Visiting Pittsburgh was like visiting an old friend. Reuniting with a mentor full of tough love who had the best interests for you at the time without you knowing until it had all gone by.

Glad I didn’t listen, part 1.
When browsing the folks featured on pandolist, especially the 2 student sections, many answered 4) similarly.

4) What is one piece of advice you’re glad you didn’t take?

You hear it over and over again. Parents: go be a doctor, lawyer, or something traditionally prestigious! Classmates: take a stable job! Friends: come out and play with us instead of working!
The answers, though with their own contexts, all point to the same thing: Glad I didn’t listen.
This is a sound mantra.
~

Similarly, in my own little life, Raincat just enjoyed a spike* in visitors, because of an awesome mention. (Thank you James of Programming in the 21st Century!)
But you know what’s funny? While making any effort to put a public face on it, I was told it was a waste of time.Dissenters: You aren’t even planning to go games full-time anymore, why bother?
So here you go, 2.75 years and ~15,000 total unique views later: Glad I didn’t listen.
Raincat is still discussed and loved despite being an older piece. And while it may never evolve beyond janky student-made indie game, it is an attestant to building it and shipping it.
Here’s to many, many more adventures in building and shipping things.
-
* These numbers are obviously nowhere close to big big, but really, this is something that hasn’t been actively promoted beyond conception. Go ahead and laugh, but I’ll only take shit from you if you’ve shipped something. ;)

Glad I didn’t listen, part 1.

When browsing the folks featured on pandolist, especially the 2 student sections, many answered 4) similarly.

4) What is one piece of advice you’re glad you didn’t take?

You hear it over and over again. Parents: go be a doctor, lawyer, or something traditionally prestigious! Classmates: take a stable job! Friends: come out and play with us instead of working!

The answers, though with their own contexts, all point to the same thing: Glad I didn’t listen.

This is a sound mantra.

~

spike

Similarly, in my own little life, Raincat just enjoyed a spike* in visitors, because of an awesome mention. (Thank you James of Programming in the 21st Century!)

But you know what’s funny? While making any effort to put a public face on it, I was told it was a waste of time.
Dissenters: You aren’t even planning to go games full-time anymore, why bother?

So here you go, 2.75 years and ~15,000 total unique views later: Glad I didn’t listen.

Raincat is still discussed and loved despite being an older piece. And while it may never evolve beyond janky student-made indie game, it is an attestant to building it and shipping it.

Here’s to many, many more adventures in building and shipping things.

-

* These numbers are obviously nowhere close to big big, but really, this is something that hasn’t been actively promoted beyond conception. Go ahead and laugh, but I’ll only take shit from you if you’ve shipped something. ;)

Post-grad life metaskill of 2011: Scaling.

One thing I’ve never paid much attention to while in school were milestones in school. They are neatly cut-off by semesters, tucked into smaller deliverables determined by weeks.

It was fairly easy to know when to pump it up and when to slack a little. For example, the strain of powering through finals is met with a period of complete relaxation at the end, without that, it’d be hard to sustain that level of intensity.

My first 3 months out of this, I realize how it is really up to you, yourself, to scale life. Whether it’s about work, side projects, outings, budget, whatever, it’s up to you to manage that metric.

It’s a freedom and a curse, and something I will aim to master consciously now and throughout 2012.

Just a quick thought and realization today while having instant ramen.

Analyzing How I Work

Lately, I’ve been frustrated with myself, mostly over nothing.

When you were graduating high school, you felt like the shit: getting into a college, preparing to leave home, embarking on a new adventure. Then, once arriving, it quickly becomes clear you are, once again, at the bottom of the food chain.

"What the fuck am I doing? I don’t know what I’m doing."

That’s the sentiment.

It takes time to figure out how to manage college life. Pick the right classes. Eat and sleep just enough to get by. Capitalize on this freedom while still not sinking.

And, by the time college senior year rolls around, you were once again the shit. Your resume plump and perfected after many iterations. Your class schedule awesome, sleeping in to the minute becomes an easy science. Then you get a job.

