take transfer over?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, a lot of those AP classes transferred over, that’s a good question. That allowed me to finish all the bio-med courses in three years instead of four years. I had AP computer science, [inaudible 00:20:43] and I have to take like the C++ class. It’s one of the courses that I didn’t have to take. I think it might have been the C class.
Ian Balina: Right, I think.
Asad Mahmood: Calculus, I didn’t have to take cal one or cal two. Knock that out. Not physics one and physics two, knock that out.
Ian Balina: Oh wow, okay.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah. I think …
Ian Balina: Technically, it was possible to graduate in three years.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, it was technically possible to graduate from three years, but I had a scholarship for four years, so I had to stay there for four years.
Ian Balina: Oh, okay. So what did you do in those last, one year. Did you just take lab classes, or just take classes for grad school, or?
Asad Mahmood: I did a minor. Because I did three minors.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:21:19]
Asad Mahmood: I did a minor in physics and biophysics and computer science.
Ian Balina: Wow, okay, interesting.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah. Incidentally, the physics scores and the biophysics scores overlapped quite a bit. If you’re able to do all the courses for biophysics, you essentially did all the courses for physics. Minus like physics three or atomic physics. I was able to do that and then computer science, yeah. I was already at that point, where I was building up my programming background. This would come in handy for the next step in the journey, when I actually went from biomed engineering to computer science. Did a masters in computer science.
Ian Balina: Okay, so prior to jumping there. What are some life hacks you have for college? Because college is different from high school.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, definitely, it’s a whole different ball game, and you have less of the hand holding that you have in high school.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:22:03]
Asad Mahmood: So now the professors are not really teaching, they’re basically telling you what you need to study, they basically assign you pages and chapters to read, and they tell you to go out and study, the exam is in two weeks, or in a week in some instances. Go out and do it. Again, that textbook hack that I told you guys about, came in handy in college too. Because I just went out and got the textbook, and then started reading right away, the textbook. That helped me out a lot. Especially for those pre med courses, like biophysics, organic chemistry. That helped a lot, that helped a ton. For the engineering courses, what I did was, I had a brother in electrical engineering. He had a lot of electronics workbooks and stuff like that. [inaudible 00:22:42] series and stuff like that. I was able to borrow some of those books from him. Not borrow, he’s my brother, I basically took them and basically just worked through those workbooks and did all those circuits, electronic stuff, and yeah, just worked on that.
Anytime I had homework to do. I did my homework in addition to doing all that stuff.
Ian Balina: I mean, this seems like lots and lots of work. Where did you get the motivation, the fuel to put in all this effort?
Asad Mahmood: Two things. One thing, I had a scholarship and I had to maintain the scholarship and maintain a minimum GPA going from year to year. Because if you didn’t maintain at least, I know it was above a three, it had to be a like a three point two or something. If you didn’t maintain a three point two, that scholarship was gone, no warning. One semester, minus a three point two, you’re without a scholarship.
Ian Balina: Wow.
Asad Mahmood: At a place like GW, where the tuition is like 60 grand a year, I mean, that’s a big hit. That’s a big motivation right there. The second motivation was a personal motivation of mine, that’s I always shoot for the stars. I always shoot for the stars, and that’s why I have to get it, I can’t get anything less than an A. Anything less than an A is failure to me.
Ian Balina: I like that.
Asad Mahmood: That was a personal pressure I put on myself. Even my parents weren’t putting that much pressure on me. Because they knew that I was dealing with a lot of hard, heavy hitting courses. They were like, okay, even if you get like a three point five or above, that’s good. Three point five was a good GPA, for me no, it wasn’t good. I [inaudible 00:24:04] even harder. That’s why I went ahead and continued the same studying habits that served me well in high school. [inaudible 00:24:11] in high school, and got me the scholarship I wanted too. I keep going with that.
Ian Balina: Nice, nice. Wow, that’s lots of deep information right here.
Asad Mahmood: That’s a lot of deep information and it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s possible when you take it one day at a time.
Ian Balina: Yeah, so you kinda break it down. You kinda mentioned that in college, they don’t really teach.
Asad Mahmood: They don’t teach, exactly.
Ian Balina: I kinda experienced that as well, because we had the same classes. For those who don’t know, this guy is almost the main reason why I graduated. This guy carried me through college, because I was struggling in engineering classes. Me and my other close friend [inaudible 00:24:49], right.
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: Me and him basically became friends with this guy, and this guy would just sit there with us, show us how to solve these problems, tutor us, coach us.
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: He just basically helped us get through the classes. This guy was the best wing man ever.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. I think I remember on certain instances, where I was basically tutoring the whole class and my classmates. I was tutoring you and [inaudible 00:25:13] and then some other engineering guys walked in in the class like I was giving a lecture or something. I was like, what is this? Am I giving a lecture for free?
Ian Balina: All right, all right.
Asad Mahmood: But I find that if you’re teaching a certain concept, something that’s difficult for you to master yourself. If you teach it to a class, a room full of people, you tend to learn a lot more. That kinda hones your skill even more.
Ian Balina: What advice I kinda have from my perspective, right. From not being the smartest guy in my engineering class, right.
Asad Mahmood: But he was pretty smart.
Ian Balina: But I mean, I was more kind of like scrooge smart, more hustling smart, in a way. People ask me, how do you become friends with smart people? Let’s say, [inaudible 00:25:52] and you want help. You can’t just go up to the smartest person in the class and be like hey, let’s work together, right?
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: Like it’s not that easy. You have to provide some kind of value. I think with me, what I kinda did was, I always had kinda like a big brother, Syed, our friend, right?
Asad Mahmood: Okay.
Ian Balina: Syed was one year above me. He was a [inaudible 00:26:14]. I think we might have, sophomore year we kinda began doing this, but I was a sophomore and he was a junior. But Syed would help me out by getting me his old books, his old class notes, his old exams, old home works, whatever. I’d use that to kinda practice, right? But I didn’t know how to sell the stuff. So I came to Asad, like hey, I have the last year’s exam. The test is coming up in a week. Do you want to work together on this? That’s how we kind of began working together a lot, because at first, I noticed that, I think it was me, [inaudible 00:26:47] and somebody else, but we kinda had to win you over. Because you can’t just be helping everybody in the class on their homework.
