Career contentment

Lately, I’m feeling very content with my career.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been constantly searching for some job that would fulfill me. Like many others working in the tech industry, I had a tendency to hop around from company to company every two years, always switching it up, never allowing myself to settle down. This tactic, of shuffling my career, was somewhat deliberate and strategic in the sense that salaries leap when switching from one company to another. In other words, if you want a substantial increase in your salary, you need to move. Otherwise, your stuck with receiving incremental pay raises that are considered trivial in comparison. For example, when I left Cisco to join Fox Networks, my salary increased by 40% .

In addition to increasing my salary, I had vigilantly switched from one company to the next because I was afraid of intellectually stagnating, as if the company I was working at would potentially hinder my personal development. And this can be true, to a certain degree, since working for a small mom and pop software company will never present the same technical challenges as working for a large, cloud computing company.

Regardless, I no longer feel as though there’s some magical company where I would work on a magical team that writes magical code.  In fact, as much as I enjoy working on new features or new products, I revel in maintaining software and systems.  In short, I realize that I control my technical growth and that regardless of what company I work for, I’ll always strive to improve my craft. Moreover, the more I study computer science, the more problems rise to the surface, problems that I would otherwise dismiss due to my lack of understanding.

Despite my contentment, I’m not saying I’m going to settle down in my current role and current company for the rest of my life. Nobody can predict what’s going to happen in a year (or even tomorrow).  But for the foreseeable future, I see myself staying put, working for Amazon Web Services, developing software and building systems, one byte at a time.

 

Reading my first science fiction book

I just finished reading my first science fiction book!

Up until three years ago, I really only read non-fiction books (e.g. The Power of Habit, Outlier) with the single purpose of expanding my intellectual knowledge.  I read to increase my depth in a subject (e.g. programming) or read to pick learn about an entirely new subject (e.g. locksmithing). However, I’ve come to realize, after my wife pursuaded me to read the Harry Potter novels, that I can read for fun — no pressure to soak in new information.

So, about six months ago, my Italian colleague (who wears a heavy beard) from Dublin flew over to Seattle, where the Amazon headquarters lives.  While he was in town, I suggested that, since he’s an avid reader, we swing by my favorite local, Seattle book store: The Elliot Bay.

Elliot bay bookstore in Seattle
Elliot bay bookstore in Seattle

So after work one day, we made plans to hit the book store so I launched the Lyft app (sorry, no Uber for me since reading Susan Fowler’s post that revealed the company’s rampant misogynistic culture) and popped in the destination address.

When we arrived at the bookstore, we scattered in different directions. While mindlessly sauntering, I recalled a memory of me visiting (about 8 months ago) my team’s office located in Dublin in order to ramp up as a new hire.  One afternoon, I was sitting next to my colleague and on next to his laptop sat a thick, six inch novel — a science fiction book, the front cover painted with emerald green.

So, back to the book store. While we were walking up and down the various aisles at Elliot Bay, I leaned over and asked him if he could recommend me a science fiction book, a genre I was unfamiliar with and a genre that, up until that point, I had zero interest in. As if he was born for this very moment, he scuttled over from the poetry aisle over to the science fiction section and began scanning the shelf, his index finger running horizontally along the books, his focused eyes rapidly reading the titles. And then, he stopped.  He gripped a tiny blue paperback, the title boldly printed with: Caves of Steel.

Front cover of Caves of Steel
Front cover of Caves of Steel

I ended up purchasing the book but maintained my low expectations.  I had always imagined that science fiction was too abstract, a genre rammed with plots and story lines that disconnect from anything resembling reality.  I preferred literary novels — To kill a mockingbird, Boys in the boat; novels that capture the human struggle.  Science fiction is just unrealistic, right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I absolutely fell in love with the book (and the genre) and blasted through it within a couple days.  Although the book centered around robots, the plot was not so farfetched. In fact, reading page after page, I found myself empathizing with the main character, Elijah, a police detective who laments working with his robot partner and who fears that one day, he’ll be automated out of a job.

The book was written and published in the 1950s and the author — Asimov, the defacto father of robots — paints such a realistic picture of the dystopian future, a future not so out of the question, considering that I currently live in a modern day dystopia: net neutrality was killed in the US today. Furthermore, after finishing up the first book in the series — I’m now on to the second book, The Naked Sun — I can better understand how Elon Musk’s vision (immigrate to outer space) was shaped by Asimo.

