Mid-quarter Checkpoint

I just finished my sixth week of work and thought I’d give an update on my progress so far.

How I’ve been doing with my personal goals:

  1. Cook dinner at least 1 night a week. I cook dinner with my friend once every two weeks, which has been a good way for me to routinely hang out with her and to cook while I’m at it 😁I have been slacking a bit on the weeks that I don’t cook with her 😅
  2. Exercise at least 3 times a week. I’ve actually adhered to this one quite well! I go to the gym every morning that I work in the Mountain View office, and I’ve been playing volleyball every weekend with some friends, too.
  3. Read at least 1 book every two weeks. I have recently finished reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, and Annie Duke’s biography. Visit my Goodreads account to follow my activity.
  4. New topics: poker, crochet, and learn a new language. Poker: I have The Mathematics of Poker checked out from the library, but it’s kind of a slow read for me. I did read Annie Duke’s autobiography, so I picked up on some basic strategies from there. Crochet: I made a new friend last week! Learn a new language: I’ve been using Mango Languages to learn some Shanghainese, though this process has also been intermittent.
  5. Meet up with friends at least once a week. I’ll count volleyball and cooking with my friends as social events 😬

How I’ve been doing with professional goals:

  1. Become more comfortable with the codebase. I’ve been working on a lot of column formatting stuff, and I’ve noticed that I have a better idea of what I’m doing now. I’m taking on more complex tasks than I was before, and I’m gaining more context into how this whole application works. I’ve talked to my manager about reviewing PRs with me every two weeks, so hopefully this will give me a good idea of how I’m progressing over time.
  2. Develop my own opinion on the product and engineering culture. This one might take a bit more time, but so far, I’ve participated in the book club (on Crossing the Chasm) and attended a bunch of presentations as part of the new grad onsite interview process. It’s been interesting (and somewhat nerve-wracking) to see how candidates are evaluated for each part of the interview 😅It sometimes makes me wonder how I was hired.
  3. Take advantages of opportunities to learn. I’ve done more than 40 1:1s with people in the company, and I think it’s been a good way to learn about their career trajectories, as well as to get to know them as people.

My biggest worry recently has been making sure that I’m learning deliberately. I know for sure that I’m learning a lot about this product’s codebase, but I want to make sure that what I learn is also transferable to other things in the future. I think that will be a big focus for me during this next stretch. Specifically, I want to learn more about building large-scale software systems, so my plan is to do more research on that on my own. I’ve also been feeling somewhat overwhelmed by seeing all the projects that new grads and even high school students have been working on. Instead of dwelling on feeling like an imposter, though, it’s probably more productive for me to focus on building up my own skillset. So there’s my slightly modified game plan 🙃

Employed – Chapter 1

I am proud to say that I have successfully held down my first full-time job for two whole weeks! I don’t know whether it’s because I’m not used to doing the same thing for 8-10 hours a day, or if it’s because my Master’s year effectively felt like a sabbatical, but I am so much more tired than I thought I would be.

Part of me thinks it’s because I don’t really have anything to look forward to outside of work, so life sort of just drags on between work days. I used to be such an interesting person when I was in college, but now I don’t even have an answer to the simple question, “What are your hobbies?” ☹️ Anyway, I decided to set up a goal system again similar to the way I set goals for myself each school semester. I’ll come up with a set of goals every 3 months, which will hopefully give me something to focus on outside of work.

Here are my personal goals for the next quarter:

  1. Cook dinner at least 1 night a week. Because I’ve been living at home, I’ve taken advantage of the fact that my dad normally cooks dinner. I should probably do more to help out with meals 😅
  2. Exercise at least 3 times a week. My activity level has dropped essentially to zero since school ended and volleyball practices ended. My goal is to take advantage of the free gym at work and exercise in the mornings before starting work.
  3. Read at least 1 book every two weeks. I have been reading more, but my reading pace is quite slow. Hopefully, by making this goal more concrete, I can make a larger dent in my huge list of books I still want to read.
  4. New topics: poker, crochet, and learn a new language. To mimic taking new classes every semester, I wanted to try something new every quarter. Just in case one topic gets too boring as a focal point, I thought I’d throw in some other ones just to keep things exciting. Obviously, the list is not binding and/or comprehensive since the purpose of this goal is to encourage exploring new things. Think of this as a launchpad if you will.
  5. Meet up with friends at least once a week. This is just so that I don’t get stuck in the “living at home” bubble 😅

