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Getting an LLC Up-and-Running in Two Weeks

If you have been following my posts, you know that I recently talked to a business owner, who had been interested in hiring me a contractor. He still wanted to hire me, but there was an obstacle, I had to create a LLC (Limited Liability Company) instead of Sole Proprietorship.

The main difference between a single-person LLC and a sole proprietorship is that an LLC protects your personal assets if you are sued. It separates your personal and company assets. Most entrepreneurs (and online forums) have recommended using an LLC company structure instead of a sole proprietorship. I founded a sole proprietorship in July, because I just wanted to overcome the (daunting) obstacle of “having a business.”

However, motivated by the potential to make money, I figured out how to create an LLC quickly.

  1. Apply to the Washington Secretary of State
  2. Grimace at the $200 cost of filing with the Washington Secretary of State
  3. Get a new EIN (employee identification number) (Note: I didn’t do this and realized that I needed to because my old EIN for the sole proprietorship may not work for the LLC since the name is different)
  4. Use the Secretary of State-provided UBI (unified business identification) to apply for a license with the State of Washington (-$20)
  5. Apply for a license with the City of Seattle (-$110)
  6. Be grateful that all of this is online

Even with the holidays looming, I managed to receive all my paperwork (state and city business licenses + LLC certificate of formation) by the beginning of year. It’s amazing what you can do when you are motivated.

On a personal note, I am strongly motivated by a lack of money. Uber has become my savior, providing a constant $15/hr before expenses. While I hate the alarm at 5:15am every morning, I know that driving Uber will earn enough money to survive until my first science writing client comes through.

That said, I don’t like driving as much as science writing, so I’ve also been motivated to cold call aerospace start-ups (by email), offering to create a blog and other content for them. I also pulled together a website for my new LLC (which doesn’t share my name) within about 24 hours (minus the time for the DNS to propagate).

I’ve learned that I can get a lot done in a short amount of time – because I want to avoid making $15/hr and instead move into more lucrative contracting.

(Personal Essay) Life of a 26-year-old BRCA Mutant

One of my personal goals for the last few months has been to write a personal essay and submit it for publication. This is my first. I submitted it to NYT Opinion and Buzzfeed. Though I planned to submit it to more places, if it’s not published a month after I finish it, I want to publish it here. 

There are no breast cancer screenings for a 26-year-old, unless, of course, that person is me. Two years ago, I sat in a clinic in Seattle, waiting to hear the results of my BRCA-2 mutation test. I had a 50% chance of being positive, thanks to a gene on my mom’s side that led to her diagnosis of breast cancer at 42. Even as the blood slipped from my veins, to be shipped to my home state of Utah for the genetic test, I believed that I was part of the lucky 50%, the ones that had no mutations. But now I have a piece of paper that reads in bold across the top POSITIVE FOR A DELETERIOUS MUTATION.

Every time I visit the doctor, I feel like these bold-face words are branded across my forehead.

They do make me different. The documentation reads “this type of mutation in high risk families indicates that … (my mutation) may confer as much as an 84% risk of breast cancer and 27% risk of ovarian cancer by 70 in women.” Over the last two years, I have breathed in this information and it hasn’t suffocated me yet. But it does commit me to completing all the screenings that my doctors recommend.

To address this increased risk, my doctor gave me a “personalized” screening procedure to guide the rest of the my life. At 25, I was to begin MRI breast screenings. My doctor did not recommend mammograms until the age of 30. She also provided a set of unpleasant sounding screenings for ovarian cancer that would also commence at age 30. From that moment, I felt as if I had stepped away from my group of friends, normal women that would laugh about mammograms and menopause at about the same time. Instead, after I finished having kids, whenever that would be, I would be deciding if I should remove parts of my female body or not.

But, for now, I’m 26 and childless, subject only to the MRI screenings until age 30. Three months after my 25th birthday, I called my doctor to request an MRI. Three weeks later after my request, I opened a short letter saying that my request was not approved. In a panic, I called the cancer doctor to ask about the problem. Her nurse calmly explained that it had been approved. But I was still nervous about the letter that I held in my hands. Two days after the phone call, another letter in my mailbox said that the MRI was approved. This confusion, possibly due to my age, seems to be a new factor in my health care.

