Reflection of Fall ’13

It’s been awhile since I have been home for the holidays for more than a week. To be exact, I’m be home for 2.5 weeks. I had plans to go on a trip to Japan and South Korea, but my friend bailed on me due to lack of funds. We then planned to do a Montreal trip, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen either since my mom lined me up for a bunch of appointments. My eyesight has been particularly unstable in these past few weeks (sometimes I feel like I can’t ever get Lasik because I work in front of a laptop 24/7).

I’ve spent most of my break so far catching up with high school friends (our annual Secret Santa), watching movies and dramas, and cleaning/organizing my belongings at home. You really end up with a ton of clutter after living on and off every 4 months. You can’t bring everything with you when you move far away, and you always end up bringing more when you come back. I also started doing this thing where I keep all my receipts or significant cool pamphlets I get every term in separate folders. These folders were getting really unorganized in the past couple terms due to lack of time (because when I do have the time, I’d rather be doing other things).

More specifically, I’ve accumulated a huge wardrobe. I’m not even high on the shopaholic standards. I just buy clothing when I feel like I need it, based on my current wardrobe. The problem with this is that I only have a partial wardrobe at all times (when I’m living off campus or renting a place for co-op). This makes it difficult for me to remember whether I already had a ton of white tops, for example. Now it isn’t as bad for school terms, but it really sucks for co-op terms in the States. I am way, way more limited in the partial wardrobe I can bring. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to fit all the clothing I want to bring for next term.

Speaking of next term – I’ll be in SF again, work term #5 at Rdio. I had a tough time deciding where to go because (if you didn’t read my last blog post) I really wanted to return to FB (or specifically Instagram). I originally decided that I would be happier to return for the Fall (of 2014) instead of the Winter as there will be potentially more returning interns (or new grads) that I already know. I also didn’t really want to be in the Peninsula again for Winter as I prefer SF, and I didn’t want to do a long commute either (FB gives housing to interns or a stipend if you want to live in SF). I almost slightly regret choosing Rdio even now, simply because I really miss my coworkers back at IG. They were extremely hard-working, fun people to be with 8 hours a day. I wasn’t able to properly appreciate and thank them due to a family member passing away around the end of my internship. Thinking back, I really appreciated the experience and the opportunity to meet awesomely talented people. Continue reading


Instagram Video V2 & Some Thoughts

It’s been another very exciting past couple weeks. We launched Instagram 4.1 last week – adding video support for Android 4.0 and video import from library. Huge wins. Video import was my main intern project, and I’m so happy that I was able to launch such a high-impact feature. Everyone please go and check it out if you have a chance.

I’ve worked at Instagram for about 15 weeks now, in the Facebook bubble. I realize that I’ve become attached to my team, attached to the product I work on. I don’t post the same kinds of photos I used to, after being influenced by amazing photographers (check out Suggested Users in Explore).

I began to seriously care about what users think of us (Those 1-star ratings hurt, just to let you know). It’s unfortunate that we can never have 100% test coverage due to the wide variety of Android devices. I’ve been in such a work-hard mode in the past few weeks that I forgot what I was doing – launching such an important and desired feature for millions of users out there. It’s a weird state to be in –  I became  critical of my code and it was hectic handling all of the bugs being reported. I spent a lot of time working on the feature (ensuring it worked on all devices, on various types of videos, etc.) that I forgot how awesome and high impact it actually was. Dilemma of a mobile developer perhaps?

A few people have asked me what it’s like working at Instagram but being under Facebook. Most of the public thinks that Facebook is making all of our decisions and will eventually make the app worse. No, it’s not like that at all. Facebook acquired Instagram, but the Instagram product still stands as its own. Our team is still present. We receive many resources and contacts through Facebook, which helps us reach a larger audience more efficiently, and scale more efficiently.

We are still fairly small, making me feel like I work at a startup, but we have the Facebook perks since we are on campus. It’s the best of both worlds. Facebook culture is slightly different from Instagram culture, and we also have our own values. One value in particular is that our community is our greatest asset. I’ve never been so exposed to how great our community is, and I have never realized how many amazing moments are shared from all across the world. People out there take some amazing photos.

Facebook is of course a little different. There are tons and tons of features in one large app, as we all know. There’s definitely a lot going on (feature-wise), although the fact that we all use Facebook to communicate at work, we are able to constantly debug each others’ code by testing great ideas.  Socially, everyone gets informed about product updates and what’s happening on campus through FB groups. I have stopped going on Reddit because all of my entertainment can be gained from various social groups. It’s extremely transparent here, and people love to have fun – a “just do it” type of culture.

Is this a recruiting blog post? No. Sorry if I’m making it sound that way. There are other interns who don’t feel the same way as me since they didn’t get placed on a suitable team. It happens. Life is full of bumpy roads and not everything can line up the way you want it to. I promise you this happens at other companies too, you just need to be verbal about it (esp if you work full time) so you don’t get stuck with something you don’t enjoy.

