The Power of Meditation

Gassan Quintar tells us about meditation and how it affects his life

How did you start to take an interest in meditation? How long have you been practicing?

Initially, I was interested in yoga, but I had never made the effort to start. Although it was not on my radar, the word ‘meditation’ appeared on an email invitation from our coworking offices, which said something like “Sessions are intended for all people who wish to take first steps toward meditation.” I thought this was interesting, though not enough.

A friend recommended both the class and the instructor to me, and convinced me to try it by saying wonderful things about this practice. In the end, I decided to go for it.

The email invitation asked the people interested in joining the class to write the reason why they were interested. My motivation was to get into this practice, to learn more about it..

I only needed the first class to know that meditating was exactly what I was looking for, and that through it I was going to gain multiple benefits. Since that time, four months have passed and I still practice it every week.

People often don’t understand what meditation is. Some might think that it’s sitting in a quiet space and falling asleep. What is meditation for you?

People often associate the word “meditation” with thinking or reflecting deeply on a certain topic. For example: “I recommend that you meditate on the topics we were talking about,” etc. In fact, it is much deeper than just thinking. It’s concentration.

From the point of view of my current practice, it is to focus your attention on the breathing in a conscious way. Through various breathing techniques, you train your mind to reach complete concentration. As you do this, other distracting thoughts get removed from the mind.

What is needed to meditate?

It requires several things –  from a yoga mat to a good teacher – to guide you in practice. But the main thing is the willingness to want and believe in what meditation offers. You shouldn’t want to do it  just because it’s “trendy” without understanding the main concept behind the practice.

Some time ago, my teacher, gave us a guide so we could try practicing at home. It consists of 3 steps:

  1. Motivation: Think about why you are meditating. That includes ourselves as individuals and our environment.
  2. The technique of meditation.
  3. Acknowledgment: Being thankful for what allows us to be present, to be part of the experience, and for all that we achieve.

This is a guide not only applies to meditation, but to life itself.

How has meditation benefitted other aspects of your life?

There are multiple benefits. They impact every aspect of our lives – not just ourselves as meditators, but also the people around us.

Meditation develops several virtues, such as the ability to concentrate, patience, discipline, compassion, forgiveness, and love among others.

What tips would you give to someone who has tried meditation but never felt like they have achieved a state of true meditation?

Being ‘in a state of meditation’ comes in different forms that we know how to identify with the help of a good instructor. It’s worth mentioning that we should not go into meditation practice in a state of anxiety, but that we should go with a mindset of perseverance and discipline for the training so that we may develop our minds and the skills we need. It is daily practice and a great instructor that will help you achieve the proper ‘state.’


Internet of Things: Challenges

By Sebastian Pereira, Information Systems & Processes at Santex

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

Wikipedia states that the first discussion around “a thing” that was interconnected was a Coke machine that would determine how many drinks were available.

IoT use cases include several applications that range from connected homes, consumer electronics, industries, retail, logistics, government, automobiles, among other areas.

But if it’s been around for so many years, perhaps with different names but with the same discussions in the background, why we are not surrounded by all these things already? Jayson DeMers in his Forbes article states that part of the problem is too much competition with not enough collaboration –  something that discourages and delays the revolution. It is also encouraging bigger companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple, and taking a step into the problem, that they might drive that collaboration with their own applications and infrastructure.

This  competition and little collaboration can be seen as symptoms of a much bigger problem that pose a series of challenges that everybody will have to solve and agree upon for the revolution to come. We are talking about a potential market of billions of dollars for services and applications that range from apparent trivial things to more complex and with higher impacts on societies and economies.

Following are the top 3 challenges I think we have on the horizon with IoT:

  • Security. This is mainly based on the fact that IoT implies more and more devices will be connected through networks, and therefore there will be more opportunities for hackers to exploit. The one thing we learned over the years is that no one is secure, and basically more interconnected devices means more problems – at least more problems to be solved.

To serve as a terrifying example – one of many – take a look at this article, where hackers stopped a journalist’s car in the middle of a highway to prove their point: they can control a car remotely, mentioning this scary scenario: “Imagine last year if instead of cutting the transmission on the highway, we’d turned the wheel 180 degrees,” says Chris Valasek. I can imagine. But he spells it out anyway. “You wouldn’t be on the phone with us. You’d be dead.”