I endured the widened eyes as I approached the front desk for the MRI center. Yes, I am sure that I am supposed to be here. As I waited in a tiny room with only a backwards hospital gown for covering, I watched a parade of people two or three times my age pass by. Finally it was my turn for 45 minutes in the clanking, pressing environment that is an MRI machine. After the MRI, I found it strange that my experience was shared with my parents. I could call them and they would understand the failure of the music system to block out the racket. But my dear boyfriend might not know what that was like for another decade or two, if at all.

Weeks later, I opened my bills to find a charge for $1000. It threw me for a loop. I thought that my screening was preventative and therefore should be covered by my insurance. My limited knowledge of the Affordable Care Act made me think that it should be covered. It was like a mammogram for 25-year-olds, in my mind, why wasn’t it free?

A quick Google search told me that mammograms were included in the Affordable Care Act preventative screenings, but this didn’t help me. MRI’s were not even mentioned. I looked into mammograms in more detail, telling myself that I was preparing for my 30th birthday. The whole system of mammography is built around people starting screening at 40 (the normal age). There is not even consensus starting screening at 40 because there is a high rate of false positives. When my doctor introduced my mammogram screening to me, she prepared me by warning about exploratory biopsies. Apparently, younger breasts are even more likely to get false positives. I’m not optimistic avoiding the biopsies; multiple blunt doctors have labeled my boobs as “lumpy.”

Now I wasn’t not even sure that my lumpy boobs will get a “free” (health insurance covered) mammogram at age 30. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance coverage of mammograms. Yet, reading closely, the wording does state “mammograms starting at age 40.” Depending on my health insurance, I may have to pay for these mammograms for 10 years before the legalese includes me.

I began to panic. If neither mammograms nor MRI’s were covered for me, how would I pay for the screenings that could save my life?

I was determined to convince the insurance company that I shouldn’t have to pay for preventative MRIs. I emailed my company’s health insurance provider. That was the first time that I had written out that I was BRCA-2 positive and it made me sad. I hoped that at least it would save me some money. But it seemed fruitless. No one would accept my argument that MRI’s are a screening. Apparently, MRI’s are always diagnostic, a law writ in stone.

I was disheartened. I didn’t even ask about mammograms, leaving my 30-year-old self to deal with it in the future.

I paid the $1000 with some regret, totaling the cost of doing this for the next 30 years, as my screening protocol recommended. $30,000 is a lot of money. This thought has rung in my head since then. It sang as I quit my job with excellent health insurance to pursue my dream of writing. It rang when I picked the only health plan I could afford, with a $6000 deductible. A small part of me clenched this February, when I was supposed to get my MRI, but I didn’t, because I couldn’t see how to afford it.

Knowing that I have a BRCA-2 mutation can be empowering. Rather than wander through the unknown, I was given a protocol that would likely save my life. But I lack the resources to make it happen. Some of the lack it is money. None of my peers put money away every year for health costs, so I honestly didn’t think of it as an option. Some of the lack is support. Laws are designed to help the many, the millions of women in the United States that may need mammograms at age 40. But I am part of the few, the young people that found out about their mutation through their parent’s diagnosis and genetic test.

There is no space for us in the current system…yet. I believe that we are just starting to feel the impact of genetic testing. For years, it has verified what was already believed, that some people with cancer had a genetic mutation. Now genetic testing has opened up a new door. Children can be tested for the mutations of their parents. This knowledge can save lives – if the additional screenings can be offered at a cost that a 26-year-old writer/Uber driver can pay.

One year of wandering, now a return

More than a year ago, I fell while I was running. Somehow the blood running down my elbow dislodged a deep sadness within me. The sadness was the hole in me where my writing used to be. But I took it as an insight that aerospace engineering was not the right course for me. I limped back to my aerospace job, bandaged my arm and leg, and let a deep well of sadness open up within me. After I quit three months later, I felt like I never wanted to return to engineering.

But my boyfriend would not let me forget my engineering background as I wandered toward writing.

“Don’t you think you should give it another try?”

“There are lots of different parts to aerospace that you haven’t tried yet.”

“You might like it.”

Every time he said this, I remembered my fall. I would check my right elbow again to see if the scar was still there, reminding me. In my mind, engineering had made me betray my lifelong goal of writing. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to forgive engineering for that.

