Monthly Archives: September 2018

Career Learnings

Here’s a list of things I’ve learned over the course of my career:

  • Timelines are affected by vacation and sick days. Anticipate that as well.
  • Say what you know instead of saying you know nothing. You always have some idea, communicate it so you can create a shared ground to start from together.
  • Do your own work well always.  Then involve yourself in further matters.  Otherwise if things go south you have nothing to stand on.
  • Never work for free, or in other words, always get buy in and approval before doing work. And make sure you get that buy in from the key stakeholders, not just anyone.

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Software Engineer Interview Tips

Say you don’t know the answer when you don’t know the answer. (Footnote 1)


Footnote 1 From Reddit:

I hire quite a bit and my biggest red flag is people who profess to know the answer to every question and never admit to not knowing something. I have a couple of really-too-advanced-for-the-role technical questions that I keep in my back pocket and use almost entirely to see what people will say when they DON’T know the answer. Being able to tell me how you find out information you don’t know (and showing me that you don’t mind admitting not being perfect/asking questions) is WAY more valuable than “acing” an interview quiz.

(This is also one of the most valuable traits of an employee – if you don’t know something/screw up, admitting it will win you WAY more points than you trying to hide it/cover your tracks. Coming clean about a screwup – assuming it’s not a habit, obviously – shows me you are both honest and confident.)

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The Importance of Environment and other thoughts

The environment you live in affects who you are, so choose your environment carefully.

Environment can mean the language you speak. From this TED Talk video, I liked how language reflects attitude when it comes to helping one another. Here’s the quote:

I want you to look in your email in-box, and I want you to look at the last time you asked somebody for a favor. And I want you to look at the language that you used. Did you say things like, “Oh, you’re a great resource,” or “I owe you one,” “I’m obligated to you.” All of this language represents a metaphor. It’s a metaphor of economics, of a balance sheet, of accounting, of transactions. And when we think about human relations in a transactional way, it is fundamentally uncomfortable to us as human beings. We must think about human relations and reaching out to people in more humane ways.
Here’s an idea as to how to do so. Look at words like “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome” in other languages. Look at the literal translation of these words. Each of these words is a word that helps us impose upon other people in our social networks. And so, the word “thank you,” if you look at it in Spanish, Italian, French, “gracias,” “grazie,” “merci” in French. Each of them are “grace” and “mercy.” They are godly words. There’s nothing economic or transactional about those words. The word “you’re welcome” is interesting. The great persuasion theorist Robert Cialdini says we’ve got to get our favors back. So we need to emphasize the transaction a little bit more. He says, “Let’s not say ‘You’re welcome.’ Instead say, ‘I know you’d do the same for me.'” But sometimes it may be helpful to not think in transactional ways, to eliminate the transaction, to make it a little bit more invisible. And in fact, if you look in Chinese, the word “bú kè qì” in Chinese, “You’re welcome,” means, “Don’t be formal; we’re family. We don’t need to go through those formalities.” And “kembali” in Indonesian is “Come back to me.” When you say “You’re welcome” next time, think about how you can maybe eliminate the transaction and instead strengthen that social tie. Maybe “It’s great to collaborate,” or “That’s what friends are for.”


Environment can mean the expectations of the society and culture you live in.

In life you’re going to run into a lot of filters. Growing up, your parents will promote certain behaviors over others like studying for school, and punishing you for the behaviors they don’t want like breaking lights in the house. That’s a filter on who you are.  Then the education system, legal system, and community will judge you and treat you well for being one way and treat you bad for being another way. An example filter in one environment might be: stealing is bad, honesty is good.  In a different environment the filter might be: bribery is normal, and dishonesty is common. That is yet another filter on who you are.  Finally your job, career, yourself, and the people you choose to have a relationship with will further filter who you are: to like a certain band in order to fit in and be cool, or to not like a certain person in order to fit in and be accepted.
Through all these filters, it’s highly likely that you are compromising or losing who you are in the process. Be careful of this and remove the filters you do not want as much as you can.  Pick the filters you want to have. Pick the environment you want to live in.


