bookmark_borderOn Inclusion

I want to take a second to talk about diversity, and specifically how it relates to exclusivity. Diversity is important. In fact, I think it’s one of the most important things we can emphasize about any organization. I’m in an interesting space to discuss diversity because I am both an interviewee for full time jobs and also interviewing applicants into a selective college club.

Diversity is the backbone of inclusion. Diversity is the composition of your organization. It’s socioeconomic background, gender, ability, race, and a myriad of other experiences that shape your identity. Being diverse is an amazing start. In fact, I would wager that a commitment to diversity would benefit the vast majority of companies financially and culturally.

Inclusion goes deeper. Inclusion depends on our ability to make diverse candidates feel comfortable and welcomed in our company/club. Inclusion isn’t just that we are diverse as an organization, but that our membership can feel respected and excel in our industry irrespective of their backgrounds.

When I’m interviewing candidates for our selective college club, I can’t help but remember all the times I was rejected from similar clubs my freshman year. My first job was preparing burgers at a McDonald’s in high-school, yet I had made it into this school with an 8% acceptance rate out of thousands of qualified students. I thought I was at least sort of intelligent.

And then came the rejections.

Not “But then…” And then. Because I took it hard. I cried. But I still thought I was at least sort of intelligent. You can’t take that from me.

And every time I thought to myself “I know it seems like I’m not very good at ______ right now, but given the time and effort I’m sure I could be better at it.”

Insert whatever you want for “_______”. Mental math. Coding. Financial analysis. Political organization.

I’ll say it again: Inclusion isn’t just that you are diverse as an organization, but that your membership can feel respected and excel in your industry irrespective of their backgrounds.

I don’t mean to say that we should never reject applicants. Whether it’s because they are not qualified or because there aren’t enough spots for them, I absolutely understand rejection and believe it’s just part of life. In fact in an earlier blog post I made the point that if you were never rejected, you’ve never truly pushed what you can achieve. I’ve been there myself.

But using rejection percentage as a measure of “eliteness” or “prestige”: that seems narcissistic.

When I was finally accepted into a selective college club my second year, I thought I kind of understood it. “Oh, I’m now better at _______, hence I was accepted. Everyone here must be pretty good at _______, because how else could they get here?”

And over time I put in the work and got even better at ________. And then I realized being good at _________ is difficult, but anyone can be good at it. All you need is a lot of dedication (to learn it) and empathy (to teach it). In fact, for a time I was even paid to do ________, primarily thanks to the fact that someone else who did ________ professionally committed to diversity and inclusion.

So I made sure we became one of the few clubs on campus to overhaul how we recruit. We don’t care how much you know about ________, we want to know you.

  • What have you persevered through? (shows resiliency and tells us about their background)
  • Did you prepare to discuss the materials we sent you in depth? (shows commitment)
  • What do you think makes a good leader? (tells us about empathy)
  • Tell us about a time you taught someone else how to do something?

And if you hit the above check points, we want you. We go to bat for you in candidate review. We make sure you know that if it comes down to not having enough capacity (all groups are limited by resources), we want you to reapply. And if you hit the above check points and you’re accepted, we commit to teaching you everything you didn’t know. And more recently, we’re putting in the groundwork to do that for all applicants and students who showed serious effort in their apps or in our events.

Because inclusion relies on diversity, but it’s built brick-by-brick by individuals going out of their way to make you feel welcomed and educated.

Irrespective of your background.

bookmark_borderPersonalizing My Laptop

I’ve had my 2016 13-inch Macbook Pro since it came out three years ago. It runs macOS Mojave 10.14 (a fact I just learned for the purpose of writing this blog post). Before that I used Microsoft Windows on various PCs for about a decade.

This isn’t a post about hardware though. It’s an overview of how I’ve set my laptop up to help me stay productive. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my laptop, but here’s what’s working for me.

This is my desktop. The background is a dark mode edited version of the Cognitive Bias Codex, which can be found here.

My wallpaper is the Cognitive Bias Codex. While I don’t believe I can fully subdue all of these biases, it certainly helps me to be aware of them. One of my favorites is the Google Effect, which is the tendency to forget anything that can be readily found online. I think that partially explains why my memory can feel so fragmented at times.

You’ll maybe also notice a couple other things:

  • A super crowded Dock
  • Very few desktop folders (I use macOS’s stacks feature)
  • A couple background applications on the menu bar at the top

Let’s hit them one by one!

My Super Crowded Dock

Safari, Chrome, Firefox: On the far right are three web browsers. I’m a web developer, and I believe it’s important to test how your site works on all browsers — not just the most popular one (Chrome at the moment). See here for more on that philosophy. But I also find in order to compete with Chrome, browsers like Firefox are routinely adding nifty features.