Now, I am there at the beginning of the job phase. And sometimes, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, once again, thrusted from the high throne to the lower ranks.

Flowchart-skills-acq

If it were illustrated via flowchart, it might be like this.

Chart-of-realization

I find that this is how I progress in picking up skills: the beginning is always the hardest. And then there’s a moment where I figure out that one stupidly silly thing which was hampering me all along.. [1]

I wrote this as a reminder to myself that it takes time to learn the ropes, get the hang of everything, optimize for success in every period of one’s life. I should really stop beating myself up for things like not knowing how insurance works and being unable to effectively squeeze in side project time. Also, just to admit it. I think this blogsketchthing has too much gratuitous advice wrapped in anecdotes. I am human too.

1. This - Stop Doing Stupid Shit.

Clash of Ideals.

My parents have always, and still, measure success by prestige. [1] 

They would’ve loved to say “My daughter go to Harvard.”
Now, they would love to say “My daughter work at Google.” [2]

But I actively rejected both paths.

My mum always makes a point to tell me the latest funnies in explaning me to other parents. It usually involves: statement, confusion, attempted proof, disbelief.

"Blah, blah, Carnegie Mellon." 
'Gua she me?' (Melon fruit what? for nonspeakers.)
"Blah, Pittsburgh, blah, snow, cold, blah, masters in 4 years."
'I don't believe you.'

It wasn’t until both degrees were in her hands any of the others really believed her. It irks me that it has to be this way. Not the fact that other parents like using me as a prime example of weirdo, but that my mum has to expend all this effort into proving these things are true. She can’t just talk about it. If it were Harvard and Google, then it’d somehow be taken as true. That’s how it is for everyone else.

I despise how prestige is how things are measured in this world [3], how it is everything. But, in the end, it’s my life, I only get one, and I shall spend it the way I wish. You should too. [4] I’m telling you now because it took me 20 years to realize this. I turned 22 less than a month ago. 

I don’t know how to solve, persay, this clash of ideals, but I felt like writing it out. 

I wish I could say my parents supported my creativity at the ripe age of 6 or are technologists themselves, but it isn’t the case. I can’t write an about page bio full of enriching childhood stories like all the others or post a picture of young me next to an old machine. [5] 

Again, I just wanted to say to anyone who’s growing up with this clash of ideals: You should really pursue what you’re passionate about and all will follow. Do it.


1. Sorry, I know I talk about this a lot.
2. Grammar is wrong on purpose.
3. Tiger parent world.
4. Yes - A one person audience was in mind as I composed this.
5. This post may be a byproduct of recent portfolio stalking of some designers and developers I admire. I’m honestly jealous of their childhood stories. It gives me the fuzzies to read them. And the jellies.

a few paragraphs about my ‘favorite’ teach

Recently, I was asked to write a response to a prompt, “Write about a favorite teacher. What made them special?" .. The limit was 5 minutes of writing. To my surprise, this was written quickly and cohesively. Looking back, he was really a professor who had an impact on me, less in the world of academia, but more so in my faith in humanity.

Without further ado, the unedited version sans name:

I don’t like teachers who play favourites, especially the ones who play favourites ostentatiously. As a result, I myself try not to segregate them into favourites in return. However, if I had to pick a favorite it would definitely be [ prof ].

It’s a funny story actually. In my wanderer days, I managed to worm myself in a core course for majors only. [ Prof ] was not pleased. He’d scowl at me and ignore my presence in class, even though he actively made an effort to involve the quiet ones.

With that, I was somewhat hesitant to send him email for something assignment related, no big right? But you know, still, I was careful in wording my message, to not irk him too much.

The reply was curt and docile at the same time - It neutralized itself. He asked me to his office to further discuss.

To my surprise, [ prof ] actually had little to expand on the homework related issue, but he was genuinely intrigued by my portfolio (linked via my email signature). The paintings section caught his eye. He told me it was very unexpected. He was intrigued in my story.