Asad Mahmood: Sure. I had a lot of other courses going on.
Ian Balina: Right, so we had to kinda provide some value to you. I think the value was mainly, the value I brought was I had these old exams, old notes that we could use to practice for tests, right?
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: What other advice do you have for people out there who want to become friends with smart people like you in class?
Asad Mahmood: I think, just be approachable. Just walk up to them, don’t be shy to just walk up to them and then work on like a, if it’s a homework assignment, or a class project. Class projects are great for that. Because that way, that’s like your first exposure to that person, as you’re working together. You’re brain to brain on an assignment.
Ian Balina: Right, [crosstalk 00:27:31], I was actually in the lab, we were doing some lab [crosstalk 00:27:34].
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, lab exercises. I mean, labs are where most people hit off friendships, right there, when they’re like working together, trying to get this down, a lab to work. Yeah, I think that’s where we met too.
Ian Balina: Right, yeah.
Asad Mahmood: I met a lot of other classmates in lab as well. We worked a lot in lab, and then, that’s what translated over to studying together on tests and so forth.
Ian Balina: Okay, so is there anything about college you didn’t like in particular? Besides the professors and how they taught?
Asad Mahmood: I think, yeah, that was a big portion I didn’t like. That was a big shock to me, because I was thinking that the same stuff would carry over from high school. That these guys are professors, I know they’re researchers too, but part of their job is to teach too, but these guys weren’t teaching. They were basically just writing the first part of the problem on the board and saying, okay, you do the rest of this. This will be on the test. But they haven’t really basically explained to us how to carry out this problem. They kinda left you out in the woods somewhere, trying to figure it out on your own. That was one aspect of that.
Another thing is, sometimes in college especially, I felt like maybe if you’re not part of a lot of extra curricular activities or the outside activities, you’re kinda like off on your own, studying on your own. You’re kinda like in the dark, you don’t know if you’re doing it the right way. It was a good thing that I met people like Ian and other people in our engineering class, where we were able to collaborate together on a lot of stuff.
Ian Balina: Yeah, because with me. My first year I struggled, because I was just kind of studying on my own. It wasn’t until I began meeting other people and then studying together, that I kinda began doing better.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: That’s actually in the 48 laws of power, a book by Robert Greene. He has a concept called that, it’s not good to be in isolation by yourself.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: It’s better to be out there in front of everybody, like in the open. I mean, in the center, and hear people talking about you, than to be in isolation.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: Because when you’re in the center, you’re in touch with the communications, with what’s being spurred around.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: So if you know, hey, everybody in this class has the old exams, that’s why they’re acing it. And I’m part of this class, I should probably find the old exams too, right? So me, I was kind of, I was out of sync with the class, right?
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: Because people, the main issue was I was a commuter. I was staying off campus, I was still staying with my family. I’d take the metro every single day like about an hour. From Silver Spring to D.C. After a while, people who were staying on campus are kinda sharing information that I’m not [inaudible 00:30:00] to. So, the biggest hack …
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, you’re kinda out of the loop.
Ian Balina: Yeah, I was out of the loops. The biggest hack I had to overcome was, I have to become [inaudible 00:30:06] to that. What helped me was joining NSBE, which was national society of black engineers. So I joined NSBE, and from there they basically had helped me with, they had old books, old exams. But then the president of NSBE put me in touch with somebody he knew in his class, who was in the same major I was doing. He introduced me to Saiad, who kinda became like my big brother.
Asad Mahmood: Oh, so that’s how you met.
Ian Balina: Yeah, so that’s how I met Saiad. I was like yeah man, same majors, so he kinda told me, hey don’t take this class, this professor sucks. He won’t teach anything and he’ll fail you. Take this class, because this professor is a better teacher. Or here, why don’t you wait, don’t take this class right now, take it next semester, because there will be a better professor. Different hacks like that, they kinda helped to navigate me, and was basically my GPS going through college.
Asad Mahmood: Nice, that’s very nice.
Ian Balina: All right, so you finished up undergrad, then you went to grad school, right. Tell us about your grad school experience.
Asad Mahmood: So, I was initially not even planning to grad school, I was planning to go straight into med school, because I had taken the mcat exam, maybe at the end of my third year in bio med engineering, so I had, I had also gotten an awesome on the mcat, so I was thinking, but even then, for some reason I didn’t have my mind made up onto going into, pursuing a career in medicine. I was like, I’m a good programmer, I’ve done a lot of programming work in bio med engineering. In fact, my senior design project, I basically created a software, that did a two dimensional model of a venture, [inaudible 00:31:35]. That got me a really high grade on the senior design project and everything.
Ian Balina: That sounds complicated.
Asad Mahmood: It was as complicated. Again, it was an example of things to come later on in life, where I was doing basically, stopped ahead, no training and I basically learned from scratch on my own. I’ll get into it a little bit deeper, on how to master things like that.
Ian Balina: Yeah.
Asad Mahmood: But basically I did that. That spurred the, made the gears work in my mind, thinking that okay, programming is a good option too. I can do maybe a year of programming, because I’ve done all of these courses in GW. I’ve basically done a minor in computer science. I already have a leg up on computer science. Because that’s when I went to Howard and I did a masters in computer science and I was able to complete it in one year. That means, one semester of five courses, and the second semester of five courses.
Ian Balina: Wait, so you got your masters in comp science in one year?
Asad Mahmood: In one year. From Howard University.
Ian Balina: Because of the class that you took prior to that?
Asad Mahmood: Because of a class that I took in GW. The minor.
Ian Balina: Also they transferred like that?
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. The CV, the C++ class, the [inaudible 00:32:37].
