Saturday, October 18, 2014

Punch Card Night at the Computer History Museum

I love the computer history museum in Mountain View. If you get a chance to go there, do it. There is so much to see and it is really super interesting.

On Wednesday they had a Punch Card night. It was ridiculously fun. Photo time!!!!!

Punching in my name

Look Ma! I'm punching cards!! 

Our punch cards 

A print out in the punch card room 

Sweet old men were running the demo

Flashy lights

Where the cards come flashing in to be processed

The IBM 1401 printed us each these cool banners. And yes, 
sometimes the machine reads the card wrong. On the plus side,
I have a really cool new name: AVA ST 16H5!

Inside the museum 

Lidar mapping 

Why yes, we did spend a lot of time trying to locate a TARDIS on Google Earth.
Left to Right: Ezekiel, Eric, John, Linds, and my HB buddy Amy!

We left it there in the hopes of confusing the next person.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wellness Day: A Massage, A Farmer's Market, and Purple Spit

Wellllllllll, it's been a while and I wrote this a couple months ago but forgot to post it. But it's fun, so I am sharing now. In July we had Wellness Day at SurveyMonkey. I walked into the office to find these enormous balloon sculptures:

The morning involved veggie/fruit juices from a juice cafe and circuit training on the roof. There was free biometric testing, which I opted not to do because I avoid unnecessary needles. There was also spin class taught by my engineering manager, which I also opted not to do because I avoid unnecessary biking.

Lunch was from Lyfe Kitchen and it was super yummy. Probably the best food I've had at SM so far. There was a presentation about sports medicine and physical therapy from a dude at One Medical. 

The afternoon was my favorite. First, there was the chair massage. SurveyMonkey sponsors my membership at Massage Envy, and they asked Massage Envy to come in to do 15-minute chair massages. My masseuse was Christine, and she was just amazing. I didn't have to tell her where to put pressure or how much. She found the knots, knew just how to attack them, and even said, "You get headaches, don't you?" as she worked on my neck. I was like, "Yep! And you are working that spot that always kills me when I have a migraine!" 

Then there was the farmer's market on our rooftop deck. I thought it would just be one stand or something. But it was more like 7 stands, with produce and local honey and locally made snack foods and desserts. I bought plums, cherry tomatoes, and mulberries!  Side note: I had never had mulberries before. Brushing my teeth that night I found that I had immensely purple spit. Also, they gave us some awesome swag for our farmer's market experience.

And while I am sharing photos and talking about fruit, I might as well add this picture of the awesome fruit I had for a morning snack today courtesy of The Monkey.

If it sounds like I am bragging about SurveyMonkey, that's because I am. After a long post-college career search, working my ass off at Hackbright, and the incredibly stressful job search that I somehow managed to drudge through, I am really proud of finding my home at SurveyMonkey. Most of all, I am really excited to be yet another "success story" of Hackbright and to hopefully show that it actually can be done! 

As I have previously mentioned, I plan to write a post (or several) on my job search and how I got through it alive. I especially want to write about it to hopefully help other HB alums who are still job searching and wondering what is wrong with them and why can't they get an offer and why is everyone else getting offers and should I just join a convent and be done with it?? (spoiler alert: no)

On an unrelated topic, I have to throw in this hilarious picture I found on twitter for those of my friends who have used Chrome/Mozilla Dev Tools. For my non-developer friends, just right click on your browser window and click "Inspect Element" for a secret window into the world of front end development.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Little Pony and Salary Negotiation

I have been meaning to write this post for some time. During Hackbright we did a salary negotiation workshop, in which they explained some of the reasons many women do not negotiate, gave examples of negotiation conversations, and had us act out simulated negotiations with our classmates in order to become more comfortable with the idea.

When I got my offer from SurveyMonkey, I was really quite happy with it. It was generous on its own, and furthermore came with some really fantastic benefits/perks as well as a potential annual bonus. But I knew the ghost of Liz Howard would haunt me to my dying day if I didn't at least try.

The next day, although I knew I was planning to negotiate my salary, I was not really thinking about it that morning as I got dressed. A reasonable person might have worn something that projected power and a sense of seriousness. I, without thinking, put on my Ponyville Public Library tshirt with a picture of Twilight Sparkle among some books. I love that shirt but it doesn't exactly scream "I am a professional, and please take me more seriously."

It was after I had scheduled a meeting with the HR person to negotiate my salary that I noticed this incongruence. At first, I got really nervous and embarrassed and I considered postponing my meeting. But I really wanted to get this over with.

I decided I would just embrace it. Yeah, I thought, I'm just going to be me! I power posed and thought about how Twilight Sparkle and her books were empowering and I felt pretty good walking into the meeting.

