2019 was a year to remember; I transitioned from going to school at UCSD to working full time as a Hardware System Integrator at Apple; I bought my dream car, a Tesla Model 3, learned how to Scuba Dive, Sky Dive, and tried flying a plane for the first time; I celebrated 4 years of a loving relationship with my girlfriend, traveled to South East Asia, and pulled together my high school 5 year reunion. Words can’t even get close to capturing the growth I harvested through the experiences I lived through this year, but I will try my best to capture some of the details and thoughts in this blog.
“Work” got quite serious this year! I committed to taking my first full-time job ever. The 3-month process of job searching was proven fruitful. I was fortunate and am grateful to have had the opportunity to consider Amazon, Qualcomm, Zoox, and Cubert as potential employers.
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Life Update! After 3 months of adventurous funemployment, it’s finally time for me to be a productive member of society again. I’m happy to share with you that I have just joined Apple full-time as a Hardware Design Engineer(aka HW System Integrator) working on cool futuristic stuff! Just send it, and dreams will come true! Also thanks @deenahsaurus the queen👸 for helping me with the move! I’m officially a nerd who lives in the Silicon Valley now! #fullsend #sendit #apple
Why did I choose Apple?
Weighing all aspects, I realized that the one single most important thing that I want in a job right now is the opportunity to learn over salary. In some ways knowledge and experience are not like money, once you have earned it, it’s not going away. At the same time knowledge and experience are also like Money, the sooner you acquire them, the more they will appreciate. Apple was not the highest paying offer, but throughout the interview process, Apple was the only place where I feel genuinely challenged, and the only place where I find the interviewers extremely competent. I knew then that I wanted to surround myself with these folks to start off my career.
I know that I want to eventually build my own company. I’ve tried numerous times and failed 100% of the time in the past. But that is okay because I learned some very valuable lessons from those experiences. One philosophy I picked up presents the following argument. Startups are born in chaos, but they all need to mature into more structured institutions as they scale. If you have only ever done a startup, you will only know how to work in chaos and scramble to meet your goals. On the other hand, if you have a background at a large, established company doing critical work, you will know exactly how to find order in chaos and bring growth. You will have a much clearer mental picture of how to build workflows, assign tasks and roles, manage time and resources. I consider myself a person who thrives in chaos, as demonstrated in my past experience starting clubs and leading student teams, I have the startup gene in my blood. Picking up work experience at a large company’s product system integration team is exactly the compliment I was looking for.
What I like about working
Well first and foremost is gaining financial independence. I no longer have to rely on parent’s support or loans to get by. Having a steady income is fantastic because it not only fulfills most of your spending needs, it also eliminates the anxiety of always getting so close to being broke. With a steady income, I’m now able to make plans towards significant financial goals.
Another thing I love about being a working person is the fact that weekends are sacredly untouched. No more cramming for exams over the weekends. Saturdays and Sundays belong to you and you only and nobody can take that away from you. You can now start to make weekend plans way ahead of time. What having a midterm during Coachella?!
And an obvious awesome reason is that my role at Apple grants me access to the inner working of some of the most successful products in the world. That’s just straight-up wicked cool!
What I miss about being a student
The transition from being a student to a full time working professional provided interesting contrasts for reflection. Having a job forced to adopt routine in a day so that there is enough time left to do all the things I want to do in a day. Work is fast-paced and packed with fun, but can be demanding and stressful at times. I really had to learn how to effectively manage my time from day to day, more than ever before. I also had to learn how to say no to requests. (I have a tendency to sign up more work because they sound cool to work on).
Another thing I do miss about being a student is the ability to skip classes and take days whenever I needed it. I’ve heard people say that flexibility with work is a blessing. I didn’t realize how precious flexibility is until I’ve entered the workforce. Due to the nature of my work, both being a Hardware engineer and being on the system team, working from home or remotely isn’t an option. Though leaves can be granted for appointments and running errands, it simply doesn’t feel like freedom when you have to ask for permission.
Make no mistake, I am very happy that I have moved on from my student life even though I miss certain aspects of it. Life moves forward and this next chapter is looking more and more exciting as I live through it.
I picked up skydiving this year!! It’s the one thing that’s been on my goals list ever since I did my first dive after highschool. In May this year, I started my journey to become a certified skydiver. I opted in for the A-license program, which allows you to jump solo anywhere in the world after completion. I have finished all of my 25 required skydives and just waiting to finish my parachute packing certification now.
