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 🙃

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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!

That’s a wrap!

I’m officially done with school for the foreseeable future! I took my last final last Thursday, after which I visited some friends in New York for a couple days.

Now that I’m back in my empty apartment—my roommates are away—I figured I would do my final review of the past semester.

  1. Spend my time deliberately. I think I did a pretty good job with this goal. I set aside time to finish different tasks, and I stayed committed to those plans.
  2. Listen to podcasts and read books. I started quite a few books but didn’t actually finish any of them unfortunately :/ My goal between now and commencement is to actually finish some of those half-read books.
  3. Hang out with friends. I was pretty successful at this goal, too. I grabbed meals with several friends throughout the semester, and even made trips to New York to visit my friends there.
  4. Make steady progress on and eventually complete my thesis! Sometimes I’m still amazed that I actually completed and submitted my thesis. I had days when I doubted myself, but in the end, everything came together 😅
  5. Exercise regularly. I lifted weights two days a week and played volleyball two days a week up until mid-May, which is pretty good for me. Volleyball was a blast, and I definitely felt like I was a part of the community this semester.
  6. Cook better (maybe). I’m still no master chef, but I did pick up a couple new recipes, including one for Chinese watercress soup with pork ribs. I made it twice, and in my opinion, it tasted just the way my mom makes it.
  7. Be an effective TA. Piazza was relatively quiet compared to last semester. There weren’t as many questions, which I think was a result of students being more relaxed this semester, and the problem sets having better scaffolding and clearer instructions.
  8. Speak up during seminar. The prison class that I took this semester was actually a different format than the inside-out class I took last year. Our role was more as observers in the classroom than as actual students. At the same time, I still learned a lot about the criminal justice system and various differences between the different security levels. Also, I learned how to approach teaching for a different audience than I’m used to.

All in all, I would say that this was a good semester to end my academic career. My classes were great; I finished my thesis; and I still had time to exercise and spend time with friends.

Onwards and upwards! 🤞

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 😛