But somehow my confidence refused to enter that conference room. I felt very stupid and selfish and greedy and ungrateful and all the other things you aren't supposed to feel because salary negotiation is a totally normal and standard thing and because men do it all the time without hesitation.

I don't want to go into too much detail because I feel like a bad role model to future HB students. But here are some conclusions I drew from the experience:
1. I should have done a role-play with a friend to practice my lines and to get more comfortable.
2. SurveyMonkey did not rescind their offer or tell me I was a bad person for negotiating.
3. I did not die. And more importantly, I did not cry.

I do not recommend wearing an MLP shirt to your future salary negotiation meetings. But I do recommend power posing and possibly having a drawing of a pony in your pocket for emotional support.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Banana Piano and Becoming a Real Monkey

Fruity Music

First thing's first: I set up a banana piano at work on Monday. There is an empty desk behind me and I had just bought a Makey Makey from the Maker Faire last weekend and it just seemed natural for me to do this. For those unfamiliar with Makey Makey, it is a kit built on top of an arduino that allows you to create simple circuits with anything conductive (such as a human, a banana, or a bowl of water). You plug the Makey Makey into your computer and the circuits are programmed to activate your space bar and your arrow keys. So if you had a game of tetris open on your computer and you had the Makey Makey hooked up to a bunch of carrots, you could play tetris by touching the carrot that corresponds to the key you want to press.

Anyway, they suggested a banana piano, and they have a sweet little webpage that allows you to play five notes on a piano using the space bar and the arrow keys. So it is basically ready to go. I taped down a big strip of tin foil and hooked that up to the Makey Makey, and then I hooked up five bananas to the Makey Makey. So by putting one hand on the tin foil and using the other hand to tap the bananas, you complete the circuit and it plays a note.

I sent out an email saying that I had set up a piano made of bananas and that anyone who wanted to try it should stop by my desk. That was a really fun way to meet some people I hadn't talked to before. One person came over and said, "I'm going to have to start taking your emails at face value." I asked him to clarify and he added, "I thought you were using some lingo that I wasn't familiar with. I didn't realize you meant an actual piano made of actual bananas."

There are other things I want to do with the Makey Makey (at home, not at work), like play Adventure Ponies with bowls of water and make a piano out of five separate humans (each one being a different note). I heard one guy had his dogs sit on tin foil and he petted them to make music, but I haven't been able to make that work with our dogs yet. I have to play around a bit with their conductivity - like get them slightly wet or something. I'm a terrible dog mom.

An Offer I Couldn't Refuse

In other news, and almost as important as the banana piano, I got a full time offer from SurveyMonkey this week and I just signed my offer letter yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!! I am a real Monkey now!!!!!!!!! It was a match made in heaven. SurveyMonkey has been a really great place for me and I was really really really hoping for a full time offer.

This really is a dream come true. So I was very surprised that, much like when I got my acceptance letter to Hackbright, I felt a wave of inexplicable panic when I got my offer from SurveyMonkey. It doesn't make any sense at all. I have gotten very positive feedback from everyone I work with, I've accomplished a lot on my project in the last two months, and I love working there. But still, I keep getting hit with rushes of panic that I can't do this, that I am going to fail. The weirdest part is that this is by far the most panic I have felt since I started at SurveyMonkey, largely to the credit of my manager, my mentor, and my teammates who have been really supportive from the beginning. The good news is that I know this nonsensical panic is temporary because I have experienced it before and because I know I am right where I am supposed to be.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hackbright Alums: Superwomen of Tech and Friendship

In light of Ashley McNamara's recent post about her Hackbright experience, there has been a long discussion on the alumni listserv about the founders, the instructors, and the students of Hackbright to date. To my knowledge, there are about 140 Hackbright alums, and many of us use the listserv to share job opportunities, programming resources, events, career advice, and emotional support, among other things.

Many of the alums, myself included, were very sad to hear that Ashley did not have a positive experience at Hackbright. I know she is not alone - Hackbright is not for everyone, and unfortunately some people do not do well in that environment. Later in this post I will highlight what I think makes a person a good fit for Hackbright, which will hopefully help prospective students make informed decisions.

My experience was incredible, as you know if you have read my previous posts. It is hard to describe just how much I learned there - both as a programmer and as a person. My classmates were fiercely smart, caring, determined, and hysterically funny. I saw them master an insane amount of learning material, build phenomenal projects, and climb mountains of self-doubt like a bunch of badasses.

My post-Hackbright job search was really, really tough, but I never could have done it without my Hackbright education and the support of my classmates and Hackbright mentors. Nearly everyone in my class has jobs now, and those who don't are either really picky (which I think is a good thing) or don't interview well (which may affect how long their job search takes, but not how successful they will be at their job when they find the right one).