Skydiving is such a unique sport, it’s hard to describe the addictive thrill of being able to fly in thin air and maneuver around with ease, it’s the closest thing to actually being a bird. Once the dive is over, you also get to enjoy up to 5 minutes of pure bliss flying a canopy 3000ft above the ground. Being able to hang out high up in the sky really put me in perspective to the massive world around us. Can’t wait to explore more of this planet while falling through the sky 13000ft above ground!
Skiing has been and always will be my main sport! The 2019 season was amazing! I bought a pair of Black Crows Camox as my new kicks and got to ride in fresh powder with them right away. I’m pretty proud of my progress overcoming the fear of big air this year. I spent a bunch of time practicing off of jumps, all worked up to a gnarly cornice drop at the top of Squaw Valley. This season, I wish to get involved with downhill racing and going heli-skiing!
Well, I think it’s pretty apparent now that I have a serious need for speed. I got to fly a plane for the first time this year. Initially, I wanted to scope out the process of getting a private pilot’s license, but after inquiring with my flying coach at the airport I decided it’s going to take too much time and I would pursue the license at another time. Nevertheless, I still got to take the aviation discovery class flying down the beautiful coast of San Diego.
I was quite surprised how much my instructor let me do give I’ve never been on a plane with less than 100 people before. With his supervision, I did a pretty much all the maneuvering including take-off (Of course he didn’t let me land the plane). Getting a pilots license has always been on my list, I wish sometime in the near future I will be able to find the time to actually get it!
Another super amazing and fun sport I picked up this year! I got my open water diver’s license in San Diego in the Spring, and my advanced open water license in Koh Tao, Thailand in November.
Being able to hangout 100ft below the surface is wicked cool! The fish down there are so chill with you being there, it really makes you feel like you’re just hanging out with them. Tuning your buoyancy to match your weight underwater also creates a total weightless experience.
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Scuba diving in Koh Tao was definitely the most memorable part of our trip! Seeing and feeling the world at depth felt almost psychedelic. 20/10 would go back! ✅Advanced Open Water License to 100ft! ✅Meet awesome new friends! ✅Chill by coral reef ✅Get rekt at a ship rek ✅Swim with fish from the cool school One post won’t nearly do it justice so I’ll have to share more later! #scuba #kohtao Nov 21-24,2019
I can only imagine that’s as close I can get to experience being in Space on earth without falling in a plane. NASA trains their astronauts in pools anyway!
Tessy, my Tesla Model 3 Long Range, is Amazing!
She’s fast as hell and will accelerate your organs out of you! (quote Matt) After 9 months of ownership, I still think she is the most amazing car ever! The total cost of charging I’ve had to pay out of pocket is less than $200 for the 12000 miles I’ve driven in Tessy (thanks to free charging at work). Having an extensive supercharger network with my long-range battery gives me zero range anxiety. I’ve even taken her over the high sierras in snowy terrain a few times to go skiing at Mammoth, and she handles all terrains like a champ. I’m grateful and proud of what my ex-employer has created for the world!
Back when I was in high school, I spent 90% of my free time making things and working on side projects. I was so constrained with the time between class and SEDS that I dropped the hobby for nearly 5 years during college. Well, that has changed. The regular working schedule gave me back guaranteed free time. I spend on average 20-30 hours a week working on my side projects. Probably went through 5kg of 3d printing filaments this year. I don’t want to go into too much detail on them before they are complete since they are still evolving. There definitely will be more detailed blogs about those projects once they are in good shape!
Thanks to the health realization I had in 2019, 2019 was the healthiest year I lived since high school. You all know what the college lifestyle can do to your body. Not only you get fat, but your body also suffers from bad diets, bad sleeping schedules, constant stress, and emotional turmoil. The obligation of going to work each morning drives you towards establishing a routine. Although I’m far from being able to say I have a routine that I can be proud of, I do have one that works for me. And having this regularity has helped me with eating, sleeping, and exercising.
The working day makes eating regular meals on time much easier, whereas before I could go so long without eating a meal then all of a sudden I would get hungry and binge eat a large meal. In addition to being able to eat more predictably, I have also been doing the ketogenic diet on and off since October of 2018. Keto is the only diet I have been able to maintain for a significant amount of time. It really works its magic when the craving for carbs goes away a few days into the diet. Combined with moderate exercising this year, I have been able to maintain my weight at ~170-175 lbs throughout the year.
I must note that I have a lot of work to do on improving my actually-making-it-to-the-gym rate, as well as fixing my sleeping schedule so I don’t always stay up so late. Oh well, most days I still find myself having more stuff to do than the hours I have.
