Halloween + Pumpkin Carving

By | RL | 3 Comments

I never celebrated Halloween in New Zealand. As a child it was explained to me as an American thing that we don’t support in NZ. (I always felt like I was missing out. Halloween in the media always looks so FUN).

However in London, Halloween has always been one of those things that’s okay to try out. Every year I’ve been here Duke and I have carved pumpkins. Since I moved out of that flat (sad face – such a great flat) I’ve been trying to share these almost traditions up with Zee. So this year I bought two pumpkins and a £2 pumpkin carving kit and Zee and I went at it.

Carving pumpkins feels like a nice in between celebration. Bonus, it’s pretty fun.

Happy Halloween, you guys :)

Passing Notes in Economics

By | RL | 2 Comments

When I was in high school, a friend and I used to write handwritten notes back and forth in Economics. Random little things of no consequences. It’s funny to look back and remember how simple things were then… to having small little things feel so important because we didn’t have any of the responsibilities or ambition we do now. How confirming it was to be able to pass notes back and forth with a friend. Often we were mocking each other, or our friends, or the boy bands we liked. We were trying out our thoughts and ideas on each other It was all very easy and uncomplicated (and also a bit funny. Also a bit sexist, apparently).

That was more than twenty years ago. It seems insane that MULTIPLE decades have passed since then. We don’t talk as much now… we live on opposite sides of the world in very different time zones living very different (but both very brilliant) lifestyles. She messaged me the other day, asking about an interview I’d had, and I wanted to know about how her baby was doing. It descended into back and forth messages banter that, just for a moment, felt like we were passing notes in economics again.

It was brilliant to be transported like that. I’m beginning to realise how friendships that are decades old move and grow with you. That we’ve all become so grown up and yet still, our friendships feel as easy and as simple as they always have. It’s become very clear that the cliche that we’re taught at a very young age has a lot more depth than the hallmark card we heard it from.

I see you, change

By | RL | 2 Comments

Clearly this is a time for living. For travel. For finding my feet and thinking big. But where I used to be carefree with my money and my heart and my life, ready and open to experience everything that could be thrown at me (I wanted to drink lots and laugh hard and find myself in places and wonder how I got there)… now, now I want to start building a life.

I’m at a point in my career where I know what I’m doing, my work has been seen by millions and right now I’m actively searching out what is right for me… I’m a senior designer and have been for a while. It’s comfortable to be refining what I know and not be that new kid anymore. I’m not scrambling to learn everything I can because I know nothing, bullshitting my way through knowing full well I don’t know how to do whats being asked. I have a business and accountants, and I’m thinking about my credit history (which is to say: how to get one when you don’t have one at all).

I’m moving on from the student-esque flat, filled with strangers. Where before I was excited by their unknown-ness, now I’m annoyed when they leave their dishes in the sink. At the new place? The place that’s just for me and Zee? I’m excited about buying cushions. CUSHIONS. And big oversized mirrors with ornate frames. Pretty kettles. Nice things that cost a lot of money and don’t come from IKEA and aren’t made of plastic. Even more than that… I’ve been thinking about buying a place somewhere, a proper, physical building, something to tie myself to. I don’t know how yet, and I don’t know where yet, but it’s a thought I didn’t have before. Gently placing a root or two somewhere.

I’m thinking about family, and I keep catching myself thinking that at this point, I get to choose. I get to choose who my family will be. The idea that before, you didn’t choose who your family was, you loved them even though you couldn’t stand them… now that I’m far away from mine, I love them more than ever across a distance I didn’t even realise could be so far. The idea of choosing who my family is feels tentatively glorious.

It does mean that I’m thinking about children, and futures and what all of that means and what exactly is I want. I don’t have answers yet, I don’t know what it is I want exactly. But I recognise my gears have shifted. I still want to adventure, I still want to wring the very last drop out of every experience. However, now all the experience wringing feels sweeter, like now is the afternoon of a great summers day, just as the suns going down. I want to savour it.

I’m being soppy, I know. I’m living my little heart out, but I just wanted to note down the change. I see you, change.

‘At least’ can be punched in the face

By | RL | No Comments

I hate the words ‘at least’. It’s a terrible phrase used to demonstrate a silver lining, a small dash of positive thinking by someone else. Usually to provide comfort. Well the person uttering ‘at least’ can go punch themselves in the face, because there is no way that ‘at least’ is in any way empathetic, kind or comforting.

I lost a contract recently, a three month gig turned into a four day gig when the project I’d been hired to work on didn’t go through. It happens, I’m a contractor and contracting is not as stable as perm work. I accepted this might be a possibility when I formed my own company and dived right into contracting.

