Posted on May 9, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes
I read Hugh McLeod book (and recommend it), and subscribe to his blog as well.
The post from yesterday had some great highlights, most from a cartoonist life/career perspective, but I think some apply to anyone who is creative and wants to find that unique path of doing something fun/meaningful/hopefully profitable.
I wanted to share a few quotes that made me nod in agreement and think more:
Constantly setting new goals, artistic or otherwise, is harder than it looks.
Everything I own would easily fit in the back of a small pickup truck. I’ve never been into possessions.
One of the smartest moves I ever made was to figure out that making money indirectly off the cartoons was far easier than trying to make the money directly. If I could teach gapingvoid readers just one thing, that would be it.
The most important word in cartooning is “continuity”. Drawing a good cartoon isn’t difficult. Doing it repeatedly, day-in, day-out is far, far harder. (this one resonates with my conversation with Mike yesterday, where he said “Every day, it’s a chisel strike. In the end, you’ll get a beautiful sculpture”)
The longer it takes you to become successful, the harder it will be for somebody else to take it away from you.
Source: Hugh’s post
Source: The Whale on Gapingvoid
Posted on May 8, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes, Technology
I was meeting a friend yesterday at 23rd street, and as I was exiting the F subway station, someone stole my wallet. I could actually feel my little bag get lighter as I was walking up the steps (or perhaps during the turnstile exit). And of course – it was unzipped open with the wallet nowhere to be found. Silly me, I started to look on the ground thinking I dropped it, instead of looking at people – I’m 95% sure it was a person actually pulling it out of the bag, and not me just dropping it. In any case – it was lost and gone.
My second thought was “Thank goodness it was only a wallet, not the phone!” (first thought was a long train of expletives). Then I thought it was interesting – in today’s world it’s more annoying to lose a phone. Whatever is in the wallet – cards, ID, cash, is totally and quickly replaceable. I called banks within minutes and cancelled my cards (only carry 1 debit and 1 credit card). Then I happily went on my way to meet my friend and enjoy the rest of the evening. She had to treat me, poor money-less person, to dinner – yay :)
Then it also got me thinking about iOS’s Passbook feature, and how it would really be helpful to have everything from your wallet in the Passbook, in my example store gift cards. I had a couple in the wallet (no biggie), but instead of carrying them around, it would be so much better to have them on your phone. If you could have an Apple gift card in your Passbook – why not others? Looks like Starbucks started first to offer it, and now thanks to the app Gyft you can put almost any gift card on your phone. And how soon will we be having everything on our phone, without needing cards or anything else physical on us, at any given time?
One more note of kudos to the New York State DMV site – you can order a duplicate driver’s license online without any hassle! It made me so happy – no need to go anywhere or wait in lines; just pay and submit your info online, and done! I did it lying on my couch from my phone – very cool.
Would you be more upset if you lost your phone or your wallet?
Posted on March 12, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes, Technology
Today I had an honor of speaking at the career panel for CS students at Brooklyn College CUNY.
My friend Suzanne invited me to participate a few weeks ago, and I immediately thought it was a great opportunity, especially since the topic of careers in tech is near and dear to my heart, and I loved being in college and wanted to see what students these days are about.
There were quite a few topics discussed today, mostly focussed on students graduating and entering the job market. A few questions were really interesting and related to today’s hot topics, so I wanted to highlight and recap them here.
Q: What is your understanding of the future or trends in the technology field? What direction is the industry heading in and where are opportunities opening up?
It would actually be funny if someone can predict the future – or we would all be rich. Coincidentally, I just re-watched an old Soviet movie really popular with kids during my childhood, it’s called “Guest from the future”. The movie was made in the early 80s, and there’s a time machine that allows people to travel in time, and in the future circa 2080’s people “flip” in flying little cabins instead of using cars, and have devices that can read anyone’s mind. But if these things will actually happen in the future, and when – nobody knows for sure.
The best thing we can do is to get solid fundamental education, stay curious, and know how to adapt quickly. Also find out who the experts are in your area of interest (be it mobile, connecting tech with physical devices, artificial intelligence, etc.) and talk to them. A great discussion with smart people is priceless, and sometimes you can even find yourself thinking about something that addresses needs of people, and seeing it used widely in the near future.
