Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.

I enjoyed reading this article, it brings up some very valid points. I have recently been reevaluating my own use of Social Media, this certainly gives me something else to think about.

Professional success is hard, but it’s not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about.

Source: Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It. – NYTimes.com

The Thoughts Bubble

Between 2008 and 2012 I wrote a blog called “The Thoughts Bubble” religiously. I don’t remember why, but I deleted it, along with the 500 posts some time in 2012.

Thanks to the internet archive, I was able to recover a lot of the old posts, I am going to slowly move some of them here to this blog for safe-keeping.

These posts will be tagged “ttb” and I look forward to re-reading them 10 years from now to see how far I have come.

Looking Back on 2015

2015 was the best year of my life. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on it and share some of the highlights.

I spent the first part of the year working at Linode on the operations team. We got two Data centers (Singapore and Frankfurt) up and running and I learned more about operations, Linux, networking, and servers in the first few months of this year than any other part of my life. I got to work on an awesome team with some truly wonderful people and I am grateful for that experience. I also got a chance to go to a lot of hackathons with Linode. I spent many weekends up all night helping young hackers learn about Linux, databases, python, and a bunch of random other things. I met so many awesome people and I can’t wait to do more hackathons in 2016.

In June I turned 27, felt sad that I was getting old, and then quickly got over it. 🙂 In addition to getting older I finished the requirements for my Masters Degree in Computer Science and had an awesome graduation ceremony at my school in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Finishing my masters gets me much closer to the goal of teaching part time at the college level and significantly helps me with the periodic impostor syndrome that I get working in the tech field sometimes.

Graduation from NOVA Southeastern

In July, I started a new job leading the success team at CircleCI. By far, this is the best job that I have ever had and I am so happy to be a part of such an amazing team. I have learned so much about CI, CD, Testing, and various Languages in the last six months at CircleCI and I look forward to learning much much more in the coming year. I also was able to launch a thriving CI community and am looking forward to watching it grow over the next few months.

At the end of October, after spending a cumulative total of 8 weeks in San Francisco, I decided to take the leap and finally move there. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to live in my favorite city in the world and I could not be happier with my decision to move here.

Golden Gate Bridge
I started a ton of side projects this year. But in early November I finally shipped braindump and the response has been absolutely mind blowing. It was the #4 python project on GitHub for several weeks, has over 500 stars on GitHub, a couple hundred active users, and a bunch of contributions from other hackers on GitHub. I can’t wait to watch braindump continue to grow in the coming months.

The last few weeks of 2015 have been hectic and exciting. I started a new company called Bitkumo and I can’t wait to watch it grow. I spent some quality time with my best friends in the entire world in New Jersey, and I am now back at home in Ohio to spend time with my family for new years.

Some of my goals for 2016 are:

  1. Continue to work on Braindump aiming for a 1.0 release, and keep writing more code and starting more projects.
  2. Become a python expert.
  3. Continue to build a CI/CD Community at CircleCI and continue to help developers succeed.
  4. Get more involved in the local SF community. I am talking to groups like Larkin Street Youth Services and Code 2040, I want to get involved and give back.
  5. Keep growing Bitkumo.
  6. Explore more of city. I spend a lot of time walking up and down Market St. I need to see more of SF.
  7. Cook more, should be easy now that I have someone to cook for 😉 <3
  8. Blog more.
  9. Continue working on my PhD. I took a semester off, but I want to slowly but surely crack away at this seemingly endless pursuit.
  10. Go to more Hackathons. I fell in love with Hackathons in 2015 and I want to go to as many as possible.

2016 is going to be amazing. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

Moving to San Francisco

Two years ago I came to San Francisco on my 25th birthday, I fell in love. This is a magical city full of amazing people, delicious food, and the best coffee on earth.

Three months ago I joined the team at CircleCI working remotely out of New Jersey. Out of those three months I have spent six weeks here in SF and I find that although working remotely is really convenient it makes it a bit harder to collaborate and get things done.