Except, I heard an excellent opportunity right after I quit.

At the Space Entrepreneurs meetup, a company owner and CEO told me about his aerospace systems engineering company. It had a unique setup, where all the employees were contractors (and technically owned their own companies). The company had a weird set of expertise that culminated in an understanding of complex aerospace systems. These people were the architects of such systems, defining the engineering vision. The ideas called to me, as did the flexible hours, high pay, and ability to take months off at a time (…to write…?)

Despite my need to leave aerospace, this aerospace opportunity became my measuring stick. Would I like this freelancing job as much as that contracting one? Would I be able to live the lifestyle I wanted, like the contracting job would allow me to do? Nothing really held up in comparison, though I applied and was rejected by other jobs anyway. And then I drove Uber for a while, the perfect job for the uncommitted.

Then I stopped doing everything. In writing my memoir, I had unearthed some old memories. They seared through me and left me in a haze. It seemed like the only way to heal was to stay in the house and read science fiction books all day. I read three books by Guy Gavriel Kay in two weeks. I distracted myself; I grieved for my past self, who gave up her ability to argue – in order to make someone else happy. I wouldn’t leave the house because other people made my skin feel raw.

In all this chaos and confusion, a clear thought came to me. I’m ready to seize the opportunity put in front of me nearly a year ago. I emailed the company owner, saying I hoped that he remembered me after all this time.

He did. The opportunity was not lost. It was waiting for me to be ready.

The Boss you can Say “No” to

I have a problem with saying no, even when I should. This tendency used to serve me well. As a college swimmer, I rarely missed a day of practice. One cold January afternoon, I went to swim practice without eating because I didn’t have time. My coach nearly had to fish me out of the pool. I collapsed on a bench and he gave me a chocolate Chewy granola bar. After the requisite five minute break, I jumped back into the pool.

Despite my conviction that this was a good trait, I burned out and quit swimming in both high school and college. I did not want to keep repeating this pattern in my work.

At Pratt and Whitney, I barely brought my laptop home for the first few months. However, this job required travel, so I was bound to yes to months-long stints in other states. After I was sent to Tennessee for 4 months, I demanded a return to Connecticut. My managers actually obliged me and sent me home. I felt like I had lost four months of my life, but I was able to reclaim my boundaries.

I was not as successful at my next job, though I tried. My major battle was with answering emails. It was mandatory that my work email was accessible on my phone. In an effort to stay sane, I set my phone to manually update, so I wouldn’t see notifications about work emails unless I clicked on the icon. Once an evening, I would check it and respond to anything I thought was necessary. It seemed reasonable to me, until my lead engineer sat me down and calmly explained to me that I must answer the President’s emails, at any time of day, within an hour. Saying no was not an option if I wanted to keep my job.

Eventually, I said no emphatically and moved to another job. At the new job, I ran into the same issue. My boss told me that I could work flexible hours. I would come in at 6:30am and leave around 3:00pm to avoid the hellish traffic between West Seattle and Redmond. Then that was deemed unacceptable because every else worked more than 8 hours. Silly me, wanting to work 40 hours a week…? My little “nos” did not work here either, so eventually the big “no” came out and I quit.

It seemed like every time I constructed a reasonable boundary, the company that I worked for tried to demolish it.

So I looked for a job where I could set my own boundaries and found Uber. I was excited by the total freedom in my schedule. I could work the exact hours that I felt like working, no more, no less. With this level of freedom, I thought it would be easy to say “no.”

But it was still hard at first.

For the first week, I never declined a fare. I knew from looking at my ratings that declining a fare was bad, so I tried to never do it. My finger popped the screen and I jumped from one rider to another until my bladder was about to explode. Then I discovered that it was acceptable to just go offline (no ratings impact), so I did that.

It was still hard to say no.

Uber sends out messages when you try to go offline in an effort to make you feel guilty or inspire you. My least favorite is “You more money last week at this time than this week. Make $17.64 to catch up!” But I had committed to saying no, so I hit “go offline” anyway.

For days, I waited for the hammer to fall. What would happen if I didn’t do what Uber wanted to me to do? After about a week of going offline when I wanted to, I finally realized that there was little consequence to say no. I lost out on a few dollars, I suppose. But I wanted my freedom more.

