‘Clean Your Desk’ : My Amazon Interview Experience by Shivan Kaul Sahib

Shivan Kaul Sahib describes his second round interview at Amazon:

My second round interview involved me being on line with a proctor (from ProctorU), whose job was to provide tech support and make sure I don’t cheat. As preamble, the proctor made me download some software, one of which spun up a UI for chatting with the proctor and giving them access to my machine so they can take control of my entire computer, including mouse. The proctor then proceeded to shut down all my running applications for me (I never realized what an unnerving experience it is to see your mouse move on your screen under someone else’s bidding). Then, my system settings were messed around with to make sure I can’t take screenshots. Of course, my camera and microphone are taken control of as well.

After similarly Big Brother’ing around for a while, I’m asked to raise my laptop and show my desk through the webcam, which I do. At this point I was told:

“Clean your desk.”

What?! I can’t even. Hiring in tech is completely and utterly messed up.

Defining a Microblog Post by Manton Reece

Some of you may have heard of Manton Reece’s Indie Microblogging Kickstarter. If you haven’t, check it out. We need to start moving away from Twitter, people; it’s mostly toxic waste. I emailed Manton to ask if his microblogging service will work with Jekyll. He responded with a resounding yes, and a link to what he defines as a microblog:

From my perspective, a microblog post has these qualities:

  • Must have an RSS feed.
  • Does not have an RSS item title.
  • Contains short post text, 280 characters or less.

That’s easy enough. I’m getting ready for my Twitter exit.

Senior vs. Junior Thinker by Helen Tran

Helen Tran on how Senior Designers identify a problem differently from Junior Designers:

When being described a problem, a Senior Designer will likely ask more questions than their Junior counterpart. This is to ensure that the person describing the problem is clear about the problem to begin with. Sometimes what’s being described is a symptom of a problem.

There’s the root cause (the system’s problem) and then there are the system antics or the unexpected results of the system. These antics are what people tend to mistake for the actual problem itself.

Insightful post. An article like this always helps you see where you’re doing a better job than when you started, and where you still have to improve.

Displays for Designers and Developers | Bjango

Marc Edwards on the Bjango blog:

If you’re considering an external display for your Mac, there’s a few important decisions to make. Apple doesn’t sell external displays any more, so you can’t just default to their wisdom. That’s an issue, because not all displays are well suited for Macs.

Welp, the display landscape is pretty bleak. If you want a retina (what Apple classifies it as) 27-inch display, you have two options. Two. The Dell UP2715k is not only ugly to me, but requires you to sign away your first-born. The LG UltraFine 5K display is an almost ideal solution, but the I/O is limited, and its design doesn’t scream Apple collaboration.1

I still wonder what some of the thinking behind the latter was. I understand it’s a feat of engineering that the monitor is able to do so much through one cable, but why not offer a more diverse array of connections on the back, while using two USB-C ports? My suggestion feels so obvious, that I’m positive I’m ignorant to other constraints and problems they faced while designing the display.

It’s a tough situation. On one hand, you can wait and see if any other display maker will release something good, but then you risk missing the introductory pricing currently being offered for the new LG monitor. I’m still using my Apple Thunderbolt Display, but it’s going on five years now, and its retina-less screen is more perceptible with every day that passes.

My plan for now is to wait as close as I can to March 31st, when the LG UltraFine 5K will return to full price.

  1. You may be thinking, “Wait, the 5K iMac has a retina display!” I didn’t really count that one because you can’t use it as an external display. 

A Week (or Two) with Apple AirPods by Ben Markowitz

Ben Markowitz writing about using his AirPods with his Mac:

I had honestly never thought about using AirPods with my Mac when they were first announced (or even when I ordered them). I obviously knew I could, but I just figured I’d continue using my corded Sony noise-canceling over-ear headphones. I’d had them for a day or two when I decided to try them with my iMac. I knew instantly I would never go back to dealing with corded headphones again. I get up and move around a lot during the day, and the ability to stay connected to whatever I’m listening to anywhere in my house is insanely liberating.

The AirPods are one of those products that surprise. Considering all the delay in getting them out, and the rumors circulating about them before they were on sale, I was skeptical. Yet, I have not heard many negatives on these. I just may have to give them a try.