So today, I am excited to say that I will officially be living in San Francisco as of Sunday and working at the CircleCI office on Market Street full time. I signed a lease today and I am going to be living in an awesome apartment near the Civic Center in SOMA. I am so excited to be a part of the city and the community.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to live in the city that I love so much. If you are ever in town, let me know and I would love to share some of the amazing coffee with you.

Stolen Bank Card

I tend to not think about someone stealing my credit card or identity because that “only happens to careless people”. You know, the kind of people that buy discount cigarettes from some shady company in Hong Kong that does not offer HTTPS on its checkout page.

Well, that naive bubble was burst this weekend when I was in FL. I used my card twice on my first day there. The first was at a gift shop at the hotel. It was a decent hotel so I don’t think that this is the vector where the card was stolen.

The second was at a much shadier store at a mall. This is the place that I think the card number was jacked. I am not sure if the guy was in on it, or if the company he uses to process his payments is in on it, or what. All I know is that the next morning someone went on a shopping spree in Miami beach.

The first charge was for $40.25 at an undisclosed location (my bank cannot even figure out what this charge is for). I think this was just a sample charge to see if I had any money in my account.

The second charge was for $482 at a car rental place in Miami Beach. I guess some douchebag rented a Ferrari or something for the day.

The third (and final charge) was for $398 at Armani Exchange. This was thankfully declined by the bank and this was the charge that prompted my bank to contact me and let me know that something shady was going on with my account.

Thank goodness that my bank (Navy Federal Credit Union) was on top of its stuff and the fraud team quickly got in touch with me and we were able to freeze the account. In addition, thanks to the zero liability policy at the bank I will be able to get all of this money back.

To the people who stole my card, fuck you.

To everyone else who is reading this, please be careful with your card in general and especially when you are traveling. Sadly, there are some shady assholes in the world that want to steal your hard earned money to rent luxury cars and purchase overpriced polos at Armani Exchange.

One great tip that I got from the fraud team was to not use the check card at all since it is directly tied to my checking and savings account and can cause some serious damange. Instead, using the credit card that I have with the bank instead (especially when traveling) will make sure that even if people get the card somehow they cannot do too much damage to the rest of my accounts.

In addition, I think that in this case someone made a copy of my card (since my actual card was not stolen). The new Navy Federal credit cards come with a secure chip that makes duplicating the card pretty difficult. Unfortunately this is not available with the check cards yet, but I am looking forward to it so that these types of issues can be prevented in the future.

In a way I am kind of glad that this happened to me since it opened my eyes a bit and I will be much more careful where I use my card in the future.

I am like 6 days late on my 2014 post

2014 was freaking awesome.

I went to New Orleans for the first time, and then back again a few weeks later. It was an amazing city and I cannot wait to go back soon.

I moved to a new department in my previous job and as a result made some awesome new friends.

I continued to plow through my graduate program and am excited to continue to make progress this year.

I got a great new job at Linode, uprooted my life, moved to South Jersey, and met some amazing people.

I wrote more code, solved more problems, and learned more than any previous year to date.

I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store. 🙂

Amtrak

Amtrak Train
Amtrak Train

I took the Amtrak train for the first time from Philadelphia down to Washington DC this weekend and I was pleasantly surprised at how awesome it was!

I spent a lot of time out on the road these past few years, so I have gotten used to the many annoyances of airline travel and mass transit. The last time that I was on a non-commuter train was in Ukraine when I was very young. It was certainly a very different experience to say the least!

Here are my favorite parts about Amtrak:

  • You can get your tickets on your smart phone a few minutes before the train leaves. A very stress free experience!
  • Even with a lot of people riding the train the boarding process is smooth, quick, and painless.
  • There is usually a ton of room on board.
  • The seats are big and comfy, even in coach!
  • They have a power outlet at every seat.
  • They have free wifi.

Taking the train was so much better than driving down I-95 and dealing with the traffic. It was a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. It is a shame that the train system only seems to make sense on the East Coast (and perhaps the West Coast too). For example, in Cincinnati there is only one train that comes a few times a week at around 3:00 a.m. Most people in Cincinnati do not even know that the Amtrak comes there.

I am not sure if we will ever get to experience an efficient high speed rail system in the US, but I am looking forward to a few more trips up and down the East Coast!