However, it doesn’t mean I’m not bummed about losing a contract. It was with a pretty cool agency with some really interesting problems that I was keen to work on. Being let go is never ideal. So, when Zee (with all his good intentions) said ‘at least you get a day off tomorrow’ I actually wanted to hit him upside of the head.

Because there is no way that a day off compensates for not having a job. Saying it also completely belittles my legitimate right to be upset about losing a contract. Oh, I know you’re feeling terrible, and I don’t know what to say about that, actually, so here! Completely ignore all the terrible things you are feeling right now, and focus on this tiny sliver of an upside.

Shut. Up.

It’s okay to feel down when something happens. It’s okay to be bummed about it. Feelings are not a problem to be solved, and my feelings are not so flimsy that I’m going to be distracted, and magically feel better because I got a day off. ‘At least’? ‘At least’ does not make me feel better, and instead I feel like I shouldn’t have said anything to begin with. Why bother if all of the things I feel are going to be marginalised, and ignored?

The phrase ‘At least’ provides no comfort, it is not empathetic, and there is no genuine connection to be had with it’s utterance, and get this, it’s that connection that makes you feel better. Not a silver lining.

Instead of ‘at least heres a shit silver lining’, instead of trying to ‘fix’ a perspective, how about we just acknowledge that it happened (‘Oh man, you lost your job!’), acknowledge that it’s not awesome (‘Dude, that sucks’), that you’d rather it hadn’t happened (‘I’m really sorry to hear that’). At the heart of it, that’s all that really needs to be said. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, and I recognise that you’re not feeling great.

Acknowledgement > ‘at least’ x a billion.

Because at the heart of it, no empathetic response ever begins with ‘at least’.

Have you heard of Brené Brown? I hadn’t, until I (just now) did a Google search for the phrase ‘at least is not empathetic’. She actually says a lot of what I just said (which was great for my own validation. I’m not the only one who thinks a lot of this!). However, she said it much more eloquently than than I did:

So, ‘at least’. It’s not ideal, let’s agree to not use it to silver line anything, cool? Cool.

Interviewing for a UX Designer Role with Google…

By | RL | 2 Comments

Spoiler: I didn’t get it.

After the Recruiter Call

I have a phone interview with Google. I’m stoked (STOKED!) but trying desperately to play it down because, let’s be honest, the success rate of getting through (from what obsessive compulsive research I can find) is low. So looow.

So, this might be the high point. I’m good enough to interview with Google, and perhaps I go no further. I don’t know yet, the anticipation is killer. It feels a bit like Schrodinger’s cat, you know? That at this point, I’m both good enough and not good enough for Google.

Still, in the interest of not putting all my eggs in the Google basket, I’ve been applying for other jobs. When they ask what else I’ve got going on, I always trot out Google casually at the end, like it’s no big deal. Yeah, I’m talking to big name companies and I’m worth the slightly higher salary I’m asking for.

I haven’t told that many people, only a handful. Every time I do their eyes get big, and they say ‘Oh, Elly. Gosh! Google!’. I feel like a fake though, because I haven’t even had the interview yet. I don’t know if I’m up to scratch. I can see how working for the Google prestige could be addictive. What if I bomb out?

The Phone Interview

I just did an interview with a girl from YouTube. She was lovely. Nervousness and then relief. I heard back the next day. I was sure I’d done terribly. What do you know? I’m in to the next round! High five!

The Design Task

I’ve been asked to do a task. I’ve been given a few scenarios and assigned a few deliverables. They gave me a guideline of three hours and a week to do it in, which was fine.

Except that I was nervous about doing it (don’t fuck it up, El), so waited till the end of the week while Zee was away to get things started.

I’m not sure exactly what they were looking for, or whether I’m up to grade but I did the task. I fretted over it and went over the suggested time frame by an hour or two. It’s hard to pare it down, because while I know they want to set a reasonable time frame, it’s GOOGLE. You obviously want to put your A Game forward. In the end I stopped fiddling with it and sent it out, and now the waiting. Oh the waiting!

After the Design Task

I’m in the next round, bring it.

On the train to the face-to-face interview

Ahh, I’m nervous. I have a presentation (it’s a fricken hour long, how am I going to talk about myself for an hour??) I’ve been asking myself prep questions. I’m prepared. Mostly… I always feel at this point I probably could have done more. Still, I’m prepared.

Just not for the writhing mass of butterflies hanging out in my stomach. Interviews aren’t new to me, I’m a contractor. I do them all the time, I show up, I smile, I make them laugh… So why am I nervous? Pfft, big multinational technology giant nothing… Right?

Urgh. A full day of interviewing. Perhaps I should have had breakfast.