Q: How is the technology industry currently for women and/or minorities? Do you have any particular advice for women and/or minorities interested in technology?
Technology industry is a great place to be for women and minorities! I did not personally face any prejudice or discrimination either in school or my career, and actually feel that the opposite is true – tech is a very welcoming place to be right now, with lots of jobs and openings and developer bootcamp programs encouraging women to apply. Technology field is very fair and based on merit and actual work you do – so being great is the key, regardless of your background and who you are.
My advice for anyone (men or women) would be the same – do your best, learn as much as you can, excel at what you do, be professional and a good communicator, and the rest will fall into place.
Q: Please talk about graduate school. How necessary or important is it for the field?
My answer would be based on my own experience (so might not apply to everyone), and I really didn’t want to spend time in grad school, but rather get as much hands-on, real-world experience as I could. So no grad school for me. Other panelists suggested to consider grad school if you know already you want to focus on a certain area of your field, or if your employer is subsidizing your education in some way. Agreed on both counts.
Q: What skills, training, classes or experience are important for someone interested in the technology career field?
Some panelists provided very focused answers, targeted to web development with technologies at hand (HTML/CSS). I disagree. Technologies du jour may come and go, but your basic fundamental understanding of how things work, and how and why new technologies were created will serve you long term.
For example, Ruby is a very popular language to know today. There are developer schools specializing in teaching Ruby and making you into a web developer in as little as few months. It is great. But just to know Ruby, its syntax and how to create web pages, is only scratching the surface. If you really understand why Ruby was created in the first place, what MVC is and how it was implemented with Rails, what are the limitations of Ruby that are better done in other languages, you’ll go way further than majority of other self-proclaimed developers.
If you know your fundamental stack and principles, you can program anything from a spiffy web app, to a mobile app, to a tiny-sized app that you put into a watch or send to the moon… So don’t limit yourself to one technology, and stay curious and keep learning every day. Skillshare is a great place to learn new stuff, including non-tech subjects like business, project management, art, etc.
Big thanks to Suzanne, Brooklyn College CS society who organized the event, and my fellow panelists, who each offered a unique perspective and shared their experience and advice. It was a great honor!
Posted on March 11, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes, Life is Fun
Two seemingly unrelated conversations with friends this morning gave me this post idea.
First discussion was about diafilms. If you grew up in Soviet Union, then diafilms were probably a highlight of your childhood. They were full-color 24mm films (similar to those in Kodak cameras, but reversed negative – thus full real color), with fairy tales and other children’s stories printed on them. Each frame would have a picture and usually text beneath it. The film would be put into a projector, which would send a ray of bright light through the film and display it on a white wall. Someone would have to scroll the film from frame to frame, and someone would have to read the text to the audience. I always ended up reading the text out loud, because among my siblings and cousins I was the oldest, and in my class in school I was the best reader so I would do it too. Those were such a delight! Me, my sis and my 2 cousins would hide out in the bathroom (it was big and the toilet was separate from the bath room), sit on the floor and watch them, because it was dark and had a perfect white door to project onto.
Those were such good times! And now, fast-forward to modern day, to the second conversation, which was about Tard, the Grumpy Cat, attending the SXSW. Don’t you love how she looks? And don’t you marvel, that if someone had a cat like this back in the days of diafilm, nobody would know about it, aside from neighbors perhaps. But today, the lucky owner of this cute cat, is an internet celebrity getting flown into the largest conference and sponsored by some big cat food brand. The cat is earning money for it’s parent!
*Image from austinist.com
I wonder if our future generations will know anything about either diafilms or Tard… because the speed with which we acquire knowledge these days is so so fast, and there’s exponentially more things to know for each new generation. So what will be lost, and what would be remembered?
Posted on February 1, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes
I have amazing friends. And I was thinking that we are all going through interesting phases in our lives. Right now it happens to be the phase where most are figuring out our life partnerships. Some of us already did, some of us are further down the road and started families (only a few of my close friends have kids though and they are mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan), and some are still searching, and some of us are in the process of making it official. Which is all pretty cool.