Moving to New Jersey

There have been a lot of big changes going on in my life and I wanted to take a moment to document them all here. A few weeks ago I learned about an opening for the support team at Linode. I have been a customer and huge fan of Linode for a long time and went ahead and applied for the job.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to interview for this position, and even more pleased to have been offered it! So I am excited to announce that starting Monday, I will be an official member of the Linode Support team!

It was difficult to leave my current job, and friends, and family, and pretty much everything that I had worked so hard to build over the last few years in my first attempt at a post-military civilian career. But for as long as I can remember my passion has been Linux, so having the opportunity to work with Linux every day is not something that I could have passed on in a million years.

So long story short, I am packing up my stuff this weekend and moving to New Jersey! I have had the pleasure of spending the week here looking for a place to live and this is what I have found.

  • You cannot make left turns on some roads, it is kind of weird.
  • You are not allowed to fill up your own car at a gas station, also very weird.
  • It is very easy to lose a lot of money at the Casino’s in Atlantic City.
  • Despite the terrible reputation that NJ has, the people here are pretty nice and the state as a whole is absolutely beautiful.

I am going to be living in Absecon which is just minutes from the ocean! I am really excited to explore the area more and report back what I find here.

My biggest concern at the moment is finding a Linux User Group,  it looks like there are a bunch of defunct ones in New Jersey, and a couple of pretty active ones in Philadelphia which is just about an hour away. If you know of any LUG’s in South Jersey, or if you want to start one with me, let me know!

Not Losing Sight of Your Goals

I have been discouraged three times this month. The first time was on a flight from Atlanta back to Cincinnati. I was reading the August issue of Communications of the ACS and I was in awe of all of the amazing things that were happening in the world of computing. As inspired as I was, I could not help but feel that I completely wasted my undergraduate education by getting a BS in psychology. All the time I spent writing papers, reading about loosely supported theories, and naively thinking that it was going to get me somewhere in life. I could have been studying something that I cared about while my brain was still fresh. I could have been learning skills that would have allowed me to make an impact. Instead, I didn’t learn much of anything. I can not honestly tell you what I learned during my degree program, as many of the facts, theories, and ideas that I spent so many nights cramming into my brain have escaped me over the last few years.

The second time, I was reading the September Issue of MIT Technology Review where they showcased 35 under 35. The 35 brightest, smartest, most inspiring, and driven people (according to some committee). Their stories were amazing, the work that they were doing was inspiring, and once again I was in awe of all of their accomplishments. And once again I questioned my decision to study psychology.

The third time was this morning, when in my third graduate course I realized that the professor was completely disengaged from the class, and once again the only skills that I would be getting out of this program are the ones that I teach myself.

There are far to many bends in my story to really summarize the feelings that I have about the course of my life so far, but I cannot help feeling like I wasted the best years of my life in fruitless pursuits. So, in order to not feel that way I am going to write about it, and conclude with a positive message, so stay tuned.

After a brief semester of community college after high school, I realized I would never be able to afford college on my own, I would never be able to have the “college experience”, and I needed to make a change in order to reach my goals (which were still undefined at this point). I joined the military. It was the best decision of my life because I met some amazing people, I learned many important skills for life, and I did meaningful work. During this time, I took a handful of college classes on base and realized that if I excluded any notion of a social life for the next several years, then I could potentially graduate while I was still in the military. So I did, I took a full time course load year round and went to school during the night, on the weekends, and Online. I chose psychology because at a school like this it was the closest thing to science that they had. Also I toyed with the idea of becoming a psychologist afterwards.

During the last semester of my undergraduate education, I realized that this psychology degree would prove to be quite useless, and it would not really allow me to reach any of my goals (which had changed at this point). By this point I spent 4 years in a hospital and was determined to become a doctor. Despite finishing my undergraduate degree, I never felt that I “went to college”. I never got to do all of the interesting things that people always talk about when they refer to their college experience. In addition, I was naive in thinking that “a degree is a degree”, even though I didn’t necessarily go to a degree farm, the degree I got would never receive the respect that I thought it would.

