I’m now 3 days short of having waited an entire year since my last post. I debated whether or not to wait the extra few days to make it to a year or not, but decided it’s almost better to wait just shy of one. A lot has changed in my life since then so here we go for another life update.
My Last Year – Life Update
Beginning of Summer
In my last update, I was living in the overpriced shed of a nice couple in Santa Clara, CA. That summer was pretty fun! I went skydiving with some other interns and hung out with the marketing interns a lot. It turns out they have a MUCH better handle on good presentations than I do so I’d ask them for presentation practice and they’d have me look over technical claims in their slides. Eventually I was moved from a conference room with 4 other interns to a real desk. Aruba had an entire floor open to move people into but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I managed to go through two mentors that summer. The first left for paternity leave, I got his desk. The second one left for a startup as I guess is custom in the bay. I guess I’m just hard to work with or something.
End of summer
The summer ended uneventfully with a final presentation where I talked about build system improvements I made for them. I had to find a way to get cmake, autotools, and bitbake to all play nice and cache properly. I learned lots of very important things from that project:
- If your team has a subject matter expert in build systems, pick his brain before he takes 2 months off for a vacation
- No software developers want to ever touch the build system, let alone try to understand it
- Combining 3 build chains together in a project where any single one could work involves extensive knowledge of all three
- My tasks will always come back to DevOps
At the end of the summer, my boss had told me that he would only be interested in having me work remotely on campus, as I had already done 3 semesters in a row and was told by HR was happening the coming fall, if I could work more than 20 hours a week. I struggled doing marching band and working 11-12 hours a week in the past so I knew that that was absolutely impossible for me. I know getting out of school faster is more economical than taking longer but making pocket change, but you can bet I wondered what it would be like to have 20 hours a week at my bay area pay just to cover rent, groceries, and beer.
Outside of Work
My time was mostly taken up by working or walking to and from work. In my free time I mostly watched Netflix and YouTube, played Pokémon GO, ran, and saw movies. Growing up, We had $4 movie tickets and since there was little to do in my hometown but drink, I saw a lot of movies. After going to college, movies became priced like the real world and I got busier. In the bay however, I managed to have both time and an AMC that was a 10 minute walk from my shed. I got their “watch basically unlimited movies per month for $30” and spend two months seeing basically everything that came out in Dolby Cinema since it was the same price no matter what tickets I got.
I occasionally hung out with a friend from Purdue who was interning at Apple making way more than me. We saw lots of movies together and even went to a house party straight out of a weird summer flick complete with an opulent mansion and police. Looking back on that summer from a COVID world, it was a pretty good time.
Life Back to School
With the summer over, I packed my two suitcases and backpack and flew back to Indy to drive back to Purdue. My girlfriend had moved most of my stuff to my new place when she got there before me so it was mostly just unpacking. I will never stop owing her one for that. That fall semester was the hardest semester I had ever gone through. I distinctly remember wondering if the sustained acute stress could have some permanent damage on me mentally or emotionally. Looking back, it did and it didn’t.
I took two of the hardest classes I ever have that semester: compilers and graphics. The classes wouldn’t be that bad on their own, but they followed an assignment schedule that had 2 weeks of working on a project followed by a week off with nothing to do. The only problem was that both classes aligned their 2 week sprints. By the end of the semester I had a java compiler that spit out arm assembly that was almost optimized enough to not be embarrassing, and a 3D rollercoaster simulation build entirely using OpenGL primitives and polygons.
The one thing that I remember about that semester still is marching band. I had the privilege to march with the most talented section that I ever will in my life. A lot of my friends had come in as a giant class and half the section was experienced seniors. We had the playing ability to do some spectacular things and our directors and arrangers knew it. With the uncertainty of what COVID will do to my favorite activity next year, I know I at least had that opportunity to perform at a level I likely never will again.
After a much needed long winter break, I went back to be in the men’s basketball band for the first time and to take some hopefully less awful classes. I managed to have a much better time until the world came to a screeching halt,. I didn’t go out to the bars nearly as much as the previous semester. Which says something about me that I’m just gonna ignore until after college.
As spring break started coming to our minds, there were murmurs about what could happen with COVID and returning to school. We were one of the fortunate schools that had a late enough break. Purdue was able to tell us before break that we basically should plan on not coming back. So that’s what I did. I went to stay with my girlfriends parents for a few days and then went home for a planned three days before moving back to school to weather the possible pandemic.
Classes and COVID-19
Three days very easily turned into three months. My classes moved to online instruction after break and the rest of my semester was spent navigating those issues. I saw many ways to conduct a class online. Some worked well. My AI professor kept all the homework the same. He made the exams open note and just recorded his lectures. Being able to watch his lectures at 1PM instead of 9AM was immensely helpful for me as a student. The only thing was that the homework stayed just as difficult, but I guess I’m literally paying for that.
Some of my profs did worse. My Chem prof decided I guess that she was just done teaching. A link went live on blackboard that contained all the recorded lectures of the previous year. We never heard from her save for a weekly email that she probably forwarded from the course coordinator again. I could rant on how “If those lectures were sufficient to learn, why weren’t they provided all along as supplemental material. And if they weren’t, she did a bad job teaching us” but I’m sure other’s had it much worse
I had another class that was all about student interaction in long lectures, we tried to do it synchronously but it had limited success and I wish I could take it in person again. My com class went from being basically no work to being basically no work but class attendance was harder to take. So that wasn’t too bad all in all.