On Friday night before Halloween, I got a text message from Uber about the high demand, asking me to go out and drive. I just laughed. I told my boyfriend that I would not be setting down my wine and stopping our movie to go drive around in the dark.

Finally, I have a boss that takes no for an answer.

Driving Uber even in my Dreams

Uber has sent me annoying little reminders. “Did you know you did 9 trips today? Do one more to make it 10,” or “Are you sure you want to go offline? You are making less money this week than the same time last week.” My heart leaped into my throat every time. Was working 2-3 hours enough? Should I be working 10 hours a day? These questions haunted me as I drove.

Each time the circle on the Uber app lit up in blue, I tapped it. Each tap connected me to rider. The navigation would start and I would begin craning my neck for the next place to turn around. These pop-ups seemed inexhaustible, often coming less than a minute after I dropped off my previous rider. Uber makes it even easier to tap by offering you another blue circle just as you finish dropping off the previous rider. During busy times, you can be driving almost constantly. Part of me thought this pace was exciting. It was like playing a game, where your progress is marked by the dollar tally for the day or week.

But this excitement overpowered my other needs. It shouted louder than the pain in my lower back or the pressure in my bladder. Despite my commitment to writing breaks, I had a hard time sitting down to write. Each moment of my break was a lost dollar that my mind constantly tallied. The magnetic draw of the car would grow stronger, until I put down my coffee and headed outside.

The small “decline” button in the left corner remained untouched for the entire day (except when I was filing a report about a now-show rider). My left index finger moved of its own accord. Sometimes I would tap it without even noticing. Following the blue line to the next pick-up or drop-off was the extent of my world.

Both of my first two days of Uber driving ended with me on the couch watching TV, comatose, for nearly two hours. I also dreamed of following blue lines that night.

There is something intrinsically wrong with this setup – and it’s not the Uber app.

I asked my life coach Noe for some insight. He was interested in what seemed like a minor detail to me, my aching lower back. To me, it seemed like a simply by-product of spending so much time in the car. The seat of my boyfriend’s car is notoriously uncomfortable. My mind was preoccupied with the variables of my salary – how much I could make and when, and what it meant. But I eventually let go of the math and listened to Noe.

According to Noe, your lower back is emotionally related to issues with supporting yourself. In the end, this did explain the math. Noe used the term “support” generically, like it could mean emotionally or physically. I heard it as monetary “support” because that is what it meant to me. All of this math was an attempt to feel like I was successfully supporting myself.

That seemed like a fair assessment. But I didn’t figure out the source of this need to support myself until I dug deeper.

The words “by myself” kept running through my head as I talked with Noe. Those words were always important to me, even before I could say them correctly. My mom loves to tell the stories of my two-year old declarations of independence “all by self.”

Apparently, I haven’t changed.

My lower back has felt the brunt of my need to do it “all by self.” I’m so determined to support myself without any help that it’s cramping in pain. Is it too much pressure? In some ways, I am proud of my independence. I don’t want to completely change. I rationally know that my boyfriend would spring for rent if I needed it. But my back aches at the thought and it feels icky to me. Yet my time behind the wheel hasn’t been making me feel stronger either. Rather than be happy about my money-making, I crashed on the couch.

Why is being independent exhausting rather than fulfilling?

I suspect that it comes down to the source of the need. A love of being independent is energizing. A fear that you can’t be anything but (independent) is exhausting. Fear is flight or fight, right? Tapping the button is a constant flight for me. I need to keep going to escape the idea that I can’t do something by myself.

My first day as an Uber Driver

What am I doing?

It’s a good question. I’m making time to write and explore opportunities. I’m choosing a job where I can decide how much I work – and the hours are directly proportional to how much money I make. I’m committing to writing my novel and memoir pieces. I’m not going to stop writing because I’m unable to pay rent and have to get a full-time engineering job.

So I’m driving with Uber.

To be honest, my first day as an Uber driver started poorly. I live in West Seattle and it’s not exactly a hotbed of Uber users. I’m pretty sure that I could have sat in my driveway all day and gotten maybe one fare. So I set off toward the airport. I figured that maybe some businessmen staying in airport hotels may need a ride downtown. The Uber app remained silent. I tapped it a couple of times to make sure it worked. There was no way I could know. I didn’t know what getting a fare looking like.

