Tag Archives: personal

2014

The past year has been one of great learning for me. Both my wonderful girlfriend and great job combined have taught me many lessons and etched more than a year’s worth of maturity onto me. I have also become a mess of contradictions: while feeling young and invincible (still), I also sense the rapid approach of both cynicism and wisdom that often accompany old(er) age.

I know this year will be one of great change. I’m officially in the latter half of my twenties, I’ll have had 4 years of industry work experience under my belt, and big decisions to make, such as buy or rent when my lease is up (and all the associated implications that would have).

Part of the reason for my internal confusion is because I’ve been blessed with a job that has given me visibility and influence at a scope I couldn’t have begun to imagine as a relative whipper-snapper in the company. It’s been like a lanky kid going through puberty. The physical reality is there, but the mind hasn’t  grasped the entirety of what’s happened. The feeling of invincibility to have almost no fear in meetings, discussing problems and solutions with some seriously smart and senior people, while also beginning to develop the maturity to frame discussions in the right manner to achieve the best outcome. At the same time, ignorance truly can be bliss, and unfortunately, I haven’t had the luck to be spared any detail when it comes to the business or the organization.

It’s also within that context that I’ve seen my work experience drift more towards the strategic, the higher levels. I find myself missing the deep and intimate work on technically challenging problems and seeing it through to the end. In a somewhat idyllic way, I sometimes long for the all nighters in the engineering labs at university, ploughing through the latest calc assignment or FPGA design project. The goals were straightforward and little in the way of convoluted scheming was needed to accomplish them. It’s rarely that simple to do anything these days.

So, it’s with these thoughts that I enter 2014.

Back On The Grid

In the past half year, I’ve posted three times. That just won’t do. I’m back on the job. And while I risk this commitment falling through before it even starts, since I don’t have a pipeline of posts just waiting for me to click Publish on, I’m bursting with topics I’ve wanted to write about, but haven’t been disciplined enough to find the time for.

So many things have changed over the last half year.

Nobody Knows The Answer

So after fumbling around for the first couple weeks, I’m starting to become more comfortable with this whole independent thing. I just needed a kick in the pants and a change of mindset, provided to me quite serendipitously.

This past Thursday, as I wrung my hands in agony, waiting for technical difficulties to be sorted out during the internet install at my apartment, missing meetings I had booked, I was pretty sure I was screwing up not two weeks into the job. Dealing with situations on my own and being responsible for all my actions (or inactions) are definitely key components to making it in the real world. The minute the tech was done, I rushed back to the office, just in time for a Program Manager specification writing ‘bootcamp’, where I hoped to wash away my time management sins from earlier in the day.

It was during that seminar that the eye-opening line came, “Nobody Knows the Answer.

Alright, so it was in the context of designing a feature area, but I think the lesson holds true for life. Nobody really knows the answer. Guidance is one thing, but looking for someone to hold your hand, while you walk along the path of life, is not the best idea. Those uncertainties I’ve had? Others have them too. Don’t expect others to know what’s best. Do the research, and make a decision. That’s my advice to myself.

Speaking with some friends, both at work and outside, I’m beginning to realize I’m not the only one mucking my way through.

A Wall

Alright. I think it’s time for the one week update. I’ve had four days of real work and a day of orientation at Microsoft, and things are settling in nicely. I’ve been given my responsibilities (and they’re going to be fun, to say the least!), become reacquainted with the team and am preparing to write real commitments for the upcoming fiscal year. Genuinely, I’m very excited about this next year. I think the products coming out of the company will make a dent in the marketplace. Of course, getting a free Windows Phone is pretty cool too.

I’ve moved into an apartment, completely unfurnished, which has been a change from my university experiences. Household goods have never been on my radar much, so buying pots and pans, furniture, cleaning supplies and so forth is a bit foreign to me. It’s been interesting finding out approximately what that something should cost. Yeah, this is the real world. University life has been so sheltered in comparison.

And I think that’s the one thing that I’m beginning to discover. I’m now fully independent; everything that needs to be done, I do myself. I now chart my own life and decide the wisest choice of action. It’s intimidating and there’s no ramp. It’s just a big wall I have to climb.