Then I remembered my mom said that there’s a time for everything in life. Back then I didn’t really think too much of it, but now it’s starting to make sense to me. We had this carefree time as kids, then kind of a discovery phase as teens in high school and into college, then establishing ourselves independently, finding jobs, interests, friends. And now it seems like as we know who we are and what we want, it’s the next phase – our partnerships.
Of course it’s not all black and white, and we can still be childish sometimes, or keep discovering things, or meet new friends and find new hobbies, but in essence it’s true – there’s a time for everything in your life.
I think another point I’m trying to make is that if you feel like you really want to do something – do it, enjoy being young, take risks while it’s still your time to take them, and don’t waste your time.
Randomly, I found this piece (maybe from Bible, not sure), and I like it, so I’m including it below:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
And this picture that’s also relevant and sweet:
Posted on January 18, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes, Technology
As it often happens, had a conversation with Mike about one topic and somehow arrived to Rand Fishkin’s blog. In one of the posts, Rand writes about outdated advice to employees on “making yourself indespensable”. This means that your company will supposedly need you so damn much, it will not be able to function without you or replace you. Evil sysadmins come to mind, or programmers that hoard their secrets and obfuscate their code, or sales people who will not share their leads with anyone.
I think it’s silly to protect whatever it is you do, only to make your job “secure”. You shoot yourself in the foot, because if you’re guarding your current tasks, you can’t really move forward. Wouldn’t it be better to instead share what you do with the team, and see if they can improve on it, and have a chance to work on something else? I’d also argue that job security does not really depend on how well you’re doing whatever you’re doing now/hired to do, it is how quick you can figure out new ways to do things better, how good you’re with your team and how much you can give to them and help them grow.
Sean, who runs Fluent, talks about it often, and he’s mastered the art of sharing and delegation. I remember when they just started he used to be involved in day-to-day tasks, but in the course of couple of years, by sharing what he does and delegating, he was able to move to his strategic role and do bigger things (grow and run the company), while his team keeps day-to-day work going. So I see him as a captain who started as a deckhand :) Imagine if he insisted on staying an indespensable deckhand?
*Captain who mastered the art of delegation
This is another reason why I enjoy meetups and our weekly Show&Tell meetings, because that’s where you find the smartest and most generous folks sharing their knowledge. They are not afraid to lose their “power”, because their power is in their curiosity, ability to learn and teach. And this can not be taken away.
Visit Rand’s post for his take on employers’ point of view and some interesting comments.
Posted on January 11, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes
My new desk at work has very bad feng shui. In other words – it’s noisy, faces the wall and makes it almost impossible to focus. The constant buzz from the air ducts above our heads never stops. Not sure how previous tenants dealt with the situation, but I can’t last more than a few hours there.
For now I’m camping out in one of the former offices that has not yet been claimed as a conference room. And I hope I never have to leave (except for walks outside and lunches).
And it got me thinking (because my thinking is no longer interrupted) about noise. Living in the city like New York by default means dealing with noise. We have subway not only undeground but sometimes above our heads, constant flow of traffic and people, crowded streets and apartment buildings with lots of neighbors. So to keep your sanity, sometimes you have to block out all the noise and find or create some quietness.
Clutter is another kind of noise, created by physical objects around you. That’s why I’m a big fan of decluttering and not owning lots of physical stuff, because it weighs you down and lessens your ability to focus.
Same with people. Instead of trying to keep up with never-ending streams of chatter on Facebook and other “social” places, I think it is better to maintain few high quality, real-life, authentic relationships with people who truly enrich your life.
I like how in the winter after a big snowstorm, everything is muffled when you step out into the street. Snow covers all with whiteness, quiet and peace. So I wish all of us take some time this winter, and reduce all kinds of noise in our lives.
Posted on January 10, 2013 | Categories: Field Notes, Life is Fun
By interacting with smart people
If you’re lucky, you have this amazing kind of friends and with them you talk freely about anything. Absolutely anything. And when you do, randomly and magically, great ideas just pop into your head, based on the conversations you have, and you can’t wait to write them down and act on them.
