SakuraCon 2019!

This weekend I went to Sakura Con at the Washington Convention Center!

It was my first time at the convention, and I had a really nice experience! There were so many interesting panels that were being hosted, a really good lineup of other kinds of activities (like arts & crafts, a manga library, and an open karaoke room), and a ton of really awesome cosplay!!

 

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There was also a karaoke contest at Sakuracon, and it was pretty fun watching the contestants perform! : )

There was also a pretty extensive exhibitionist center where a lot of people were selling official merchandise from different randoms, as well as an artists’ gallery where artists were displaying their different artwork ๐Ÿ™‚ The exhibitionist center had a lot more stalls and merchants than the artists’ gallery, but they were both really fun to browse through!

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One of my favorite stalls from artist’s gallery! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

There were so many people at the convention, and I particularly noticed that Saturday was the most popular, which made sense since most people have to go to work on weekdays and Sunday is more of a rest day than anything else ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Overall, SakuraCon was a really nice experience! At times it was a little overwhelming because there were so many people, but I really enjoyed attending the different panels and admiring the different cosplays present at the convention ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not sure if I’ll attend it again next year, but it was a super great weekend! Next year I think I’m going to attend Emerald City Comic-Con and I’m already looking forward to it! โค

 

 

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Beacon Food Forest

The past weekend I spent my Saturday volunteering at the Beacon Food Forest! They refer to themselves as the BFF, which I thought was sweet ๐Ÿ™‚

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The Beacon Food Forest is an entirely community-driven park in the Beacon Hill area of Seattle and its goal is to create an edible urban forest garden where locals can come harvest crops, take classes on how to start their own gardens, and volunteer in many different ways to give back to the community.

Apparently they have committees that meet fairly regularly to determine what type of work needs to be done to maintain the forest and also decide which crops to plant, but I think the coolest part about the food forest is that it’s entirely driven by the community. Even the money to fund the forest comes from the neighborhood’s budget for community improvements, and most of the work that’s done is done by community members or volunteers who are just interested in helping out : D

 

I was there volunteering with my Seattle Teamworks group, a group that volunteers at a different location once a month for 4 months (more information about Seattle Teamworks here!), but apparently BFF hosts a volunteer party every 3rd Saturday of the month where anyone’s welcome to help out with the forest ๐Ÿ™‚

I could really tell that they had done this multiple times before because the day went really smoothly and they had a lot of different kinds of projects that volunteers could choose from, such as creating mounds for the new round of crops, making compost piles (the first ones for the year!), weeding and pruning, and building new walls for an expansion of the food forest.

Around noon, the core volunteer committee serves a vegan homemade lunch (that was super yummy!!!) and everyone takes a break to just socialize and talk to other volunteers :D. There’s also coffee and tea that volunteers can drink throughout the day too if they ever need a break or just want to hang around the water cooler for a bit haha.

I worked on creating some new trellises for the DNA Helix part of the food forest (named as such because of the way the irrigation pipes criss cross each other), and there was some leftover bamboo at the end so I took some pieces home to try make something out of it and ended up making a little soap holder ๐Ÿ˜€

Overall, I think the concept of the BFF is super cool and I love how much emphasis they put on forming a community and also building a sustainable food forest. I could just picture lots of families coming to the garden during the spring and summer seasons to pick some harvests and also school field trips to learn more about where food comes from and how they grow; it’s a great mission. : )

 

 

Skiing on Crystal Mountain!

Over the past weekend, I went on a ski trip to Crystal Mountain! Some really good friends from Austin and Portland also joined us and having them there really made it a blast ๐Ÿ˜€

The last time I’d skied was around 7 years ago. I used to go with my family fairly often, but ever since I started college I don’t think we’ve been to a ski resort except to maybe just enjoy the view of the mountains and stay at a cozy winter lodge, haha ๐Ÿ™‚

I only know how to ski, but on the first day of the trip I actually decided to rent a snowboard because I wanted to give something new a try :0! Before I left for the trip, one of my coworkers told me that I’d be falling a lot, but that was definitely an understatement – I was falling on my knees and butt every few feet down the bunny slope, and for a while I had a really hard time figuring out how to get back up after a fall or even how to move forward after getting back up from a fall :/.

