Category: Personal

  • It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…

    I posted this reflection on our internal blog on my 10 year work anniversary in August:

    Back at the end of July 2011, I had just returned to Rochester, NY from WordCamp Boston, which had been more of an incidental happening while in Boston for other reasons, and was looking at Twitter for the first time in a while because that seemed to be the thing that all these WordPress people were doing – hashtagging and tweeting about things. At that moment, I was holed up in our bedroom while my husband had taken over our living room with 3 other doctoral music students, all of them studying feverishly for comprehensive exams before each of them headed off to a different state for their first professorship. In our case, we were headed to Wichita, Kansas, and because it was only a one-year position, it was time for something new to ground us. For me, I knew I needed to find one of those remote jobs I had started to hear about because my job as a mid-level PHP/MySQL web applications developer at the music conservatory where I had also previously been a student couldn’t really move with me.

    I saw a retweet from Brad Williams (remember when retweets were a manual copy-paste where we would type RT @whoever at the beginning?) from a @jakemgold saying that he was looking to hire a full-time WordPress developer to work from anywhere. I didn’t know who Jake was, and only followed Brad because he had co-written a book I found helpful, but it seemed serendipitous in the way I have a tendency to believe in and follow. So I messaged Jake, set up a call for later that day, told the living room study group “I think I have a job interview later”, did the interview, and then told the same group “I… think I have a new job?” If you know anything about how involved the music academia hiring process is, you’ll know that I was not very popular with our friends that day.

    So we moved to Kansas and on Monday, August 15, 2011 I started as a Web Engineer at 10up. As it so happened, I was the first full-time hire! I knew absolutely nothing about working at an agency, or what caching in WordPress was, or anything about Git besides that it was confusing (it is still frequently confusing, to be fair, but at least now I usually know what went wrong), or really much of anything that we take nearly for granted today. It was me, Jake, and a TechCrunch-focused contractor named Luke who some of you may still remember. In the literal decade since, we’ve grown to almost 300 people looking at revenue in the 8 figures, I’ve been through several title and role changes, grown two humans myself, and became one of 5 lead developers on that piece of software we were always building on top of, going from 13% to more than 42% market share, all with the steadfast support of Jake and 10up at large.

    At this point, you probably have a feeling about where this is going: yes, it’s time. I have wrapped up my long tenure at 10up and will be taking on my next challenge in the new year, after a little breather.

    Once upon a time, if you asked Jake Goldman who the dream “we made it” client would be, he would have said “The White House”. And wouldn’t you know it, just as I hit a fresh global-pandemic-enhanced round of “what am I even doing with my life” late in 2020, the opportunity to work on the actual White House site for the Biden-Harris Administration and bring my ideal vision for a visually-driven editing experience to life basically fell into our laps. We absolutely killed it – I am beyond pleased with the outcomes, and learned so much in the process. Yet despite all the things I know we can do from here for our clients and for each other in the WordPress development space, I have found myself ready to close this chapter of my working life. It’s the capstone I didn’t know I was looking for.

    If I’m being fully honest with myself, I’ve been on the path to this decision for more than two years. Part of my success in WordPress as an open source project has been that I’m generally comfortable with living in the in-between before making a decision, while still disliking the indecision enough to make sure I keep moving toward an end point. And that’s what happened here – I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay but wasn’t ready to leave 10up yet either, for whatever reason. I even took a 3 month break, barely touched a computer, looked at other jobs, and came right back. Maybe I felt like I needed that one last hurrah, maybe I hadn’t fully accepted that I would be leaving a large group of people whose company I deeply value, maybe some spidey sense was telling me that I should just wait a bit longer because something was going to happen. In hindsight I see that a really big thing did happen – I returned from my sabbatical in March 2020, just in time to see the world grind to a halt, where the changes in home life were incredibly disruptive in a way that would not have gone well on top of a new job.