UWaterloo – Mission (Almost) Complete

In an ironic turn of events, the last semester of my undergraduate degree has been, well, a non-event. The courses I selected turned out to be rather easy (or perhaps I chose my strengths) and even this final exam period has been very anti-climactic. Over a three week timeline, I have only three exams. I wrote my first one this past Saturday, and my final two aren’t for nearly two weeks. It almost feels like it’s all over already. I’ve taken the last two days off, before restarting a slow-paced study for the last two. I can’t believe five rough and tumble years ends like this. Then again, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. There I go counting my chickens before they hatch.

I’ve always felt that this blog is more for my own perusal than anything else. I can look back on my life as I was finishing high school, and although I haven’t much important to say, I feel it’s necessary for me to put down the thoughts whirling in my head during this transitional period.

Hockey – my team of choice over the past few years has been the Vancouver Canucks, so it’s no surprise that I watched with glee on Saturday as Henrik Sedin put up 4 points to take over the points lead. The game was one of the most fun games I’ve ever watched. The guys out there looked like they were having fun too. Congrats on the Art Ross, Hank! The Canucks will play the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. I’m pumped. The Montreal Canadiens, a team that I’ve liked all the way back when Patrick Roy was their poster boy, scraped into the playoffs as well – I watched that Montreal-Toronto game with great anxiety. Boy did they really barely get by with the single point…

Travels – I’ve been planning a post-graduation vacation with classmates. Initially, I wanted to go to Europe, but the budget nor opinion could be agreed upon by all (some wanted to backpack, while others wanted more opulent accommodations). We finally settled on two Hawaii islands, or so I thought. As part of my employment at Microsoft, I obviously needed a work visa for the United States. I knew a TN would be applied for, but I was notified, last minute, that they would be petitioning for an H-1B as well. Apparently, during the application process, visiting the United States is a crapshoot. The lawyers strongly suggested I avoid traveling to the States during the application. Out the window Hawaii went.

I still want to cap off my university career with my new friends, so we’re going to plan a road trip within Canada. I’m likely not going to be spending much time in Canada, starting this summer, and there’s so much of this vast country that I’ve not yet seen. This will be a good opportunity to experience this wonderful nation just a little bit more. Of course, one of my primary objectives is to do lots of photography; I’ve gotten several of my friends interested as well, so we’ll be a bunch of DSLR-sporting tourists. It’s always fun to have a few shooting buddies.

Cars – I’ve decided to live on the East Side in the Puget Sound area when I move there this summer. I simply prefer a suburban lifestyle. I blame (?) my time on Prince Edward Island. I’ve developed a preference for a slower pace. Consequently, I’m looking to get a vehicle for commuting to and from work. Trained as an engineer, I’ve been running numbers, reviews, features, and aesthetics on a variety of vehicles, and I think I’ve narrowed it down, somewhat.

Volkswagen (Passat) CC – This was the first car I identified for my list. I’ve developed a think for German cars, ever since my parents picked up a BMW 5-er a bit more than a year ago. The CC looks incredibly slick, combines decent mileage with decent power, and is moderately priced. The drive was alright, but I’m probably expecting too much after having driven the BMW 5 for the past year.

Volkswagen Passat CC
The Volkswagen CC – delicious

Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T (Wolfsburg) – Since it seems like Volkswagen USA no longer sells the standard 2.0T Jetta without going for the Wolfsburg special edition model, this is the only choice for a 2.0T Jetta. Compared to the CC, it’s cheaper, has the same engine, is smaller (perhaps a good thing, since it’s just me, no family…) and still has a nice interior. I’m not a huge fan of the external design (too much bubbly), but the 2011 model looks more like an Audi A4-esque exterior. I like.

Hyundai Sonata – I’d be remiss not to include the 2011 Sonata on the list. It’s gotten tremendous reviews, but the test drive that I did made me feel a bit ‘eh’ to its driving feel. Of course, it’s a family sedan, but it’s quite cheap and looks alright. There’s a good number of tech gadget inside, which, of course, appeals to me.

Mazda3 – Surprisingly, this car looks fantastic in the flesh, despite some concerns about the perma-grin of the front grille. It apparently drives very nicely, has a decent interior and is cheap as chips. Not a bad combination.

Audi A3 – This is an outside shot, mainly because of the badge. I don’t want to show up at work, as a new-hire, cruising in an Audi. Just doesn’t send the right message in my opinion. Price-wise, it’s pretty near identical to the VW CC, so that’s not a major concern, just the badge. Still, a nice car with a nice interior. I’m quite partial to the hatch designs, despite the fact that most Americans are not. Shame really.

