I’m experimenting with the idea of giving a monthly update of how I’m doing and what I’m up to. Let’s see if it sticks! And if it doesn’t, then at least you’ve got a snapshot of January 2021.

With that – Jan 2021 was a busy month!

πŸ’Ό I left Glitch!

I did a lot of reflection over the holidays and after about 2 years, I decided it was time for me to part ways with Glitch and pursue something new. My last day was January 15.

I love Glitch, the product, the people and the mission, and I’m so grateful for my experience there. I can’t believe how much I learned in such a relatively short period of time, especially in my role as VP of Engineering. By the time I left, all of Engineering, Product, Design, and Support reported into me, so I got experience leading a significant portion of the company.

The best part of Glitch is easily the people – I have never worked at a place where there was such a high concentration of genuinely kind and thoughtful humans. It is wild how such a simple thing can be so transformative: What if everyone was kind to each other? It’s an idea I will take to every new place I go.

There were some very ugly sides to Glitch as well, stemming in large part from the exec team I was a part of.

I have struggled in my career with how openly to discuss my experiences online. It used to be much easier, when the internet was smaller and when I was earlier in my career, and when context collapse wasn’t so much of an issue. I worry that I do not have the writing skills to convey what I want to convey to a potentially infinite audience. When I speak candidly, I also want to be empathetic and fair. I’m confident I can do that when speaking to individuals because I can adjust to the audience – is this a friend from college? A student looking for advice? Another woman leader in tech who knows? What parts do I need to explain carefully, what parts can I wave off with shorthand language? It’s simpler in small groups. When writing, I get stuck. Trying to write something that any person anywhere might read is paralyzing. Usually I give up and say nothing at all.

I don’t want to do that this time. There is a lot to learn from Glitch – a lot – and I think it’s important to talk about. I have promised myself that I will share my experience at Glitch, honestly and openly, when it’s the right time. But it’s also not the right time yet.

…. and yet I have a habit of saying I’ll write something later and then never getting around to it 😩 So just in case that happens again, I’ll jot down a few key takeaways here. It’s going to be vague – not because I’m trying to be irritating, but because I am not ready to shade in the details.

  • Personally, I learned how much I thrive in collaborative environments that operate transparently, and conversely, how difficult it is for me to be in environments that expect leadership to be neither transparent nor collaborative. Of course, it’s a balance, and it’s difficult to do it well even with best effort. But the value needs to be there, at least for me.
  • How value systems are not trivial and not a given. It’s not like the cartoonish definition of bad and good – there can be genuinely very different definitions of what e.g. “trust,” “respect,” and “doing the right thing” look like, which is hard to grasp when confronted. I can’t assume that any smart, kind person I get along with also shares my values – and how sometimes it’s not that they’re being a jerk to me, or vice versa; but we’re operating under different value systems. The differences reveal themselves during hard times and they can be extremely hard to work through. I have no answers to this yet. As a corollary, I now think discussions around capitalism and socialism are crucial in a way I didn’t realize before, as it can provide frameworks for some (perhaps many) of these differences.
  • I’m thinking a lot about something my friend called “toxic positivity,” similar to ruinous empathy – an environment where if one tries to have difficult conversations, it’s viewed as being a bad actor. Conversations around e.g. a strategy not working, someone not having the right skillset for the task at hand, or needing to let people go, etc. being viewed as being vicious, rather than something necessary (and to be done with empathy and care).
  • How unintentional toxicity can come from a person simply being in the wrong role, even when their intentions are pure. (And no one’s intentions are ever completely pure.) The force-multiplying damage of when this mismatch of role and skills is at the leadership level. How it’d be nice if there wasn’t so prestige around leadership roles, and if there wasn’t so much shame in ineptitude.
  • Something inspiring: Teams built with honesty, integrity, collaboration, and trust are much stronger than teams built with finger-pointing, gatekeeping, and misrepresentation. The best parts of Glitch, and the majority of Glitch, operates with such strength, and it’s a beautiful thing to experience.
  • Something pedestrian: Way more people should work at startups. (Though I strongly recommend gaining experience somewhere larger and more stable first, if that’s a realistic and desirable option for you.)