In short, if you think that science fiction only appeals to a certain group of people, do yourself a favor and go pick up one of Asimov’s books (e.g. iRobot, Caves of Steel) and I promise you that you’ll lose yourself in the plot, in the writing, in science fiction.

 

 

Dog done run & pool party

Last Saturday, I woke up at 06:00 AM (about 30 minutes later than I normally wake up on weekdays) and slipped into a striped, cotton t-shirt that my sister bought from target for my last birthday and my favorite knee length corduroy shorts, dressing myself in preparation for a 2 mile, dog friendly run in Tacoma, a city 45 miles south of where I live in North Seattle.  I found this event advertised in the pet connection magazine, a free and well circulated newspaper that’s often laying around in the local coffee shops and I decided that, since my wife was gone for the weekend on a women’s retreat, me and our two dogs would kick start the morning off with some exercise.

The night before: eating sorbet ice cream with the dogs
The night before: eating sorbet ice cream with the dogs

In addition to the 2 mile run, the event included exclusive access to a city owned swimming pool that was opened up for pet dogs.  The pool was to be drained and emptied out since summer was coming to an end, so the parks and recreations center decided to allow, for a small fee, owners to bring their dogs in for a swim.

So after getting dressed, I loaded the two dogs in the trunk of my ford escape, fired up the engine, popped the address of the parks and recreation center into Google Maps and then hopped on the I-5 freeway.  I had left the house an hour and a half before the event started, leaving myself 45 minutes of buffer; I did this for two reasons: I hate being late and I almost always get lost despite having directions.  And good thing I did, because the latter proved true once again, because when I arrived at the destination that I had initially keyed into Google Maps, I found myself pulling the car into an empty parking lot, a clear sign that I was in the wrong place. While idling in the parking lot, I opened up my phone’s browser and began typing away, searching for the correct address.  Eventually I landed on the event website, which had the address plastered across the front page.  So I took this new address and proceed to hop back on the freeway.

After driving 10 minutes back in the direction I came from, I eventually made it to the right location.  I was certain I was in the right place this time but not only was the parking lot packed like a can of sardines, but when the drivers (dressed in running clothes) opened up either the doors of the backseats or trunks, their dogs would leap out.

Now that I was in the right place, I harnessed Metric and Mushroom, and the three of us sauntered over to the center of the park that was bustling with people and dogs, finalizing my registration under registration canopy and then pinning my micro-chipped racing tag to my chest.  I then stepped over to the next canopy, where grocery sized bags, filled with goodies sponsored by Mud Bay, were laid out in rows along a table.  I grabbed two bags, one for each dog, and then returned to my parked car, where I locked all my belongings (e.g. phone, wallet) into the glove compartment.  With my pockets empty and with the two dogs amped up, ready to go, I proceeded to the starting line.

Two canopies, one for registration, the other for gift bags
Two canopies, one for registration, the other for gift bags

A crowd of us runners and our dogs huddled around the starting line, where the event coordinator, a tall man with the voice of a lion, was making some announcements, primarily house keeping items like thanking the sponsors of the event and directions on how to navigate the course.  While he wrapped up his speech, I snaked my way to the front of the line, a leash gripped in either hand.  After his final announcements, he announced that the race was beginning and counted down, ending with “Go!”

And we were off.

I began jogging at a reasonable pace, a pace of about 9 minutes per mile.  But after the first mile, Metric and Mushroom were no longer bolting in front of me.  Initially, they were galloping like horses, practically dragging me to the front of the race. But they slowly began to run out of steam, their tongues flopping to the side of their mouth, panting louder with every step.  And even though I wanted to power through and maintain my position in third place, I decided (after realizing that I was damn happy that the dogs were healthy enough to run this race with me) to reduce my jog down to a walk, stopping at the next check point, where bowls of water were laid out for the dogs.  Metric and Mushroom practically slurped up the entire bowl.

We ended up finishing in 4th place, both dogs completely drained and ready for their nap.  But as soon as I walked them over to the swimming pool, they were suddenly filled with energy, as if they didn’t just run 2 miles.  I unleashed them from their harnesses and the two of them dashed into the water, spending the next hour paddling in the pool, constantly fixing their gaze at me, their way of signalling me to toss a tennis ball for them to fetch.

I really enjoyed the event—running 2 miles and letting the dogs to swim—and will definitely return to Tacoma next year for round two.

Metric and Mushroom staring me down, saying "THROW THE BALL!"
Metric and Mushroom staring me down, saying “THROW THE BALL!”