    In one last showing of why it’s been so hard to imagine leaving my beloved coworkers, my teammates Jeff Paul, Darin Kotter, and Tung Du, with an outside assist from Mel Choyce, surprised me with a WordPress block plugin they had created in my honor: a fully functional Winamp player you can insert into your content. Mel even designed custom skins inspired by my keyboards and general aesthetics for somebody to implement someday soon. You better believe I cried when they showed me 😭 There’s nowhere better than 10up if you’re into WordPress, so you know I can’t leave without one last reminder that “10up is hiring” and it should be your top pick for this type of work. I mean, just look at these!

    As for what this means for my work with WordPress, I honestly don’t know! I’m still me, the same thinker and holder of many years of knowledge and history, and whether my job sponsors me or not I am still able to contribute to WordPress. I do know that over the last few years I have not been nearly as active as I once was, and am happy to continue to background support the people who currently do the bulk of the work to be their best selves without focusing on whether my title of “lead developer” is still important or chasing some concept of legacy. I don’t think I want to work on WordPress itself full-time again, and I think that should be okay – I have ideas and wants, but no real drive to manifest them myself anymore. I feel very good about the current direction of the project (yes, especially the editor) and the wonderfully smart and kind people who work on it, and am thankful to have been a part of such a great community and project for such a long time. You definitely have not seen the last of me – after two years without, I’m ready to hang out with all of you at a WordCamp again, hopefully in the near future.

    I am incredibly proud of everything I’ve accomplished at 10up and with WordPress, who I’ve become and who we’ve become, but I’m missing something. It’s an honor to be able to shape what WordPress developers do and how we think about things like the critical nature of open source and the intersection of UX and development, but I want to learn and to coach again, the way I did when I was still a musician. That’s not to say I couldn’t do that in my current surroundings, but my instinct is telling me that I need to explore this in the broader tech product space, and in a way that isn’t quite so publicly visible. I have signed an offer to be an engineering manager for a great team doing the kind of work I love, so I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction now and am deeply at peace with my decision to do something new, but I’ll leave that reveal for my first first-day in over a decade. 🙂

  • Remember when we used to read each other’s individual blogs? I miss that.

  • Looking back on 2018

    Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how for all the (terrible) posting I do online, I still consider myself a relatively private person. Knowing where I went to high school and when I graduated isn’t going to help you figure out my passwords or security question answers anyway, but I don’t mean that kind of privacy. Specifically, I avoid sharing anything that I feel could be weaponized against me and/or my family. Things like my hopes and dreams, my kids’ faces and names, the ins and outs of my relationships with friends and family. Which means I think you’ll find all of one annual introspection post from me from several years ago – I love reading them from other people and celebrating their accomplishments with them across the internet, but I generally don’t share back.

    2018 was a big year for me though, and really what I’m doing right now is writing a post so that I can unpack it all for myself before deciding whether I’m comfortable sharing about it. Here we go.