Ian Balina: Oh interesting, [inaudible 00:32:38].
Asad Mahmood: They were able to, not only that, they were able to give me a scholarship too, based on my performance. I had a scholarship going to Howard as well.
Ian Balina: You’ve been going to college for free pretty much.
Asad Mahmood: Pretty much. I was able to go Howard, complete that in one year, then I had to do the masters thesis on a cyber security project. Once I had finished that, then by that time, I was like okay, the only way to go is up, so let’s go to med school after this. I still had my mcat score, I had saved up from third year by med engineering, so I basically used the same score again, apply to a bunch of different medical schools. But again, I wanted to stay close to home, so that’s why I stayed around at Howard and did med school over there, for four years.
Ian Balina: Was that free too?
Asad Mahmood: They gave me some scholarship, but they don’t give you the whole shabang.
Ian Balina: They don’t give you the whole shabang.
Asad Mahmood: I had also, I had some, my parents helped me out as well too.
Ian Balina: Okay.
Asad Mahmood: Combination of scholarship money and my parents funding me as well.
Ian Balina: So did you have any student loans for med school [crosstalk 00:33:33]?
Asad Mahmood: No. No student loans because I didn’t take out any loans. My dad was like I’m gonna help you to the point where you don’t have to take out any money. All the money you make after med school will be your own. You don’t have to use it to pay off any loans. So my parents are a big boost of support.
Ian Balina: Nice, nice.
Asad Mahmood: That’s why, that was a plus of staying at home. If I hadn’t stayed at home, I would be off in some other state, I don’t know how my parents are gonna help me.
Ian Balina: Right, right, that’s right. All right, so you said you applied to med school with your mcat from one year ago, is that right? What was the experience like with the mcat compared to the SAT?
Asad Mahmood: It was another beast of an exam. For starters, the exam itself is tough. I mean, it’s a eight to nine hour exam. Or it might be even less now. They basically changed the format. When I took it, it was a very very long exam. It had a written portion, a biological sciences component, physical sciences component.
Ian Balina: Wait, [crosstalk 00:34:21] nine hours?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah. That’s kinda like on par for the types of standardized exams you have to take in med school for your licensing exams. Your step one and your step two. They’re like eight, nine hour exams.
Ian Balina: Wow.
Asad Mahmood: Imagine that, that’s like a marathon right there. That’s another test that’s basically, a test how much you know about the test. It’s testing you how well you know the mcat.
Ian Balina: I mean, so how do you practice for a nine hours exam?
Asad Mahmood: You don’t do it in one day. You don’t do it in one week, you don’t do it in a month. You do it over a period of a year. For this exam especially, the mcat, I started studying for it, I think around second year of bio med engineering. So I was doing all these engineering courses and studying for the mcat.
Ian Balina: Really? So [inaudible 00:35:00] and you’re practicing for the mcat.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, I was studying for the mcat as well. Basically, like I didn’t have a summer vacation, I was like studying for the exam. I think I went to India after second year, and then after that I haven’t gone to India since. I’ve been finishing up these engineering courses too, because I finished them up in three years. But that’s still a lot of courses in three years that I had to finish. In addition to all the mcat studying I had to do. I got that out of the way, took the mcat, got a good score and everything, and based on that, that score came in handy when I finished the masters, and I applied for med school at Howard. They looked at the score and like, that’s good.
Ian Balina: So you mentioned masters in computer science.
Asad Mahmood: Yes.
Ian Balina: Biomedical engineering was your undergrad.
Asad Mahmood: Undergrad, exactly.
Ian Balina: Then you went to medical school.
Asad Mahmood: Then I went to medical school, so …
Ian Balina: So you’re kind of this multi dimensional doctor, [crosstalk 00:35:45].
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. The ultimate doctor, engineer.
Ian Balina: Bionic doctor, right.
Asad Mahmood: Bionic doctor. Yeah. I think I was in D.C. at like an event, like a meetup event that Ian invited me out to. I met a couple of engineers there, so I was basically going over my background as an engineer, as a doctor. So they’re like, you’re an Indian and you’re an engineer and a doctor. You’re like every Indian parent’s dream.
Ian Balina: Was this the IBM meetup?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, I think that was the IBM meetup. Where we always have a lot of grad students coming and like computer science students, who are trying to get a job, basically.
Ian Balina: Yeah. Wow, wow, that’s crazy. All right, you got your MD.
Asad Mahmood: MD.
Ian Balina: What was that process like?
Asad Mahmood: The first two years were okay, because they were basically like undergrad, like high school and so forth. Basically just studying and taking tests, studying and taking tests. No problem for me. Around the third year is when I was like, what is this? This is completely different. When you basically had to go the hospital all day. You had to go from like seven, to sometimes if you’re on your surgery rotation, seven to eight, seven to nine. Or sometimes you were like on call, so you came in at seven in the morning one day, and you left the next day at like, eight, nine o’clock. So you’re on rotation.
When it’s like July of your third year, that’s when it starts. It starts early too, and then ends late. Third year.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:37:06] in the hospital [crosstalk 00:37:09].
Asad Mahmood: Working in a hospital, but you’re rotating through different.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:37:11]
Asad Mahmood: No, it’s clinical rotations of third year.
Ian Balina: Was that prior to residency?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, residency is after you graduate from med school. I went through all that. I think I did internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, OBGYN, surgery, that whole [crosstalk 00:37:25].
Ian Balina: Is you have to do all that [inaudible 00:37:27] to graduate with a MD?
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, you have to do all that in your third year. [crosstalk 00:37:31].
Ian Balina: So for example like, you can’t like receive babies, like [crosstalk 00:37:36]
Asad Mahmood: That’s your final exam, [inaudible 00:37:38], you have to deliver a baby with its ugly ass placenta to graduate from, or to complete OBGYN. So I was able to deliver a baby and deliver a placenta. I was lucky to not have passed out nor have vomited, [crosstalk 00:37:53]. But I had to like go home and take a shower.
