Leaena

New Hobbies, Old Hobbies

Oct
04

I’ve been continuing to spend a lot of time outside of work not even thinking about programming. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing in the long run, but for my mental health and happiness, it’s been amazing. I’ve been cycling through old hobbies and trying out new things, but they’ve mostly been duds. Knitting was always big for me but since I moved to California it’s a little harder to delight in making beautiful woolen things to keep me warm when I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve even seen rain this year.

So I went searching, reaching back into the depths of things I enjoyed. What kept coming up was back in college when I spent four years studying Chinese and how much I regretted losing most of my knowledge over the last eight or so years ago. So I went back to skool, started taking a night class in beginning Chinese and it came back to me much quicker than I expected. I’m not amazing at it or anything but I’m really enjoying it.

That's how you all remember hanzi right?

That’s how you all remember hanzi right?

Now, circling the wagons, I’m reflecting on my hobbies again. When I first decided to try to find a job as a software engineer, I had the very real fear that taking programming from a hobby to a job would make me lose my love of it. In some ways, I have to admit it has. Actual software engineering work, when you don’t try to be the 10x asshole, can sometimes be a little boring, when it’s just helping out marketing or maybe doing the same thing in the same routine.

Other times though programming feels a bit like flying. Everything clicks and time melts away. I wish I knew how to make myself feel like that more but I think the secret might be that most of us feel that way. We don’t hear about us because we’re just there doing our job, not making waves, or keynoting conferences, or releasing yet another JavaScript framework.

Or maybe I’m just a slacker and should run off to China and teach English. Thoughts?

Chinese, Life , , Comments Off on New Hobbies, Old Hobbies

Engineering Block? – Having Time to Work on Your Own Projects Is a Privilege

Aug
24

Sleeping kitten breathing

Confession: I haven’t touched code outside of work in weeks. I’ve spent most of my free time recharging. Snuggling cats, hanging out with friends, being a slug on the couch and binge watching tv. All of these things lately have been much more exciting to me than poking at code that isn’t work related. I’m not the only one who feels this way. But I also know that I’m in the minority of people who don’t have a lot of extenuating circumstances surrounding their free time. I don’t have a family to take care of (unless you count my cats and my friends – which I do).

It seems to be that we as engineers are expected to code all the time. I myself used to want to “live and breathe code”, but that takes an awful lot of brain power and I’m not sure the type of person it makes me. You see, I am firmly in agreement that coding feels like a foreign language (side note: I don’t agree with the arguments that coding should count as a foreign language requirement, they definitely fill different niches in that regard). And spending your whole working life translating a foreign language is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong sometimes it’s AWESOME that I can think of something that would be useful for me to have and then I can go build it, but after I’ve spent at least 8 hours in at least one foreign language I just want to go home and let my brain thing in English for a while.

Oui kitten with beret

What’s especially hard (for me at least) is that I feel like I’m slacking if I just use technologies and frameworks I already know about in personal projects. If I’m going to be working on a personal project I should be learning something, right? So I get super sidetracked and slowed down learning all sorts of new things and then by the time I get back to the task at hand I’m exhausted and want no part of it.

I think probably the best way for me to handle this is to try to get back into it with just fun projects, projects that I don’t have to research, the just have to get built. But I also have to allow myself the possibility that personal projects might just not be for me. I can get my coding kicks outside of work by mentoring, attending conferences and even just reading about code.

An Unpopular Opinion: Am I a Good Feminist?

Aug
17

Last week I helped out at an #ILookLikeAnEngineer event. There have been lots of write ups about the event, but I think my favorite, and not coincidentally the most critical I’ve read, was from Re/code. The last paragraph in particular sums up my mixed feelings about the event.

#ILookLikeAnEngineer was a nice gathering for people with first-hand knowledge of the problem. But having any lasting impact before the next Internet meme sucks all the air out of the room will require a bigger meeting place and a different guest list.

I understand the need to have safe spaces for underrepresented people, because that shit can be draining out in the real world. But if we only ever stand in an echo chamber then we’re just making ourselves feel good and sticking our heads in the sand (to awkwardly mix metaphors).

As a general rule, I have stayed away from women in tech meet-ups that only serve as a place to vent. I would rather spend my free time exhausting myself helping others to learn. To help women get good and get proud of their own accomplishments. I’d rather spend my time mentoring at an all women hackathon or one on one mentorship or helping out our interns.

I say all of this about my mentoring because I worry about coming off as “I got mine” or making it sound like we just all need to “lean in”. I will admit that a lot of my engineering career has involved the lean in philosophy for myself.  I worked my ass off at a boot camp that only had 6 women. Interviewed at a bunch of places that were all dudes and ended up by sheer luck at a fairly diverse first engineering job.

Before all of that though, I dropped out of the computer science program in college because I was the last woman standing. I still regret that decision, but it has made me tougher. I’m not willing to compromise now. If I’m the only woman in the room, I’m still going to do my best work. I’m still going to work my ass off as an engineer and continue to help women into the space because I believe in strength in numbers.

I’m not sure where this puts me in the spectrum of engineering feminism, which I think is my main problem. I find dudes easier to talk to in general. My favorite engineer/mentor/friend is a guy. The only managers I’ve ever had an issue with about my role as a woman in tech were other women. So I continue to follow the path I’ve set out for myself. Blogging about culture, mentoring women, learning and being the best engineer I can. Every once in a while I poke my head up to see where other women in tech fall on their paths, but none of their paths look like mine.