Glitch has been a large part of my life for the last few years! It’s a personal end of an era. I’m grateful the experience and excited for the next chapter of my career.

🌈 What’s next?

I’m going to be headed to The Browser Company! I couldn’t be more excited. There’s so much to talk about there, so I’ll write more about The Browser Company perhaps next month ✨

I’m also going to be joining as a software engineer / IC, rather than as a manager! I expect my career will take the pendulum form, switching between IC and management rather than pursuing exclusively one or the other. It’s by no means the only valid career path, but it’s one that resonates with me.

My first day at The Browser Company is April 5, meaning I’ve got two months of πŸƒ free time πŸƒ between now and then.

I’ve been absolutely loving free time so far!! I’ve never had this long between jobs, with the exception of my time at the Recurse Center, which was also one of the best experiences in my life.

In this free time, I’m trying to balance “resting” with “newfound creative energy.” I just have one project I’m going to maybe attempt in the next few weeks…

🍩 A new project: Everybody Study Club

I have a new project I have in the works! Maybe.

I have at least created a website for it: https://www.everybodystudy.club/

Basically, I’ve been meaning for years to make the material from CS193X a bit more accessible. I’ve sometimes sent my own slides to people to try to explain concepts like async / await, and I wish I didn’t have to be like, “OK look at slides 43-67 on this deck, then 5-10 of this other one …”

So that desire combined with my recent success self-studying Korean, combined with some inspiring conversations I’ve had with friends (thank you πŸ’•), motivated me to take the first steps of everbody study club / esc. I have with a come up with a name, a website, and an interest form. Maybe I’ll do something beyond that!

Speaking of which – I’d love it if you could take a look and fill out the form! Even if you don’t have any desire to participate, I’d love to know what sort of things you want to build.

🍱 Miscellaneous

Korean study

  • As many know, I’m half-Korean, I didn’t learn Korean growing up but I learned Korean in college, through about the 3rd year level.
  • For years I’ve always sort of assumed that I was screwed beyond that – like ah, I should have gone to Korea when my brain was still young and spongy, I’ll never get better than my current level.
  • But now I’ve learned that’s not true!! (I touch on that briefly in esc)
  • So I got a bunch of stationery and pens and candles and started studying again.
  • My main focus right now is conversation. I’m getting a lot better πŸ’ͺ mostly from putting in the time – I try to study 2 hrs / day.
  • (Update to add: For more on my Korean study journey, I also wrote a guide on creating a self-study routine!)

Coffee drinker?

  • I’ve been drinking coffee these days! I actually rarely finish a cup but it’s become a near-daily ritual. I see the appeal!

I got a bunch of new plants

  • My monstera and mini monstera are out of control, I actually don’t know what to do
  • My monstera is growing so big!!! In an NYC living room its presence is approaching noticeable square footage

Want to change my Twitter handle but can’t decide to what

  • “bictolia” is actually quite personal to me – it’s not only a childhood nickname but a bit of a reclaimed one
  • I like that it’s a nod to the Asian American experience growing up between cultures
  • But “bictolia” as a name is complicated 😭 and I worry about misunderstandings – it’s intended to be the transliteration of 빅토리아 and not an “accent” e.g.
  • I might keep it as an IG name but it might be nice to have a more “professional” name for Twitter, as Twitter is no longer really a personal space.
  • Ugh I can’t decide what my new handle should be though. Suggestions welcome!

I’m addicted to this problematic phone game

  • Switching gears to aspects of myself that are more squarely problematic, I’m playing this phone game that I’m not proud of
  • It’s called Palace Rule, it’s basically an idle clicker game + a dress-up game. The dating sim element is p weak but omfg I love the dress-up part!
  • Don’t ask me if I’ve spent money on this game
  • …Don’t ask me how much money I’ve spent on this game
  • When I say I’m addicted: I’m #7 on my server, I’m in the #2 alliance and today marks my 68th consecutive login

2021 intentions

  • Practice clear and honest communication, whether it’s crucial comms or mundane
  • Practice noting and pausing
  • Boundaries
    • My time, my emotions, my effort, my authority, my expertise, my will

Songs stuck in my head

Things I am watching

  • drag race season 13
  • drag race uk season 2
  • It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (finished)