Facetime, Messages, Slack: Because I like being able to communicate agnostic of whether I’m on my phone or laptop.

Thinkorswim by TDAmeritrade: From the Summer of 2018 where I got really interested in high frequency trading. I still think this app offers unrivalled analysis and custom indicators for financial markets.

Spotify (Desktop App): The Desktop App lets me customize my Spotify Playlist cover photos. That’s the only reason I use it over the web player.

Calendar, AirDrop, System Preferences, iTunes, QuickTime, App Store, Notes, TextEdit, Preview: Some MacOS staples

Minecraft: The only game I will always have in my dock. I even have a shortcut to the mods folder.

Kindle: Again, I really like the seamless integration between my phone and laptop. It’s nice to be able to pick up a book exactly where I left off.

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom: I have InDesign and Illustrator, but as a photographer I use these two the most.

Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint, Excel): College student staples.

Command E: A productivity tool for simultaneously searching all my various Google Drive accounts for a file.

Final Cut Pro & Gifski: I used Adobe Premiere Pro for years and found it exceptionally slow at rendering videos compared to Final Cut. Hence, this is my go-to video editor of choice. Gifski (convert videos to GIFs) is made by the same developer who wrote ImageOptim (losslessly compress images to smaller file sizes for the web). I love both tools.

Sublime, Atom: My go-to hackable text-editors of choice.

FileZilla: When I first downloaded Filezilla back in 2015, it seemed kinda suspicious (I guess its name is very ’00s-esque like GoDaddy or HostGator). But this is my SFTP client of choice, and it’s just been a breeze everytime I’ve used it.

SourceTree: One of my mentors at my recent internship showed me how to use SourceTree to better visualize version control flow when working on a software engineering team. It’s truly indispensible once you figure your way around it. I still love using the command line for quick simple edits, but SourceTree helps me with more complex tasks like resolving merge conflicts.

Terminal: A coder staple.

Activity Monitor and Little Snitch: I’m a control freak over everything on my computer. When I download an application, I expect it to perform its intended functionality without extraneous background processes that utilize my CPU. Adobe is the worst offender here. Activity Monitor lets me ensure that my CPU is allocated to programs I am actually using. This is so important for saving battery life. Little Snitch is one of the best apps I’ve ever paid for. It tells me exactly what signals my computer is sending out, and what is coming in via a user-friendly interface–sort of like being able to look under the hood of your car to diagnose issues. I’ve used it to effectively block Adobe from commandeering my CPU.

Other Applications I Love: DaisyDisk (for anyone curious about what’s taking up all the space on their computer), Docker (for developers), 2Do (a to-do app that honestly is overkill in functionality which is why I love it)

Very Few Desktop Folders

The only folders I keep on my desktop are:

Background Applications

  • f.lux which automatically adjust my laptop from blue light to yellow light as the sun sets. Bright blue light is harsh on your eyes if you’re working late at night (which as a college student I often am) + it’s better for sleep hygiene.
  • Magnet: Magnet helps you have multiple windows open, sized however you please. This is particularly helpful since Microsoft Office windows are a pain to resize and move around on macOS
  • Little Snitch: Which I raved about above to help me control exactly what signals go in and out of my computer. I’ve bought the full version.
  • Bluetooth & Display Preferences: 2 macOS staples that help you give presentations at various places without “experiencing technical issues” + useful for dual monitors or wireless headphones

Flat OSX Icon Pack + LiteIcon:

  • Flat OSX Icon Pack: These are my go-to icons because I’m super minimalist and the flat designs appeal to me. They’re free to use!
  • LiteIcon: You’ll need to follow the steps there to get LiteIcon to work, which will enable you to adjust the icons of default OSX applications (like Safari and Finder). LiteIcon is free to use, so consider donating!

Documents Folder Organization for College

This one might seem pretty standard, but this is how I organize my College Folder. I’ve added a ‘z’ before my earlier years to keep the most relevant folders at the top. I also organize resume’s by date.

Web Browsing

Now while my philosophy is to develop for the whole web, Chrome is my browser of choice. The extensions ecosystem it offers helps me be much more productive as a developer with extensions such as Vue.js devtools and web developer. You can also see I’ve organized my bookmarks into various folders. One of my favorites is Utilities, which contains a Javascript snippet to edit any text on a webpage.

One of the niftier things I’ve done is create a custom (locally hosted) Google Chrome extension for the old format of Reddit that gives it a minimalistic appearance. It’s just a fun personal project for now, and it’s far from perfect for public use. I do prefer using it for browsing Reddit though.