I had a lot of fun learning how to snowboard though, and by the end of the day I wasn’t falling as often which was awesome ๐Ÿ˜€ But eventually I got tired of getting bruised so I switched over to skiing so that I could start going on the higher slopes ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Overall, I had a really nice time on this ski trip – it was really great spending the weekend with people I cared about and enjoyed spending time with, learning something new by trying out snowboarding, and getting better at skiing! I went on my longest run ever with the combination of the Forest Queen route and Quicksilver, and I didn’t fall down once which I was pretty happy about :3

 

Here are some tips if you’re planning/interested in taking a trip to Crystal Mountain!

Driving Over

The drive over was really nice! Initially we were worried there might be too much snow on the road, which would’ve been a problem for us since none of us really knew how to drive in the snow, but fortunately the weather and roads were both all nice and clear! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Clear roads and skies all weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

On the way to Crystal Mountain, we passed a city called Enumclaw, where we saw a “Log Show” – basically there was a big log in the middle of what looked like a little baseball field where you could sit and watch the log from some bleachers. It was interesting XD

Staying at Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain has 3 or 4 different options for lodging, and they’re all at the base of the mountain with convenient locations. There is also another lodge that is fairly close to the resort called Alta Crystal Resort that has a little grocery store which is super nice.

The lodge we stayed at, Quicksilver Lodge, didn’t allow people to cook in their rooms. This was pretty lame because it pretty much forced you to eat at the restaurants at the ski resort. To get around having to eat at the restaurants for all our meals, we packed a bunch of snacks that didn’t require any/much cooking, such as fruit, some bakery items, and a lot of cup noodles :3. One night we did have a really nice dinner experience at The Snorting Elk, one of the main restaurants at the resort – I really recommend their Face Plant drink, it was really yummy!

The lodge itself was pretty cozy, especially the lounge area in the middle of the second floor! There was a very cozy fireplace (which also was almost too extremely effective in warming up the entire lounge), a lot of comfy seating, and some board games that you could play with your friends/family :).

The rooms were pretty spacious but the loft rooms, which were the ones we were staying at, have a really weird layout where the first floor is a mix of a bunch of things.

It was a good space for all of us though, so I can’t really complain too much! ๐Ÿ™‚

Renting Equipment

If you’re planning on renting equipment while you’re at Crystal Mountain, there’s a conveniently located rental shop right at the base of the mountain. They rent out both ski and snowboard equipment, and I think they rent out clothes as well – if you don’t have goggles or gloves though, you’ll have to buy them at the equipment store upstairs since they don’t rent out those :(.

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With the rentals, if you’re borrowing them for more than one day, then you have the option of doing a multi-day rental instead of a single-day rental. The multi-day rental is useful because it allows you to hold on to your rented equipment for multiple days instead of returning them at the end of each day and then having to rent them again at the start of the next day. The rental assistant told me that it’s the same price as doing daily rentals so if you’re going to be needing rental equipment for more than one day in a row then there’s really no reason to not get a multi-day rental ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

In general, I kind of enjoyed the intimate nature of the experience at Crystal Mountain. It is a lot smaller than the ski resorts I’ve been to before, but the small scale of the resort lended itself to a cozier atmosphere, and it was a lot easier to find and meet up with each other after we’d come down a slope ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope these tips help in planning a trip to Crystal Mountain, and as always please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions! ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a safe ski season everybody!

 

Advocating for Women In Tech

A couple of events happened over the course of last two weeks that got me really thinking about how much I’ve grown and learned since I started working at my new company, which was about 9 months ago.
In the past 9 months, I’ve learned so much from working with a lot of technologies and tools that were new to me, and I’m really happy about the opportunities that I’ve had so far. But the area of growth that I’m most proud of is a change in my mindset when facing uncertainties and an increase in self-confidence in my skills and validity of opinions.

I don’t know what it is specifically about working in STEM, but a lot of women in the industry, especially early on in their careers, have a tendency to have lower self-confidence levels compared to other men they work with. I also definitely felt that way when I was first starting out my career; I would have times when I didn’t want to speak in meetings because I didn’t think my ideas were that great or times when I would let someone else take my idea and present it in front of people because I was worried that if I did I would expose the gaps in my knowledge or understanding of how something works.

