2019: A Year in Review

December 25, 2019

Two chairs surrounded by a blanket of snow “This time is precious. But it’s flowing onward, and I can’t stop it.” - March Comes in Like a Lion

Coming fresh off of my 3B school term, I finally have some time to fully reflect on some learnings and moments from this year. 2019 went by quickly, but looking back, quite a lot happened this year too. Let’s investigate.

friends

I’m walking away from this year with some more close friends, some stronger existing bonds, as well as some weaker ones. Moving across the continent every four months puts a strain on relationships. This is just unavoidable. I have also realized that some people simply do not have the capacity to maintain contact when I’m not geographically present. I’d be lying if I said this did not frustrate me at times. It felt like I was putting in more than the proverbial 50% effort. In recent months though, I came to the realization that maybe putting certain expectations on friendship is the wrong way to go about things. Expectation breeds disappointment. I should not let the reality that I have been de-prioritized to some extent poison relationships. I’m busy making moves, my friends are busy making moves, and there is beauty in being able to finally reconvene in the future and chop it up.

Excuse the Silicon Valley-esque verbiage, but one thing I’m coming to terms with is the fact that friendships, and relationships in general, do not scale. The more time you spend with one person, the less time you have available to spend with everyone else. While you can help alleviate this by inviting more and more people to an event, you eventually reach a saturation point where there are too many people present to have a worthwhile conversation with everyone; smaller conversation groups start to form naturally. Social media can help to start up dialogue en masse, but engagement is dismal from my experience. I don’t believe there is a solution to this (save for instant transportation), but I am thankful for the technological advances which allow me to catch up with friends that are distant.

All this being said, if you feel that we haven’t spoken in a while, reach out; I’ll always be able to find time to speak with those I care about, whether remotely or in-person.

family

On a related note, being away from home means that I rarely get to spend time with my family. Calling and texting help, but there is no equivalent substitute for face-to-face interaction. This has made me cherish the few weeks a year that I do get to spend at home in a way that I could never have realized in the ~18 years I lived at home. I have had a few friends ask me whether I feel guilty being away all the time, to which the answer is no. The whole point of my parents immigrating to Canada was to provide me with the opportunities that I’m capitalizing on now. Still, I intend on putting in more time on this front in 2020.

wellness

This was my second year going to the gym consistently, and I cannot emphasize enough how high the ROI on working out is. Aside from the external benefit of looking more muscular, my posture is much better (my anterior pelvic tilt seems to have been fixed), I have learned about how the body responds to changes in diet and exercise routine, and my mental feels sharper. I remember back in first-year, I would always say that I was too busy to go to the gym; now, I feel that getting a workout in is necessary especially during periods of high workload. Few things work to reset the mental like exercise. In addition to lifting weights, I started bouldering this Summer. It provides me with a fun challenge as well as something to do with friends. I peaked at V4 and I’m hoping to be able to consistently do V5s in 2020.

Apart from physical wellness, I implemented a few self-improvement practices to see if I would derive any benefits. I have been regularly journalling all year, which has helped foster mental clarity and given me a cathartic outlet. I fell short of my goal to meditate every day, but I’m going to get back to doing that a few times a week. I also want to do yoga once a week. I met my reading goal of eight books this year and I’m going to increase that to ten for 2020. I took a few short breaks from social media.

All in all, I’m feeling really solid going into the new year. Health is wealth and I thank God for being physically able.

Mirror picture showing cut progress October 2019: halfway through cutting

career

I did my 3rd internship this year working as a Software Engineering Intern at Twitch. I built out a quiz application leveraging a new API that my team is/was working on. I can’t go into too much detail since this service is not yet publicly available, but I picked up a lot of knowledge over those 16 weeks. This was the first internship where I had full ownership of my entire project, which was both a curse and a blessing. At times, I felt like more guidance would have been helpful, mainly because this was my first time being exposed to various concepts. On the bright side, I was given full flexibility in which languages I wanted to use, what I wanted to build, and how all of the components would communicate with each other. I walked away with a lot more understanding of AWS, Golang, and how video streaming is implemented. This was by far my favourite internship to date. Everyone on my team was very smart and sociable, the food was good, the work I produced was impactful, and my recruiters (shout out Tom and Gina) did a ton to make Twitch’s first official intern cohort a success. To learn more about Twitch’s internship program, see here.