I Like to Teach

…and I cannot lie

For years, I’ve loved teaching what I learn. I believe it to be my duty to help others, as I’ve been helped. It’s one of the main reasons I started The Bold Report, it’s the reason I created Tim Likes to Teach,1 and why I’ve told people for years that my calendar is available to them.

Chris Courtney made this for me, and it is now one of my prized possessions.

Back in November, Jim Cummins invited me to give a flexbox workshop for his class at The Iron Yard. I was hooked. I knew I loved helping others learn how to build the web, but I wasn’t sure how to keep doing it.

Enter Bloc. I first saw them because my friend Niki Brown was a mentor there. Bloc is an awesome group of people teaching web design and development. They have an excellent curriculum there, and assign a personal mentor to each student.

I’m excited to say that I joined them as a part-time mentor this week. I’ll have a few students that I’ll meet with, review assignments for, and mentor into becoming excellent contributors to our industry.

I want to give a huge thank you to Chris Courtney, and the rest of the Bloc team for making me feel so welcome and valued. I have my first student appointments starting next week. I’m nervous interestingly, but looking forward to it!

  1. Unfortunately, this site only exists in the web archive. 

No, I Have No Side Code Projects to Show You by Ezekiel Buchheit

Ezekiel Buchheit:

I have no presence on github(sic). I have no open-source projects with which I whittle away my evenings. I have exactly zero pull requests for any of the latest sexy codebases all the cool coders are in on. I don’t mess around with exercises in Haskel. And I loathe hackathons.

And when I said I have no side projects to show, what they heard - what interviewers hear - is: I am not the best. I am not a passionate developer. I don’t spend the necessary time to keep on top of my education and skills. That development is “just a job.”

Yes, this post is on freaking LinkedIn, but don’t discount it! Ezekiel details a prevalent problem in our industry: if coding isn’t your life, then what the hell are you doing with it? Of course, few have the guts to say that. As he points out, words like “passionate” are used to poorly disguise the true sentiment.

Don’t get me wrong, if you love to code on your free time, more power to you! As a friend of mine would say, “You do you boo boo.” The problem is when you force that opinion on others, and hire only those who agree.

It’s More Than Just the Words by Rachel Andrew

Rachel Andrew on the effect of no longer having a personal site:

As we move our code to CodePen, our writing to Medium, our photographs to Instagram we don’t just run the risk of losing that content and the associated metadata if those services vanish. We also lose our own place to experiment and add personality to that content, in the context of our own home on the web.

There seem to be more and more people returning to their personal sites. I’m glad. Rachel makes such an excellent point too. Not only will you regain the ownership of your content, but you have a home to experiment with.

Long live the personal site!

2016: Year in Review

Another year came and went, here are some highlights

While it may be cliché to say that the year flew by, it doesn’t make it any less true. In what has become a great tradition, I’d love to share some highlights from 2016.

Becoming Cat People (Again)

Two years ago, I had a wonderful cat named RANDY.1 Due to a string of unfortunate events, I had to put RANDY up for adoption. I was devastated. I loved him. He was so affectionate and loving, in a time where I was sorely lacking that in my life. Fast-forward two years, and life was completely different, filled with love and happiness. But I still wanted a cat.

My beautiful Minnie. She’s so cute.

So we got two. We have a wonderful rag-doll that we adopted as a kitten named Pixel. And Minnie, a beautiful polydactyl cat we adopted from the Humane Society. Pixel has picked Kelly as her human, and Minnie has picked me. Would I have liked both cats to have picked me? Yes, but it all worked out.

Concerts of a Lifetime

I believe I was 11 when I said to myself that if I ever saw Beyoncé perform, I could die happily. The concert was at TCF Bank Stadium, an outdoor stadium. The day of the show was rainy and right before it was about to start, there was a lightning storm. They emptied the entire stadium to wait it out. There we were, packed like sardines in the concourse, foolishly wondering if this would all be worth it. The Queen B did not disappoint. Beyoncé is a spectacular performer, and her voice—my God, her voice—was magnificent.

