Sunday, September 28, 2014

My first 3 weeks + 3 days of being a (remote) manager

I have never been a manager before, so I can't compare to managing an in-person team. I have worked remote off and on for a long time and I'm a fan of it. (Yes, I owe you an updated post - I have a separate room for a home office now!)

I have four direct reports. One in Seattle, one in Minnesota, two in the home office in Brooklyn. I'm often worried that I'll ask too many office favors from the two guys in the home office. Yeah, btw, they're all guys. They're delightful guys and I chose this team very deliberately. Oh yeah, I'm also the first female manager in Infrastructure, the arm of Engineering that isn't working directly on the website.

We have one status meeting on Mondays. I have a 1:1 with each of them every week. I have a 1:1 with my manager. A 1:1 with the manager of Data Engineering. An every two weeks check-in with Data Science. And on and on. These are via video chat, and I'm now actually running into problems with my ear hurting if I wear my headset this much.

ANYWAY. it's been a stressful whirlwind of trying to do all the things and not being sure if they're the right things, and worrying I'm not helping enough. So let's make a list of things that have gotten done:

1. We're having our first bootcamper(1) next week!
2. Two people have talked to me about senior rotations(2) they'd like to do in the future.
3. We are all planning to be in the Brooklyn office together in late October, when we will:
    a. Visit the Datacenter
    b. Do a Support Rotation(3) together
    c. Offsite activity together - chosen with input from the whole team
    d. Team dinner
4. Week after next, we're going to do a trial run of having a Hadoop focused Doubles Development(4) day. All 4 team members opted in to help with this.
5. We're keeping and expanding my "project" of teaching anyone who wants to enough scalding (the tool we use to write Hadoop jobs) to answer their questions. All 4 team members have opted in to learn to teach, and they've been updating the notes I send out before each session
6. We are going to a small conference and having an offsite in Austin in January.

Also I got in just in time for 2015 planning! Which is extra fun given that I walked in being a top user of the cluster, but having no real idea what the team actually does day to day, just that I need them to keep doing it. Welp, it's a great opportunity to show my team that I trust them about technical decisions.

I have also been working on:
1. Starting a community for managers that aren't in Brooklyn
2. Doing a 6 month evaluation of our mentoring program and figuring out how to make it better
3. Helping to organize a big project coming up next year.

BTW - the first two of these I chose to kick off during my first week of management. This is the worst idea I've had.

I've listed a lot of facts, but how do I feeeel about all this?

I love my team. I'm excited to figure out how to help them work on things that excite them and advance their careers. Coming into this, I thought the one thing the team most needed was more connections to the rest of the company, and so far every idea I've come up with to build these has been met with enthusiasm both in the team and outside of it. There are awkward moments where someone demands something from our team that clearly doesn't seem ridiculous to them - and I don't yet have the tact to answer nicely. Or when someone on my team wants to do something that I'm not sure is the right thing to do, or I'm sure shouldn't be a priority yet. I love getting to tell them YES, but I'm having a hard time learning to tell them No. (Partly, I have far less reason to practice my "No"s!)


(1) Bootcamp is an Etsy tradition where new hires rotate among other teams for their first several weeks. A bootcamp can last a week or two, depending on the project the bootcamper is attempting. The goal is mostly for the bootcamper to get to know the people on the team and a bit about what they do, not to accomplish something. But word is that it's a more satisfying experience if they do get to do SOMETHING that doesn't feel like busywork, even if it's small.
(2) Senior Rotations are possibly a dead attempt at a new Etsy tradition, wherein each individual contributor rotates to another team to spend about a month doing a substantial project. Originally, it was pitched as taking place in the month of your Etsyversary, to combat bus syndrome, but now it's a lot more flexible.
(3) Support Rotations are an Etsy tradition where everyone in the company does two hours of support once a quarter (ish.)
(4) Double Development is an opt-in program where you periodically pair with some other programmer (and non-programmers can opt in as well!) and work on a ticket, usually one chosen by Product Quality. We're starting to experiment with working on specific skills - there's been successful trials of pairing the mobile app trainers with people who want to learn more about mobile dev.