Here are my professional goals for the next quarter:

  1. Become comfortable with more parts of the codebase. Obviously, I’m never going to become an expert on all parts of the codebase, but I hope that by claiming tickets that involve different parts of the codebase, I will gradually become more comfortable working in different parts of the codebase.
  2. Develop my own opinion on the product and engineering culture. During my first two weeks at work, we have had several retrospective meetings, which has made me realize how much my company values reflecting on past work and making changes for the future. As an intern, I never thought too much about things like the bug triaging process and whatnot because I knew I would be leaving in less than three months anyway. I think it’s important for me to develop a framework to think about the effectiveness of various company processes and to think of ways they can be improved.
  3. Take advantage of opportunities to learn. I’m sure there are lots of learning opportunities ahead of me that I don’t yet know about, so this goal is just a reminder to take advantage of them. I’ve been making my way through 1:1s with everyone in the company, so for the engineers in particular, I think I’ll try and see what sort of goals they set for themselves since mine are pretty weak at the moment 😅

I will check back in November 23-24 to see how things went and to set up goals for the next quarter. Onward!

Final semester goals

Today marks my last first day of school ever! To honor this grand occasion, I figured I would set the tone of my last semester by setting some goals. In no particular order…

  1. Spend my time deliberately. Whether it’s spending time hanging out with friends or working on a problem set, I think it’s important to be conscientious about how I’m spending my time. Once I’ve decided to allocate my time to something, then I want to give my full attention to whatever task is at hand.
  2. Listen to podcasts and read books. I used to listen to podcasts pretty often when I was an undergrad, but for some reason I haven’t been keeping up with my podcasts this year. It’s a good use of time, especially when I end up walking a lot from building to building. It will also be nice to make a dent in my ever-growing list of books to read on my Goodreads.
  3. Hang out with friends. This one was somewhat harder in the fall because I was flying to San Francisco for interviews during much of the semester. However, because I’m actually going to be on campus this semester, I want to make a conscious effort to make plans with my friends, even if it’s just meeting up for lunch.
  4. Make steady progress on and eventually complete my thesis! This is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, I want to make sure that my thesis work doesn’t fall to the sidelines. I’m not a huge fan of last minute cramming near the deadline, so I need to make sure I stay on track early on.
  5. Exercise regularly. I’m planning on playing volleyball tournaments this semester, so that should be pretty exciting! Also, I started lifting with one of my friends over January, so I’ll do my best to keep that up. Another one of my friends asked me to exercise with her regularly to ensure that she keeps up with her routine, so that should also be good motivation for me 🙂
  6. Cook better (maybe). At some point I need to be able to cook, so I might try and start learning now.
  7. Be an effective TA. Being a TA for the intro to programming class was definitely one of the highlights of last semester. I really enjoyed working with students in office hours and answering Piazza questions, so I look forward to continuing that this semester. One thing to note, however, is that I may have gone a bit overboard with the Piazza obsession last semester. I think a good way of keeping that in check is to contribute more to pset preparation so that students are less confused to begin with.
  8. Speak up during seminar. I will be taking my second prison class at a maximum-security correction facility this semester. The topic is the criminal justice system, which I’ve grown increasingly interested in since taking my first prison class my senior fall. During the previous course, I didn’t contribute as much as I would have liked during class discussions—maybe I was intimidated or something—but I really hope to share more of my thoughts and insights with my peers this time around.

This is probably a decent number of goals to work with, so I’ll leave it at that. Onwards!

January Goals

This is the first January I’m spending on campus since freshman year, so I figured I might as well set some goals for the month.

