Overwhelmed by Email

Has anyone else started feeling like email sucks? Lately, I don’t even like checking my email because there’s so much dread that comes from it. Maybe it’s because I never get anything worth being excited about. I usually get ads (a lot of which “unsubscribe” doesn’t seem to be an option), daily/weekly/month tidbits on cool things and what’s new in programming, and job rejections.

Ads there’s not much I can do about unless I totally abandon my email and get a new one. I could start doing more aggressive filtering and deleting, but, I don’t know, it feels like such a daunting thing even though it doesn’t really require much effort. But it requires some effort and to me, clicking through the ads and deleting them currently seems like a better solution. Maybe it’s just weird justifications.

The newsletters seem like a good idea, like I’ll just be able to get a digest of things going on around the world and I don’t have to go hunting down for it. I do skim through a lot of these and there are very interesting articles that come out of them, but I often feel like my attention span doesn’t give these newsletters the time they deserve and I almost feel guilty. I feel guilty! Like someone took the time to curate or write these newsletters and I’m just throwing it away like it was personal.

Last are the job rejections. When going through this job search, I feel like I have the Schrödinger’s cat version of job opportunities. Before I check my email, I could have the job, and I could also not have the job. But there’s an possibility that’s hard for me to ignore. Although, with this analogy, I’m just a cat murderer because there hasn’t been a job opportunity that says alive in my box.

Anyways, does anyone feel overwhelmed by emails? Do you have a number in which it starts to be too much for you? I start panicking around 50 emails and then start avoiding my inbox. Usually once it reaches 100 and beyond, I start stressing out before I decide to just sit down and tackle through all the emails at once. And then I rinse and repeat.

I suppose people don’t really get joy from emails. Unless you use email to actually communicate with friends and family, but I suspect those people are in the minority. They’re probably also your grandparents who send spammy poems and stories. Actually, that’s not fair to grandparents. But I suspect people who use email to communicate are also spreading the joys of chain letters.

I hate that email is a source of stress for me. It’s that organizational clutter that just makes me want to avoid it. It might not take up physical space in my life, but it sure takes up psychological space. I always feel like it’s the end of the world when I open up email. Dramatic, you say? I don’t think so.

Coding is fun, imposter syndrome is not

I’ve been working on a personal project for the past couple months and I’ve realized that I really do love programming. Which sucks. Because I’ve been wanting to quit programming ever since I got into it. I feel like my life goes through these phases where I feel like I’ve struggled enough, I’ve given this career an honest try and maybe it’s time for something else. It happened in high school, it happened in college, and it’s happening now.

But then I have no idea what I want to do. All I want to do is program and solve problems. It sucks because I really want to be working in something I enjoy, but also don’t believe that I’m any good at and it’s really affecting my self-esteem.

I often daydream about what my life will be like in 5 years and how I’ve pulled myself together and am conquering real life problems. But it keeps me from the present, in which I’m less satisfied in.

On the plus side, the project I’m working on has been pretty frustrating. I love that. There’s something so satisfying about being frustrated at something and working through it and solving it. It’s a type of masochism that programmers go through, I suppose.

PS. I also worry that by complaining so much, I sound like I want to be pitied. Has blogging become so self-censored? I want to write my feelings, but I also don’t want to give off the wrong impression. Ugh.

Pushing people away

An alarming trend that I find myself doing is pushing people away when I’m not happy. This can be with friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers. It’s been happening a lot over the last few years because of my career, or lack of. I find myself feeling inadequate and questions like “How are things going with you?” increasingly difficult to answer. I feel like I have to explain myself, why I’m not working, why I don’t have a job, why am I a failure (this one is self-projected) and it’s hard. It’s really hard. As much as I believe people have the best intentions, it’s hard to revisit why things are the way they are.

And thus, I push people away. I avoid talking to people. I avoid social events. And it sucks. Isolating myself doesn’t make things better, but seeing people also gives me anxiety.