The Nissan Altima and Acura TSX are just barely on the outside looking in. The TSX is surprisingly affordable (a combination of a reasonable price and high residuals for the lease), but reviews have widely panned the redesign in 2009. Given the similar price to the CC overall, I’ll likely agree.

That’s about all for now. Lots of rambling, but there’s what’s in my head. See, nothing about school at all, in the midst of final exam season. 🙂

Self-Aware

The first step is admitting a problem exists. – Various addict help groups

Knowing is half the battle. – G. I. Joe

The basis behind these two cliched quotes is self-awareness. One of the characteristics I am most proud of in myself is self-awareness, the ability to analyze my thoughts and emotions and make decisions based on the analysis. That doesn’t necessarily mean I am only cold and calculating. I act upon emotion, but likely only after I’ve rejected logical reasoning after conscious thought. It’s a characteristic that I believe aids in my learning potential, analyzing myself, my strengths and weaknesses and addressing them as I see fit. What sets humans apart from the rest of the life present on this planet? It’s supposed to be awareness of existence, conscious thought, feeling of meaning in life, yet so often it seems like we exist on a subconscious level, going through our days without so much as a thought on anything but the exact present moment.

Shortly, I’ll have completed this university phase of my life and moved on to something new. I started thinking about how I’ve changed over the past 5 years. It’s easy to see the improvement in my writing skills, for example, by looking at the content here from the last year of high school. What else have I been becoming aware of?

Behaviour – I’ve made a conscious effort to analyze my day-to-day behaviour. This isn’t Prince Edward Island anymore and the people I find myself around are very different from the friends I had back there. I’ve worked on my stubbornness, definitely making myself more amenable to friendly debate without feeling defensive or insulted. I’ve become much more capable of admitting mistakes, apologizing when I am in the wrong. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not an out for doing a ton of things wrong; it’s just knowing that a genuine apology goes a long way to smoothing over differences. I’m okay with getting knocked down a notch or two. Learning to admit when I’m wrong has been a difficult thing to do, but I think it has made me a better person.

I’ve also become quite comfortable with disagreement. There was a time when I needed to convince everyone of my views. But I’ve long since realized that the point of opinions is that everyone should have one. Furthermore, it’s extremely rare that there exist an absolute right or wrong view.

Programming – I’ve done a lot of web development, both as a personal hobby and on the job at Shortcovers (now Kobo). It has a highly visual design component, which I’ve been drawn to. At the same time, my development skills on other fronts is not up to the same level of comfort as web development. While a program manager at Microsoft will rarely if ever write production code, being able to communicate every day with the developers on the same level has fantastic results. I’ve begun some side programming projects in the meantime to improve those skills, which I hope will help me on the job.

Inter-personal relationships – This is one area I still need a hefty amount of work on. During my 5 years here at the University of Waterloo, I’ve left relationships by the wayside, instead concentrating on study during school semesters and work during co-op semesters. This is perhaps my greatest regret over my university career, but I’m making strides to change this focus as I end this final semester and move off to the Pacific Northwest later this year. Perhaps most telling was the recent shock I had, when a friend asked, “Am I talking to Waterloo Charlie or PEI Charlie?” There has been a huge change since I came to Waterloo from Prince Edward Island. I knew it in the back of my mind, but that sentence was the most crystallized representation of that change.

Decision-making – I make it no secret that I don’t see myself as a worker drone for the rest of my life. I want to be in management, a position of influence. A key differentiator here is the power to make decisions. That distinction is only given to those who have a track record of making good ones. One area I haven’t always made the best decision in is the purchase of tech gadgets. Yeah, I’m a curious person, and always wanting the latest digicam, cellphone, computer, and whatnot. However, making sound financial decisions based on fact and numbers will be necessary in my desired profession. Making budgets and sticking to them is a life skill worth having. I’ve been driven by emotional desire for the latest gadget that has sometimes clouded my impartial judgment. Recently, I’ve made a conscious effort to hold myself back from these types of purchases. Another example is my car decision for work. My initial desire was for a nice car, but after some more thought, that money is probably better saved for now. A twenty-something year-old hardly needs a status symbol, not to mention it might be provocative for others less fortunate.