  • What’s in my bag: makeup edition

    What’s in my bag: makeup edition
    Pictured is my current (August 2017) makeup kit. Since I work from home, I don’t wear makeup daily, but even when I did, I always kept it very basic. I think it’s a combination of being a little lazy, a little impatient, and a lot of not knowing what I’m doing. Generally, I like to keep it all portable, which means using smaller items and as few tools as possible. So here’s what’s in there, going something like top-down, left-right.
    1. Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash in black: This mascara really does curl enough for me to skip the eyelash curler. My eyelashes are not long so they don’t really curl all that much anyway. I don’t use mascara all the time but when I do, this is it. Shout out to my teen sister for turning me on to it.
    2. NYX Wonder Stick in Universal: This is perhaps not the longest-lasting product, but the compact packaging is great and the colors work well for me as an East Asian. The dark end blends out pretty well and the highlighter end has a bit of shimmer to it.
    3. Julep CTRL + Z Eye Makeup Eraser: This is a portable lifesaver when going for that perfect winged eyeliner. At home you can also use a cotton swab and your usual eye makeup remover but that doesn’t work well on the go. As with anything that can remove waterproof makeup though, you have to wipe off any oily residue before continuing or else it will make everything smear. I got this in one of my Julep boxes so haven’t tried other similar products – I love their nail polish so I get boxes sometimes and their forays into beauty products have been pretty good.
    4. Glossier Boy Brow in black: This is perfect for people like me who can’t figure out how to fill in their brows with powder or pencil and feel like they look overdone with totally filled in brows anyway. Haven’t had any problems with it rubbing off.
    5. Julep When Pencil Met Gel eyeliner in blackest black: Another find from Julep’s boxes, this has become my favorite pencil. It goes on smoothly and doesn’t smudge more than anything else does. All eyeliners smudge for me unless I use an eyelid primer and sometimes even then, seems to be some combination of monolid and oily eyelids. I use this for quick daily looks.
    6. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in black: So good. Stays put (over primer), sharp edges, very black (over primer) (have I mentioned eyelid primer enough yet). I use this for winged eyeliner – I could use it for a more subdued look but because it makes for sharp edges it’s a lot more precision work than I want to deal with all the time.
    7. Dual ended eyeshadow brush: I don’t know where I got this or what brand it is – probably in an Ipsy bag or something. The fluffier end is great for doing a base layer of eyeshadow, and the stiffer pointed end is great for shading or setting eyeliner.
    8. Tarte Limited Edition Tarteist Sculpt & Slim Contour Brush: I love this brush and it’s too bad it’s no longer made – the bigger end has a fan shape that makes application almost foolproof but is thick enough to actually pick up a good amount of product. It works extremely well for powder bronzer and blush. The smaller end is stiffer with an almost flat end and is perfect for blending out contouring.
    9. Milk Makeup Lip + Cheek in Perk: I only use this as blush but it is the most perfect blush I’ve ever used. I’m bad about putting on face lotion so it helps moisturize, and it’s the perfect color for me. It gives me a dewy and very natural-looking “I was just working out” kind of color and finish. Also awesome that I don’t need any tools to put it on although sometimes I will blend it out a little more with my fingers.
    10. Julep Your Lip Addiction tinted lip oil in Obsessed: I actually have this in all the colors but this is the most versatile on me – doesn’t really come out as red so much as enhances my natural lip color. It just kind of smells like oil (no added fragrance) and the color doesn’t stick around (not a stain) but it’s very hydrating.
    11. Milk Makeup Oil Lip Stain in Vibes: This looks like a very light pink in the tube but it stains a pretty vibrant hot pink. Sometimes I need more hydration without more stain though, so I keep both this and a Julep oil around. And maybe balm too. Who knows.
    12. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: I don’t actually use foundation and still haven’t bothered to figure it out, but even just the slight blurring effect this primer has is very nice, and it helps concealer and contour stay in place without them caking up.
    13. Boo-Boo Cover-Up healing concealer in medium: I got this as a sample somewhere and it is awesome. Good coverage, good color, and allegedly it heals the things I’m covering up.
    14. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in original: In my photo this is the tube with a little paper label that says “Eye Primer”. This is because I love this stuff so much I bought a super big tube so I transfer some into this tiny tube for carrying around. Without this primer, nothing stays put on my eyelids. With it, everything stays put all day.
    15. Urban Decay De-Slick in a Tube: Apparently no longer made, but it’s great for making mattifying and closing up pores. You can feel it tightening everything up, even. I use it on my nose, especially when hormones are acting up. I guess I’ll have to look for a replacement eventually.
    16. Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer in Park Ave Princess: Their popular shimmery version is too shimmery for me, so I use the matte one. Works really well for cheek contouring.
    17. Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Eyeshadow Palette Volume II: I think it’s interesting that so many reviews say the color payoff isn’t good as it seems fine to me, but I don’t really go for opaque shadow so I probably just don’t know the difference. I find that it doesn’t go on particularly well with a brush but works great with a finger. The colors all work well for me.
    I don’t know if I’ll be making a video of myself doing makeup at any point, but here’s a monolid makeup tutorial that I found super helpful! If you ever want to get lost in a YouTube hole, start watching Korean makeup videos. These people do some mind-blowing things.
  • Writing my given Chinese name, feeling like I’m back in Chinese School.