To technology and its battle with verbosity…
In early high school, I would sit down in front of my HP gaming laptop and judge the quality of my productivity and work by the amount of words I put out. One night, I read a My Chemical Romance fanfiction and wrote five-thousand words on why I thought it was the best piece of literature in existence. Before I even knew it, I acquired the art of verbosity.
For the past two years, I have been teaching myself how to cut back, learning how to hold my tongue. The abundance of language is beautiful in art and literature sometimes and constant sin in the world of computation. Each line must be trimmed, nothing is held sacred, efficiency is elegance. My two fields of study play between optimization and meaning and I have fallen victim into thinking that unaimed precision will bring beauty in this world beyond landing me software engineering interviews.
In engineering interviews, you presumably take on a challenge where you bruteforce something and walk your way into the most elegant solution. Good interviewers will ask you to find better ways to optimize, asking you hints and potentially directing you to concepts they just looked up and memorized prior to the interview & look up at work whenever it’s needed (which often means memorizing convoluted algorithms, or having seen the problem before and praying to not let it slip). Better interviewers will let you flail and fumble as you walk through reddit-educated frameworks, emphasizing process and communication beyond the actual result.
Entering product demands similar things. I speak in bullet points, numbers, frameworks that drive my thought processes. Alignment means translation not only across different teams, but across people. In a world where execution is everything, winning with talent is a must. it is your differentiator. No singular vision can be carried out by one person versus a deeply embedded team.
Young people entering product careers consume industry and market facts, joke around Silicon Valley circles and narrow down their groups (so much that it is a miracle to find people “out of tech”), learn how to walk someone through their guess on how many windows there are in San Francisco. Many of these students begin to introduce themselves with their successes on work and career interests, talking about enterprise with fondness. These students need to memorize stories about themselves, scenarios where they fucked up a project, scenarios where they came in and saved the day, and anything else. Our talks with people become transactional as the worth of a person revolves around their We enter a disjoint world that understands the value of relationship building in theory but fails at every attempt at it.
We lose the art of storytelling.
Any form of belief you hold has never been indoctrinated in sentences. The hard reality of my industry is that I will most likely end up somewhere I do not love. I will not be deeply passionate about the things I work on every day, I will be passionate enough about it to advance my career; but I am a young girl unwelcome to America who does not fit in the mold.
Great orators and speeches in history do not come from unknown people. They come from figureheads who channel the grievances of movements that have been strung long before them. The most impactful words in today’s time win me over by persistence of thought and in the distribution of these ideals over the world.
Belief is built within communities, channeled through culture. It is an effort necessitating language, repeated, tantalizing.
Recalling periods of my life is a difficult act. The past decade is such a fragmented blur. It exists as if I have never been conscious.
I can’t tell you stories. I can tell you moments. I can tell you when I held my friend’s hand under the Muntinlupa night sky as the kickdrum in First Breath After Coma picks up, then the crashing––the first time I ever saw a post-rock band live in the middle of a meaningless festival. Where the thinned grass was brushing my leg, the air sinking and drunk, the pressing and pulse of the bodies next to mine that never felt uncomfortable and how I could barely see the back of the stage because of my height. Suddenly everything felt alive.
I can tell you about the moment I knew I believed in certain things: being in Catholic school and the first time I told someone I no longer believed in god in two thousand and something, walking down Market Street past the Dolby offices and when I realized that my then-entire career vision was established on a lie of betterment. The twenty different retellings of these vignettes. How my life is meant to be lived for a moment then so miserably recounted.
A month back I made it my goal in life to know the people I can as deeply as possible. I have lost the beginning of the century with the most selfish belief of the simplicity of mankind. We will find out everything there is about the world. One day, mankind will map the constellations all over and redefine how we know time. Our race has forever won the battle against time and we will all touch the seabeds. Each generation will live with far more information and surveillance than the former, with gaping disparities between those who choose to be seen and those who want to be left unknown. If we are unable to comprehend scale, we will rewrite systems until they become as innate as the acquisition of language––of the potential to imagine.