Ian Balina: So, what other test did you have to take to [inaudible 00:37:59], what other like stuff in the hospital were you doing?
Asad Mahmood: You have to take your normal test. In the first and second years it’s just all the tests that the Howard University med school professors are preparing for you. Third year comes around, you’re taking nationalized tests, you’re taking what they are called, the NBME’s, these are like National Board Medical Examinations that you take for each rotation. Example, if you take three months of internal medicine, at the end of the three months you take an exam in NBME. This is incidentally the same exam that every other med school student is taking across the country. It’s standardized [inaudible 00:38:32]. Then there’s no [inaudible 00:38:33] or anything, what you get is what you get.
Ian Balina: Okay.
Asad Mahmood: That’s the same thing that I followed for all of these rotations. Not only was I in the hospital from morning to night, I had to come home and study too.
Ian Balina: Wow, that’s insane.
Asad Mahmood: If there was time leftover, sleep and eat. That was insane. I wasn’t really a fan of those hours, and I wasn’t really a fan of that setup. I was more of the studious type of lifestyle. I had to study and go to class, take the exams and then I had time on the weekend.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:39:00] Yeah. So for example, you mentioned, you do like a psychiatric one rotation with it.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, psychiatric.
Ian Balina: What kind of stuff were you doing for that. Were you like diagnosing people, like [inaudible 00:39:10] or something like that?
Asad Mahmood: That’s more psychology, what [inaudible 00:39:14] was. But basically what I did was, I basically went out to Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, and I think it’s in South West D.C. I went out over there and basically was there from Monday to Friday. Just attending to patients. I would go along with a psychiatrist inside of a room. The psychiatrist is taking his history, and I was taking my notes too as well.
Ian Balina: So what exactly is psychiatry. How is that different from psychology?
Asad Mahmood: A psychiatrist can actually prescribe you medication. Psychologists cannot prescribe you. They can diagnose you more or less, if you have depression, or [crosstalk 00:39:42].
Ian Balina: Okay, so were you doing stuff like, what’s that with the, DSM?
Asad Mahmood: DSM, exactly. I was using that book. I was actually reading that book cover to cover, to pass that exam to psych and [inaudible 00:39:53].
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:39:53] the actual exam?
Asad Mahmood: The actual exam.
Ian Balina: Surprisingly, I have actually read the book as well.
Asad Mahmood: Oh, awesome, awesome.
Ian Balina: I mean, not just kind of as like, hey, because I was reading some stuff about psychology and disorders and stuff, right. I’m like, hey, maybe I have a disorder, or maybe [inaudible 00:40:05] have a disorder or whatever, right? I didn’t really read the book, but I kinda skimmed the book, right?
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: I just kinda go on through, and I thought, hey, interesting book, right?
Asad Mahmood: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ian Balina: Yeah, it taught me some stuff about people in general, right? For example, like four out of 10 people are sociopaths, right? That means almost anywhere you go, whether school or work, there’s gonna be a sociopath you have to interact with. I’m like, okay, interesting.
Asad Mahmood: That would explain a lot of my interactions in the D.C. area. Yeah, that was like just one of the rotations I had to go through in third year. Then by the time you get to fourth year, then it’s all electives. The electives are based on what residency you want to pursue after med school. I was initially thinking about doing oncology and internal medicine. Right way, I would have to offer all the internal medicine elective, like oncology, cardiology, GI, and so forth. I think I picked endocrinology, oncology, cardio and then some other rotations. I think I did a radiology rotation as well. Because radiology is very important too, for any rotation in turn. You gotta interpret [crosstalk 00:41:03].
Ian Balina: Some much stuff you’re doing and that’s why. This is why this guy is a smart dude. All this and computer science together, right?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah.
Ian Balina: All right, so after you finished medical school, what was the next step in your progression with career, life? What happened after that?
Asad Mahmood: If I would have followed the game plan, I would have gone to residency. I would have gone to residency, then the fellowship and then becoming [inaudible 00:41:28] physician. Then I would be working basically in a hospital most of the time. 80% of the time and 20% in the clinic, other patient. But I think it’s something that was born out of something that happened even when I was applying for med school or doing the MCATs. I wasn’t really interested in the clinical aspect. I wanted to go into the innovation, the technology aspect of medicine. That kind of made me hesitate when I was applying for residency, and ultimately I didn’t really apply for residency. I finished med school and I was like no, I don’t want to do clinical medicine. I don’t want to work in a hospital. I want to actually be out there, in the field, inventing treatments, that then doctors are gonna use to improve patient outcomes.
Ian Balina: Right, that’s interesting.
Asad Mahmood: That’s what I just started to search for these types of positions. In like biomedical engineering, or these types of medical innovation types position, medical technology positions. I was searching for a while. That was kinda like one of the setbacks I would think. If we would get to the section on setbacks, I think that was a personal setback for me, because I was always at the top of my class and everything.
Ian Balina: Let’s go there right now.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, I had everything basically handed to me. But that was handed to me on the basis of all the hard work and the hours I put in, the reps I put in. But then for the first time I saw all my classmates go off into residency and then they would become doctors in a couple of year, and here I was. I went through the whole process, nine years of studying, and I wasn’t a doctor, technically. I had done all the licensing exams, but they won’t consider me a doctor doctor per se.
Ian Balina: Right.
Asad Mahmood: Because I haven’t done residency. But again, I was convinced, I was confident in myself, that the next step I’m about to take is gonna be even better than the step that I’ve left behind. I can do much better than just working in a hospital as a clinician.
Ian Balina: Right, okay, I mean, so. Let’s say, how long is that path [inaudible 00:43:13] going after a med school?
Asad Mahmood: So, after med school …
Ian Balina: [inaudible 00:43:18] is how long?
Asad Mahmood: So, let’s pick internal medicine right now, because surgery is a whole different ball game. Internal medicine is three years of residency, then it’s like depending on the fellowship. Like your specialization, if you want to do cancer research or [crosstalk 00:43:32].
