I was born March 17, 1988, catching the tail end of the 80s. After I came out, my mom turned to the doctors and nurses in the room and said, “How do you spell relief?” a la the Rolaid’s commercial. Apparently, she thought this was wildly funny because I have heard the story countless times since that day.
March 17th is St. Patrick’s day, a great holiday on which to have a birthday. Everyone is already out partying, but the holiday doesn’t overshadow your birthday (and you get lots of free whiskey and Guinness).
Joining Swim Team
When I was four, my mom put me on the swim team. Her goal was to have children who were so tired they would all pass out by 8 pm every night. Swimming illuminated some of my core personality traits; namely that I am lazy and not a good self-motivator. Three days a week my mom would drag me to the pool and cruelly force me to get into the cold water. I would swim up and back, then hold onto the lane rope and cry to get out. “No! Keep swimming,” she would yell from her chair on the pool deck. I would continue to do this every lap until she let me out, which was still 30 minutes earlier than the other kids.
While I never learned to love competitive swimming, I am enormously grateful that my Mom threw me on the swim team and encouraged me to keep swimming. I ultimately found a water sport that I loved deeply when I started playing water polo, and my siblings and I regularly swim to this day at South End Swim & Rowing Club in San Francisco.
Picking a major in college is one of the most stressful decisions you make in your young life. I knew I wanted to study engineering, but I wasn’t sure what kind. At first, I did the potential med school/biotech route, but after discovering bio wasn’t really my thing I scrapped that idea. The same quarter I realized my dislike of biology, I took a computer science class that I really enjoyed. Additionally, my brother studied CS and he told me that software engineers were in such high demand that everyone gets a job no matter how mediocre their grades are in school. I thought to myself—mediocrity, I can manage that. So I did what I’ve always done: I copied my brother.
At some point during my undergrad career, I discovered that Stanford has a degree dedicated to Human-Computer Interaction, or how people interact with technology. After taking a few of the classes, I fell in love with the course material and found that it was the perfect complement to a technical degree in computer science. So I majored in Communication/Human-Computer Interaction and mastered in Computer Science. While most people hone in on my computer science degree, I believe my communication degree is the more useful of the two. It taught me critical thinking, writing, and how to organize and share my thoughts in a rigorous and compelling way.
After a year of playing water polo in college, I realized that I couldn't study computers and train for 20+ hours a week; computers, apparently, require ALL of your time. After I stopped playing, I started coaching Junior Varsity swimming and water polo at the high school across the street. For $8.50 an hour I got to yell at 14 and 15-year-old girls to swim faster. I think there were also some ad-hoc counseling services thrown in there.
Coaching ended up being a foundational experience that would inform my understanding of how to train and nurture talent in individuals, and how to convince large groups of people to work together towards a common goal. I ran the JV girls swimming and water polo programs for three years, and what I learned from that experience became the basis of my knowledge about managing people. Turns out teenage girls aren’t that different from the average software engineer. Both groups can be surly, moody, and haven’t yet learned to fully express their feelings with words.
I've also written and talked a lot about onboarding, people management, and how to build web applications.
From 2016-2018 I worked on a startup called Opsolutely. We were a platform that aimed to help engineering teams deploy service-oriented infrastructure into the cloud. The idea was to not only solve many of the technical problems around software deployments but to solve the people and process problems that stem from poor or incomplete automation around releasing software. Basically, the idea was that better deployment tooling would allow companies to build happier, more productive, more diverse teams. To read more, check out our blog here.
In 2018, I sold Opsolutely to Shift, and Joyce and I joined the team as software engineers and engineering managers. You can read about why I chose to join Shift over other companies here.
When I’m not working on this website or websites I’m paid to work on, I mostly do nothing. My goal in life is, in fact, to find a way to do nothing forever. Things that get in the way of doing nothing include needing money, volunteering with Raphael House, speaking at conferences, mentoring new programmers, obsessing over management and team-building, writing blog posts, and exercising for my “health”.