My guest today is an entrepreneur and a doctor. He works at a hospital in Sydney, Australia and is a co-founder of a startup that produces and sells socks for good causes. He’s lived in various locations around the world pursuing an internship at the European Office of the World Health Organization. Recently he gave a talk at TedX on the subject of selfishness. As a good Aussie he loves his pet wombat, drinks Fosters, and hunts crocodiles in the outback. Dear listeners, I give you Hassan Ahmad!
We talked about Australia’s wildlife, growing up in rural outback, partying with DJ dad, boarding school, becoming a doctor, world travels, entrepreneurship, giving a TED talk, and social media influence.
H: Thank you for the very kind and more or less accurate introduction, Vasily. I can say that one of those three activities in terms of Australia is pretty on point. I think I’ll just leave it up to the listeners to guess which one it is.
V: Guess which animal or drink you have an affinity for.
H: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.
V: But do you see a lot of animals around your house that are native to Australia?
H: Yeah, well. As you mentioned I’m currently based in Sydney at the moment which is the largest city in Australia of a population of about 4 million. Most of the interesting wildlife gets driven out to the edges of the city. So, you’re just left with bugs that freak out a lot of tourists. But where I grew up in far-off Queensland on an 88-acre property, one of the great things about growing up there was the wildlife that was literally on your doorstep. You would just walk out the veranda in the morning and there would be bush-turkeys at your feet or there would be wallabies there. And if you went to have a look, you could see the tree kangaroos and the big pythons. Lots of great stories in my childhood about run-ins with wildlife along the way. When you grow up with it, it is just there all the time, and you don’t realize that other people don’t have problems with snakes in their beds and spiders in their toilets. Until you travel a bit more and see American tourists freak out over cockroaches.
My guest today is an educator in a peculiar field. He is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Amsterdam covering the subjects of romance and dating. He’s lived in various locations around the world doing research and authored a book. As a good Amsterdamer he loves his bicycle, lives in a boathouse, and has a tap with Heineken beer in his kitchen. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jitse Schuurmans!
V: So, Jitse, how did you start as an educator?
J: In 2010 I graduated from the University of Amsterdam studying anthropology. Quite a long story actually, because when I was writing my Master’s thesis I got approached by a publishing house to write a book about my thesis and about my research for my thesis and so I quit my studies for a bit and wrote that book in four-five months.
V: Can we rewind? How does the publishing house find out about someone like you to approach you with a book deal?
J: So, I had a friend who wrote for the university newspaper. Maybe I should mention as a context that my research was about pickup artistry in California.
V: Very specific. In California. All of California? Or just…
J: San Francisco Bay area. He found it to be a very interesting topic and wanted me to write a piece about his research. So, he did. He interviewed me and it was quite a big spread in the university newspaper and it got picked up by national media and then I got an invitation to talk in a talk show and it was by far the best watched television show in the Netherlands. I said, yes, why not? I’ll talk about my project and so I did and got broadcasted and then, of course, it was known by a lot more people and actually two publishing houses contacted me at that stage and asked me to write a book and the funny thing is that the girl who approached me of one the publishing houses was a former colleague of mine when I was still working as a student on one of the boats on the canal tours.
My very first guest of the inaugural podcast episode is a musician, a songwriter, a communication technology professional, and all around a lovely guy. He is part of the blossoming darkwave band called Inhalt where he plays a variety of synthesizers and also writes and sings. He’s been a music devotee for a long time and educated as an audio engineer. He is also a great friend and someone whose company I always enjoy. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado – Mister Philip Winiger.
V: So, let’s go right into it and tell me how did you start as a musician?
P: That has been something that I was always fascinated by already as a kid. Technically I would suppose I started by learning the trumpet at the age of nine, forcefully somewhat, and I didn’t like it, but I always appreciated how music was put together. So, I spent then just a lot of time doing research and experimentation, and just finding my way. It was kind of a passion that it got me deeper and deeper into it, just by chance. So, yeah that’s kind of the start of that.
V: And did you consider yourself a musician in the beginning or was it just an organic slow process of becoming one?
P: You know I honestly never considered myself a musician. I just considered myself a person that was interested in this. I guess you can call me a musician, but a musician for me is somebody who has some training in this and a lot of what I do is self-taught.
V: You do have some training, though, related to audio. So tell me about your education and how you made that choice to learn what you did.
P: I was always a big fan of combining music and technology which I believe are two different schools entirely. Technology always fascinated me because I was always in control of what the machine could do. So I technically appreciated the approach to that, but what really got me fascinated me was how to apply the technical knowledge, if you will, to an art form. How to make it descriptive and I was always fascinated by film, by installation art, by music, electronic music in particular, because it marries together technology with art with music. And so I studied audio engineering because I felt that was the closest that I could get to combining an art form, in itself, but with a lot of technical understanding in background with achieving that. Sort of like painting, sculptures and pictures, but using frequencies and sounds. So, that is how I got into that.