At that point on, he started making eye contact with me in lecture regularly and then we’d chat about painting outside of class. The conclusion? [ Prof ] was special because he was the only professor who genuinely cared about my passions, well being, and interest - in and out of class. The paintings were just the beginning.


Cheers to the professors who care about their students more than their research, tenure, or ease of managing a course. Seriously.

Paying my respects to a legendary human being.

Today, the news of Steve Job’s passing hit me hard. It’s funny. I had no idea that it would impact me this much. [1]

I’ve never been a rabid Apple fangirl, nor can I even say that now, despite owning the golden trifecta (Macbook Air, iPad2, iPhone 3G - soon to be iPhone 4S), yet, I still hone immense respect for him, less so of a god than as a person.

When famous people pass, I always wonder what it would have been like to know them personally. I am, as many are, familiar with his celebrity persona, but can’t help but to think of all the inner-workings and very human things he thought day-to-day. It’s regretful that what very little chance I had to ever cross paths with him in person are gone, but, I’ll do what I think he wished anyone following his legacy should do: Be convicted about my trajectory. Be convicted about what I really want to spend my life doing.

With that, thank you Steve Jobs for being.


[1] I’ve always been sensitive about death. It’s something I can’t really get over very well to the extent of crying over hamsters (I was 11, but I’d probably still do it now). I also still bawl over poignant sagas and usually fail hard at hiding my tears.

retrospective: the MHCI post mortem, special illustrated edition

Hi everyone, tonight, I am here in front of a laptop to finish up [0] to you my latest post: THE MHCI post mortem. I hope, you, the reader can peek what into what has been my world and experience for the past 8 months - It’s an adventure for you and me [1]. I am also very pleased to let you know this will be a multimedia piece! Illustrative doodles accompany major points of this presentat—, post. /end higher-pitched professional voice mode.

Expectations

01thedegree

I do admit, I didn’t have any particular expectations when I decided to do this. The logic was straight-forward: for just an extra 3 months and 18k [2], I can walk out of CMU with a highly regarded masters degree in a field which I am passionate about. No brainer, right?

Long story short, there weren’t much of any expectations. And looking ahead, longer story short, I was blown out of the water.

Never-worked-this-hard-in-my-life Spring

02somuchwork

This isn’t to say CMU hasn’t been working me into the ground every previous semester, but there was something particular about the people who surrounded me… I pin this back to our project’s secondary research, this thing called social normative pressure.

Social normative pressure is an interesting thing. I believe I worked as hard as I did, doing extra for the sake of learning because I felt behind. My peers were experienced, wise, mature, more ambitious than I. This drove me to sleepless nights and inane meal schedules, er, more than my usual ones! I looked outwards more than ever, adding new feeds and applications to scrutinized to my repitriore. I changed up my styling in class a bunch. I somehow built up to the point where I could marathon an assignment for 15 hours straight (new record).

Even despite all this, I still have room to improve, tons of room. But I think of it as a healthy obsession. Well, healthy for my ambition and early 20s at least.

Roller Coaster Summer Beginnings

03thoughtsconsumed

Summer was an interesting experience, to say the least. [5] Skimping on some personal details, my first time going out of the country for the CHI 2011 conference without family  changed a set of my core internal values, much to my surprise. Usually, I don’t waver on such things. I previously touched upon why this may have happened [6].

Stepping out into a completely zone with an open mind did wonders. It seems to have further accelerated my desire to do something with my life which also did a big part in propagating a serious decision.

Ramping Up

After I stiffened up from the drama, things ramped up quickly. At some point, I couldn’t remember what I was doing the week before because there was much to micro and backburn at any given time. Nonetheless, we finished strong and came out with a gorgeous result. Very pleased.

A quick insight on this, direction, or lack of thereof. There a fine balance between constraints and freedom which needs to cooperate in order for a great result to emerge. Another thing I thank this experience for is the ability to evaluate situations better to find these parameters.. and the ability to say “No.”

