My User Manual

Entry 07 Dec 28, 2020 04 min read

A guide to working with me, inspired by Abby Falik.

Lightning Intro

  • My path here won’t make much sense.
  • I studied political science because I thought I was going to law school. Then, I realized I did not want to be a lawyer. Therefore, I did not go to law school.
  • I’ve worked in traditional environments (e.g., consulting) and non-traditional environments (e.g,. early-stage startup). I value both experiences.
  • I like running and cycling.
  • I’ve recently started muay thai. My signature move is Run Away.
  • I love dogs. 🐕

My style

  • ENFJ-A. Extraverted (introvert), Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging (Assertive).
  • Analytical by default, with a special appreciation for creativity.
  • Move fast, but with purpose.
  • It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to get permission, but it’s best to need neither.

What I value

Moving quickly and intentionally

I like to iterate rapidly through new ideas without being tied to rigid process or precedent. However, I believe that every change, whether incremental or major, should be informed by a hypothesis for why it’ll make things better. Otherwise, you’re just breaking things.

Producing exceptional stuff

I deeply respect people who dedicate themselves to their passions and challenge the status quo.

Bursting bubbles

In many ways, I’ve lived in one continuous bubble since college. This can warp my perception of the world, so I actively seek out new experiences, and I value diversity in background and thought. Bursting bubbles doesn’t have to be uncomfortable — in fact, it can be profoundly rewarding.

Saying “I don’t know”

I believe saying “I don’t know” can be an admirable sign of humility and intellectual curiosity. I especially value creating spaces where everyone is comfortable saying “I don’t know” to continually learn from one another.

Continuous improvement

Much to the annoyance of some engineering friends (usually of the mechanical or civil variety), I believe that everything can always be improved. However, I’m mindful that this can become a liability when taken to the extreme, so I remind myself not to chase perfection if it gets in the way of getting things done.

What bothers me

Ego-driven incorrectness (or just ego)

Just as I value saying “I don’t know”, I get particularly annoyed when people refuse to admit a lack of (or limited) knowledge in a certain area. I see little difference between doing this and saying “I know everything”.

Blind trend-following

I recognize that trends often exist for a reason. Some I just don’t understand. In any case, I don’t believe in blindly following trends:

  • Let’s add some moving color gradients because those are in! ❌
  • I hate Wordpress because everyone else does. ❌

Inconsistencies, including minor ones

This might be the result of residual trauma from my consulting days, but I’m weirdly sensitive to minor inconsistencies such as:

  • Bullet points, some ending with punctuation and some without <- 😱❗️
  • A word capitalized Here, but not when it appears in the previous paragraph.
  • UI elements separated by a fraction of a pixel (e.g., 15.6px).

The jury’s still out on whether this is healthy (it is probably not), so perhaps the takeaway here is that I value a high-level of attention to detail in all things. 🙂

How to communicate with me

Interrupt me if I’m not making sense

My default mode of communication is “stream of consciousness” and “talking really fast”. If I’m becoming unintelligible, please interrupt me. For example, when someone asks me to repeat something, I usually take that as a sign to slow things down.

Provide the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)

Don’t bury the lede (if there is one) — start with the important stuff first. That is, unless we’re just thinking out loud or bouncing ideas off the wall. Then anything goes!

Prefer coordination over communication

Though somewhat counterintuitive, I believe good “communication” isn’t a goal. In fact, I believe communication is an imperfect, attention-intensive means of achieving the real goal, which is coordinating across a greater team.

So if you think there’s a better way to coordinate activities beyond “communicating” through messages, meetings, or yet another Notion page, let me know! This can include continually updating a project board, scripting away manual processes, leaning on existing documentation (e.g., Pull Request descriptions), and more.

How to help me

Let me know if I’m rambling

This happens a lot. In fact, I’m worried this has already happened in this User Manual.

Resist the ‘duck syndrome’

Have you ever seen ducks swim? They look so calm and serene, but underneath that placid surface they’re paddling furiously just to stay afloat.

I first heard of ‘duck syndrome’ back in college, where students often felt pressured to paint over their stress and frustration with a constant facade of effortless calm.

No one’s got time for that. Ask for help when needed, and don’t feel like you have to say everything’s okay when it’s not. Let’s support each other the best we can.

What people misunderstand about me

I pretend I am a robot, but I am not

I think being a robot would be quite nice. You’d get things done really fast. Recharging and multitasking would have new meaning. Also, you would always be correct (just not necessarily in the way humans expect, of course).

Jokes aside, I recognize that sometimes I can come across as a robot — and not in a good way. For example, I tend to send short messages (often just yes or no). Sometimes, I abruptly stop responding to threads altogether.

While I’m actively trying to refactor these habits, please don’t hesitate to provide feedback. I will learn accordingly. 🤖✨

I find balance through dichotomies

I like to reason about contrasting either-or and this-or-that scenarios. That’s not because I view these polar opposites as the only options. In fact, I recognize the “answer” — or path forward — often lies somewhere in the middle.

I’m just trying to find that answer by bouncing between the limits and redrawing the boundaries as needed. Think of it as a poorly-implemented binary search.

I value taking big swings

I often tell people I’m risk-adverse. This is, to a large extent, true. I’m the type of person who views surprise as a risk, not an “opportunity”. After all, what is a surprise but a failure to predict? Haha, just kidding.sort of

As much as I’d like to pretend everything can be carefully managed, planned, and predicted to a T, this obviously does not match reality.

Sometimes the situation might call for a big change or a leap of faith. Even when everything is puttering along just fine, there’s something to be said for shaking things up when things get too comfortable.

And so, I recognize that sometimes taking big swings is the way to go. This may not come naturally, but I try.

A bad Stoic's take on the Dichotomy of Control