Friday, June 13, 2014

How to get on IRC (freenode) with IRCCloud

Fill out the form on the front page to Sign Up, then you should see this screen:

Choose "Freenode" from the dropdown

Put in an all one word nickname to use on irc (think of it as a username), you can put in a real name if you want, but you don't have to, and you can go ahead and list any channels you want to join. Click "Join network"

A whole bunch of esoteric dork stuff will happen on the screen, but EVENTUALLY you should see something like the screen above, where you can talk in the channel you set it to join. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Intro to Yeast Baking - Notes/Syllabus for an online class

In a couple of weeks, I'll be teaching Intro to Yeast Baking at Etsy School. This is everything you need to know to take my one session class.

all purpose flour
milk (or powdered milk is my preferred method)
1 egg
brown sugar
powdered sugar
(see Class Session section for vegan substitutes)

dutch oven or baking pan or baking sheet (no-knead bread)
9X13 baking pan or two cake rounds or pie plates (cinnamon rolls)

pro-tip - plain (not mint!) dental floss is great for cutting the cinnamon rolls. A serrated knife will work too.

The day before, stir up a batch of Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread. You're just going to the end of step 1 "Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees."

About 2 hours before class, go through step 3 of the directions. Don't stress if you only have 30 minutes or whatever, it's pretty forgiving. And I just use a lidded giant salad bowl instead of this cotton towel nonsense.

About 20-30 minutes before class, preheat your oven, with your baking container inside, to 450 degrees.

This is optional - but please let me know ahead of time if you're going to do it, and if you want to see how mine comes out even if you don't.

Class session:
We'll start class by throwing the no-knead bread in the oven. While it bakes, we'll make and assemble cinnamon rolls!

(Vegan version:
replace the butter with Earth Balance or your favorite other margarine
water instead of milk
1/3 c applesauce instead of egg)

If you don't have a rolling pin, a wine or beer bottle or drink glass or similar will get the job done.

You can either make the cinnamon rolls right away (after your oven has cooled down a bit!) or freeze the assembled pans to make later. If you freeze them, take them out the night before to let them rise and then bake them for breakfast.

I suggest a super simple icing - 1 c powdered sugar, add enough water/milk/apple cider/egg nog to make it sort of a liquid.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Working from Home: What Works for Me

I shower every morning.
I even mostly get dressed in clothes I could wear outside - except shoes. Fuzzy slippers til summer.
I like to make my coffee and start drinking it as I sit down at my work computer. Maybe I should make it earlier so that I'm more awake when I start work, but I feel like I already waste a lot of time in the mornings, waking up slowly.

I have a work desk and a work laptop. I have a separate home desk with a mac mini and a big monitor (it's also my tv.) I also have a personal laptop, which feels a bit decadent these days, but I still take it with me to hack days and such. And use it to play videos while I fold laundry. True story.

I never do anything at the work desk besides work. The work desk has an external monitor on an arm, which can be raised to standing height, and I have a vintage bread box that is the perfect height to hold a keyboard and trackpad when I stand. But honestly, mostly I sit and type at my laptop while most of the windows are on the big monitor above and behind it. (Video conferencing is usually the only thing that goes in the laptop screen, which works well for me appearing to look at the camera.) I have an Aeron chair I got years ago when the startup I was working at closed their local office.

I have a mental list of things I can do during my lunch break to get out. Sometimes I make it a physical list if I notice I have been doing a bad job of getting out. I go to the library, go get groceries, have lunch dates with people, go buy coffee beans. I live where I can walk to all those things. I especially try to go out at lunch if I don't have evening plans.

I have a coworking group that meets every week or two for a morning or afternoon. It's good to regularly see other people be frustrated with computers. Also they are just wonderful people and I love getting to see them.

I generally work 8:30-5:30 with about an hour's lunch. I try not to stress if I'm not quite hitting those hours. There are days where I'll be in the flow and be productive til 6 or a bit later. It turns out that if I've had a day that felt useless, sitting at the computer longer that day doesn't make it better.

At the end of the work day, I put the work laptop to sleep. I do not have my work email on my phone. I don't even have my real email on my phone, I just use the webclient. I mostly only want to do email when I am sitting down at a desk with a keyboard. Also my phone is always on silent. ( I do usually notice if it is buzzing. Usually.)