It also didn’t help that I was one of the two women on the dev team at the time, and I was often passed up by managers when looking for people to lead bigger initiatives or work on projects with higher visibility to upper management, despite my repeated attempts to have more responsibility at work and requests for bigger opportunities. Both of these things perpetuated a negative feedback loop where I felt frustrated about being glossed over by management, which would then make me believe that they were right in thinking that I wasn’t good enough to work on bigger, more complicated things, which in turn just made me feel worse about myself and my competency.

But now I don’t feel or think that way. Granted, there might be times here and there where I find myself hesitating before saying something or making sure I have all my ducks in a row before doing something, but that’s just part of who I am and what makes me feel comfortable. But rarely do I find myself doubting my own self or comparing myself to others and thinking that I’m not good enough to contribute to discussions or meetings.

 

There are lots of different factors that have helped me reach the state that I am in now, but I would say that most of them boil down to two main things:

None of my coworkers make me feel like I have to prove myself or feel dumb for asking questions; instead, they’re always willing to teach me things or explain concepts, specifically in the way that I learn best.

My company has a culture that’s really focused on life-long learning, which means that everyone is always curious and interested in something. Itย also means that at any given point, there are going to be people who are really knowledgeable about a certain topic that others aren’t, or people who are interested in learning about something and looking for some mentorship from experts in the field at the company.

A big aspect of our learning culture is actually about being a coach to others through teaching or mentoring, and there’s a big emphasis in coaching others in the way they would best understand it. So if someone is a visual learner and you are trying to explain system architecture, draw it out! Or if someone prefers face-to-face communication but you personally prefer messaging over Slack, go talk to them and explain things in person!

The reason for this is because we want to maximize the efficiency of learning and communication; after all, you can say or do all the things you think you should do, but if the recipient just isn’t getting it then what is it except for a big waste of time?

This sort of culture has really helped me feel comfortable in being open about things I don’t know or asking for help with things I want to know, and everyone has been so great about taking the time to teach me or explain how things work to me, something that I’m super grateful for.

Not only does fostering a culture where people are not afraid to say they don’t know something and feel comfortable in asking for help really go a long way in making sure everyone feels secure, it also helps senior devs and managers fill in the gaps in understanding of the people they mentor since now they’re privy to the extent of understanding of their mentees.
I’ve met many other people who were vulnerable and told me that they’d felt the same feelings of self-doubt and low self-confidence, but most importantly, I heard this from both other women and other men.

I didn’t realize how much this helped in boosting my self-confidence until I really thought about what I wanted to write in this post, but let me tell you, it really,ย reallyย helped.

Prior to working at my new company, I’d never met anyone who said they had the same worries and fears that I had regarding their competency and confidence in themselves. I’d always felt like everyone knew what they were doing, or if they didn’t know exactly what they were doing, they at least had a pretty good understanding of the basic concepts underlying different things.

At my new company though, suddenly I was hearing a lot of phrases like “I’m not following your explanation, could you say that again?” or “Did that explanation make sense to you? Let me know if anything didn’t make sense and we can try to go over it again.” I was also hearing a lot of encouraging remarks from senior devs and mentors, such as “Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something; our job is to help you grow and succeed at your job, so if we don’t know what you don’t know then we won’t be very good at helping!”

To give a very concrete example, I had a 1-on-1 with the manager of my project, and when I asked him for some feedback on how I could continue to grow on the project, he said something like:

“To put it bluntly, don’t let your inhibitions get in the way of achieving things. I know you think Bob and Larry (names edited for privacy, lol) have more technical expertise or knowledge than you, butย that doesn’t matter! There’s a lot more to being good at this job than being the most technical person in the room or being the “smartest” person in the room; I know you can do it so you shouldn’t let yourself hold you back >:(“

I’d already been feeling pretty good about my current state of mind and level of self-confidence, but hearing something like that from him wasย so nice to hear and I really appreciated his trust in my potential ๐Ÿ™‚

 

If you are a woman in tech, or in any industry, really, and feel uncertain in yourself from time to time, I think that’s totally normal and isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it may motivate you to expand your understanding of something or pursue knowledge of a specific subject, both of which are awesome things! But if your lack of confidence in yourself prohibits you from voicing your ideas or makes you feel negatively about yourself, I reallyย really want to emphasize that what you feel, other people feel too.