Anyways. I love this job and I don’t even know what I’ll do when I have to leave. Working on exciting projects with such an amazing team is something that you don’t always get to experience. It’s very surreal. Sometimes you really have to sit down and reflect before the moment fades away.

South Bay Lovin’

I have not blogged in a long time so I’m going to try to write before I become busy again. I have been extremely occupied in the past couple weeks, especially with work. I even forgot about doing my PD assignments for the past 2 weeks (don’t follow my example, please..) For those who do not know, Video for Instagram launched last Thursday on both iOS and Android. I helped with the Android launch, and despite all of the challenges and required extra hours, it was totally worth it. I have never worked with such a dynamic, open team, and I don’t really know what I’m going to do when I have to go back to school for the Fall. Check out the new feature if you haven’t already.

So how’s life for me? I am loving South Bay life. I barely went down here the last time I was in the Bay Area. It is definitely a place I’d like to live sometime in the future. Simply put, it’s nice. Really, really nice. I’ve been here about 7 weeks and it has yet to rain. Nada. This is so different from life in SF, the city that never stops being foggy, rainy, and hovering at 15-20 degrees celsius (59-68F). I still go up to the city once a week. This weekend, I added 50 bucks to my Clipper Card for the 4th time since I’ve been here. I actually checked out Haight & Ashbury for the first time today – it’s a great shopping district! Too bad there were 5 guys in our group or else we would have been there for hours.

Being a Facebook intern also has its perks – there are always amazing intern events. Last week, they took us to Yosemite. There wasn’t a lot of time to do big hikes, so a few friends and I just did some bare foot rock climbing at the Lower Falls. It was truly amazing being so close to the waterfall, and I have never realized how durable the human foot was until that day. I’ve become sheltered by shoes and socks for a long time, it seems. A few pics:

Lower Falls


Not all the interns have arrived yet. I think there are 700+ total summer interns. It is crazy. Not all of them are even here yet – I think the last batch arrive next week (July 1st). The official Bay Area interns group itself is about 3.5k people. Yes, movies like The Internship were made to entertain people like us.

It’s also very interesting being able to hang out with more Americans and understanding their differences from us Canadians. A few things:

  • Canadians say “washroom” while Americans say “restroom” or “the men’s room” or whatever.
  • Canadians say “marks” vs Americans say “grades” (? unconfirmed)
  • Americans don’t say “Let’s dip” in lieu of “Let’s go” (? unconfirmed)

Anyways, the only complaints I have so far about where I live is that the closest chain movie theatre is in Redwood City – which is in Zone 2 on the Caltrain Map. Menlo Park (MPK) to Sunnyvale is in Zone 3. There are a couple theaters in MPK and Palo Alto, but they play old school films. Another really cool thing I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of Spanish speakers in South Bay. I should start learning some Spanish.

Alright, that’s all for now. I’m hoping to do more blogging in the next few weeks now that I’m a little more free. More to come, thanks for reading!

GHC ’12 & Adventures in Baltimore

I had such an amazing time at GHC this past week in Baltimore. I was able to connect with so many technical women of various educational backgrounds and ethnical backgrounds, and be inspired by every one of them.

GHC is more than just a conference – for awhile I thought the C stood for Conference. No. It stands for Celebration. It’s a celebration for women in computing, to bring them together so that they can network, learn, and of course, have fun in an all-women environment. I mean it! ~3600 women. I think I saw a few men, most were recruiters or engineers at the career fair, but all of the speakers were female.

Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t attend many sessions due to my high interest in the career fair. However the few talks I did go to – most of them were interesting, especially those in the social collaboration track and the security tracks. The categorized tracks are actually very useful so that participants can understand the target audience that they are aimed towards. For example, I didn’t go to any academic track sessions since I’m not interested in grad school. Although there was a huge number of participants who are doing phDs, or are planning to in the future.

Actually, when I was at the conference, I was given a better perspective about grad school considering how many people i met who were in grad school – although I am still very uninterested in graduate studies. :P

I had a great time at the Career Fair. And I’m not saying this because I got a lot of free swag (pic below), I’m saying this because I got to see a spectrum of companies. I got to talk to their engineers, learn what they do, find out about their processes, etc. Many American companies to boot, and being a Canadian, it’s definitely a different feeling seeing how Americans do this type of stuff (esp. for internship roles). The cool thing about the career fair was that a lot of these companies were doing on-site interviews.

These companies are in high need of technical women. The typical 10-15 min phone screen can be done right at their booths. It was nice seeing how quick the process is compared to doing online applications on the company’s websites. And if they think you’re a great candidate, they’ll probably ask you for an on-site interview.

In the end I had 6 interviews at the conference, 4 of which were non-technical and 2 of which were technical. Wow, it felt like Jobmine all over again, but with less stress since I’m not on a school term. During the conference, I realized something – Interviews are fun. I seem to like the thrill of sharing my past experience and having options and opportunities. I mean, I’m sure everyone does, but the thing with me compared to other students is that I have 2 past internships, and 1 current on my belt. I haven’t been nervous for an interview in ages, and talking about my projects and relevant experience is a cinch. (This is why the career development track also wasn’t that useful to me, although I still went to a few of the sessions). Note that it became harder to get an on-site interview once Thurs afternoon hit, since available slots quickly fill up.