That concert alone would’ve made the year. Then Kelly surprised me with Adele tickets. Adele. People I saw not one, but two mind-blowingly talented women perform in the span of three months. When I heard Adele’s voice, I couldn’t help but cry. Not because it was her, but her voice is unbelievable. Multiple songs gave me the chills and she sang all of my favorites. You see a lot of Adele’s personality during the concert, and let me tell you, she is a delight. I would love to hang out with her.

Our Trip to California

We went out this year for a friend’s wedding, but we also had a great time with family. For those of you who may not know, California is where I was born and raised. As much as I dislike my home state (and wouldn’t move back unless absolutely necessary), I do miss my family. We’re a tight-knit bunch of Latinos, and I regret taking for granted how often we saw each other and spent time together. It was an awesome weekend. I took about 300 hundred pictures on a DSLR that I rented. Only kept about 15. Using a DSLR was a new challenge for me, and I look forward to doing it again.

Ab and Darcy at the wedding Fonso at the wedding Kelly Jon Melissa
Some of my favorite shots from the weekend.

My First Cruise

Kelly and I on the catamaran that took us snorkeling.

I was so nervous about this trip, almost to the point of not looking forward to it. I worried that I’d get sea sick and it’d be a long week. How wrong I was! The ship was nothing short of amazing. Not only is it an engineering and architectural triumph, there is something for everyone on it. We had great food and drinks, watched stand-up comedy, enjoyed Broadway-caliber shows, listened to some insanely talented musicians, and karaoke-d our hearts out.

And that’s only what we did on the ship. Our time on the different islands was a blast, snorkeling was breathtaking, and my Minnesotan-pale skin got the tan it deserved. If you’ve been on the fence about taking a cruise, I whole-heartedly recommend it. I’m positive you’ll enjoy it, no matter what your definition of fun may be.

Leaving ACL

In November, I decided to leave ACL after working there 4 months shy of two years. The company was really good to me, but some of our values didn’t align, and I felt that I wasn’t interested enough in the domain to continue doing my best. Still, I had a great time there. I learned so much, and had the privilege of contributing to several applications the company makes. I walked away with more knowledge, and great friends.

My awesome and hard-working Adamantium teammates.

What’s next? I don’t really know yet. I hope to have something more concrete to share soon.

Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

This was the real blow of the year, but I can’t say I was shocked. I wasn’t feeling good for a while, and I stupidly put off going to the doctor. I was at a point where I just had to go, and after doing a blood test, it was confirmed: I had Type 2 Diabetes. Learning to live with Diabetes has been difficult. I have to watch what I eat, make sure to take my medication, poke myself to test my blood sugar, and plan meals for a set time. I used to be able to skip a meal or postpone it, now I have to eat something or my blood sugar will drop and I’ll feel crappy.

Honestly, I hate it. I have moments where I cry because of the constant frustration it causes me, and I regret the decisions that got me here. But as with every other mistake I’ve made, I cannot undo it. The past is the past, and I can only focus on the future. I have a fantastic partner in Kelly, and she’s been so supportive and loving with me. I appreciate all her help, and how much she cares for me.

While parts of this year felt difficult, and anxiety and stress-inducing, it was still great. I lost 15 pounds, traveled a lot, and enjoyed great new experiences. I spent time with family, got closer to new and old friends, and saw some enter exciting new eras of their lives.

What’s in Store for 2017

Just like last year, Kelly and I have decided to follow my friend Phil’s tradition of setting a motto for the year.

Our Motto: Embrace the New.

Here are my goals for the year:

  1. Dedicate 10 mins each day to learn French
    I want to learn a new language. I’m fluent in both Spanish and English, but it’s not fair because I was taught both from birth.
  2. Lose 40 lbs.
    My battle with weight continues, but I realized I’ve never actually put a solid number that I’d like to lose. My hope is that setting a specific goal will help me accomplish it.
  3. Make $200/month in side income
    I don’t have a specific plan for making this happen yet. I do know I have knowledge I can impart to others and hopefully make a little money from that.

This year feels like a good one.

  1. RANDY stands for RANDY Ain’t No Dog Yo. If you work with YAML, you’ll understand this joke. YAML stands for YAML Ain’t Markup Language. So nerdy and I love it.