I really like the days when I have yoga or something right after work. (Lately, I've been sitting in on a class, which also succeeds at getting me to STOP THINKING ABOUT WORK.) Having a sharp break from work desk and work worries helps me stop thinking about it, and then I can go on and think about something else. But having something where I have to think or be social directly after doesn't work well for me. I can be social later in the evening, but that works best if I have some time to just sit on the couch and let my brain do nothing, 20-30 minutes is usually enough.

When I do have great work ideas outside of work hours, I write a note and drop it on my work desk or I send an email to my work address. Usually these are not too cryptic to understand the next day.

Bonus: Making your own Reaction Gifs

It's silly, but it's a fun way to be more "visible". And it takes just a few minutes once you get the hang of it.
First, record a video in Photo Booth. Click the video to select it, choose trim in the bar right over the record button. Clip it down to just the bits you want. (Click the checkmark to accept your edits)

Open it in Gif Brewery Easiest way to open your Photo Booth video is to drag it from the Photo Booth set (at the bottom) to the open dialogue for GIF Brewery. You can play your video in GIF Brewery, but it looks like you need to drag the cursor back to the beginning to play it again. You probably want to crop it a little: save on space, get rid of unnecessary background. Hit Create GIF in the upper right corner of the app to save. A good way to minimize size is to turn on "reduce number of colors in gif" (found in GIF Properties) and resizing the gif to a smaller size. (Thanks to Tristan for some of these tips.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lazy Roasted Veggies

No, seriously, so lazy. So lazy that I will do it. (I eat a lot of salad, but I basically don't cook vegetables.)

Get an assortment of frozen veggies. If you are really lazy, also get some fishsticks or chicken nuggets or something.

Set the oven to 425 degrees, or whatever your protein is going to want to cook at.

Fill a bowl with frozen veggies

Pour a small amount of olive oil over them, (remember, your goal here is to make as little mess as possible for maximum laziness) shake the bowl gently to distribute. Sprinkle with some kind of spices or something, shake again to distribute.

I use Uncle Chris' Gourmet Steak Seasoning because my aunt told me it was good on everything, and she was right.
Spread some foil on a cookie sheet (technically jelly roll pan? you want edges. For the oil.) Dump your bowl of veggies out onto it, and spread them around so they're mostly a single layer. Notice some of my carrots are frozen together. They get over it. I thought about prying them apart, but: lazy!

Shove them in the oven for 15 minutes. No, I don't care if it hasn't finished preheating.
After the 15 minutes, take out the pan, stir the vegetables around a bit, and shove them over to make room for your protein. Add the frozen protein and cook again until it's done. (I usually do fish sticks, so an additional 17 minutes.)

When they're done, scoop the veggies back into the original bowl (which incidentally still has spices and oil in it!) to eat out of. Shove your protein on a plate and optionally add some condiments. Throw away the foil.

You have dirtied: one bowl, one spatula, one small plate, and one fork. Hooray!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Granola Bar Experiment - In Progress

Based on this recipe, with some inspiration from this one

4.5 oz peanut butter
1/3 c brown sugar
1 medium banana, peeled and mashed (about 4oz or 1/2 c)
4 oz applesauce
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 c rolled oats
1/3 c roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
1/3 c sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 c flax seeds
1/2 c roasted, salted sunflower seeds
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350
Line 8" x 8" pan with parchment
Mix all ingredients and spread evenly in pan
Bake 30-35 minutes - it'll start to brown around the edges.

So this is... just ok. I don't object to anything about it in particular, and I definitely like that you can taste the banana and peanut butter. I'm thinking I might include almonds next time, maybe instead of the pumpkin seeds. And if I want to be sure I'll be happy to eat it, I bet replacing the fruit with chocolate chips would work well.

It's a little crumbly, but it doesn't really upset me. Maybe toasting the oats first would give it better flavor?

I'm also wondering if I might make it in a 9" x 13" pan, and reduce the baking time - that should give me thinner bars, more like what we're used to getting commercially.

Any ideas?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Loaded Blondies

Based on Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper.

1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
Mix together
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Add and mix well - fluff that egg!
1 c flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
Add and mix until just combined
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/4 c shredded, sweetened coconut
1/4 c chopped walnuts
Add and mix in
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/4 c chopped walnuts
Spread batter into pan, sprinkle over the top

Bake for 30-35 minutes.
After fully cooled, cut into 16 squares.