  • Connectivity. If we go back to the definition stated at the beginning of this article, IoT implies that a lot of devices are interconnected, and aside from the security challenge, this means there will be more efficient ways to have all of these devices talk to each other. The (now) classic way of connecting devices as a centralized paradigm for authorization and connection of different nodes within a network may be heading to a decentralized model, such as Fog Computing. With this,  data, computing, storage, and applications are distributed in the most logical, efficient way between the data source and the cloud. There are other solutions where the decentralization is higher, but certainly each option is tied to different security challenges.
  • Making sense of the data. Does Big Data sounds big enough? Imagine something even bigger than. IoT will pose the challenge of cleaning, processing and interpreting vast amounts of data produced by sensors. Gartner estimates that there will be 25 billion connected things in use by 2020.  Internet networking specialist Cisco ISBG’s forecast is of 50 billion connected devices. To have an example of this from the airlines industry, at last year’s Paris Air Show, Bombardier showcased its C Series jetliner that carries Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) engine, which is fitted with 5,000 sensors that generate up to 10 GB of data per second.

So basically, applying analytics to IoT has the same general approach on a different scale: how data is collected and how it is interpreted/how can be used. This Forbes article states that applying Machine Learning to analyze the data will be a more efficient option. Given that the current manufacturers of sensors and IoT applications are not experts on analyzing and getting good quality information that can be actionable, new services start to appear on the horizon. One example is Machine Learning As a Service, where buyers can quickly get the insights they need without making huge investments in technologies that are not core to their business.

Of course there are many other challenges with IoT and many problems to solve, but that’s what makes this so interesting to talk about it and work on. Other challenges that can be mentioned are:

  • Power
  • Sensors
  • Standards
  • User Experience and User Interface
  • Waste Disposal
  • Data Storage
  • Laws and Regulations

It certainly states a huge opportunity for business, whether for good or bad purposes.


Programmers to Runners: Meet the Santex Guys that Enjoy this Passtime

At Santex, we have several teammates that enjoy running and participating in races and marathons. Martin Navarro, Nelson Secchi, Fede Schaefer, Manu Varela, Matias Donemberg, Edu Nieto, and Fran Mantaras share with us their experience as runners and what motivates them.

Why did you start running in races?

Martin Navarro.: Growing up, I witnessed my dad run in and win several races, both as a member of the armed forces and a civilian. At first, it seemed really boring to me, but once I got older I started paying closer attention and realized the need to improve my physical health, so I started training. Although I wasn’t originally planning on running in races, over time I saw myself getting stronger and healthier, so I decided to give it a try. I signed up for my first 10k, organized by LAN (LATAM) in 2013, and my times were terrible! But with that first experience I realized I could keep getting better and train harder, and I started to understand why my dad was so enthusiastic about it. He’s older now and because of his health he isn’t able to run anymore, but he still cheers me on at my races and helps me train. My times still aren’t the best, but they’re better from where I started!

Nelson Secchi: I started running last year, 2016. There was a 10k race that a couple of friends from the gym were going to participate in and I decided to join them. Best decision ever! 

I continue running because it gives me something I need, an ever-growing physical challenge.

Federico Schaefer:
At first I started running on my own with the simple idea of doing some sort of exercise outdoors while listening to music, since I’m not a big fan of gyms. When I noticed that I could see myself getting better day by day, I decided to start training with a group of runners in Parque Sarmiento in Cordoba. As a few months went by, I could see that I was in condition to run in a race together with the group.

Manuel Varela: I started running because of a bet I had with a friend. We wanted to see who could run a 10k the fastest, and so we started training. After running my first official race, I realized how much I liked it and so I kept going.

Matias Donemberg: The first race I ran was in 2015 because the idea of running 10 kilometers seems absolutely crazy to me, so I wanted to see what it was all about. Afterward, I found out that there was a gym where on Wednesdays they would go out and run as a group in the park, so I signed up. I realized I really liked it and that it helped me to relax. From that time on, I decided to participate in more of the races that they have throughout the city.

Eduardo Nieto: About 4 years ago, I started running at night with my cousin and some friends. Little by little we would increase the time and distance that we ran, and soon we became interested in running 10k’s and even longer distances.

Francisco Mantaras: Part way through last year, some guys from Santex signed up for the race “Aguas Cordobesas” in the national park and asked if I wanted to join them. It sounded like it would be a nice challenge, so I signed up and went.

What do you do to train for races?

M.N: I go to Quality Gym where I do aerobic training to strengthen legs and core. I also go for runs in Parque de la Vida which is close to my house. It’s huge and has trails with all different levels of difficulty, perfect for training for different types of races.

N.S.: Recently, I joined a running team called Synergo and we exercise three times a week for about an hour and a half. We run no less than 6 or 7 kilometers around the Parque Sarmiento. For bigger challenges, a more thorough training is required, which is something I have on my mind right now.

F.S: We train three times a week for an hour and half each. One day we focus on interval training and race techniques. The other days we run about 7-10 km. Additionally, twice a month we schedule runs in the hillside around the city. Those runs are usually at 15 km long.

M.V: Right now, I try to go for runs in the park 3 times per week at Parque Sarmiento. I usually run for about 40 minutes, a distance of 7 km or more each time. Something that I think is really important for training is having proper nutrition. A balanced diet of meat, fish, chicken, fruit, and lots of vegetables is key for having proper training.