I am so glad that SurveyMonkey really gets Hackbright. They understand that any given Hackbright Alum probably has little experience but knows the fundamentals, learns quickly, is extremely smart, knows how to communicate, refuses to give up, and isn't afraid to ask questions. Not every company understands this, and the job search can feel really demoralizing when you come up against a company who dismisses you right away for not having a computer science degree. But more and more companies are starting to realize how incredible these women are and how worthwhile it is to invest in them as junior developers.

In addition, our community sticks together and helps each other out. As one alum said, "Help will always be given at Hackbright to those who ask for it." And on that note, here are some qualities that I think made my classmates and me successful at Hackbright:

  • Passion for problem-solving: Sometimes I do sudoku, kakuro, hashi, or kenken puzzles in bed to relax before I go to sleep. Not everyone is into that kind of puzzle, but most of my classmates got a thrill from breaking down a problem and solving it. In fact, most of them were really stubborn and would refuse to give up on any kind of logic puzzle because they knew they could solve it and they desperately wanted to.
  • Desire to help others: When someone was struggling, I did my best to help. Whether it was an emotional struggle or a struggle to understand a concept. A lot of the time, in the process of explaining something to someone, I learned the concept better. Many times I discovered that I didn't understand a concept as well as I thought I did, and was able to work through it with a classmate or instructor. Reaching out to my peers also created a very meaningful bonding experience with my classmates, without whom I could never have gotten through Hackbright.
  • Willingness to ask others for help: I had to be vulnerable with my classmates, my instructors, and my mentors in order to get the help I needed. There were times when I felt so lost that I wasn't sure where to begin. I forced myself to ask questions - stupid questions, questions that had already been asked before, followup questions when I had just asked a question seconds ago. This doesn't come naturally to me, but I was able to force myself to do it. I still use this skill now and I don't think I could be a successful developer without it.
  • Open mind:  My mind used to be so closed off that it took me years to even give programming a try. But once I finally discovered how much I loved to code, I realized that I needed to be more open to possibility. I tried not to go into Hackbright with a lot of preconceived notions; I did my best to face each new frontier with an open mind, and I was pleasantly surprised many times. For example, I was blown away by how much I loved hacking hardware at a large women's hackathon put on by Hackbright early in our program. 
  • Fightiness: I'm sure there is an actual English word for this, but I like to color outside the lines now and then. Hackbright was an invaluable launch pad for me, but I had to fight for my success. They are a powerful set of resources, but they couldn't make me learn or make me get a job. I had to take ownership of my education, pour sweat and blood into my project, and get back on that damn horse many, many times throughout my job search. And that horse kicked me in the face on the daily.
To be clear, you don't have to be a warrior princess in order to succeed at Hackbright. In fact, I was like a frightened puppy right before Hackbright started. You do need to be able to, with a lot of support, take your education and career into your own hands. But the best part of Hackbright was that I didn't have to go it alone. My mentors, my instructors, my classmates, and the alums are all valuable resources on whom I continue to rely almost every day. 

Hackbright changes a lot from one class to the next, and I don't know what its future holds. But I had an amazing time there and I now have a lifelong bond with this incredible community.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Photos of the New Office!

I feel like a tool walking around taking pictures of the office, so please forgive the poor quality of these photos - I tried to take them nonchalantly. Just going to dump them here because I don't have much time to write. Work is going really really well! I love SurveyMonkey!

view from my desk:

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Office and My First Release!

Today was our first day in the new office!! It's a gorgeous building with brand new interior/exterior design, brand new furniture, sit/stand desks for everyone, beautiful conference rooms, game room with ping pong/xbox/air hockey/pool table, and much more. I love my desk! When we arrived this morning, each desk had a pair of SurveyMonkey flip flops with a note that said "We are so flippin' excited to be in our new office and we hope you are too!" I have yet to break in the air hockey table, but I think it'll happen soon.

Also, there is a release this week for the internal tool I'm working on, and it will be my first release! Had my one-on-one meeting with my manager, David, this afternoon and I feel pretty awesome. David is a great manager. I feel like he puts exactly the right amount of pressure on me and I don't even feel like a dumb baby when I ask him really basic questions. He does a very good job of explaining things without condescending.

At the old office, they put me at a desk near my team but not really in the same little circle as the rest of the team. At the new office, since they actually have room for everyone, they put me with my team. So now I get to socialize more with my coworkers, which I really like. And it is also much more organic to communicate/ask questions/collaborate.

Ok, time for bed. Gotta get my sleep if I'm going to monkey around all day. EHH?? [elbows you in the arm]