Here are the cool books I got to read in 2019. I didn’t get to read as many as last year when I spent so much time driving around listening to audiobooks. Gotta pick up the slack in 2020!
I love the concept of the book! It resonated with me particularly well because I consider myself a methodical thinker, even when it comes to day to day life decisions. The book went over algorithmic concepts like sorting, searching, caching and applies them to daily lives. It provides both a very practical framework for you to systematically break down seemingly complex problems in life, as well as an applicable set of habits to adopt that optimizes different aspects of your life.
Oh man, this was one hell of a story. The writer went into such amazing details to cover the entire story of Therano’s rise and fall. If the book’s goal was to paint Elizabeth Holmes as the biggest lying piece of work on the face of the planet, well, it did the trick on me. The story also served as a striking wakeup call of how far fake hype can get before reality catches on. A relevant irony for the silicon valley today. Amazing story, highly recommended
An all-time classic, now I know why I must carry a towel with me at all times!
If you want a crash course on Anthropology, this would be the book. Don’t be fooled by its title, it’s NOT a history book. Rather it examines the development of the human race as well as the society we live in at a very fundamental level. I really liked how the breadth of subjects this book covered and how it strung an array of different subjects into one continuous timeline of human development.
I’m still working on The Signal and the Noise, I’ll write a few comments on it once I’m finished.
2019 is my most active year in the market to-date. After all, I guess it was not a bad time to be in the market when S&P500 itself rallied 25%.
My retail portfolio only slightly outperformed S&P500, by a slight 2.15%. This comes to show how true Warren Buffet’s advice is. Investing in the S&P500 index is investing in the fundamental strength of the American economy. I actually spent a decent amount of time watching the market, picking stocks, and attempted to trade options. None of these activities seemed to pay off as consistently nor as generously at the S&P index. The mediocre performance of my portfolio won’t discourage my learning more and more about the market and the economic forces that power it. From this year’s experience, I think I will be keeping a good percentage of my stocks in the index fund in the upcoming years of investing.
Another field of investing I plan to dip my toe in is the world of quant trading (aka algo trading). I’m a firm believer that machines can be much more effective at analyzing the financial performance of companies and judge their value if it is fed with the right data.
Besides the countless short weekend trips to LA, SD, Seattle, and Vancouver, I got to spend a month overseas this year! 2 weeks in Shanghai, and 2 weeks in Thailand, and a day in Singapore. Since I grew up in China and have been to Thailand before, Singapore was the only new country off my scratch map. Gotta say, Singapore gave off straight up utopian vibes.
Oh my, time really flies once you’re past 21. It’s amazing how the lack of a developmental milestone can change your perception of time so much. This shows how important it is to set “milestones” for yourself. Here are the goals I set for myself for this past year.
- Work a fulfilling job, keep up the entrepreneurial aspirations
- Check. I’m happy with my job, but still are spending time outside of work exploring side projects and potential startup ideas
- Grow my network in the startup world
- Half, I only went to a handful of events but didn’t really make any new meaningful connections. I can’t let myself get contempt in a big company and lose touch with the real world out there
- Attend at least 2 tech conferences, no much how expensive
- Nope, I completely failed at this one. I must defer it as a goal for 2020.
- Ski Hangman’s without hesitation
- Check, went shredding hard for the season. Not only I skied hangman with style, but I also managed to huck off a huge cornice
- Learn backflip on a tramp, get over the fear
- Nope, gotta do it this year!
- Resume my hobby, build more hardware!
- Check, hell yeah! My maker hobby made a full comeback this year, I spend up to 20 hours a week working on side projects and making stuff.
- Pick up a new outdoorsy hobby
- Check, Scuba diving, sky diving. I feel closer to mother nature than ever
- Maintain 15% body fat
- Half, I managed to drop my BF% from 26% to 17% this year, but not quite at 15% yet. Still more work to do!
- Run a 7-minute mile
- Nope, well, I guess I didn’t really run outdoors at all this year. That will change!
- But, I managed to top Yosemite’s 4-mile trail under 2 hours, pretty darn proud of myself for that! (4.7 miles, 3200ft, sustained ~500W output over 2 hrs)
- Nope, well, I guess I didn’t really run outdoors at all this year. That will change!
- Go on a trip with mom and pop
- Nope, It’s a shame that I don’t live in the same country as my family. This is a reminder for me to set aside time to spend the the fam.
And here’s a cliche ending, but I gotta say it. I can’t wait what 2020 has in store for the world, the people I care about, and my mind, body, and soul!