So this feels like a lead up to some great revelation, but sorry to disappoint you. I don’t have one. I plan on continuing to “do me”. Helping out where I can, being selfish when I need to be, and continuing to grow as an engineer. Also I really enjoy off-color jokes – does that make me a bad feminist?

Programming, Tech Women , , , Comments Off on An Unpopular Opinion: Am I a Good Feminist?

Week 4: Losing Power

Dec
07

Another roller coaster week. Worst points: Someone took my laptop charger while I was in lecture, my week 3 assessment was not my finest point, and I miss my cats something desperately. Best points: I worked with my two favorite pair-partners again because I couldn’t handle this week otherwise, I had an awesome girl’s lunch today with 4/5ths of the junior class women (there are 5 of us total), and I made a node.js server!

So I definitely felt my first crazy/not enough sleep/irrational emotions. When my power cord was jacked a couple of days ago I was devastated. In retrospect, I think I’m a little tired and cranky and, like I said previously, I am in desperate need of some kitty cuddle time. I’ve  been in California now for over a month and I still love it, but it’s definitely getting more difficult. There are times I wish I could just zen out and I only really get that on the trains or at midnight in the dark when I should be sleeping so I can wake up and do it all again the next morning at 6am to catch my train.

I have never been more excited/motivated to get up in the morning in my life and I can’t get to sleep at night because code and other things are running through my head and along the way something had to give. I’ve discovered that when something has to give it’s my emotional stability. My actual sprints were amazeballs, especially since I had awesome pairs (Sara and Andy, respectively) for my Backbone and Node.js sprints. But in my quiet moments or while I was working solo the doubt and sadness came back.

So I did what I always do when I’m sad – I talked to my parents, a lot. I called them while waiting for the train, I called them sitting on the couch in the Hack Reactor lobby during lunch, and I called them while I drove home at 9pm every night. My dad especially is awesome at making me feel better. He’s always so proud of me and he’s always  interested in what I’m doing. It’s hard sometimes here, but I have an amazing support system both in Oregon and here. My platonic life partner Ava and her husband John have been my rocks in more ways than one. My new awesome friends at Hack Reactor, especially the ladies of the Nov ’13 cohort have been awesome to get to know. And I know all my family, friend, and former coworkers back in Oregon love me and miss me as much or more than I love and miss them.

Thinking about it and even writing about it has helped as well. Getting it off my chest makes it so I can breathe again. So I guess I just want to say, I love you all. Thank you for dealing with me! I really am happy even if I didn’t sound it sometimes this week. If I don’t just sleep all of tomorrow/spend my day in San Jose with other awesome people I love to pieces, I’m going to try to post a non-emotional/tired/whiny post, but honestly, I want to keep this blog real. For me as well as for you and this what has dominated my brain this week.

A Canvas

Sep
27

If you’ve tuned in for my regular poetic ramblings on life and web development for the past few days what you probably saw was a site in a bit of a mess. Instead of designing my own WordPress theme I had the zany notion that it would be quicker just to pick a theme and change some things. So instead of writing my own code I spent two days trying on themes like a teenage girl tries on prom dresses – none of them was just quite right. I eventually settled and looked for something that was responsive (meaning I could view it on my computer or my iPhone with ease) and whose structure and CSS was clean and easy to navigate. I settled on Tiny Forge. It was pretty right out of the box and I just tweaked some colors, threw up my own header image and added some of my widgets to the sidebar.

I have a feeling as I get busier I’ll have even less desire to mess with my personal projects, but currently the need make this site pretty is as strong as it was when I started creating websites, which is pretty cool because I never thought I’d get back there.

When I first became enamored with websites and building my own I, well, I sucked at it obviously. This was back in junior high when I was a part of the weird subculture of Petz (I link to the Wikipedia article because the current nature of Petz is sad and pathetic to those of us who started from the beginning) and had a tiny fan site all my own – long-lost to the internet. I can’t even remember what I called it and it was probably on GeoCities (RIP). I couldn’t figure out why images where all red X’s (I never actually uploaded them to the website) and those images I tried to link all had these ugly blue borders around them (oh CSS, how I came to love and despair you).

In 2004 for Christmas my parents bought me a web domain of my very own (this very one) and Leaena as a nickname and a website was born. I jumped quickly into blogs when they became a thing. From Blogger to MoveableType and back again while trying a billion others like Pivot, Textpattern, etc. Somewhere in there I tried WordPress and it stuck (sort of, I think I bounced around a bunch in between).

The problem with all of these blogs up until recently was nothing stuck. I’d write a few posts and then it would just be a static page that I would want to change the layout for once a month or so, but never actually update. So that’s what I did. I wish I had pictures of some of my old sites. I was generally always following the trends. From frames to iFrames to horizontal scrolls. From using CSS to only using Comic Sans at a very small font size (it looks cool tiny guys, promise) to learning box models and divs. All along I wondered why I didn’t actually want to post anything. There were people out there writing constantly about things! in there lives! that sounded neat! I can write, but they always say write what you know and I felt like I didn’t know much of anything.

Then all of this happened, I decided computer science was my way of life, I realized that I enjoyed reading other people writing about their coding and geeky lives, and I realized I could have that life and tell other people about it too. So here’s to the new leaena.com. I’m sure I will be changing layouts every month soon, but at least I’ll also be updating the content as well.