I enrolled in more night classes and began to take the pre-requisites that would be required in order to get into Medical School. This went well, and I fell in love with Chemistry. For the first time in my life I felt challenged, interested, and was surrounded by faculty that was engaged and actually cared about the students learning. I got the crazy idea of getting a second degree in chemistry. So when my contract ran out with the military, I enrolled in a chemistry program in Cincinnati and was going to relive the college experience at the age of 23.

This was a complete failure. Don’t get me wrong, the school was great, the faculty was great, and the subject was fascinating. But I was too old to be in freshman chemistry, and on top of that I felt like I took two steps backward. On top of that, Calculus and Physics kicked my ass, and the further along I got the more discouraged I became. I spend a year working in a chemistry lab, it was an amazing experience. But other than the few fleeting moments of inspiration and joy, I would place the time I spent there as a failure. Which is fine, because we have to fail in life sometimes.

I dug myself into a hole, and my GPA became lower than it was when I graduated. I didn’t have a plan B. Then I got a job offer, and it was a life changing moment. I love my job in every sense of the word. I feel like I am doing meaningful work, It is challenging, and interesting, and I am learning more and more each day. But my educational aspirations have not escaped me, which is why I was discouraged the third time this morning.

Despite my experience with my Alma mater, and knowing what to expect in terms of quality of education, faculty engagement, and peers, I enrolled for a Masters program. So far, it is exactly what I expected which is not saying too much. I do not feel inspired, I do not feel like I am in a community of scholars, or thought leaders. I do not feel driven, I do not feel anything. It’s partially my own fault. Whenever someone asks me “Where are you going to school?”, I mumble the name and try to explain that “it’s not like those other on-line schools”, but… it is.

So I have created this cycle of self loathing, and self pity. Which is frankly absurd. Yes, I did not go to MIT or Harvard. Yes, I will probably never get into any of these schools. Yes, it is likely that life will never be as interesting, or exciting as it would have been if I would have went to one of those schools and got the education or built the connections that allow life to be interesting, and exciting. But this is all irrelevant, and I am completely missing the point. My life was never supposed to be easy. From the moment my parents brought us here from a war torn ex-soviet state, only to have their degrees and credentials stripped and be placed into crappy minimum wage factory jobs, the writing was on the wall. My brother and I would always have to work twice as hard to get anywhere, and we do. I finally realize that the people who went to Harvard who are successful are not successful because they went to Harvard. They are successful because they are driven, passionate, and want to change the world. Likewise, the people that are successful who went to my “not that kind of” on-line school are successful because of the same exact reasons that the people who went to Harvard are successful.

Success can be measured it many different ways. Some people measure their success in the amount of “stuff” that they accumulate over the course of their lifetime. A vehicle, a home, fancy shirts, or trophy wives. Other people measure their success by who they know, where they have been, or where they are. Others measure their success based on the level of impact they have made on society and humanity as a whole. There are even those people who measure their success based off of how other people perceive their success. The latter is in my opinion the worst place to be, because even if you succeed, it is short lived and you will spend the rest of your life attempting to win over the crowd a second time.

I want my success to measured by the impact I make in the world. So I will continue to go to my school, I will continue to spend late nights reading about topics that I may not necessarily care about, and I will continue to do everything in my power to reach my goals (which are clearly defined at this point). The reason why I will continue to do all of these things is because I want to change the world. You can’t change the world sitting around second guessing your life decisions, or crying about the way things ended up.

Everything that was challenging in my life, everything that was unfair, and everything that took a little bit of extra work has made me who I am today. The only thing stopping me from reaching my goals is myself. I will never again excuse myself for going to the school I go to. It may not be a U.S World and New’s Report Top 10 school, but I am proud of my school. The amount of time I spend feeling uninspired by my teachers and peers will instead be spent fostering a community of scholars. I will never again second guess my decision to study psychology, because I have a degree that I earned, and not everyone can say that. I will never again be discouraged by the things that I don’t have, or the things that I didn’t get to do – because this is nonsense. The amount of time I would have spent feeling sorry for myself will instead be put to good use.

Look out world, because I am going to finish this degree, and then get my PhD from a “non-traditional” school, and there is nothing you can do about it.