Ian Balina: You have to get into right, [inaudible 00:43:35]?
Asad Mahmood: You get paid. That’s a job. You get paid as a resident, you get paid like almost a minimum wage. You get paid like 45 to 50k a year.
Ian Balina: Wow, for three years?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah. That’s like every year you get paid. For three years, I think it goes up slightly. So it’s for example, it’s like 49k one year, 50k second year, 51k third.
Ian Balina: Why so low, like, there’s just so much supply?
Asad Mahmood: I think that’s part of the problem in healthcare, yeah.
Ian Balina: [crosstalk 00:44:03] that many people who want to be doctors?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah. These are people who want to be doctors, but they’re working almost close to minimum wage and so many hours. They’re doing so much good work in the hospital, but they’re not being compensated right.
Ian Balina: I thought there was like, there weren’t that many doctors that don’t want to work as doctors. I mean, there aren’t that many people who [inaudible 00:44:22] to be doctors.
Asad Mahmood: No, there are a ton of people. What’s happening is you’re having like an over-saturation of people going into the medical field. Right now, there are not even that many residency spots. The year that I was applying for residency, there are 11,000 medical school graduates who went without a residency spot. 11,000 people. Imagine graduating from med school and you don’t even have a job after that. You put in four years, you have almost close to 150, $200,000 of debt.
Ian Balina: I mean, that was at that school, or where was that?
Asad Mahmood: Nation wide. Nation wide, 11,000 people were without a residency spot.
Ian Balina: So what happens, they go elsewhere, they go abroad, or?
Asad Mahmood: So they wait. They take a transition year where they’re doing research, and then they come back again, they apply for residency, or they do like an NPH.
Ian Balina: I mean so, were they turned down based on their scores or based on what?
Asad Mahmood: I think scores. Scores are on thing, and research.
Ian Balina: Scores and research.
Asad Mahmood: Scores and research. And what med school you went to. It’s kinda like a, what do you say, based on the type of med school you go to, you have an easier chance of getting into residency.
Ian Balina: Yeah. Right, right [crosstalk 00:45:23].
Asad Mahmood: So if you go into the top tier med school, it’s easier to get a top tier residency.
Ian Balina: I mean so, you applied to the hospital or you applied somewhere else?
Asad Mahmood: To the hospital.
Ian Balina: To the hospital.
Asad Mahmood: Every hospital hospital doesn’t have a residency …
Ian Balina: So it’s basically a job application.
Asad Mahmood: It’s a job application, exactly. You go on an interview. It’s like a group interview. If you go and like, I applied to some hospitals in the Baltimore area, so I basically went over with these med school guys, and then all these guys were there. It was like a group interview, they were going around the room, introducing ourselves, and they’re talking about the different programs that they had. Your normal day to day schedule. And you are basically there from morning until afternoon. That was your interview.
Ian Balina: Wow. That’s crazy.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, that is crazy.
Ian Balina: I think that was the time where me and you kinda began talking again.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: I know when you went to medical school, you were pretty much buried in books.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. I was basically MIA.
Ian Balina: And I didn’t really hear from you. Yeah, you basically [crosstalk 00:46:12] four years almost.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah.
Ian Balina: Then I think we ended up meeting, how again? I think either I texted you or you called me or something like that, and kinda?
Asad Mahmood: I think around that time you might have switched phones or something so you didn’t have my phone number, so you sent me a message, I’m like damn. You’re like hey, what’s your new phone?
Ian Balina: Yeah, yeah, yeah. All right. I know from there you wanted to make a career switch.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: Let’s say you had gone on to be a doctor. What was like the expected income you’d have per year?
Asad Mahmood: I think for me, I wanted to go into internal medicine, so I think right off the bat I’d be making over 100k, maybe 150k.
Ian Balina: Like, that’s [inaudible 00:46:48], just that?
Asad Mahmood: Just that. That’s without specialization. If you specialize, they say, I don’t know how much of it is factual, but they say 250 to 300k. For like a specialist. A specialist meaning like an oncologist, cardiologist, kinda on the higher …
Ian Balina: I mean, so was your plan to specialize or not to specialize?
Asad Mahmood: My plan was to specialize because I knew that I would just be making 100, 150k max.
Ian Balina: Right.
Asad Mahmood: That’s if I did no specialization, if I just stayed general.
Ian Balina: So, how do you specialize. Is that [crosstalk 00:47:17].
Asad Mahmood: So that’s fellowship. So that’s another job that you do. Fellowship.
Ian Balina: How long is that?
Asad Mahmood: That depends. If it’s cardiology it’s three years. If it’s oncology it’s three years.
Ian Balina: So another six years after you, six extra years.
Asad Mahmood: So yeah, five, six years after med school.
Ian Balina: Wow, okay, interesting.
Asad Mahmood: But you’re getting paid. But still, you’re not getting paid like [crosstalk 00:47:36].
Ian Balina: Basically like an average doctor, who’s generalized, makes like 150k or so?
Asad Mahmood: Average.
Ian Balina: Average. If you specialize it’s like, what you said, 250, 300.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, 250 to 300. I think some cardiologists go up to 400k.
Ian Balina: Okay, interesting, yeah.
Asad Mahmood: But not all. It all depends. There’s a lot of factors that, for sure. The hospital you’re working in, the amount of research you have already done and so forth. That also plays a role in that.
Ian Balina: I mean, so does the hospital pay you, I know some people you mentioned get paid per surgery, for example.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, so those are surgeons. I’m talking solely about internal medicine, which is a non surgical specialty. For surgery it’s a lot more years after med school, but it’s a lot more pay. Then when you become a surgeon, and you’ll become specialized. I had a surgeon in college who I worked alongside in med school. He’s a surgeon at Howard University Hospital. This guy was coming in, doing like breast resections, taking out cancers, taking out tumors, and he was making $8,000 per procedure. One day he had six procedures and made 48k, and he walked home happy.