True, you may not know everything about everything or be an expert in anything yet, but that’s totally fine! Nobody! is an expert about everything in everything and there are a ton of people out there who don’t know what you know or have what you have, so feel proud in your achievements thus far and switch your focus to appreciating the knowledge youย do have and maybe on the things youย want to have ๐Ÿ™‚

Experiences with Homeshare

For those of you who don’t know, I live in Seattle! I recently saw an article online saying how while Seattle doesn’t want to become the next San Francisco in terms of cost of living and housing, a lot ofย other cities don’t want to become the next Seattle with its rapid rise in cost of living and housing in the recent years.

When I first moved to Seattle from Dallas, I was definitely shocked by how little apartment (and of pretty bad quality) I could get in Seattle with the same amount of money I could pay in Dallas for a nice apartment.

Another problem I had in trying to find a place to live when I first moved to Seattle was that I didn’t know many people in the city who I would want to live with/ask to be my roommates :(.

I tried looking for existing housing situations that I could just join as a roommate or find potential roommates through platforms like Facebook and Craigslist, but most of the listings were either for places that weren’t super great or there were too many roommates or even worse, actually looking forย literal roommates (“Looking for someone to share a room with me for $500/mo!” – no).

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Enter Homeshare! I randomly stumbled on their website while looking for affordable housing options in Seattle (I’m pretty sure my Google query was “cheap nice apartments Seattle” and it ended more as a question than a demand), and I am really glad that I found their site!

To put it simply, Homeshare is a company that partners with luxury apartments in cities that are known for high cost of living, specifically luxury apartments that have a lot of common spaces and amenities, and lower the rent for everyone in the apartment by putting a partition in the living room and renting it out as a bedroom. This helps subsidize the rent for everyone in the apartment, since now 3 people are sharing the rent cost of a 2 person apartment.

Each type of room has a different monthly rent, with the partitioned room (or what Homeshare calls the “converted” room) being the cheapest and the master bedroom (the bedroom with a bathroom) being the most expensive.

Homeshare also provides roommate matching, where they ask everyone to fill out a living habit and roommate preference questionnaire. Once they get your questionnaire response, they try their best to match you with roommates who are of similar personalities or has similar interests as you.

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Batik Apartments

Thanks to Homeshare, I was able to find some roommates that I ended up getting along pretty well with, and a really nice apartment that I definitely enjoy living in. My two favorite things about the situation is are that I get to live in an apartment that’s really nice but also super close to work, and I don’t pay that much in monthly rent โค !

If you’re someone who wouldn’t mind (or even enjoy) living with random people and want to pay affordable rent for a nice apartment, then I definitely recommend checking out Homeshare and signing up for a tour (<– this is my referral link for Homeshare)!

Homeshare currently has apartments in these locations:

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If you have any questions or want to hear more about my experience at using Homeshare, leave me a comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

UPDATE: Homeshare no longer provides bill payments through their Portal, announcement that was fairly abrupt. They have also had other experiences with being very disorganized and unprofessional, so as such I would not recommend it as much as I previously did.

Seattle YMCA

So I’ve been going to the YMCA for the past 5 months, since I first signed up for a membership in October. To be honest, I really love the YMCA! I had a few co-workers at back in Dallas who would go to the YMCA (affectionately referred to as the ‘Y’) during lunch breaks to get their exercise in for the day, so since then I’d been curious about what programs and group classes offered at the Y.

The specific Y that I am a regular member at is the one in downtown Seattle, which is conveniently located right across the street from the Central Library, an awesome convenience for me since I also happen to really love going to the library too XD.

My favorite part about the YMCA is that it really fosters a sense of community. I haven’t been to many other gyms before but the few times I have been to classes at other places, my experience generally has been more of an in-and-out kind of thing where I go to a class, exercise really hard (or sometimes just listen to the instructor say supportive things while lying on my back lol), and then go home.