Then I noticed Queen Anne erupt into red hexagons (on the Uber app). I had heard rumors of this phenomenon. It was called a surge and it meant that Queen Anne was so busy that fare prices had increased. I was 45 minutes in and had no  fares to show for it, so I headed north. Of course, I got stuck on 99 north. I sat motionless on the viaduct as the hexagons faded to orange and then eventually disappeared. But I kept my course toward Queen Anne.

Then it happened. The app made a popping sound and a round timer started spinning. I tapped it frantically. “Sending” popped up. I had my first fare.

She was hard to find. I pulled into a gas station and called her to let her know where I was. My heart was pounding. It was too early to have messed up! She appeared. My hands were shaking with excitement. Hopefully, I thought, she wouldn’t know this was my first fare! I rushed her downtown as quickly as I could. She was running late for work. I had survived my first fare – hurrah! Maybe this would work after all. I stuck to my new plan. Once again I turned toward Queen Anne.

Pop, pop, pop.

This was how the rest of my “online” day went. It was incredible. I would drop someone off and start heading toward a neighborhood (usually Queen Anne or Capitol Hill). Then 45 seconds later, I’d have a new fare! I tapped all of them with excitement. This was working! I appreciate the smoothness and ease of the app. I could drive constantly, almost always heading to or from a fare. I’m pretty sure that I did a specific loop in Capital Hill at least three times, picking up people and dropping them off at different points along the way.

There were some hiccups. I suppose you could call it bad luck or lack of consideration. I accepted a fare on Mercer Island. My rider needed to go about 5 blocks. I spent about 15 minutes commuting to and from Mercer Island for a very short ride. There is no way that the fare was cost effective for me – either in gas or time. But it was okay. My rider made me feel like I was doing a public service instead of driving people around for money.  I was not deterred. I kept excitedly tapping any fare that popped on my phone.

The best part of the day was knowing that I could go offline whenever I pleased. When I felt like I needed a break, all I had to do was slide a button on my phone. No one would berate me for leaving the office early or “not being a team player.” Life was pretty simple. I was either online or offline. It was my choice.

I took an enjoyable break in the middle of my driving. I had a pot of tea and wrote my entire memoir class assignment in one sitting. 1200 words in one hours. Not unimpressive. The idea that my time was limited – because I had to make some money today – drove me to write without hesitation.

In total, I made $48 today.

Since I love math, I decided that worked out to $16/hr (if you removed the 45 minutes that I wandered through Tukwila with no fares). That’s pretty cool. I’m happy because I worked the hours that I wanted to work. When I had to pee, I stopped and took a long break. When I was hungry, I went home for lunch. When I wanted to write, I stopped and I wrote for an hour. This is the flexibility that I have always craved.

Uber money might not be as much as  I am used to, but I love the freedom.

Getting a Business License: An Emotional To-Do List

There wasn’t a blog or list out there that prepared me for the emotional roller coaster of getting my first business license.

The blogs and lists were helpful for rational decisions, of course. They told me what I needed to do – what I ought to bring etc. I enjoyed reading the debates between an LLC or sole proprietorship. It seemed so simple in those terms, but I think those simplifications do a disservice to the process. Getting a business license is more than showing up at the right place and the right time with the right documents. It’s also developing the right mindset, which I would argue is much harder than coming up with the right documents.

I’d like to rectify this by posting an emotional to-do list explaining how I felt throughout the whole business licensing process: from the moment that I decided it was time to get a business license, to the moment that I hung it up in my office.

Overcome the inertia (of fear)

While I was still working as a part-time employee, I decided it was time to get a business license. This decision had scary implications. My employment contract had an iron-clad moonlighting clause that said I couldn’t participate in the operations of another business. This issue kept me from getting my business license until I was no longer an employee (or had renegotiated my contract). Because of this clause, my decision to get a business license became a leap into the unknown. I would have no part-time money coming in to make me more comfortable.

But I was determined to do it. It felt right. Yet, I was shaky when I went in to talk to my (now) former boss, a successful startup owner himself. I told him what I wanted to do and that it was time to get a business license. My heart was pounding the whole time. He accepted it amicably, and kindly quizzed me on my business model. Having to explain my half-baked idea of being a consultant to an authority figure was rough. I got through it, though my chest was tight with fear the whole time.