Twitch intern class and my desk on day one Twitch 2019 Summer Interns

I was very selective with the applications I sent out for my next internship. With only two more remaining, I needed to decide on an experience that would best inform my decision on where I want to go after I graduate. One thing I realized is that there is no perfect company. Everything is a series of trade-offs, and you can never get everything you value between location, comp, culture, project, “resume equity” (or prestige), team, perks, work-life balance, and many other factors. I settled on accepting an offer from Facebook and I will be starting in a little over a week on the Pages Integrity team. I was mostly deciding between Facebook and an offer from Lyft, which paid quite a bit more, but optimizing for intern salaries is very short-sighted. All of the companies I’ve worked at before have been medium-sized, so I think working at a place with headcount as high as Facebook’s will provide a good contrast.

I feel obligated to share some failures as well to paint a more grounded picture. During this recruiting season, I failed final-round interviews with Stripe and Citadel, and a phone screen with Jane Street.

I’m still not sure where I want to be for my 5th and final internship, but I trust the process. If anyone would like career advice with respect to the tech industry, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Mentorship is super rewarding to me and I would love to pay it forward.

school

I started the year doing my 3A term. I especially enjoyed my operating systems and user interfaces classes, mainly because the professors were top-notch. I was off-stream with most of my friends and I was living with a random. This isolation was compounded by the fact that I would often have stretches of days where I did not talk to anyone. My coursework kept me busy though, staying afloat in the seemingly endless stream of assignments left minimal time for socialization. I also decided to try doing some undergrad research along with a professor, which took up a lot of the remaining time I did have after assignments and working out.

Despite this, I made it a point that term to attend one social event per month; I managed to go to eleven. Looking back, I’m glad I sacrificed a few grade percentages to go to a few kickbacks and grab food with friends. Those are the memories that I still vividly remember, not the nights spent writing parts of a kernel. This was my last term with mandatory courses, so it felt very rewarding to finish.

I just finished my 3B term, and I must say that I have become super disillusioned with school at this point. After getting more and more exposure to what life in the industry is like, it’s become hard to find inspiration in my coursework. For one, it seems that the amount of effort that professors put into teaching is steadily decreasing as I move to upper-year CS courses. I hypothesize that this is because with larger class sizes in lower-year courses, courses must necessarily be more organized or else madness would ensue. I felt that with a couple of my courses this term, I could have learned (and to some extent I did) the entirety of the content within a few weeks. I started to skip certain lectures for the first time in my undergrad career. Why bother attending just to listen to an uninspired professor read off the slides verbatim? Ambiguous assignments. Toy projects. Bizarre marking schemes. Unresponsive professors. I feel like I’m getting diminishing returns on knowledge gained with every school term.

My other big gripe with school has always been the pacing of assignments. At least on work terms, I don’t have to think about work when I leave the office, and weekends provide a two-day vacation every week. At school, the next assignment will be released for a course before the current one is due, and as someone who has a hard time relaxing with things to be worked on, I quickly fall into the routine of wake up, gym, lectures, assignments, sleep. I attribute 2019 going by so quickly to getting stuck in this auto-pilot routine. I felt like I was living the same day on repeat, giving my brain few new experiences to cement in memory. I was able to live with my friends this term, and I can only imagine how much worse this last term would have been without them.

I don’t want to spend my final eight months of school longing for graduation. I want to enjoy the present moment when it arrives and I recognize that I need to make some changes. Whether that’s joining a club or being the one to host and organize activities every week, I need to find ways to differentiate the remainder of the time I have in Waterloo.

Twitch intern class and my desk on day one January 2019 in Waterloo

passion

What would you do if you had a billion dollars? This was the question that I sought to answer in 2018. People spend all too much time chasing money, but I wonder how often they think about what they would do with their time after they acquired all of this money. Wealth should be a means to an end. I finally found an answer this year. Music. All of my life, I’ve been playing instruments and singing. Anyone that’s lived with me knows that I spend all day listening to music and singing along. Going from consumption to production is the natural progression.

After I went and saw Anderson .Paak perform live, everything just clicked. It’s hard to explain, but I just thought “that is what I need to be doing”. Since having this realization, I bought some studio equipment, I’ve started learning how to engineer my own vocals, I’ve been taking voice lessons to hone my craft, I performed at school, and I’ve started writing material. It’s a long road ahead, but I feel excited. I think it’s important for everyone to have a long-term goal to work towards.


Collage of highlights from 2019

Collage of highlights from 2019

Collage of highlights from 2019

Thank you for reading! I look forward to what the next decade has in store.

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