Ian Balina: I mean so, I find that to be kind of a bad model though, right? This is just my personal take, [inaudible 00:48:45] from my family. Doctors almost incentivize to want to do more procedures. I know my younger brother, who went to John Hopkins because he had some kind of heart defect or I don’t know, it’s like a murmur or whatever.
Asad Mahmood: Okay, a murmur.
Ian Balina: Right. Doctors wanted to operate on him. My mom was like hell no.
Asad Mahmood: Without doing any diagnostics, doing any labs?
Ian Balina: No, I mean, there were like multiple trips they went there, to John Hopkins, right, because we were back in
Columbia, Maryland, they referred to John Hopkins, because it’s like the best or whatever.
Asad Mahmood: Sure.
Ian Balina: The doctors wanted to, they were like adamant about doing surgery on my younger brother. He was like around two years old.
Asad Mahmood: Wow, that’s [inaudible 00:49:27].
Ian Balina: Like the side effects [inaudible 00:49:31], he will be like, I don’t know, like, what’s the term for it, he basically won’t be normal anymore, right?
Asad Mahmood: Side effects of the procedure, [crosstalk 00:49:40]?
Ian Balina: Yeah, so side effects after they do the procedure, because they’ll do some stuff, I don’t know.
Asad Mahmood: Wow, there’s not a guarantee that the procedure would even work.
Ian Balina: Right, so basically he would be [inaudible 00:49:49]. But apparently he would have a chance to live. My mom was like, you know what, no, I’m not doing this, this doesn’t mean, [inaudible 00:49:59] if he’s just gonna be disabled for his whole life, right? So she said no. But then we had to do like annual visits every single year. My mom was like, you know, we’re just gonna do the whole, just not do anything, right. I don’t trust you guys, it seems like you guys just are doing this for the money, right. Fast forward like 10 years later, he’s still perfectly fine, no issues, nothing.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. The procedure wasn’t necessary.
Ian Balina: That was like, you know what, I messed up.
Asad Mahmood: [crosstalk 00:50:25] not uncommon.
Ian Balina: You’re playing with somebody’s life here, right? It felt like the doctor was just doing this, because he was trying to get paid.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah.
Ian Balina: Because he was like, hey, maybe I have this debt, I have my family, maybe I have to pay the student loans, maybe I have to buy this new Lambo, I don’t know, right? Let me just take these people through this conveyor belt and do as many operations as I can to get paid.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah.
Ian Balina: How does that work in the medical field?
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. And you did a perfect allusion to that. The fact that a lot of doctors are dealing with the stress of paying off their student loans and also they just want the money too. If you have a doctor who’s making $8,000 per procedure.
Ian Balina: Yeah, per procedure.
Asad Mahmood: Of course the incentive is there, to go for a surgery even before doing any other [crosstalk 00:51:09].
Ian Balina: Right, right. Because that’s basically kind of like, I would expect that more in something like sales, because me and you both work in sales, right?
Asad Mahmood: Right, exactly.
Ian Balina: We get paid on commission. Sometimes you want to close a deal and have a customer buy something, it may not be the best product for them, but you’re like, I have bills to pay, I have a family to feed.
Asad Mahmood: So you’re thinking right away, you’re putting your interest above that of the customer. The doctor is putting his interest above those of the patient.
Ian Balina: But I feel like in sales or like software, it’s kinda understandable. But when you’re dealing with people’s lives, it’s totally different.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, I know.
Ian Balina: You can’t really have a cutthroat sales, almost [inaudible 00:51:45] model. It’s something about healthcare.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, life and death is paramount every day. So yeah.
Ian Balina: Right. Well, anyway, getting back on topic. That was the ideal, so after med school, you ended up working at IBM, right?
Asad Mahmood: I ended up working at IBM, and great and huge part thanks to this guy over here.
Ian Balina: Yeah, so it’s kind of ironic how that works out, right? This guy helped me through college. Then IBM had a job opening, I mean, you were [inaudible 00:52:19], I was thinking about bringing people to IBM, because I basically get paid like, it was five grand per person, that have been hired that I refer.
Asad Mahmood: That’s correct.
Ian Balina: I was thinking of all [inaudible 00:52:28], and like hey, I [inaudible 00:52:30], because I still had this [inaudible 00:52:34] of you as a doctor, right? And we’re looking more for like engineers type, looking for sales engineers, right? I’m like hey, this smart guy I know and so I think I was like, hey, do you know [inaudible 00:52:47], and you’re like, no, but I’ll check up on it.
I basically sent you the job list thing, the job description. We met, I kinda walked you through the right things to say and the right stuff to, I basically gave you all the stuff we usually work on, right?
Asad Mahmood: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ian Balina: I think it was like what, over the course of a month or so, you applied, or …
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, it was I think in February, you told me about it. Or maybe in March, and then I applied for it.
Ian Balina: This was last year.
Asad Mahmood: Last year, last year. Then I applied to it and then you basically got me involved in the email chain with the higher guys in command.
Ian Balina: Yeah. So I basically, once I coached him up, I brought him in and just took him straight to the director. He basically went through the back door.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: He didn’t apply on the website or whatever.
Asad Mahmood: No.
Ian Balina: This is why it helps to know people, right?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah.
Ian Balina: This is where I bring some value too, right? I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but you know, I have some social capital, right? Basically, I brought you in to the director, and you went for interviews, it was like, what, two interviews or one interview?
Asad Mahmood: I basically interviewed first with the director. He basically called me on my home phone and I talked to him. Then I talked to one of the managers who worked underneath him, in the same analytics department. Talked to him over the phone, and then that set up an in person interview with one of the engineers on the team. This happened off site. I interviewed with him, and then that led to a demo presentation that I had to do on site. In front of not just the manager, not just the directors, but a couple of the engineers on the team.
Then after that I met with the sales manager, directly involved with the health care accounts, the health care division on which I would be working on.
Ian Balina: Yeah, so that’s kind of the connection right?
Asad Mahmood: So five interviews.