The only thing left for us to unravel is human experience. To not know our problems and our constraints. To not know someone.
As simple as “knowing” one may seem, it doesn’t seem unrealistic to want to dedicate this life to a pursuit. I spent nineteen years of my life in the narcissistic act of self-hatred. I believed in many false things such as: people only being good for a certain period of time (why accept the world desire for us to see each other as fleeting, expendable?), or that connection cannot be formed with any being (this generation lives in such a hyperstimulated world of communication and chaos yet manages to feel alone).
In freshman fall’s Intro to Creative Writing we watch Samuel Beckett’s Not I, the ultimate play. I memorize the white woman’s gums, the tinge of blue and green in 180p replays on YouTube.
One mouth… you go faster and faster… unraveling naturalism… coherent if you listen…
Winter 2017, I challenged myself to write a book over the break. Minimal revisions first: I needed to just pants through a plot. Over the course of three weeks I wrote 150,000 words –– far more than I’ve ever written in my ‘free-time’ since starting college two years ago.
My unfinished novel opens up with a paragraph about George Orwell, Manila Bay, and the running of time. It lives in a Google Drive called “winter novel”, paired with a list of words to use in my writing: scintilla, a tiny brilliant spark; palinoia, a fake Tumblr word supposedly meaning the repetition of an act until it is perfect (where Urban Dictionary says it is the fear of Sarah Palin); oriflamme, a battle standard from the Middle Ages inspiring courage and devotion; exulansis, from Tumblr’s other staple––the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows––the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it; the word astral. 11pt 1 line-height. Words that wind until there is no stop.
When I love it manifests itself in the form of expansiveness. I cannot help but to control. I must envelop someone, swallowing them hole, extending a moment until you are about to lose control of it.
I realized that when I lost patience for long reddit posts, I couldn’t really blame my attention span. I stare at the wall while listening to Impossible Soul. I’ve read the same lies and cliches for over eight years that it’s just tiresome. I long for twists; I want to be consumed.
I find so much compelling tracks, maybe partly because of how I’m blissfully unaware of any form of music theory––but I’m sure generally because I spend my time with artists that treat composition with care and elegance; an act far harder to do with words we share every single day.
When have I last read a piece about software that excites me? When have I been so deeply fascinated about something in technology and computation as a designer? I am not in love with tools or the field, I am in love with problems and visions. I’m compelled by founders who know the path to failure all too well and the stories behind them. I am compelled by the underestimated and hungry peers around me and what drives them to get the highest paying offer they accept––so they can wind back and uplift the life that they had to put on hold in hunting for something.
I am sick for my friends and the words they find gratuitous. I will tell them never to apologize for as long as I live. The more I learn, the more I love: if you know the right people, how impossible it must be to not love them in any sense. I live for the moments where we slip and let out what we truly are thinking––because they’re what we really are thinking. When I design and tell people I am chaotic, I truly am. The parts of my process shine in exploration, ideation, in comparison and in unfiltered thought. We forget that these systems and processes may be taught and memorized, or are really just imparted on you by seniors or the internet––and that the most beautiful things about human talent, experience, and being is the way each of us individualistically process the sum of our knowledge, wisdom, pains, hopes, and dreams.
For a minute important to me, I can imagine––and have seen––myself sulking over paper, delicately finding the right words across my four languages to even come as close as to capture the novelty of a lived moment. I am a sucker for stories where failure is inevitable, where climax is not gratifying, and can believe something put together so excitably and thrilling that it just sucks. Every widely-distributed film that has mastered structure, narrative, and can be dissected with ease in theory is shunned for a reason. I’m talking about friends fumbling around with a video camera, new perspectives and filming, love for the mundane and the most exciting and unpredictable hatred at the same time. If we did not let ourselves labor over details and mundanities, the world would be far behind where we are today. Beyond that: what is one man to judge the worth of a moment in words when it is experienced in uncountable dimensions? To give my life to a treatise of something widely believed to be useless then impart my own life on it… to even dedicate fields to writing fiction and building worlds and how wonderfully you can employ its systems and craft against our own… what an art it is to be expansive, deliberate, and meaningful as we challenge the world’s complexities.