  • Thesis: Fall semester was a bit hectic, so I wasn’t able to dedicate as much time as I would have liked to my thesis. I created an agile roadmap—complete with sprints and story point estimates—for myself, so I have some confidence that I can get myself back on track. As long as I keep up, I should actually be able to graduate, which is always good 🙂
  • Exercise: My friend’s lifting buddy is gone for the January term, so I volunteered to lift with her instead! Today was my first day lifting, and I’m proud to say that I haven’t injured myself yet. It should be a fun way to supplement my bi-weekly volleyball practices—who knows, I might even get a little stronger.
  • Clarinet: My goal is to practice at least 30 minutes of clarinet four times a week in addition to my clarinet lessons. So far, so good! It helps that I’ve discovered that the music practice room in my dorm is usually unoccupied.
  • Spend time with friends and family: I’ve already met up with some friends this past week, and I plan on continuing to do so throughout January since everyone is generally less stressed out these days. My brother also moved into his dorm across the river! He’s probably much busier than I am with his social and perhaps his academic life, but I’ll try to check up on him at least once in January.
  • Cooking: I should probably be more deliberate about feeding myself. Right now, I have a decent amount of food stocked up, so I should be able to cook at least a couple good meals for myself. Fingers crossed!

Objectifs pour le semestre

We’re already three weeks into the semester, but I figured it’s still worthwhile to go through and outline my goals for the semester.

  • Write a thesis proposal I’m proud of and get everything up and running in time for evaluation in January. My thesis proposal draft is almost done! I’ll be working on redesigning and implementing a new standalone gallery for App Inventor that promotes project sharing and increases discoverability of shared projects. I’m super excited to be tackling this project—I just hope I can finish everything in time.
  • Be an effective TA and help my students gain confidence in their ability to program. As a TA for the introductory computer programming class this semester, my number one goal is to help my students grow as programmers, whether they major in computer science or some other field that benefits from computing knowledge. It’s already been an exhilarating journey working with the course staff on designing psets and answering student questions on Piazza.
  • Exercise regularly with the volleyball team. It’s been a while since I played on my high school team, but I finally decided to return to the volleyball court! I figured it would be a neat way to meet more people and also to ensure that I get some exercise on a regular basis.
  • Learn a clarinet piece that I’m excited about. I won’t go into too much detail, but I ended up not being able to play chamber music this semester, which means that I also won’t be doing the Emerson program. I contemplated taking an early retirement from clarinet, but part of me didn’t want to quit quite yet. So I decided to keep taking lessons with Tom, and for once, I chose a piece to work on! Rhapsody in Blue, here we go.
  • Practice problem solving and keep learning outside of classes. I’m only taking one class this semester, so my stress levels are probably at an all-time low compared to the rest of my time here at MIT. At the same time, I’d like to treat this as an opportunity to learn outside the formal classroom. I’m trying real hard to get better at software engineering interviews, so spending time on HackerRank is definitely one of my priorities until I land a job offer. Also, I think there’s a lot I can learn about personal finance so that I can “adult” properly, especially post-graduation. Plus, my reading list on Goodreads has a ton of books that I should probably read.
  • Become a better cook. I’m no longer on the meal plan, which means that I have to fend for myself when it comes to food. It’s been a while since I cooked every meal with my friends the summer after freshman year, but I’m slowly getting back into the groove of things. Buying groceries is more annoying now that Star Market on Sidney Street is closed, but at least one of my roommates keeps me company during our weekly grocery shopping runs.
  • Be patient with life. I got a crown for tooth #30 in January, but somehow, the nerve in that tooth ended up dying. As a result, I had to get a root canal yesterday, and to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about it. Fortunately, the root canal itself was actually a pretty painless process, and I had a great dentist and dental assistant to thank for that. Unexpected situations like teeth emergencies get me riled up sometimes, but I just need to remember that these things happen, and that I need to be patient. Things will be okay.

I think I’ll leave things off with a Twitter post I found on my feed.

I’m about to embark on the oftentimes soul-crushing process of job searching, so I could really use a dose of positivity 🙂 Fingers crossed…

Final semester goals

I’m more than a week into my last semester at MIT, but I figured now is as good a time as any to think about my goals for the semester.