Anyone else feel this way? Is there a way to fix it?

three things

1. I find that blogging has become less about your feelings and more about what feelings you want to project to the world. Your name is attached to everything and it’s easy to trace back to you.

2. On the same vein, I have a lot of fears that one day I’ll write something that I’ll regret or something and it’ll be used against me. I feel really guarded about my online life because I’m scared it’ll ruin my real life.

3. Timehop has been really interesting. It’s amazing how much I’ve changed in the last few years. I feel like I’m a totally different person from the stuff that I used to post about. I wonder if a lot of “immature” people I meet on the internet will one day grow up and have different opinions. I mean, it’s bound to happen, right? People change. Sometimes I feel almost ashamed about what I used to be, but that’s stupid. I need to love myself, even though I don’t agree with things I used to anymore. It’s part of the growing process.

Three Things

I’m gonna try something new. Shorter random thoughts. :)

1. Working on personal projects is hard. You have to like it enough to keep working on it, but it’s so easy just to quit because no one is counting on you.

2. Javascript is the bane of my web development experience. It’s new and scary and confusing. Trying to be positive, but ugh. :P

3. When working on my personal project, everything else goes to shit: working out, doing chores, even eating. Getting sucked into one thing makes everything else pushed aside.

Tips for Interviewing for Developer Positions

I’ve compiled a few pointers for people who are starting their interview process. I’m coming at this post as a programmer who is just starting out her career. Some of the advice may be more relevant to newbies, but I think all points are universal tips.

Apply EVERYWHERE

You can’t get a job unless you apply. One of the things I’ve learned is that you just have to apply, apply, apply. You might get a response from only a small percentage of those that you’ve applied for. When I first started the interview process, I was only applying at companies that I thought would suit me and would ignore a lot of potential companies along the way.

Apply at companies that don’t interest you.

Even if the company doesn’t interest you, you should still apply. If you don’t get an offer, you probably won’t be heart broken about it, and if you do get an offer, congrats! You can use this offer to help get more interest in your application. When you get that first offer and you mention to recruiters that you have an offer on the table, companies tend to speed up your application. Having an offer is like being the first kid picked in a game of dodgeball. All of a sudden, someone is interested in you so now everyone is interested. Also, who knows, maybe that company that didn’t originally interest you won their way into your heart during the interview process.

Apply for positions that don’t exactly match your repertoire

I started treating job descriptions as suggestions rather than concrete requirements. I didn’t go crazy with it and start applying for senior positions when I have no experience, but if I was within +1 year of experience that they posted, then I would apply. If I didn’t know all the technologies that they use, I would still apply. The worst thing they can do is tell you that they were looking for something else. And hopefully at this point you’re rolling in interviews that one company isn’t going to break your stride.

Practice in the meantime

I have the “luxury” of interviewing as my full time thing. But interviewing doesn’t take up 40 hours a week. So take some down time to  practice your skill. Pick up a personal project, contribute to open source. You can even look up interviewing questions and work on those. With everything you do, I’d suggest putting it up on GitHub publicly. Even if companies don’t delve into your code, they can see how many commits you’ve made and it lets them know that you haven’t been doing nothing during this time. It also doesn’t have to be a big project. You can write a small script or fix a bug.

Don’t apologize

I mentioned this in my last post: Don’t apologize, but I think it needs to be reiterated. Your story is yours. If you have gaps in your resume, don’t apologize for it. If they ask, let companies know what you were doing during this time, taking a break, traveling, learning new things, worked in a personal project, etc. I think it’s important to remember that you can’t change the pass, so might as well make it as positive as possible. But don’t lie. Lying is bad and it shouldn’t be needed anyways. You should focus on what you’re doing now rather what you didn’t do in the past.

Have a support system

Interviewing can be really mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. It’s not easy to continually put up your best face and subject yourself to prodding by another person in hopes of impressing them. I find that the interview process makes me feel very naked and vulnerable and this can affect my mood. I don’t think it’s a weakness to feel this way, but I feel like there are healthy ways to deal with it. You can find people in the same position as you and rant about how much an interview sucked or what they found helpful. You can just go out with friends and focus on other things in life. You can make something that makes you happy or proud. Whatever it is, it’s good to realize that interviewing isn’t the only thing in your life.