I may never be the best to execute at something. I’m a liar on the front page of my professional website when I say I execute like no other. I can’t fall in love with problem-solving enough to be the best manager.
Promise you this, though: I will be so deeply intent about experiences and empowerment. I have been in leadership and have been trusted for so long despite my failings at everything; I have heard the gist of how we must invest in people. My faith is blind but my belief in people knows no bounds. There is nothing I seek more today than ways to create for people.
Fruitless acts come in the form of wanting to be the best. I may not be in the space to build the best product or act anywhere near it, because distribution and marketing and talent and the threat against immigration puts me in a field where I’m far from able to play at all.
If the world is divided between genius creatives who must master their craft and those refined at memorization, selling, and playing the game of distribution and mass marketing, I’m wondering how much we are losing now that focus is on the latter.
Nothing is new. Everything has been done.
Yet how desirable is it to be able to create something and have people love it? To be able to pinpoint a moment and generate desire?
My winter novel was a failed reality because few people want an unfinished story. The industry demands pace and thrill, not experimentation and drafts.
There’s a discrepancy here. In technology, failure is encouraged. Open collapse and works in progress were birthed in the traditional, bureaucratic confines of business despite pushback. If your systems and code were out in the open, your elegance and efficiency scrutinized and never invariate, iterated upon until masterfully quick and edged–what benefit would you have?
We marvel at failed companies and learn from them, yet think that wordsmith must be a mastered process. Never do I dismiss a person because one sentence was imprecise; we build on relationships and learn to construct (and again, the human challenge of) communication systems and methods that work for one and the other. In team settings, I am learning to let go of my teenhood and built-in apathy and know that each new relationship is a step closer to this goal. Fuck, that’s honestly a terrible way of putting it. Less realistic but kinder: instead of taking time systemizing processes in a world where fluency and language are arbitrary standards and correctness impedes on understanding––we must understand.
Win instead with visceral love and belief. Go against every style guide, framework, and piece of general advice: none of these are life-changing or new in the slightest, and you would immediately lose with someone who has memorized far more of them, anyway. Instead, imbue your words and beliefs, the way you communicate with people and gain more awe at a job you never thought you would believe in.
Verbosity has made me a better person. Expansiveness has let me generate endless amounts of thought. I learn how to uncover the excitedness in everything, communicate my own ideas, accept the greatness in everyone is just a matter of dissection. More tangibly, the gift of verbosity, of my words that I refuse to retrace yet continue to desperately harmonize with make me feel like taking the role of a musician or composer. Where I beat around my beliefs slowly in a world where time is suspending us, it is not a new learning that being able to change one mind into yours is enough. We do not need grandiosity. We need understanding, which is a far harder task than convincing, believe it or not.
- I become better, fluid, truly exploratory in the process of generating ideas. Because I am never impatient with words, I am able to see what others who maintain their biases and skim with pretentiousness miss. My design and thinking process starts in a document. An unruly, chaotic document. In this way I generate ideas, involve people in the process, show them the depths of my thinking whether we’re right next to each other or remote. (Words are still hard for me in person, and letting them rest on screen/paper is the best thing I have.)
My intuition and ability to translate the ideas of my friends, community members, and stakeholders run effortlessly now. When writing stories, there is no end to “why?”. Better, if idea generation is ubiquitous and intrinsic, we allow ourselves more diversity, potential, and barriers. Business acumen contrasts sharply with creativity in traditional thought, moreso even with diversity and openness in its present forms.