  1. Prioritize spending time with friends. Most college graduates whom I’ve spoken to explain that what they miss the most about college is how easy it is to have impromptu hangouts with friends. Once people start working, it’s much harder to coordinate times when everyone is free. Also, this goal will help me justify doing fun things when I just don’t feel like working. Senioritis is real…
  2. Be patient with myself when classes get challenging. I’m taking 6.824 (Distributed Systems) this semester, which has a reputation for being a very difficult class. Instead of getting really worked up and anxious, I’m making it a goal to be patient with myself, slowly identify areas of difficulty and/or confusion, and work through them one by one.
  3. Go to talks and read books. I’m taking a relatively light load this semester, so during weeks when I don’t have to spend as much time on MEET and CodeIt, I want to make sure I “broaden my perspective” on the world by attending talks on or off campus and/or read books from my evergrowing list of books to read. Just last week, I attended a two-hour talk given by two formerly incarcerated individuals, and I’m so glad I did. I think this was the first time I’ve ever attended an event where all the participants were engaged throughout the full two hours.
  4. Make time to exercise and practice clarinet. I’ve learned that exercising and playing music reduce my stress levels, so even when I feel like I’m crunched for time, I need to prioritize these two activities. I have found that even 10 minutes of stretching in the morning makes me less anxious throughout the day.
  5. Limit the sugar intake (maybe 2 times per week). At some point last semester, I was eating green tea ice cream from the dining hall almost every morning for breakfast. I’m going to do that less often this semester.

Okay, so that’s that. Now we just have to see how well I can stick to these goals this semester 😛

last first day of school

I can already tell this semester is going to be incredible. After several semesters of taking classes simply to fill requirements, I’ve finally made it to the part where I get to fill my schedule with only classes that I actually want to take.

I was talking to a sophomore friend the other day about whether or not she thinks she changed a lot during her freshman year, and I loved her response. She said that she doesn’t think she necessarily “changed” a lot, but she definitely discovered more about who she is as a person. I love that description because it really resonates with me and how I think being in college has transformed me as an individual. For the most part, my interests actually have not changed that much since high school, but the process of trying out different things has made me more conscious of what I really enjoy and care about.

Without further ado, I hereby announce the class lineup for the semester, as well as my personal goals to kick off my last year as an undergraduate student.

  • 6.809 Interactive Music Systems: About 70 students pre-registered for this class, which has only 18 spots. I am so grateful to be one of those 18 students, especially after attending the first class today. The instructor Eran Egozy was not only one of the adjudicators during my clarinet audition last year (and probably this year), but he is also one of the founders of Harmonix, the company that created Rock Band and Guitar Hero (no big deal). My friends who took this class last semester had nothing to say but good things about both Egozy and the curriculum itself. From what I can tell from the first day of class, 6.809 is going to be awesome. I mean, what better way to combine computer science and music than to learn how to enable everyone to experience the joy of making music?
  • 6.828 Operating Systems: We’re taking it a notch down by exploring how operating systems work. My computer systems class last semester (6.033) gave an overview of the Unix file system, virtual machines, and the shell, but we pretty much covered all the OS-related topics from 6.033 in one 6.828 lecture. Needless to say that this will be quite a challenging journey, but fortunately, I have a bunch of friends in this class with me.
  • 6.175 Constructive Computer Architecture: My sophomore fall, I took computation structures (6.004), which introduced the building blocks of digital systems. 6.175 is a follow-up class that focuses on implementing different versions of pipelined machines and culminating in implementing a multicore processor. Pretty gnarly stuff. Other than the fact that only 10% of the class is female, this class seems super interesting, and I really like Professor Arvind’s lecture style. Today he drew an analogy comparing Picasso’s 75 or so recreations of Diego Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” to our own recreations of pipelined processors. This class will also hopefully make me a more useful lab assistant for 6.004 this semester.

Other highlights from today, which I will use to segue into two of my major goals for this semester.

  • Be kind. One of the first things I did when I moved in a few days ago was put up some banner paper so that I could create the Sharpie mural I’ve wanted since last year. At the top, I wrote the words “be kind” in big letters. Those are the words I wake up to every morning and remind myself of throughout the day. To me, it’s a reminder to be kind to others and to be kind to myself. Quick example: Today I bought lunch at Stata, and when I asked the checkout person how he was doing, he said excellent and gave me a smile. After paying, I made sure to wish him an excellent rest of the day, to which he responded, “Thanks. I appreciate it,” and gave me a smile in return. It took no more than two seconds on my part, and I won’t claim to have made a huge difference in the world or anything, but it felt good to have contributed to making another person smile at least once more today.
  • Relax and make time for friends. In stark contrast to freshman year when I was frantically trying to make friends, I actually have an incredible support system now. Everywhere I turn, I see familiar faces. It’s still the beginning of the semester, but since it’s the last time all of us will be living on campus together, I want to prioritize making time to hang out with my friends.

Stay tuned for thoughts on my other two classes, which have yet to start… 🙂