Don’t take things personally

This is the hardest thing for me to get over. When a company rejects you, they’re not saying you’re a bad person, a bad programmer, or a bad anything. You don’t always know why they decided not to go with you. Maybe your interviewer didn’t feel like you meshed with their company culture. Maybe they’re looking for something really specific. Maybe they’ve already filled the position and kept the job description up because the other person didn’t sign the contract yet. Maybe they’ve lost their budget for the position. Maybe they’re not really looking to hire and are just interviewing to test out the waters. It can be a million different things. It’s just important that it’s not you. Unless you’ve done something monumentally offensive, it’s not personal. I often would get my hopes up for a company only to be crushed by the fact that they didn’t give me an offer. I would then spend time wallowing in a pit of self-pity because I didn’t think I was good enough. Nowadays, I can handle rejections a lot better. You have to keep in mind that you get rejected A LOT. Let it roll off your bad and pick yourself up because the next interview is coming up.

I hope this was helpful to people. If not, it was cathartic to write down my experiences. I’m still trying to use these tips myself. I think it’s very possible to feel alone in the interview process and it helps to know that interviewing is HARD and people struggle with it. Good luck!

Don’t apologize

Last night, I went to a Geek Girl Dinner hosted by Box. I had run late because of traffic and was frantically trying to get in without being a nuisance. I snuck in, grabbed some delicious greek food and settled in for the talks. I thought all the talks were really great, but one in particular resonated with me. Tamar Bercovici is a Senior Engineering Manager at Box and she chronicled her experiences transitioning from a theoretical computer science major with a PHD, to a web developer, to a manager.

As someone who is going through the interview process once again, it was really interesting to hear her struggles and triumphs. She had prepared heavily prior to interviews, and applied to a ton of places – she even snuck into career fairs at schools she didn’t attend. The thing that really resonated with me was her mantra during the interview process: Don’t apologize. She didn’t apologize for not having web experience, or having a PHD, or the fact that she was making a change in her career.

I think more often than not, I apologize for a lot of things. I apologize for not having enough experience, I apologize for not working during my gaps, I apologize that companies may potentially have to support me more (even though this won’t be the case). Whether or not I explicitly say sorry, I know that sometimes my tone is not the most confident. There’s been an anecdote floating around that women just say sorry more often. Pantene’s ad sparked a conversation about how women feel the need to apologize for things they shouldn’t have to.

So I think I’m going to stop apologizing. I didn’t work during my gaps, yes, but I was spending time learning, contributing to the coding community, taking time to travel and see the world. I wasn’t doing nothing. I was making myself a better person and a better programmer.

I’m going to scrawl “Don’t apologize” somewhere above my computer so I can remind myself that I have my own story. It’s mine and mine alone. No one – especially me – should put me down for it.

Some thoughts

I need to start focusing on what I have done instead of what I haven’t done/need to do. It’ll probably be better for my sanity. Focusing on only the negatives makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

So let’s all take some time to look back and all the amazing things that we have done and how much we’ve grown and changed. We can take a look at the struggles we’ve faced and how we’ve overcome them. Or not. Sometimes the struggle is an ongoing process and that’s okay. Struggling with thing is part of the journey and we just gotta take in stride. Of course, it’s always easy to say such things. In any case, I think it’s safe to say that everyone has dome something that they should be proud of, whether it be something tangible or not.

Not even sure where I’m going with this. Just wanted to write down some unadulterated thoughts.

Problem Reminders

Despite being a feminist and advocating for more equality for women in tech, I quite often go through my tech stuff with little rage. I love technology and how men and women come together to build something out of ideas. I feel like there’s such a sense of accomplishment and power from being able to singlehandedly create something from nothing. I don’t spend my days hating men and lamenting on the fact that men have made this tech world inhabitable by woman, an idea that I don’t actually believe in. But then I encounter something that takes me back to the fact that we still have a long way to go.