And that’s all for now (you might think I’m a bit psycho if you were to see how methodolically I organize my external hard drives for photography)! If you find this kind of stuff cool, I highly recommend Nikita Voloboev’s GitHub, which makes me look disorganized and slobby.

bookmark_border20 Things I’d Have Told Myself Before College

When I first arrived at the University of Chicago, I remember coming across Ted Gonder’s 31 Things I’d Have Told Myself Before College blog post. It resonated with me so much that I printed it in its entirety and taped it to my freshman dorm room’s door.

In 3 months, I’ll be done with my time at the University of Chicago. It’s been a wild ride, and I figured it was time to make my own list. It would mean so much to me if a fellow student found this helpful—if you do, I’d love to know. Here are the twenty things I’d have told my freshman self before college.

  1. Our memories are biased towards experiences documented and shared. The only college nights I vividly remember are the ones I captured in pictures or shared with friends.
  2. Exploration alleviates imposter syndrome. If you’re going to college far from home, the more you explore your surroundings the more at home you’ll feel.
  3. Live on a low salary for a summer (including rent and other expenses). Living on a minimum wage or low salary will likely be somewhere between extremely uncomfortable to just barely tolerable. However once you’ve done it, you’ll be better informed on how much of a salary you can reasonably live on after college.
  4. Pick classes based on the professor, not the subject material. You can find interesting things to self study long after college has ended, but you mostly only have these four years to find inspiring academic mentors who will take office hours with you.
  5. Brand names are only as good as the people who adore them. Whether you attend an elite brand name school, or are gunning for an exclusive student club, or would like to join a household name company after college—that brand is simply a carefully curated image bolstered by those who buy into it. Optimize to work for (and with) people you admire instead of brands others admire.
  6. If you skip working out or sleeping to study, you’re sacrificing long-term well-being for short-term gain. This is amenable if the short-term gain does not become a long-term habit.
  7. Take a whole week off for Thanksgiving. Even if it’s only a four day break, find a way to make it a week. Spend that week with family. At the end of your four years, you will have missed precisely twelve days of college, and gained one month with your family.
  8. Being memorable only requires caring. As you progress through college, the most memorable people will be the ones who cared about your well-being for some reason. Similarly, your impact on others is mostly measured by how much you care about them.
  9. Read David Foster Wallace’s ‘This is Water’ until it makes sense to you.
  10. If you are never rejected, you’ve never really pushed the boundaries of what you can accomplish.
  11. All those days that came and went, little did I know they were life. If something toxic like anxiety or depression brings you down daily, you need to work to minimize its influence on your life, and there are absolutely times when you need professional help to do so. The most courageous and difficult bit is the same step: seeking help.
  12. Small steps forward will always beat indecisiveness with time. I think of the future like driving down a really foggy highway. The exit signs are opportunities. As long as you keep driving, even if you’re not sure what the next opportunity is, it’ll definitely come your way. But if you stop moving forward, you’ll never reach it.
  13. When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.
  14. Write essays that are powerful. Your professor has probably assigned this prompt many a time over, and year after year students use the same textual evidence to support the similar theses. Draw on your own personal experience to approach the assignment in a unique and creative way. End it with a mic drop. Make it fun. Make it humorous. Just don’t make it boring. If you get a poor grade, so be it. But never let anyone take away the fun of articulating your thoughts.
  15. Read fiction outside your classes. Non-fiction is like photography—it’s the art of selecting. Non-fiction authors select a biography, a research paper, an era of history, etc. Fiction is like painting—it’s the art of creating a universe from a blank canvas inspired by human truths that undergird our everyday lives. Nonfiction can endow intelligence, but fiction is unrivalled in building empathy.
  16. Be charismatic to a fault. One of the most inspiring people I’ve met could be described this way. Err on the side of being an open book rather than being indecipherable. Vulnerability can be endearing.
  17. Outbound leads tend to beat inbound leads. The opportunities that arrive on your doorstep are the ones you are well qualified for—whether you capitalize on them or not. The opportunities you have to actively seek and fight for are the ones that tend to result in the most personal growth.
  18. If you don’t know anyone, no one knows you. If you’re at a party and you don’t know any of the people there, the inverse also tends to be true—no one knows you. You get a completely blank slate to build a reputation, meet new people, and experience new things. Not knowing anyone at a get-together is a blessing in disguise.
  19. ‘Follow your passion’ is not necessarily good career advice. Read Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You early on when choosing your major and intended career path.
  20. Live a story worth telling. At the end of your four years of college, I promise no one is going to ask you about that time you studied all night.