Sitting in reception…

… And it’s fucking balla. Big leather couches, jars full of tic tacs and gum. A fancy check yourself in kiosk. A chandelier, fridges full of water and sugary drinks… A wall of frames photos (the queen, Winston Churchill) interspersed with screens in frames with video scenes of the beach. Is very Dumbledore office esque.

So fun. Very impressive… which I suspect is half the point. We are Google, look at how impressive we are. Yes, the hype is absolutely more than just reputation.

After the presentation

Holy fuck that was intense. An hour is a long time to talk. Six people is a massive panel, and they didn’t give anything away. These guys? Best poker faces ever. I have no idea if I did well or not. Ahhhh. And straight into interviews. Ahhhh!

After the whole day of interviews

Holy shit that was intense! A full day of being on, I didn’t get a single minute to decompress by myself. You always have a host with you (seriously, a host even waited outside the bathroom when I was in it). Still, the hosts/interviewers were really lovely. Asked a lot of questions about my past roles and design skills. Did a two design tasks (one about virtual cash exchange and the other about improving a google product).

There were a few questions I probably could have answered different, and because a lot of them asked the same questions over and over there clearly was a theme. I answered them differently with each interviewer too, hoping to bang on one clearly best answer, but I’m not sure there was one.

I really fucked up the technical section. That really did me in. Despite the recruiter telling me not to worry, and that coding wasn’t a priority, it clearly was. I code basic html/css stuff with an editor. One that populates the syntax and variables for me. I also almost always refer to The Internet when I’m pulling a prototype together… so having to code some stuff in a Google Doc with no help? *pulls face* I really wanted to argue that this wasn’t a realistic view of my coding skills considering no one codes under these conditions. Buuut you’re not meant to do that in an interview, so I didn’t.

It was a really really really long day, oh man. I’m shattered now.

Interesting to see the offices, really impressive (so much food it’s ridiculous. The cafe rumours aren’t even close – they have cafe yes. They also have kitchens on all the floors. There is no way that there is any desk in that office more than 200 metres from a kitchen stoked with food at any point. I snacked at each kitchen we came to on the tour. Fruit in this one. Pastries in that one. This one has the better coffee machine, but this one here is really good for sandwiches… Seriously. So much food. The office overall was really fun and relaxed. If nothing else, I’m glad to have got this far. Fingers crossed!

Apparently now all my interviewers put in their report and it goes to a panel of people in Mountain View. We’ll see how it goes.

After the call

Bummed. Bummed is how I feel right now. Just got off the call with the recruiter who said I was borderline. In terms of Googleness (that’s the actual phrase she used) I’m awesome, I’d fit in with the team, I’ve got all the skills, my portfolio was strong…

Except apparently I’m borderline. And they said no.

There was concern that because I haven’t worked at Google scale company before, so I’d take a while to ramp up. Because my technical skills out of my brain aren’t up to scratch. Because I recycle code and use stack overflow.

They’re looking for succinct and precise think on your feet design decision justification, she said. Not that you weren’t, she said (except that I didn’t get the job, I thought).

They loved you, she said. The London heads were definitely supportive of your bid.

But I didn’t get the job I thought.

Try again in 11 months, she said. Because if it had been a different committee on a different day you would have got in, she said. A slightly different set of people, you’d have been in.

I understand, shopping decisions have taught me that if it’s a maybe it’s a no. But a different committee on a different day? That comment had me in tears. You’re good enough for Google, just not today. Try again tomorrow.

So. I’m bummed. I know that three of my better graduating peers have tried and didn’t get in. I’m in their club now. I never dreamed I was good enough at what I do for Google, but the hope was a buoyant bubble that was addictive.

Eleven months is marked in my calendar. You can bet that between now and then I’m going to be an awesome fucking web dev so I can prototype the shit out of anything. Then their stupid technical interview can suck it. I didn’t apply for a web dev role, but if that’s the only real feedback I can act on, you can bet I’m going to.

Eleven months and then I’m applying again. I’m in it. Also, still bummed.

Side note: next time make sure I’m alone for the feedback call. Not in a house with Zee’s well meaning folks, who catch me as I’m processing all the ‘your not quite good enough’ emotion.

Six months later

Meh. I’m less bummed now. I’m happy with the contractor route and woah buddy, how did I not realise how lucrative this is? I couldn’t have become a contractor and gone to Google. I’m not sure I will try again next year, so far I have the opportunity to pick and choose my projects, and I have been. This variety is awesome! My bank accounts are looking wonderfully healthy, and with no leave restrictions I’m quite enjoying the contractor lifestyle. Maybe I’ll try Google, maybe I won’t. At this point? Contracting is definitely winning out. We’ll see what happens in the next 6 months or so.