After surviving this ordeal, you would think that I was ready to get my business license. I quit on a Thursday and the business licensing office was open on Friday. I tried to steel myself and go, but I wasn’t ready. In fact, I was so not ready that I didn’t tell anyone that I had quit (save my boyfriend who knows everything). My mom called me and I stumbled over what happened as quickly as possible, hoping to avoid questions.

Then it was a 3-day holiday weekend. It sounds like a dream – time to relax and work through my fears. It was not. A holiday weekend is a weekend when you meet new people – inevitably, they ask what you do. Panic! Thankfully, my responses got less awkward as the weekend went by. Part of my mind gleefully realized that I was honing my elevator pitch just by trying to tell people what I wanted to do.

Commit to a day and do it

Having spent an entire weekend with my fears, I felt more prepared to get a business license on Tuesday. I decided to take it a step further and apply in-person instead of online. My rationale was that 1) I could get my license that day and 2) it would seem more real. Submitting information into an online portal is sort of an everyday event. It doesn’t feel special. I wanted this to be special, so I got dressed up. I brought my most official-looking purse and carried my laptop. In my mind, I looked like a future small business owner.

I took the bus downtown to the Seattle business licensing office. My mind was racing the entire time. I couldn’t even focus on browsing reddit or twitter; I was so nervous. I watched the city go by and tried to breathe. This was a big day, I reminded myself. It was time.

Upon arriving at the tower, I had relaxed a little. There is a freeway entrance next to the building and a red sign was blinking “do not enter.” Part of me thought this was funny; it looked like the universe was telling me not to enter the business licensing department. I took a picture to remind myself of the irony. Then I laughed it off and continued walking.

IMG_1998

Getting into the building was the next challenge. I have never worked in a skyscraper and they always hold some majesty and power to me. I was intimidated by taking two elevators to get to the 42nd floor. I felt like an impostor, like someone would kick me out of the elevator, saying “you’re not supposed to be here.”

Expect to be a little disappointed

After all the fears that I had conquered in order to get there, the business licensing office was a  disappointment. It looked like the Department of Motor Vehicles. Like any government office, I signed in and filled out a form. It was one-page! (Double-sided though)  The hardest part was filling out the business description. I couldn’t come up with anything on the spot. Thankfully, I had written out a description in a panic earlier that day. I copied it onto the sheet and continued filling it out.

I turned in the form and waited to be called.

Once I was called, I expected an interview. The lady asked me if I was going to make $20,000 in the rest of the year. I had no good response; I giggled nervously and said “I hope so?”. Then, it was done?! I went over to the cashier to pay my $55. He handed me my license with a “here you go, Kaitlyn.”

Reward yourself for your accomplishments

To be honest, I felt let-down. This was a huge moment for me. I had spent weeks building up the courage to get this license; the actual process was easy, but getting there was hard! I felt like I had to commemorate the moment.

IMG_2012I went to a framing store and bought a $30 frame for my new business license. I carefully mounted the license in the frame and put it up on my wall. This helped a little. No one else may understand that getting the license meant to me, but I commemorated it in my own way.

It struck me then that this may be a pattern. Most people may not understand what it means to get my first client or send my first invoice. For me, these actions will have a huge emotional impact, but, to them, it’s just news. My friends and family can try to share in it for my sake, but they may not understand the whole meaning to me.

So, I promised myself that I would do my best to commemorate the moments that mean a lot to me. I also decided to share these moments with the startup community – people who just might understand how terrifying it can be to get a business license.

Dramatic Website Changes!

The blog still exists, but it now a smaller part of my personal website.

In fact, this blog is now a great example of how my understanding of what I want to do has changed over time. First, I began with side projects. (Then, I got consumed with work, so I quit and spent more time on projects). Now I feel like I finally have a good balance. I work 25 hours a week and this website (and some book ideas) are my new project.

Honestly, work has been a fun project too. I think that I may have found my niche, systems analysis. I discovered this by spending hours pouring through all the SaaS products that we have and how they interact. Now I know how our website is linked to email campaigns and the credit card charging system. I see how people flow through the site in Google Analytics. It’s like a whole ecosystem, and I’m trying to figure out all the rules. Once I know the rules, I can make improvements – automate this process, eliminate this old thing that is just wasting space. It’s a lot of fun. I like seeing how the changes that I make impact the whole system (for better or for worse).