The Finish

Bipolar

Never has an academic program made me so happy to be capable of great things and cry so much over small things, but there you go, if you gave me the choice again. I’d say, I do it again. I came out loving almost everything about the whole experience. [7] [8]


Footnotes by the Foot

[0] I actually flushed out the contents a day after finishing. Today is the new class’s orientation in which reminded me, perhaps, I should finish up writing this post. Then was reminded a second time by a friend who is now in my old project room!

[1] But perhaps largely me. Hah! No one reads these things right?

[2] I accomplished this via a loophole made possible by being an overachiever who enabled herself to graduate a semester early.

[3] So insecure and unsure: What should I do with my life? (September 2010).

[4] The day I received the acceptance email: Yay, grad school! (November 2010).

[5] Read: boys.

[6] Ripe for Disruption I was (July 2011).

[7] Apply and you can have the time of your life too. I am a good walking advertisement. I should be paid for this. I convinced a few at home to consider. Magic!

[8] At some point, this post swelled and became hard to finish. Forgive the lack of polish in details, I figured I should just push it out the door. < Sounds like a start-up or side project.

Realization and My Craft

Yesterday, Steve Jobs resigned as Apple CEO. Everyone was talking about it. Today, even my tiger mum, brought it up, and she doesn’t follow technology. (If my mum catches on to anything in my world, you know it’s made a ripple.) After reading perhaps the 20th article on the subject, one linked Steve Job’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech [1]. Steve talks about the inability to connect the dots moving forward and having faith that when looking back, the dots will, in fact, connect.

After rewatching, I kept this in the back of my head today while I wasted the afternoon away, sadly, watching videos of cats (no shame). Since finishing my degree, I’ve been experiencing a looming feeling of lost…

  • Moving rather slowly through some coding. Feeling lightyears behind people who have the magical abiltily to realize their own ideas.
  • Talking to some buddies back at home. Some still don’t have jobs. So, haven’t I accomplished enough?
  • Then talking to some other buddies from home who are out in the world. One is pursuing her PhD already. Kicking academia ass in general. Hm…
  • Paging thru some sketches I made recently. Such a joyous, yet useless, talent.

Frustrated by stagnation, I drove myself to Starbucks (always helps) to dwell on the subject more. While reading again, I circle to YCombinator and Women2.0, reading about female start-up founders and the lack thereof. For some reason, I then found myself thinking I should submit a YC Start-up School app despite having almost no technical prowess (HTML/CSS doesn’t really count guys). Go undergrad (part) art major go!

Long story of self doubt short, I decided to point to Raincat as my coolest project albeit it was a team project and I didn’t write any code. But what I did do was the art direction, UI, and small website to promote the thing. To give my answer some ground, I pulled up Analytics to cite the absolute uniques since launching the site… 12k. Um, whoa, when did that happen? In the greater internet world, it isn’t much, but for the amount of promotion and development done on it since finishing (read: almost none), it’s a pretty nice number.

An experience I created on the corner of the web had that many eyeballs gracing it.

This little episode reminded me about a few dots. I was an art major to begin because of their potential to reach people. I then switched to the tech realm because I was enamored by those who could build their own ideas. Then I realize that I am not exactly behind or ahead and that I just need to keep moving forward, refining my craft, regardless of my surroundings. To cite the extreme - Up against death, everything fades except for what you really want to do.

The simplest things are sometimes the hardest to grasp, especially when it’s about yourself, and is only realized when you realize it for yourself [2].

[1] Apple fan or not, this is worth your time, guaranteed.

[2] Possibly a side-effect of always being hard on myself. It’s ingrained in me. Also, this post ended up being a lot more mundane in text, oh well!

The downfall of “I’ll do it later.”