Ian Balina: You’re probably saying, what’s the guy with the MD doing working in sales, right?
Asad Mahmood: And I still get that question every time from family members, from friends.
Ian Balina: The other thing is right, he’s working in federal healthcare with IBM.
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: So having that medical knowledge helps.
Asad Mahmood: Yeah. It helps all the time.
Ian Balina: It helps progress [inaudible 00:54:43] deals, right?
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: The good thing I like about sales is, right, commission checks. It gives you that incentive to go out there and close big deals. Also, your pay isn’t really capped, right?
Asad Mahmood: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right, exactly.
Ian Balina: Can you tell us about that. How is the positive pay in this new role in IBM?
Asad Mahmood: The pay is good. The base that they offered, I mean it was really nice. That gave me a lot of …
Ian Balina: It was six figures, right?
Asad Mahmood: Six figure base pay. Not bad, especially for a person without experience, coming straight in, basically for his first job and getting a six figure base pay. Then the commission check was a new concept for me, because Ian had already been working there for three years. He was already well [crosstalk 00:55:22].
Ian Balina: I mean, so do you mind me if I ask how much you make, like ball figure?
Asad Mahmood: Just say six figures. Keep it to that.
Ian Balina: He makes good money though.
Asad Mahmood: Use your imagination, the money is good, as you can see, the money is very good.
Ian Balina: Interesting, right.
Asad Mahmood: That, the commissions aspect of it makes me think that not only am I going to be dealing with the engineering part, designing the demos, but also designing demos that can showcase the best technologies. Especially technologies that will give us the commission check and ultimately we’ll be selling the underlying technologies, not so much a solution, that we designed.
Ian Balina: Okay, so I mean in terms, going back to income, because this is a money chat, obviously.
Asad Mahmood: Go ahead.
Ian Balina: We like to talk about money, right. I know you’re trying to kinda navigate around it. It’s understandable.
Asad Mahmood: Sure.
Ian Balina: But, I mean so, was the income you’re earning in this role, was this kinda like a downgrade compared to being a doctor? Was it in the same level, do you think there’s a better chance of making more money in this role?
Asad Mahmood: Let’s put it this way. If I was in residency right now, I would only be making 49k before taxes. Right now, the amount of money I make right now, I’m in a much better shape right now than I would be as a resident physicians. Working those hours, here I’m working remotely. I have my own work week plan for me, when I have meetings I come in, otherwise I’m working from home.
Ian Balina: Right.
Asad Mahmood: The money is excellent. IBM pays for trips, IBM pays for travels, IBM covers me all the way.
Ian Balina: Right, right, that’s interesting.
Asad Mahmood: That way I’m much better off in this role, than I would have been if I had stuck to the residency, attending physician route.
Ian Balina: All right then, okay. All right, so what are your long term career goals and plans?
Asad Mahmood: I think I want to continue to advance and do a lot more stuff in the medical technology field. I want to also be in charge. In charge, not just making them, but in charge of making medical solutions. Medical solutions that can change patient outcomes at the hospital level, at the federal agency level. Then go from there. At some point I want to be in charge of all these decisions that go into making medical software, making new innovations in medicine. That’s what I want to work towards. I’m still relatively new to this field of science. I’m sure what I’m saying right now is gonna change come maybe next year, but definitely I want to get to a role, where I’m actually in charge of decision making and being in charge of a lot of talented people on my team, where I can basically have a person who’s working on this portion of it. This other person is doing design, this other person is doing implementation, and then I’m just there, making sure that I have the best team in the house, and we’re making the best profit.
Ian Balina: So you basically want to be the boss.
Asad Mahmood: I want to be the boss, I want to be the boss.
Ian Balina: That’d be all right. [inaudible 00:58:02] should strive to be right, be the boss of your own life.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, exactly.
Ian Balina: All right, all right. Well, so look, there’s some things there. What’s the biggest life hack you have? I mean, we’ve kinda gone through some life hacks with school, but what’s the biggest life hack you have, I mean, like in life? All of life, like, give us three life tips.
Asad Mahmood: The first life tip I would give you is, and it’s kind of cliché and it’s kinda overrated and sometimes this falls under the radar, people don’t really ascribe to it too much, but it’s determination. Determination means that if you have a goal set out in your mind that you’re gonna do this, then there should be nothing that detracts you from that goal. Especially, I’ve seen in my experience. That I fire my mindset on something, I always achieve it. To this point, right now, where I’m sitting right now to where I came from, from high school and so forth, I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve in life.
Because I had a goal in mind, I wanted a scholarship to get into GW, or into college, I got a scholarship. I wanted to get into med school, I got into med school. I wanted to get a really high paying job in this area close to home, and be able to travel, do work, and come up with interesting and new innovative advancements in medicine and engineering, and that’s precisely what I’m doing. Because I had a goal, determination set up, that I’m gonna do this, and that’s what I did. But only just, you have like an empty purposeless goal that I’m gonna do this, and then you don’t act on it. You have to have a goal in mind and take all the steps necessary to execute it. So determination is the first thing.
Ian Balina: Speaking of that though, the next determination me and Asad have, me and Asad have is making a million.
Asad Mahmood: Making millions.
Ian Balina: Making millions. Actually, a billion. But right, the first step to a billion is making millions.
Asad Mahmood: Right.
Ian Balina: So I’m getting this kinda, into the [inaudible 00:59:54] again.
Asad Mahmood: I like it.
Ian Balina: We’ll keep you guys waiting. We’ll keep you guys [inaudible 00:59:58]. All right, what’s the second tip?
Asad Mahmood: The second tip is another cliché, but it’s something that I was, became more [inaudible 01:00:08], especially when I met this guy over here. One of the most influential and one of the most reliable and hard working people I know.
Ian Balina: Thank you, thank you.
Asad Mahmood: He might not always come off as the most hardworking person, but he [crosstalk 01:00:19].
