Sunday, September 18, 2016

How to Cry: A guide for the emotionally unavailable

  1. Be emotionally unavailable
  2. Meet the love of your life
  3. Fall deeper and deeper in love with them as you grow together
  4. Be devastated when they mysteriously cut off all contact
  5. Talk with them when they reappear a month later and realize you're both still madly in love
  6. Choose to remain apart, even though that's not what you want, because you both need to heal individually
  7. Cry

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fuck it, hit publish now

One of the privileges my work and community involvement offer me is interaction with a large number of interesting people. About once a month, someone I meet will tell me they read something from this blog and that it had a meaningful impact on them.

In fact, this happened about 2 hours ago at a hackathon we're hosting at my workplace. One of the participants introduced himself and said he appreciated my post about how I royally screwed up in school. He shared how he went through a similar challenge, failing several classes and thinking he should just drop out, before finding his passion and turning things around. Like me, he ended up at one of the world's top software companies.

That conversation meant a lot to me.

Despite these kinds of experiences, I haven't posted in over 9 months. Still, I jot down notes all the time and have over 25 pending posts that are half-written. So, why haven't I posted?

The reasons mentioned in my first blog post, titled "Why Blog?" and published Nov 2011, are still relevant. Shared experiences are valuable. In fact, I've learned that there's even more value in creating content than I originally saw. Sharing experiences publicly has given me amazing opportunities to connect with and learn from others.

I think my biggest issue has been with agonizing over perfection. I spend hours writing, re-writing, regretting, revising every post. In that original post I said, "anyone can take 15 minutes while waiting for the bus to jot down a few thoughts." What I didn't realize at the time was that I'd never feel satisfied enough to publish after 15 minutes. Or 30 minutes. Or 120 mintues.

I crave more experiences like the one I described at the beginning of this post. Opportunities to form deep connections with others means the world to me.

I'm going to give two things a shot for a while. First, I'm going to relax my standards to a point where I'm less comfortable publishing, but still willing to hit the publish button. Second, I'm going to write on a regular basis, starting with 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Over time, I'm hope to see a rise in quality and a fall in time spent per published post post.

Well, it's been about 1.5 hours since I started working on this. Fuck it. I'm hitting publish now...

[Edit: 2 minutes after hitting publish, I saw that I'd forgotten to give the post a title. *sigh* Well... that gives me a good idea for a title.]

Monday, May 4, 2015

Podcast Discussion on Value-Add at VC Firms

I just had a great conversation with Mike Schneider, where we spent some time discussing how we support portfolio companies after investment at Madrona.

Listen in on the conversation: The Law of Startups, Episode 10

For some additional thinking on the topic, one of OpenView's founders recently did a great post on their take on this topic.

Thanks Joe Wallin for setting up the conversation!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Capacity to Love

Today will be remembered as a day of mourning and reflection for nerds, geeks, and science fiction fans around the world; the day Leonard Nimoy passed away.

For me, personally, it'll be remembered as a day of revelation, inspired by this heartfelt, parting message from William Shatner to his dear friend:

"I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love."

I don't put much thought into legacy or how people will remember me after death, but if I'm remembered at all, even ephemerally, I want it to be for my "capacity to love." The message strikes a chord deep within my bones. One that reverberates with my sense of humanity. It's how I intend to define my living years and if I earn the right for it to be the culmination of my short time here, this will have been a life worth living.

Thank you Leonard Nimoy, for inspiring us. The love you showed the world carries on.

February 27th, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dear Mr. O'Brien, I found your hair, please advise

Dear Mr. Conan O'Brien,

When I awoke this morning, much to my horror, a strange beast was attacking my head.

Upon consultation with my friends, I later learned that you hair has come into my possession.

As some consider it to be a national treasure, it thought it of critical importance to notify you immediately and to attempt to return it with the utmost priority.

Awaiting your orders,
Hakon Verespej

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Condolences to Laid-off Microsoftees

My heart goes out to all of you who were affected by the Microsoft layoffs.

I was an engineer at Microsoft during the 2009 layoffs and, even though we knew they were coming, it was a shock when whole teams were eliminated regardless of performance. The layoffs announced today are just as difficult and several close personal friends came back from lunch today with no manager, no team, and no job.

This will be, without a doubt, a difficult time. Not just for those laid off, but for their families, friends, and our entire Seattle tech community and beyond. At the same time, I'm certain it'll open the doors to many new opportunities.

To all my friends and everyone else affected, my condolences. On to better times.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Failing in School Was One of the Best Mistakes I've Ever Made

"Fuck me... I'm gonna get kicked out of school."

As I looked over my grades, the pretense of a bright future crashed down around me. I had been skating by for the past 2 years doing just enough to get by and it had finally caught up with me. "Two F's," I thought, "...double fucked. My life is over."

Before college, I was a great student. Under the close supervision of my parents, I managed to stay focused enough to keep up excellent grades while taking all honors classes. It was a time when I truly believed in my grand dreams of being a scientist and a visionary leader. But once I was out of my parents' house, I quickly fell prey to the seductive charms of my new-found freedom. My nights were consumed by parties, which meant my days went to recovery.

By the time I'd reached my junior year, the bad choices I'd made dropped my GPA to a 2.3, marginally above the threshold that would trigger expulsion. The two F's also put me on academic probation, meaning another bad quarter would also get me kicked out of school.

I immediately fell into depression, accompanied by deep reflection. As I assessed my life and what I hoped to achieve with it, I realized that, as humans, we're capable of constantly redefining ourselves; that while we can't change the past, we always have the power to shape the future.

This failure was a pivotal moment in my life and the boot to the face I needed to make me get my shit together.

After that, I stopped drinking. I cut back on social activities and invested my new-found time into studying. I coincidentally "discovered" computer science around the same time. The quarter after my grand failure, I happened to take a fundamental course in computer science (data structures and algorithms, for those familiar), which was optional for my major. About half-way through the course, something amazing happened. Something clicked. It was one of those moments where you suddenly just get it and the universe becomes incredibly transparent.

From that point on, I dove into computer science with passionate fervor. I filled as many of my upper-division requirements as I could with computer science and I excelled. I was getting nearly all A's and found myself programming in my spare time. That summer, I somehow convinced a startup to take a risk on me and got an internship as a software engineer. I soon started taking graduate-level courses and getting the highest scores in the classes.

Over time, I decided that I wanted to go to grad school to study computer science in more depth. By the time the application period opened, my GPA had turned around, but I'd done so much damage earlier that it was just below the 3.0 required for graduate admissions. Undeterred, I poured myself into the application, applying for a GPA exception and rallying support from the professors I'd gotten to know through my graduate-level coursework.

On a sunny San Diego afternoon, I was sitting in the basement of the computer science building and an email from the graduate admissions officer popped into my mailbox. I felt sick to my stomach and started trembling as I nervously opened the email and started reading.

I'd gotten in.

I nearly cried as an overwhelming flood of emotion came over me. Two years after I'd obliterated my future, I sat back and reveled in the moment when I knew I'd finally earned it back.