Getting things done – This might have something to do with the experiences and learnings from my PM internship at Microsoft. I’ve learned how to keep meetings on track, focusing on agenda points, curtailing superfluous discussion and debates that go nowhere very slowly, and generally maintaining a high degree of efficiency. It’s often easy to get sidetracked with a lot of smart people all actively participating in a debate. Again, like I mentioned a few points above, everyone has an opinion, but only one decision can be made, and it’s often a compromise. Arguments get heated and sight of the end goal is sometimes lost or forgotten. How many times have you been in an argument and completely forgot what prompted it or that the goal was to reach an agreement? Argument for the sake of argument is a bit of a pet peeve now. I’m quite conscious of the actions that initiate discussions, quickly pulling people back to the topic at hand if things drift for too long. Step back, look at the big picture, and remind everyone they’re working towards a common goal.

Scary movies – Yes, I despise scary movies or even thrillers. I’ve indirectly connected this dislike with my discomfort with uncertainty (that, or I’m just a wuss). However, a big part of my future will be to effectively manage that uncertainty and ambiguity. So, I’ve been easing myself into the genre, with the hope of calming my nerves a bit in the face of horror.

I’ve identified several of my own characteristics that I’ve worked on throughout the years, and the above are ones I’m currently tackling. I think my self-awareness has been a most useful trait, helping me identify and work on issues, even when it’s not exactly pleasant to think of one’s own deficiencies. But that is an important part of life and the goal of continual self-improvement.

The Best

A guy, whom I’d not seen since first year, gave a talk today in my Entrepreneurship class about the company he started a year ago. He’s my age and already off doing great things with kik. It was an inspirational talk, and got me thinking about my life goals.

I think this ties back to my rant/rambling on New Years Day 2010. I have this begrudging sense of dissatisfaction. I feel like I’m taking the easy way, the boring way out by accepting a full time position after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time at Microsoft last semester and it is a fantastic place to work. But perhaps that’s the issue? It’s just a job? It’s not living life (however you want to determine what that really means) and doing something I’m super passionate about.

I grew up being at the top of my class, and while there was a setback at the beginning of my university career, I regained the top spot again this past semester. Being the best I can be is a great goal, but there’s also a part of me that simply wants to be the best, full stop. Sounds ultra jealous and perhaps selfish, but I’m competitive. There’s no reason to deny that. It’s part of what defines me and drives me to overcome challenges I’ve faced throughout my life. But there’s always someone better. The other day, I was reading Wikipedia articles on the Ivy League schools and their prestigious alumni. Glancing at the University of Waterloo page only made me feel small, insignificant.

I need to find my own direction. I need to make the best of my situation. Enough with reading about others’ successes. There comes a time when one needs to find their own success and be the best in some other way. All I’ve done is try to emulate others, but that needs to stop. Time to drive.

Listless

Alright, a quick post before I head off to bed.

There’s been some serious neglect around here. I honestly haven’t had much to write about these past days. University has started back up, but I’ve felt completely listless this semester. Part of it has to do with the fact that it is my final undergraduate semester (boy, it feels weird, not necessarily good to say that), and part of it is that my schedule isn’t conducive to a whole lot of caring. Classes start no earlier than 11:30am each morning and I have Thursdays off. I should be careful not to let go too much. Reading the fourth year design project documentation is so very boring. The lack of enthusiasm and interest has translated to this blog for the past couple weeks. I can’t remember the last time I felt this way.

Fortunately, I felt a burst of inspiration mid-day Saturday, but not in the form of writing. Instead, I spent a chunk of time mocking up a redesign for random process, working late into the night. I’ve come up with something I’m happy with. Now comes the tough part of translating my static Photoshop mock into a real, working website. Here are a couple teasers.

Photography has clearly been a huge part of my life over the past two years. I think it’s about time the website reflects this. I’m going to put more emphasis on showcasing some photos.

I purchased a Zune HD while I was working in the States, and have come to absolutely love the design of the UI. You can expect to see many of its design elements incorporated in the final product, such as purposely truncated text.

Furthermore, web technologies and ‘fads’ have progressed at a rapid pace since my most recent design (about a year ago). I mentioned back then that I wanted to incorporate a bunch of dynamic features and a more static portfolio homepage, that would make the site a bit slicker to navigate. Unfortunately, only the blog portion of the site got redesigned and there’s still no AJAX-y goodness. As much as I’d like otherwise, it’s unlikely I’m going to have much of a portfolio to showcase, and I haven’t come up with a good way to manage the content there, short of a lot of manual editing. And let’s be honest, I’m almost sure to let the content get stale. Yuck. But, I’ve identified some cool effects that I want in the next iteration of random process. Yum.

Okay, I’ll leave it at that. Night.