Other than that, many companies had invite-only parties and dinners and breakfasts. Being fed is a wonderful thing.

Beyond the career opportunities and the knowledge to be gained, there were the actual celebrations. There was a dance on Thurs night, filled with women. Dancing on a dance floor of all women is an interesting thing too, and it’s a lot of fun. No creepers asking for your number, definitely! Haha.

Friday night was the RockIt celebration, held at the Maryland Sci Centre. Unfortunately I didn’t actually play with any of the exhibitions, but I did have a lot of fun at the Google Photo Booth and ate some great desserts.

Saturday was Open Source day, which was sort of like a Hackathon, but it was non-competitive and the projects were all humanitarian (similar to RhoK). There were a handful of organizations and multiple projects going on. Luckily I was able to contribute.

After Open source day, I finally had the time to explore Baltimore. It’s a beautiful city, I must say! I didn’t end up going to any museums. Instead, I took the Water Taxi from Inner Harbour to Fel’s Point. There happened to be a festival going on, so I decided to do some exploring in the area. Then, I was planning to go back downtown to do some shopping, but I ended up taking the wrong boat. I had to sit there for 50 min going around to various other locations of baltimore (lol), it was truly a scenic route. (pics below).

Once I got to the airport, I was greeted by.. no one. The airport was extremely empty (I was there around 7pm on a Saturday). It’s a small airport I guess, but literally no one was in security with me.

So that was my week, I want to thank Facebook for bringing me to their NY office and to the conference. They have some really awesome recruiters and engineers, and know how to have fun ;)

Pre-Grace Hopper ’12 – Perspective from a Facebook Scholar

I’m very honoured to be a recipient of the Facebook Scholarship for Grace Hopper for this year. I have been told about the conference in the past from a handful of upper years and past coworkers. What truly appealed to me about the conference was the presence of thousands of technical women. So of course I wanted to attend.

Every day (whether it be at school or work) I am surrounded by a male majority.  At school, I’m with a more immature crowd, 100 males in their early 20’s with only 10 or less females in the classroom. To be completely honest, I’ve gotten used to it. But I do miss having female companions that I can work closely with.

Currently at work – my team is mostly male. At my previous co-op, I actually had a female team lead,and our Director of Eng was female, too. So I was a little more comfortable, and had people to relate to.

Cut to the chase, I am pretty excited for the conference. Facebook gave us a little excitement by giving us their own small sessions and gatherings in the past few days. I am with 24 other scholarship recipients and I believe 11 former interns – all female! We were given the chance to check out the Facebook NY office last night, hear a tech talk from Goranka Bjedov (a capacity planning engineer @ Facebook), do some small group chatting + technical interview prac., and explore NYC.

Facebook took us to see Mamma Mia on Sunday. It was my first broadway show, and I really enjoyed it. The lighting was beautiful and obviously well though out, the actors were great. The only issue I had was that any time they started singing, the background music overpowered their voices (maybe it’s only an issue for the balcony level audience).

The tech talk given to us on Monday was about scaling infrastructure. It was very interesting, considering the huge figures Facebook deals with in comparison to other big tech companies. With only ~1000 employees, it’s crazy how Fb can handle so much traffic.

The group chatting was informative, despite my large amount of interview experience from co-op. Went through a problem similar to Scrabble with Amy Platt (Eng @ Facebook Seattle). She briefly talked about her past experience @ MSoft & Google, and encouraged us to always negotiate salaries.

We talked briefly about how males boast about projects they’ve been on, claiming they’ve ‘lead’ projects even though they were just a developer; while females who have lead 1000s of engineers always used “the team”, or “we”, and basically was too shy to be proud. And then we have males vs. females on salaries – females are satisfied with what they are being paid or are not ambitious enough to negotiate, while males will go very far into negotiation.

Jocelyn Goldfein (Director of Eng @ Facebook) also said a few encouraging words. She feels that the purpose promoting women in computing is not because women have a difference in perspective, or whether women are better at creating technology for women. It’s about seeing the use cases of various types of people as an individual, and creating technology to be usable to a diverse groups of people. She also mentioned how we can promote women in computing. Obviously everyone in the room was confident with CS and where it would take them, but to encourage younger women – we need to overcome psychological-influenced thoughts and remove stereotypes as much as possible.

For example, it is a common stereotype that Asians are good at math. But it is another common stereotype that girls are not good at math. So is an Asian girl good at math? Jocelyn mentioned that if a study was done where 1 group of Asian women was given an article to read about Asians excelling in mathematics, another group given an article to read about statistics that women are less capable in the sciences and maths, and one group not given anything, then there’d be significant results. It’s just who we are as humans – we get psyched out easily by what we read and hear about.

Overall, I thought there were some very interesting and inspiring perspectives brought to us by females at Facebook, and with this being my first time attending GHC, I can’t wait to hear more of them at the conference.