Ian Balina: That’s the trick right there. That’s the trick right there.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly. The thing is then, it’s not always how much you know, it’s also who you know too. If you basically paint yourself into the corner and you’re doing all the studying, you’re doing all this hard work and you’re doing this, but no one knows about it, and you don’t know anyone else to actually keep you in the loop about what’s going on in the market. Then you’re basically wasting your time. You’re just spinning your wheel.
Ian Balina: Right, right, yeah.
Asad Mahmood: You gotta know the people too. You gotta know the people, you gotta know your competition, you gotta know other people.
Ian Balina: You have to be plugged in.
Asad Mahmood: You have to be plugged in into the net. You gotta be plugged into the network.
Ian Balina: All right, absolutely, all right, so that’s a good tip. Last tip?
Asad Mahmood: Rinse and repeat.
Ian Balina: Rinse and repeat?
Asad Mahmood: Rinse and repeat. Work hard and know the right people. Work had and know the right people. Continue that cycle. What I mean work hard, work hard and have a goal set in mind. Don’t just be working aimlessly. Have a goal set in mind that I’m gonna do X, X, X by this time and then set up and do it.
Ian Balina: So basically, put a deadline in it.
Asad Mahmood: Put a deadline. I always put a deadline on everything.
Ian Balina: Yeah, I think somebody said that a goal is a dream with a deadline.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly, and I …
Ian Balina: So dream big, but put a deadline to that.
Asad Mahmood: Exactly.
Ian Balina: All right, all right, so obviously you like to read, right?
Asad Mahmood: I love to read.
Ian Balina: What are your favorite books?
Asad Mahmood: Favorite books? I used to read a lot of science fiction back in the day, but now I’m like reading a lot of non-fiction books too. Sometimes I do a lot of how-to guides, but then I read a lot of these other influential books, like Ian mentioned. The 48 laws of power, that’s a very favorite book of mine. I think it’s probably at the top of my list, Robert Greene, he’s one of my favorite authors.
Ian Balina: Any other books you like?
Asad Mahmood: Any other books?
Ian Balina: Either fiction or non-fiction.
Asad Mahmood: Fiction or non-fiction? I think I’m gonna get a lot of flack on this, but one book that was especially influential to me from a very early age, was the Harry Potter books?
Ian Balina: Really? Hell yeah.
Asad Mahmood: A lot of people will go like, oh, Harry Potter, that’s just a fan. But no, Harry Potter actually opened a world of possibilities to me, because it actually spurred me to pursue a hobby of mine. When I’m not studying and learning new stuff, I actually like to write a lot on my spare time. I’m actually working on a couple of books. Actually, just reading the Harry Potter books …
Ian Balina: Are you working on fiction books, like creative writing?
Asad Mahmood: So, yeah, creative writing, realistic fiction is what I like to write.
Ian Balina: Realistic fiction.
Asad Mahmood: Realistic fiction. I actually got like a inspiration from the J. K. Rowling story and this all how she basically created a billion dollar enterprise.
Ian Balina: Empire.
Asad Mahmood: And empire, basically, from just writing books. Just from like seven books [crosstalk 01:02:43].
Ian Balina: I mean, so what exactly is realistic fiction?
Asad Mahmood: Realistic fiction is basically using your own experiences and crafting a story around it. It doesn’t have to be, so you use your experiences as a backdrop for your story that you’re in.
Ian Balina: So kind of like a bio, right?
Asad Mahmood: Kind of like a bio, like if your experiences.
Ian Balina: But it’s somebody else’s story.
Asad Mahmood: But it’s someone else’s story, it’s like you take out Asad and you put like Jake or something and there you go.
Ian Balina: Interesting, because that’s actually what I’ve been thinking about, but not really as a book, more as a movie, or a TV show, right. Because as you know, I’ve had lots of interesting experiences in life, right. I felt I could kind of capsulate them and produce them into a TV show down the line.
Asad Mahmood: Nice, cool.
Ian Balina: Interesting, we definitely have to talk about that.
Asad Mahmood: Awesome, I love sitcoms, [inaudible 01:03:25].
Ian Balina: All right, let me see. You like traveling a lot, right?
Asad Mahmood: I love to travel.
Ian Balina: What places do you travel to?
Asad Mahmood: When I was a lot younger, I used to travel a lot to India with my family. Because I still have a lot of family there in India. But then recently I started to go more to the Caribbean. One place I used to go a lot to, and still go to some extent is The Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, which is a lesser known secret. A lot of people know it more for [inaudible 01:03:50] and some of the more touristy sites on the island.
Ian Balina: So actually an interesting story. First time I went to Dominican Republic, I went with this guy, right. He basically just called me up and was like, hey, do you want to go to Dominican Republic or whatever, I’m like, okay, sure. Where is that? I ended up going there, and the whole trip was a blast. I think that’s kind of. This has been a very very deep episode of hacking the system, right?
We began talking about high school and how to become a straight A student right. But it was a lot more than that. You definitely showed us how to kind of start out early, how to overcome high school, college, grad school, how to [inaudible 01:04:28] your career academically. I think this was probably one of the best episodes. Because we have definitely have lots of college kids out there. Even high school kids, who are constantly asking me questions about college. I think this video right here can become that, the factor. What is it called, [inaudible 01:04:44]. I think, right?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah.
Ian Balina: [inaudible 01:04:47] right?
Asad Mahmood: It was [crosstalk 01:04:49].
Ian Balina: Anyway, it’s been a very very great time having you on the show. I appreciate it.
Asad Mahmood: I appreciate you Ian, always a pleasure.
Ian Balina: You’re always my brother. Brother for life.
Asad Mahmood: Brother from another mother.
Ian Balina: I’ll probably have you back on sometime down the road, right?
Asad Mahmood: Yeah, anytime you guys have any question or you want any more tips to mastering college, mastering university, getting into the career of your dreams.
Ian Balina: Yeah, smartest guy I know.
Asad Mahmood: Let me know.
Ian Balina: All right, thanks guys.
Asad Mahmood: Thanks, peace.
Ian Balina: Peace.