The downfall of “I’ll do it later.”, aka procrastination

1. Experiential - doesn’t feel good, it snowballs, you get comfortable, it’s hard to change

2. Implications - actions speak louder than words, saying things will change while still on this trajectory makes a weak argument

3. Applied - “real world” theory, you can no longer hide behind the veil of schoolwork and grades, the real test of brilliance: it’d meaningless to be brilliant unless you put it to good use, also explains the surplus of presence hard working but average people running around calling the shots

Open letter to brilliant people: you are not allowed to mock and deride UNLESS you come out of the basement yourself.

Open declaration of fears: becoming one who hides behind a veil and never doing anything significant.
So long as I can help it - this won’t be the case.

Please excuse choppiness and format, post written iPad

On not knowing what you really want…

…until you have or don’t have it.

Three vignettes.

Donating unused clothes. I moved away from wearing black tops and beige capri pants college sophomore year, mostly due to social normative pressure. In experimentation, I’ve garnered too much clothing for my own good. Now, after establishing a rotation, I note articles which never get worn. The test of packing goes to show which don’t make the cut. So, instead of huddling it all, I’m letting it go. I don’t really want it anyway. (Except on laundry day.)

Observing the work of others. Or, a masked phrase meaning I’m back into anime. I moved away from anime also college sophomore year, writing it off as a poor use of time. The transition wasn’t gradual. I went cold turkey. My proud, growing list came to stop and I haven’t thought much of it until recent. Now, after a series of ultimately fortunate events, I find it to be something I missed dearly and truly refreshing. I do want it after all. Screw the jerk who convinced me otherwise. (No, really, screw him, but those experiences are for another entry.)

Starting fresh by appropriating. I find my means of motivation to be interesting. It’s almost unintuitive actually. I start initially out of spite, in order to prove the means wrong or to beat the system. I’m a fool for fighting words when it comes to my abilities. I’m also a fool to do it the hard way if I see serious flaws in the way it’s always been done. I mean, this is how I got started in this field. No one’s laughing more: I managed to combine creation into my daily rotation. This is also how I get started on projects. For those who still dare to laugh: keep doing so, it motivates me. Challenge accepted, thank you very much. Plus, it’s a good thing, because I never knew I wanted it, until I had it.

As much as I do have hard time getting over certain incidents from the past, in the end, I have to admit, it’s made me as foolishly, bat-shit ambitious as I am. So, thank you all who were involved. Everything that initially began from such a spark has turned into something quite magical and beautiful.

Ripe for Disruption

It dawned on me last night, at 4:30am, the reason my life has been turned, flipped upside down recently was because it was ripe for disruption.

Whether this is self propagated or a force outside of my control, the state of being comfortable, too comfortable, is a stagnant one. The only means which it can pick itself up again, is so if it were to be disrupted, just like a dated way of life by a new innovation.

And with that, I come to closer terms with my inner peace and the way things are now.

about: the little voice in my head

an eclectic rant of sorts

The little voice in my head has recently become more persistent, and pressuring.

For the longest time, the little voice in my head has taken the visual form of my Asian parents, particularly, my Dad. Should be no surprise: the way a hardcore Asian parent shows love is to never let their children give up. Unfortunately, the Eastern vs. Western culture clash warrants plenty of room for misunderstanding.

It wasn’t until college when I realize that all my life, I had been short-changed. Though my parents were powerless to influence my decisions while out in Pittsburgh, the little voice in my head was always there. At the verge of a decision: going out before finishing work (small thing, just sleep less later), caving into peer pressure for that stupid antic (whatever, get a few laughs), or dropping everything to pursue a true passion (uh, oh, heavy), the little voice would always second guess me, more so than anything or anyone else.

Between this realization and the little voice, I’m always in a rush to accelerate the already accelerated, yet am halted by my own stubbornness. Though I’m not outspoken about what I truly think all the time, I hate settling for less, and yet people around believe I am so. In reality, I’m just trying to get by, sometimes trying hard to get by (can’t let go of what is second nature for 18 years), biding my time until I get the perfect idea, or what I believe is so.

And yet, a part of me still blames it all on that Asian parent voice.