M.D: Running a 10k doesn’t require too much training. You can easily do it with going out for a run once or twice a week. I always try to improve my time a bit, so therefore I go 3-4 times each week to the gym. I do a bit of everything, mainly exercises to avoid injuries and fatigue.

E.N: These days I’m not running much, but not too long ago I would go for runs three times a week. I would try to run 4 km or for about half an hour. On weekends I would go on longer runs of about 10 km.

F.M.: I go out for a run twice a week after work. One of those days I focus on distance, the other I focus on speed.

How many races have you participated in? Which one was the most challenging?

M.N.: Thinking from when I first started, I’ve run in about 10 races. I ran the most in 2016, which is when members from the Santex Cordoba team ran is 6 races together – five 10k’s and one that was 14k. The 14k was the most challenging one for me, both mentally and physically.

N.S: I have run 5 races so far: three 10k’s in Cordoba, a 15k mountain run, and the Columbia XTrail which was 25k. Without a doubt, the latter was the most challenging. Not only was I not fit to run such a distance, but I was also not prepared for the difficulties in the terrain when going both uphill and downhill. Nonetheless, reaching the finish line felt awesome!

F.S: I’ve participated in several 10k’s. I’ve also run two half-marathons (21 km) in the mountains since our group training is focused on such courses. Plus, those are the ones I like the most. The most challenging one was a mountain race in Yacanto, close to the mountain Champaquí. It was 35 km and started at night, so we had to run the first few hours with a headlamp!

M.V: I ran in 6 races this past year. The most challenging was “Primavera Sana” where we ran laps around the Mario A. Kempes stadium until we reached 14 km. It was so hot that day and is the longest distance I’ve run so far. Fortunately, I was able to finish without and problems and was even able to improve my time! This encouraged me to keep training harder.

MD: I’ve only participated in 6 races, 5 here in Cordoba and one in Paris. Among the most challenging was the first one, mainly because I hadn’t trained well… and because it was the say after Santex Fest and the course had a terrible hill! Another difficult one was the second one, which I ran with Nelson Secchi. One of the last kilometers was straight uphill, and it was really tough.

E.N: Without a doubt, the most challenging ones were the two half-marathons I ran in Lima. I’d never run more than a 10k, so to run 21 km was pretty tough. With the first one, I only trained a little bit, up until two weeks before the race I could only run 16 km. Luckily, the day of the marathon I was able to complete the 21 km without stopping.

F.M.: After the “Aguas Cordobesas” run, I signed up for 2 more, one of which was a night run ( I liked that one the most because it was a neat course and fun to run at night. Also, a large number of people participated which made it fun.

What advice would you give to people who aren’t enthusiastic about running?

M.N: That even though it seems boring and tedious, the feeling of crossing the finish line and achieving your goal time is indescribable. There’s also a strong sense of camaraderie among runners. If they see that you’re tired or struggling on the course, they’re encourage you to keep going. I think it’s worthwhile to motivate yourself to try at least one race or marathon during your lifetime so you can feel the support and motivation that comes with it. It’s really nice.

N.S.: Just DO IT! (Please imagine Shia LeBeouf doing his motivation speech). Running is really an amazing outdoor activity. You will be competing against yourself, so you will find a lot of people trying to help you. Give it a try!

F.S.: Go for it! Whether it’s a 5k or a full marathon, I highly recommend giving it a shot. There’s a certain kind of energy among runners that is very special. Plus, the feeling of finishing is unlike anything else, and will keep you wanting more!

M.V: Running is a great sport and has lots of health benefits. It improves the functioning of your heart and lungs, helps you lose weight, relieves stress, and even helps you sleep. An inspiring movie is “100 Meters.” It tells the story of a young guy from Spain who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and sets the goal of completing an Ironman marathon. I highly recommend it!

MD: The first thing to keep in mind is that you aren’t competing against anyone but yourself. Participating in these kinds of races is a great experience. Being able to run on the streets without worrying about anyone running of you is awesome hahaha. I guarantee that you will meet lots of people who you never knew were interested in running. For me, of course the most satisfying is crossing the finish line.

E.N: To people who are interested, I would say to start little by little and make sure to maintain a healthy diet. It really helps to avoid injuries. I would also recommend finding a place in the city where lots of other people run. Seeing other people running helps motivate you. Lastly, what really helped me was having friends to run with, or run in a group or as a couple. That makes it a lot more enjoyable!

F.M.: Get started by going to a race and seeing what they’re like. There’s a really great atmosphere that surrounds races both big and small. Running is a nice activity, especially for people who don’t have much time on their hands or who have limiting schedules. It’s something you can do alone or in groups – anywhere, anytime. Whenever you have a free moment, you can just get up and go out for a run. All you need are tennis shoes and the will to improve.