Environment can also mean the attitude you bring to life. The perspective you choose to take. The emotions you focus on. The thoughts you allow yourself to have.

I was hanging out with friends recently and complaining a lot, and someone pointed out that nearly everything I talked about could be described as “thinking about something you don’t have.”  My friends then encouraged me to not think about things I don’t have because that kind of thinking was making me sad, so I took their advice and tried to stop.  Boy was I surprised. For the next 24 hours I literally could not say anything out loud to them because every thought I had, everything I wanted to say, I realized was me thinking about something I don’t have.  I was suffering deeply from a sickness of the environment of my mind.  So be careful what thoughts you allow to survive in the environment of your mind.


OK, here are 5 additional thoughts I had on life that I’d like to share

1)   The problem with being intelligent is no one knows you’re intelligent because they aren’t intelligent enough to know.  As a result, a key requirement to effective intelligence is effective communication of your intelligence to others who do not have it.

2) The problem with testing your partner in a relationship to determine whether you want to be in a relationship with that person is that for the test to be real the expectations can’t be communicated. At the same time, we know that communication is the single most important key to a healthy and successful relationship.  So by testing your partner while not communicating that you are testing them, you are acting in a way that sabotages  the relationship.
At the same time, if you clearly communicate the test and the answer key to your partner, then the test’s results are invalid because they would likely pass since they know the answer key.  But wait, passing means you guys both agreed on the expectations together and then achieved it together. This sounds like a good relationship. Why not do this instead of testing at all?

3) Here’s a simple exercise to train yourself to be more empathetic: ask yourself how many different reasons you can think of to explain someone’s behavior.
For example, someone bumps into you on the street.  Or a stranger smiles at you when you make eye contact.  Or a major dream comes true or doesn’t come true.  How many reasons can you think of to explain why that same outcome might happen?  Try to come up with at least 5 reasons ranging from the most obvious to the least obvious.  Most obvious would be: the person bumps into you on the street because they didn’t see you and it was an accident.  Least obvious would be: the person saw a bird and then was reminded of a childhood memory involving birds at a lake and the lake reminded the person of a really large puddle in the rain that was on this street earlier this year so the person instinctively stepped to the left away from the puddle and bumped into you.

4) The problem with how society treats people in need is that it breeds sociopaths.
If you’re in a bad mood and you show it, then in public you’ll get bad service because of your demeanor.  In order to get good service you’ll have to fake being in a good mood. This basically teaches people to ignore their true feelings and instead to emotionally manipulate themselves in order to emotionally manipulate others for personal benefit.  Basically society today is teaching people to be sociopaths.
If you are in a bad mood and you show it then you are then going to be mistreated by people who say you deserve to be punished for your bad behavior, making you more sad and putting you into a worse mood.  This is really sad because if you are in a bad mood what you really need is to be given help, love, and care.  But what society does instead is demand that you change yourself to be ‘proper’ before you will be given help. What society does instead is say society doesn’t care about your sadness, society only cares about how you treat society.  It’s cruel to be so coldly ignored by society, to have your feelings invalidated and ignored and your needs not met.  It’s no wonder so many people hate society, and so many others who succeed in society care so little for others: because the society we live in is an environment that promotes uncaring behavior.

5) Expanding on point 4, the way you can create a better environment for yourself and others is to respond to someone’s bad demeanor by trying to understand what’s going on. Use the exercise from point 3 and then have a conversation with the person to give your empathy and love and care to heal them and help them get to a better place.  Don’t be like other people where their immediate response is to say “calm down and change your emotional state to mine because I’m afraid of yours and I don’t want to understand your emotional state.”  Be a loving person and try to understand them and help them the way they need to be helped. Don’t help them the way you feel like helping. Serve them, not yourself.


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