But the thing is, during my last phone call, even while confessing something morally damning, I am received outright love and support, from my Asian parents.

This is the truth.

And the other truth? My parents are actually not like that anymore. They’ve actually matured awhile ago.

Ultimately, I am now my own monster. It’s kind of like how designers are their own biggest critics, except worse. So, I am both my own greatest critic and monster.

tl;dr auggghaugh, I have an Asian parent conscience, and it’s my own damn fault.

The End of the Hunt: Job Hunt Post-mortem

Disclaimer: This post is a means to get myself to synthesize my scattered thoughts. I hesitated to make this public, but maybe someone out there will find this useful.

First, the good news: I am very excited to declare I officially signed on with the design team at Vast.com. I start this upcoming August, briefly after graduating with my Masters in HCI, in their San Francisco office which boasts ~20 brilliant people. What a relief.

Basically, after actively searching since last September, I got what I wanted:

  • People: small team, people I can learn from
  • Location: SF, bonus points for being within 5 blocks of everyone I know and love
  • Field: internet, forward-looking technologies
  • Options: opened more paths instead of narrowing future selections

Numbers Everyone loves numbers.

1 amazing offer
12 hard rejections

4 rejections were due to poor timing - though all these companies asked me to check-in upon graduation to see if things have changed!
3 rejections were due to not a “great fit”
3 rejections were due to not enough industry experience
1 deferral was due to being “second choice,” thus leading to rejection upon Vast’s offer
1 rejection was due to not enough skills

50+ resume drops (plenty of no responses!)
/ over the course of 6 months.

Goals What exactly did I want? Well, I want “Hooray!”

How? Our favorite process: Iterative.

My job search was largely iterative. As someone who’s naturally introverted, my biggest challenge was learning how to perceive cues and react accordingly. I usually like a few moments to process and then come up with an answer, but an awkward silence like that doesn’t blow over well during an interview. The whole experience has made me a better communicator.

The biggest takeway from this whole process was try not to take it personally. Still, it’s hard. After the initial screen, it’s hard not to feel safe. “They like me, they like me!” Well, at least, they see that you are competent. This is great. Halfway there. It’s when you fly in for an onsite, only to get rejected hard it hurts. I admit to needing that tub of icecream or pint of beer after each one of these.

Also, it’s actually a really humbling process. And motivating. After each rejection, I was motivated even more to both find the perfect match and to show them that, the company who chooses to invest in my growth, will surely reap the benefits. Some steps will inflate your ego, others will surely deflate it. But what kept me going was the light at the end of the tunnel, that at some point, I’ll find my match.

Another note, I survived a total of 5 coast-to-coast onsite interviews to get here. (Lots of lost manpower hours during semester crunchtimes!) Job seeking is not to be taken lightly. I’d equate it to a 18 unit course - seriously! If you really want to do it well, you really need to gun for it.

Finally, I learned firsthand about the power of the alumni network. Almost every first round I had, I spoke with a MHCI alum, or if not a MHCI alum, a CMU alum. The connection is just so powerful. These people have a soft spot for CMU, so don’t miss out on that edge. I’m sure if I ever conduct an interview, I will harbor a soft spot too.

What’s next? So, about this school thing…

I’m not sure yet whether it’ll be hard or easy to keep on trucking. On one hand, it’s like a vacation for me, a low key version of my future with a ton of flexibility. The nice thing about academic projects is that there’s less business risk. On the other hand, I could fly out to beautiful San Francisco and get paid to do the same thing. At any rate, my project team will just have to paste rasterbated skyline of the bridge to keep me here ;)

In other news, I need to revamp my portfolio since it’s a little embarrassing and dated. I have yet to experience this myself, but, despite securing an offer: Always be interviewing. I see this advice everywhere. With that, I expect to keep myself open to the possibilities and referring awesome people to the right places. At the same time, I’m really psyched for this, and expect to stick with Vast for a good while.

Cheers to the future.