This discovery is the source of the website changes. I want to do even more systems thinking! I want to expand to bigger systems and more understanding. For a while, this will probably be personal projects and part-time job. I have an idea for a book that is coalescing in my mind. These projects are fun and they are building up my portfolio. One day, I hope that people will hire me as a systems thinker.

It will hit upon all my favorite things to do:

  • Deeply delve into a system through research
  • Devise tests to see how the system reacts to changes (experiments)
  • Communicate how the system works in written and graphical format
  • Innovate ways to improve the system

To some people, this may sounds pretty boring. But me, ah, I can spend all day jumping from program to program trying to understand how they are connected. In my current job, it’s usually a person connecting the programs, so it’s especially neat to interact with other humans in the system. Other people are more surprising and exciting than software. I love seeing how people interact in systems.

In short, that is why the entire website is now drastically different.

What Happened to Time off?

I re-started writing this blog to showcase what I did while I was not working. Abruptly, I stopped writing. Guess what happened? — I got a job —

Generally, this is a good thing. It’s nice to have money and stability. But, to be honest, I fought being hired for quite some time. It took a very persuasive manager to get me back into an office. It was quite enjoyable being free to do my own thing, and I still had a couple of months of money left.

So how did he convince me?

Well, it’s another startup for one. I love startups. I enjoy being able to make a real impact by my presence. It makes me feel powerful when I see customers buy because of something I did.

He proposed a purpose – to help the company run more smoothly. I will admit that I was lacking a clear purpose during my time off. Suddenly having one dropped in my lap felt right. I like having a purpose. This purpose, in particular, intrigued me. I have spent a lot of my life trying to make processes smoother. I’m the one that invents new ways to drop cookies onto a cookie sheet faster  – I test multiple ways to complete tasks (especially boring ones) to see which is the most effective.

Aside: This habit often makes people that I am highly efficient. They don’t usually see all the experimentation time before I find an efficient way to do things. 

Also, my co-workers are pretty awesome. I feel appreciated and useful.

So, I am working again.

This leaves me with less time to do cool projects and post interesting things online. But it does give me the funds to go on trips, pay the bills, and take new classes.

Despite having 40 less hours per week, I do commit to doing interesting things and posting about them here. For example, the whole publishing a poetry anthology things deserves a post at least.

More to come…

Complex Systems & Data

Over the past few months, I have been exploring my fascination with complex systems (preferably with a human element). At my previous job, I did deal with complex engineering systems (or logistical systems) on a regular basis. However, it didn’t pique my interest as much as societal or biological systems. While engineering systems do have a tendency to behave in unexpected ways, the surprises that spring from human systems are more intriguing to me. I’ve recently decided to develop a new skill, data science, that can be more readily applied to human systems.

To support this new interest, I have written a few times about studying Python, but I more recently made a big commitment. I will be participating in the Seattle Data Science Dojo next week. It’s a 50 hour course for learning the basics of data science. I’ve already completed 8 hours of preparatory work, and each bit has been more thrilling than the last. Instead of slowly moving toward data science with Python, I decided to jump in feet first. By the end of next week, I hope to know whether data science is a career that I want to pursue or simply a tool in my kit for understanding complex systems better.

I hope it’s the former. The preparatory work got me thinking in new ways that I really enjoy. I keep finding new applications of big data. It also seems like a great way to defend my occasional (very large) leaps of logic. I haven’t been so excited for classes since I began college! It’s been a bit overwhelming – how excited I am. For quite some time, I have not allowed myself to get this excited. It’s scary to do so. The crash if I end up hating it will be so much harder with this much initial excitement. Yet I’m excited anyway. While logically this fits with my known interests etc. (blah blah blah), emotions are the spice of life. I think I’ll enjoy this class a lot more if I allow myself to be truly excited about it.

So, I’m pretty excited.

I do plan to be completely consumed with this for the next week though. 10 hours of class a day plus commuting will eat up most of my waking hours. Please don’t expect a de-brief until I recover next weekend. 🙂