Summer in the Rearview Mirror

August 8, 2013 at 10:24pm

Looking out the window on my way home, the idea of home seemed a little more multiplicitous than it did two months before. However, the home back to which I came is without equal; it's singular. Nevertheless, I'd grown to enjoy what I'd seen of Austin: there's an inarticulable character to the city that seems to set it apart from other places. Of course, it's also certainly not lacking in entrepreneurial conduciveness, and what's even more amusing is that many of the people I've met, even in non-work contexts, are some kind of electrical engineer or another. I've had a fun and productive summer working at our startup. While I'll be continuing my involvement with the company from a distance, here's my attempt to articulate some things I will take away from my time on location.

Sunset over Lake Austin, my second to last night in town.

Seize Opportunities in Spite of Yourself

I packed up and moved to Austin pretty much at the drop of a hat. I didn't get the offer until pretty late in the game as far as summer jobs go, and any number of reasons could have had me hesitating. Don't hesitate. Instead of worrying about all the minutia of doing something unprecedented, I'm glad I recognized a good thing when I saw it and took the chance. I had faith in my ability to live independently, learn programming concepts on the fly, and make the most out of my summer. And that's what I did!

Invest Time, Find Community

A change of venue, while usually welcomed, doesn't change who you are. And my friend Stephen said it best: invest time into having fun. More generally, invest time in your own sanity. After work, it would've been so easy to stay in my dorm and watch Adventure Time on Netflix all day, or even worse, just not stop working. (I say this because I fell into both pitfalls at certain times during the summer.) But if there's anything I know about myself, that wouldn't have made me super happy. I did find, and reaffirm my belief, that I enjoy being around a community of people that inspire and shape me in different ways. I'm grateful that I was able to spend some time with friends from home that were up at UT for the Welch program, grab dinner with my coworkers, and visit the folks who welcomed me at Austin Chinese Church. Alone time is important, but without putting yourself in situations where you interact with perhaps unfamiliar people, you become either out of touch or complacent with your social comfort zone. It's important to be receptive to others in order to better understand who you are and how you shape the worlds of the people around you.

The Best Problems Have No Easy Answer

I would be remiss if I spent this post remarking on nothing that I had learned from work. Startups are about solving peoples' problems, and engineering is about solving all the problems along the way. The work I most enjoyed doing wasn't the obvious stuff like dumping things into databases and fixing Hadoop when it crashes (because oh, it crashes). There's a right way and a wrong way. What I enjoyed more was tackling the problems where there's a good way and a bad way, from designing a system to making a product that does some good for people. And if I'm worth anything as an engineer, I'll build something the good way.

I'll miss cheese in the printer. I'll miss hey folks. I'll miss gametime at the ping-pong table. Throwing it on the ground. Trying to run sudo rm latency. But all of these things and the lessons I've learned are part of who I am becoming. So thanks.