I talked to a woman who has been working in tech for 10+ years. I won’t list her name or what she does, but if she sees this somehow, I hope it’s okay that I mention it. She told me that if she could, she would have told herself not to get into tech. Now I’m about to embark on my journey into a career as a programmer so naturally I was curious as to why she feels this way.

She told me that she is constantly harassed at her job, to the point where she feels threatened physically and emotionally. HR is aware of the problem, but haven’t actually done anything to prevent it. She feels like she’s stuck at her job because she gets some good benefits that she feels that she can’t get elsewhere and is locked in with a mortgage.

The more I tried to feebly give her advice, mostly telling her that there are better opportunities out in the Bay Area and that not all tech companies are bad, the more she shirked away. In my attempt to help her, I made her feel incredibly uncomfortable and probably reinforcing how stuck and hopeless she was. She’s become so jaded about the tech world with 10 years of experience to back it up. There wasn’t anything I could say to convince her that not all tech consists of guys trying to hit on you and then being scarily persistent when you politely decline.

Eventually, she signed off and I felt like a huge asshole. She was well aware of her situation and I tried to problem solve it away with superficial suggestions. I could not pretend to comprehend what she’s going through. This conversation has been weighing heavily on my mind and I want to apologize to her for being so insensitive.

It also made me realize that I still look through the tech world with rose colored glasses. I’ve been harassed before but my interactions with colleagues have been more positive than negative and I’ve always associated the negative encounters to be a rare thing. I’ve never felt physically threatened or afraid for my safety. Having heard this story, I feel naive for thinking it doesn’t happen to people.

I’m not really sure if there is even a good solution for her right now. I just hope that one day we can get to the point where women feel safe and respected. That’s all that’s really important. I hope that in 10 years, I won’t be wishing that I had gone into a different career.

AdaCamp SF: My first un/conference! (Day 2)

Sunday started out with twist. I had been staying at my boyfriend’s sister’s apartment in San Francisco and we were going to AdaCamp together. We arrived at the building and took an elevator up with 6 other AdaCampers, totaling 8 people. We carried on with elevator etiquette, smiling and saying out “Good Mornings” and adding a bit of “I’m excited for today” when our elevatory abruptly halted on the 5th floor.

Now, this was my first experience being stuck in an elevator, and let me tell you, it’s not really fun. Fortunately, I was in an elevator with like-minded people so we were able to get along and have our own “Elevator Session”, but I can’t imagine being stuck in an elevator with 7 other strangers.

It took about 30 minutes to get out of the elevator. We had already begun to feel hot in the small enclosure that is an elevator. We threw off our bags and jackets and sat on the floor. It was considerably cooler down there. Then we went into discussions about fandom, journalism, wikis, etc because what are 8 women stuck in an elevator to do? We discovered that there were two birthdays in the elevator as well as two Andreas. We had chocolate passed around and it was a good time despite being in a hot box.

When the firefighters came, we were instructed to pry open the inner doors so they can hand us a tool to get ourselves out. By this point, we were tired and hungry and in need of coffee. But with our powers combined, we managed to pry open the door — and get a cool shot out of it — and they handed us a pole with a hook on it. With a few unsuccessful attempts, Jenny, our hero, managed to hook some mechanism that opened up the doors and we were rescued! Of course, we demanded a picture with the firefighters. All in all, it was in good company and despite the frustrations, we managed to get out and get our coffee, in which, I realized that I didn’t even like coffee.

So, being stuck in the elevator meant that we had missed the opening of AdaCamp. But we were right on time for the first session of the day. I think I went to one about interviewing.

For those who don’t know me, I’ve had a hard time with interviewing. I tend to get overly attached to the companies that I interview at and I end up feeling very discouraged when I don’t get it. One of the things I learned (and am working at) is to let things go. In a world where rejection and failure is expected (constantly breaking code, companies not sure of what they actually need), it’s really important to let things go. Now that’s easier said than done, but I feel like the session really did help me relax a bit and realize that I can’t do anything about not getting the job, I should just move on.