The experience I’ve been having at the Y has been pretty different though; the front-desk people always are ready to greet people as they come in to the gym, and periodically ask you how you’re workouts/classes are going and if you have questions or comments. They even sent me a welcome postcard when I first joined the gym with the picture of all the YMCA staff as the cover of the postcard, which I thought was a very personalized touch ๐Ÿ˜€

 

Aside from the sense of community at the Y, I also have been really enjoying taking the group classes at the center. One of the main reasons I joined a gym was to take group classes and have an instructor tell me what exercises I should be doing, and the Y definitely has not disappointed me in this area :D! The group class schedule also changes a bit each month, which creates a bit of variety and interest every month.

If you’re somebody who’s more interested in just going to the gym and doing workouts on your own or want to play pick-up sports games, the Y also has those available as well as a swimming pool for people who like to swim as their workout ๐Ÿ™‚

 

The YMCA’s membership might be slightly more expensive then usual gyms like 24 Hour Fitness or Gold’s Gym, but I think the number of facilities and the friendly staff really make it worth it. The YMCA also offers sliding scale payments/financial assistance if that is an option that you are interested in.

 

If you’re interested in giving the Y a try, the Seattle branches offer 3-day guest passes that you can use while deciding if the YMCA is the gym for you! : )

Spain Travel Tips!

If you’re planning a trip to Spain, here’s some stuff I would’ve found useful if I had known before my trip to Spain for Thanksgiving ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Water

I didn’t know this but water is not free at restaurants like it is in the US. If you ask for water, the waiter will usually give you an opened glass bottle of water with a cup to pour it into. You also have the option of asking for itย con gas o sin gas, whereย con gas is sparkling water andย sin gas is just normal mineral water (if you get sparkling water they’ll also put in a lemon slice in your cup! :D).

The typical price for water was around 1~2 euros, which was pretty similar to the price of other beverages such as sangria or beer, so it’s your choice on if you want a drink or just plain water ๐Ÿ™‚ !

 

Car Rentals

In Europe, manual drive cars are more common than automatic, which you’ll see reflected in car rental companies. We made a mistake of accidentally booking a manual car and my poor dad had to do most of the driving during our trip because he was the only one who could drive a stick shift, but even when we tried to switch to an automatic car there just weren’t that many options available in the rental parking lot.

If you’re someone who can only drive an automatic (or going in a group of people who can only drive an automatic) then definitely double-check your car rental reservation to make sure that’s what you’re getting!

 

Menu del Dia

A lot of restaurants had this thing calledย Menu del Dia, which is essentially a course meal that usually includes 1 drink, a choice out of first course options, a choice out of second course options, and a dessert or coffee. These were really good ways for us to try a bunch of different kinds of foods because the options for the courses are usually pretty solid (around 4~5 options for each course). The best part was that they were really affordable too, usually within the range of 9~12 euros/pax.

 

Restaurant Hours

A lot of restaurants, especially in less touristy cities, have some hours that might not be familiar to some people. The typical hours of operation would look like this:

Lunch Time: 1pm – 4:30pmย 

Closed for Break

Dinner Time: 8pm – 11pm

If you’re in a place that mostly has restaurants that operate on a schedule such as this, try to plan accordingly; it took us quite a bit of time to get used to the different schedules!

 

Cost of Traveling

Overall, the cost of things in Spain seemed a lot lower than they did here in the US. At grocery stores, the prices of produce, especially fruit, were significantly lower (ex. 1.5 euro for one pomegranate, 1 euro/lb of really really yummy oranges). Seafood was also super affordable; we bought 1kg of mussel clams for 2.5 euros and whole lobsters for 8.5 euros each, both total steals!

Eating at restaurants was also pretty cheap; the typical meal for our family of 4 would be in the range of 40~60 euros. The only thing that can get kind of expensive is if you’re at aย tapas place – theย tapas serving sizes are pretty small and difficult to get really full on unless you order a lot, which can add up pretty quickly. It is also not customary to tip at restaurants, but if you really enjoyed someone’s service then I believe it’s not an offensive thing to tip somebody :).

 

ยกBuen viaje!