By doing things
Working and tinkering with things leads you to other great ideas, sometimes not even related to your project. When I’m working on a project, there’s suddenly a lot of stuff I want to write about. And conversely, whenever I feel like I have nothing to write about – it means it’s time to start working on something new.
By traveling to new places
There’s no better way to break free from routine and conventions, than going to the other side of the world. And even though in this day and age, there are comforts of civilization almost everywhere, it is still amazing how immersing in different cultures, sampling different cuisines, hearing (and maybe even speaking!) another language shifts something within your mind and gets your creativity going.
Books have this magical ability to transport you in space and time, without you physically moving anywhere. And as your mind travels, it opens up to new ideas, you learn how people did things in the past, or how they are potentially dealing with events of the future, or on a totally different continent… Just make sure you read great quality literature, don’t waste time on vampires, nothing really you can learn from the things that could never exist.
By being annoyed
While it is not pleasant being irritated by some process that is broken, it gives you ideas on how to improve it, so that you, and everyone after you, don’t have to go through this pain anymore. Example: submitting paperwork in the world of electronic communications, doing timesheets, redoing same thing over and over… the list can go on.
Just make sure that you capture your ideas when they come – write them down.
How do you get great ideas? I heard people come up with them in dreams sometimes… curious to hear real world stories.
Posted on November 19, 2012 | Categories: Field Notes, Life is Fun
This post is inspired by a few things:
- Hurricane Sandy that hit NYC and Northeast a few weeks ago and left many people without homes (that cost them lots of effort and money to acquire)
- This very thought- and comment-provoking post from the Cup of Jo blog on women who don’t want to have children
- A conversation with my friend Ohn on having one “true love” per person, per life
These are all very controversial topics and eeeeeveryone and their cats have advice for you! Some common “wisdoms” are:
“You should buy a house, it’s such a good investment. Especially if you plan to raise your kids, you NEED a house!”
“Kids are the greatest joy in life! If you don’t want kids, you are selfish”
“You have to find your soulmate, and once you do, you two will be together forever”
Don’t you “love” these people who got certain ideas imprinted in their brains? They think they are doing your a service by putting you on the one and only right path to eternal happiness: home ownership + procreation + life-long committed relationship with one person. And if somehow you’re not on that path, something is awfully, horribly wrong with you, poor lost little lamb!
But fear not, because someone out there has FREE ADVICE for you!
I wish people minded their own business and focused on their own well-being and happiness instead of prodding into someone else’s life. If having kids brings you joy – have them, but don’t assume it’s the same for other people. Or enjoy your open relationship – as long as everyone in this relationship is cool with it and happy.
It’s sad that so often, people are buying homes and having kids and are stuck in bad relationships “because it’s the next step”, “because everyone else is doing it” or “because my parents told me to”, without thinking it through and being honest with themselves, then get consumed by debt, stress, sleepless nights and depression.
And if you really want to have a great conversation, instead of giving advice, tell me about all the good things you’ve done: started a company that truly helps people (whether if it’s educating their kids or finding open-minded partners), open-sourced your code, wrote an article that inspired creativity, donated to help save world’s oceans… As far as advice goes, only give it when specifically asked, consider all the circumstances, and don’t judge.
Now, what color shoes should I get? Hot pink or electric blue?
Posted on October 31, 2012 | Categories: Field Notes, Life is Fun
Thats one of the shortest pieces of wisdom I found online somewhere, and it’s profound in its simplicity.
If you want to become someone – do what the job requires. If you want to be a writer – write. If you want to be a coder – code. Teachers teach. Doing is everything.
I strive to write at least every other day. I don’t even want to be a writer. What I’d love to become is a better communicator and storyteller.
As Mike puts it:
… By learning to string words together well, you are actually learning to observe well. Language enables thinking, and by extension better language enables better thinking. Better language comes from practice and story telling, so try narrating your own life in an attempt at objective self-reflection
Here are some great posts on why everyone needs to write and how to do it better, to serve as inspiration/kick in the butt (for you and for me):
Jeff Atwood: Fear of writing and Always be shipping, always be jabbing
James Altucher: Tips for becoming a better writer (including some you’ve never heard)