The second session that I went to was about Mansplaining. Basically, Mansplaining is the phenomenon where a man is trying to explain something, usually condescendingly, to a woman about something she already knows or is an expert in. The female equivalent is Femsplaining. I feel like this was a true test of how “radical” something like AdaCamp can get. I mean the session was about how a man is talking down to a woman even though she’s knowledgeable about the topic being discussed.

Something like that is highly likely of triggering blame on how men don’t respect women. But while there were a few instances of ranting (which is to be expected since being talked down upon isn’t the most pleasant of experiences), the tone of the discussion wasn’t as hostile as I originally feared it might turn out. There was a lot of thought put into the discussion. Things like, Are the men really talking down to you or are they just want to prove what they know? (In the case of a subordinate talking to a superior) Do they even realize what they were doing it?Were they just hitting on you instead of actually trying to talk down to you? A lot of interesting reasons surfaced and while are a few assholes who talk down to a woman because they truly believe that a woman doesn’t get it, I think we came to the conclusion that most people don’t mean it in a detrimental way.

So we started brainstorming ideas on how to fix this problem. Because even if they mean well, their approach can still be offensive and can cause women to feel defensive. One of the things that was said was to breathe deeply and don’t let yourself get angry. Once you calm down, you can access the situation a bit better and find a way to explain that you already understand the situation.

The discussion also brought up the point that we do it too. There were several women who admitted to Femsplaining after thinking about it. Things like making their husband do things a certain way in the kitchen because it’s the right way. So, I think it was important to note that we do it unintentionally without spite, but that it’s also important to realize when you’re Man/Femsplaining so you can check yourself.

Lunch came afterwards and we had a build your own burrito line. Everything was so tasty that my burrito was more of a burrito bowl with a tortilla on the bottom. I sat down with some AdaCampers and had some good conversations but after finishing my lunch, I just felt exhausted. From the elevator situation to constant discussions, never mind the fact that I had been waking up at 8am for the last two days to attend the conference, something that I almost never do.

The quiet room was amazing. It was a great place to just kind of get away from the conference for a while and recharge. I plugged in my computer and surfed the web mindlessly for a bit. It really helped rejuvenate me and geared me up for some more AdaCamp.

After lunch the conference had died down a bit and some workshops were being held. I came out of the quiet room in the middle of it all and decided to look for a friend. She was showing off a robot that she built out of a cardboard box and some cheap parts. It was really cool! I’ve never really got into robotics and I’ve only had one experience with some kind of LEGO robotics (I don’t really remember what it was). It was sooooo cool. I feel like a kid saying it, but I’m so excited to try it out myself.

I also took a self defense class for the hell of it. It was really fun (in a I hope I never have to use this way) and informative. The class was taught by someone who was well versed in martial arts and another martial artist came to help out. It was kind of scary to see them do the more intense reenactions but it was really awesome too. We learned a few moves to get us out of hairy situations that I hope I never have to use, but it’s good to keep that knowledge with me.

And that was AdaCamp! We ended with a closing and everyone said their goodbyes. We got some swag at the table and things kind of just petered out. I wanted to do more, but my body and mind was so exhausted from the intellectual conversations and activities. I felt that the conference was much more than learning about open source and open culture, it was a bonding experience that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. It was amazing to see so many women who have the same interests as you and since we’re so outnumbered, if it wasn’t for AdaCamp, it would have been hard to meet up on a scale like this.

I think it’s important for women to have a space like this where they don’t feel like they’re being judged for what they say based on their gender. There is so much hostility towards programs geared towards women in tech. Having a safe space for us to rant, discuss, solve, create, invent, and bond is so important. It’s been more than a week post conference and I still feel the effects of being there. I have to say, it was such an amazing event. Thank you to everyone who came, thank you to the organizers and volunteers who made it happen, and thank you for all the love, hugs, and advice. <3