Life at Home
Theres one thing I really hate doing. Moving. I bet it stresses most people out though so I won’t complain too much. Because I try not to get stressed out about moving, I tried to not let myself feel moved in at home. I still lived out of my suitcase and I didn’t unpack my apartment stuff from school. My original thought was that this could keep me from having moving anxiety for months of being at home. It was also so that I could easily move back to school, which I never did.
I spent from spring break to about 6 weeks into the summer living at home. My brother, his wife, and my toddler niece also moved in during that time so to say it was a crowded house is an understatement. I loved seeing my family and spending time with my niece, but good lord there was always something happening. My favorite restaurant home closed permanently and the movie theaters weren’t open. My favorite diner got bought by new owners and they removed the greatest pancakes that I have ever tasted. I was home, but it wasn’t the home that I left.
The problem with feeling like I wasn’t moved in was that after doing it for so long, I don’t feel like I live anywhere. My stuff is split between three addresses and I can’t wait to move into my next place. I have a new house I’m living in with some friends this year and hopefully I’ll get into grad school at Purdue and be able to stay there a bit.
On the night of my 21st birthday, my girlfriend put out an invitation to members of my service fraternity . It was a Wednesday night so only one person from that group went to the bars with me. I went with him and a gaggle of other friends from band. At the first bar, I got talking to him about work and what we did last summer (it was October). He mentioned that he worked for a cool startup in the biotech field as a programmer. Even more importantly, he mentioned that they are looking for more interns. He then had me airdrop him my resume in the bar so he could send it to his manager. And that is my current favorite story of how I got a job.
Not a Shed
Ever since I accepted the job offer from the company he was at, he offered to live together as roommates this summer. He graduated and found an actually very nice place in the heart of downtown. I live on an air mattress on his floor. It’s not as much privacy as a shed, but it has AC and good company. I had mentioned last year that I wanted to have roommates for a summer and it’s honestly great. I didn’t realize that living with someone who is similar to me could actually go well. We take turns cooking and shopping and generally give each other enough space to be introverts when we need it.
So here I am, in the very heart of downtown Cleveland. One of the coolest places to live in Ohio. And all of the cool places to go are closed.
While interviewing around I also came across a Pixar job posting for an intern to basically work in their datacenters and keep the render machines running. Being a graphics guy with a lot of experience in servers, I was over the moon. I spent the most time on their application than I have for any job. Then I waited. They gave an automated reply back that said they probably wont contact people who don’t get positions because “they get so many applications and can’t give feedback on everyones portfolio”. I get it, maybe for their positions that need portfolios that makes sense. But mine didn’t and it felt a little cold. So with no contact email for their recruiters, and no personal connections who knew anyone there, I waited.
I had an offer from my current employer and was just waiting to hear back from Pixar to accept it. I accepted the offer without hearing back. Having a job is better than not. On April 2nd, Pixar finally informed me the position was cancelled due to COVID so I made the right call. One thing still gets me in a knot about it though. I think too many employers use the fact that they are someone’s dream job as an excuse to do things differently. From what I can tell, I think that their intention was that “if someone really wanted to work here, they’d decline all other offers in the hope that we get back to them 2 months later”.
Working at GenomOncology
My new job was to be a DevOps intern with a Cleveland based startup: GenomOncology. They make software used by oncologists and pathologists to help test and treat cancer patients based off of their genetic test results and match them to drugs and clinical trials. But I’m a DevOps intern, so I play with docker. I can’t tell if it’s luck or subconscious elicitation, but it all comes back to build systems.
The build improvements that I made at Aruba really only impacted about a half dozen people in the company, and saved them I think about an hour per compile. Given that the company was much larger than that team, it was hard to feel like my results were impressive. Here at GO however, I’m improving the build system security and speed for almost everyone and have managed to shave an hour off a 90 minute build so I’m pretty excited .
I frequently talk about what I call the cycle of development: you either feel like a hopeless fraud of like the second coming of Turing himself. The longer you spend as a fraud, the worse it feels, but if it’s sprinkled with success every now and then, it’s almost worth it. I’ll probably get miserably stuck again in a few days though so I’m enjoying it while I can.
There’s also two amusing parallels here at GO to jobs that I’ve had before. My mentor has a physics degree and decided programming is cool too, just like at BCSE when I learned to repair electronics. The second one is that my mentor is leaving. He’s going to get a PhD in biophysics so I can’t fault him too much, but I can’t help be a little amused by the apparent parallel.
I think I’ve finally found at least one purpose for my blog. The more stressful and fast my life becomes, the less I remember. When trying to write about my fall semester, I could barely remember anything. It wasn’t even a year ago. Being able to just write things down that I remember somewhere permanent will at least let me read them in a few years when I remember none of it. I know why I don’t remember much of fall though. Mental health and drinking to cope with stress are a bitch.
Here’s to another summer of posting sporadically a handful of times after a long life update.