- Specs are the common tongue. In production, the act of commenting code, communication, documentation, and clarity are the true skills that must be mastered. The more fluent you are in understanding concepts, the better you innately get at those––then you reach a knowledge barrier where you just google shit. The beauty is that there is no real barriers our little brain cells can impose in how we feel, communicate––our intuition here just builds and builds until they deteriorate.
The enemy of scalability and distribution is defeated. Scalability and documentation is second-nature to me because I have been hyperreflective about my work since my teenhood. (What else can you expect from a girl who has anatomized all her pains for the past decade?) Realistically, putting together thoughts, processes, gauging the workings of a system and being able to pass it on to others becomes second nature. Feasibility, requirements, issues… they come to not impede your working process, but rather go hand-in-hand with it. Manuals, tests, your fears and glorified team icebreakers built around documents just become so easy.
Ideas alone can’t win, the right words must be weaved in. The need to archive these into documents of the right level of abstraction and coherence (plus process and rationale) is necessary. The more you write and master the art of turning thought and artifacts into actionables, you gain leverage. I believe in you, and I believe that we can do this today.
We also often forget that humans are a stubborn kind. We can be presented with facts and figures yet deny these in risk of unproven ideas and turns. Ideas become immeasurably valuable: you cannot be fixated on a fact or figure alone, you develop reasons, motivations, desires, and perhaps even obsessions. Which is why…
- The end goal is to captivate. The goal is not just to delight. The goal is to get someone on your side. Beyond getting someone enthused about an idea or thought (which is something you would do for anyone you believe in, or any of your friends), you must get them entirely on your side.
If you can get people on your side, believe in your idea, or better yet––believe in your vision…
- Visions last longer than anything material. No software is forever, nothing is sacred. Instead, we must be obsessive about what we believe in, and why. All of life is about finding this.
To build memorably, we must build things larger than zeroed in programs talking about execution yet. It is a one-in-a-trillion shot to make some material thing profoundly life-changing, but ideas and inspirations that change the course of people’s trajectories are far more common. Execute on systems, think about global effects. Believe that your work leaves a mark beyond the scale of your comprehension, in the same way that you will never fully comprehend another being. From talking to teammates, building community… impart unto them wisdom and beliefs that will hold true even without any physical attachment. Give them the grounds to form their own experiences out of yours. Let ideas and visions live years before whatever spun it. Solve the human fear of being forgotten along the way.
In essence, I want to believe that my strength is going to lie in the fact that I am a writer at heart. Fantasticality needs a place in software. Crafting all these materials with intent and care.
There is no problem unworthy of solving if you listen to the people captivated by them. There is no use in solving these problems if you refuse to listen intently to these peoples’ experiences, especially if you have never lived them. Our world’s largest problems are not being tackled by those who live through them––this is one of our harshest realities.
If every story has been told, why do we continue to fall in love with tropes and archetypes? Why is there still worth in experimentation despite everything being cliche?
Words capture intricacies, in their unending space for arrangement and retelling and misshapen form that unravel human desire. It hits one day, then it doesn’t.
Our craft can only be improved in understanding. In actual alignment––cognizant of its very impossibility––in knowing others fully. Use more words. Use words and words until the world is sick of hearing “write more” when it is ingrained in our very being. Human nature not just unearthed, but never erased. The only way we can do this is by leaving words, the easiest of the marks to leave at scale. Listen. Condense if necessary, then reveal and reveal. Seek stories yourself. Understand that everyone has substance. Chaotically compounded, it is your journey then to maintain the patience of listening to unravel the meaning that would otherwise be forever lost to you.
If we tell our value through stories, we will not need to communicate to one another in bullet points and sells. Nothing is transactional. I own you in thought, in love, in belief. Then from here, anything can happen.
Is there nothing more satisfying, or more warm and real than being with a group of people who have read the same novel as you… lived the same moment… coming together to talk about it?
Product, design, engineering, writing, the arts… the secret is that we all suck so much at relationship-building and alignment that we’ve relegated it to another role to pretend they’re any better at it. Management is about better outcomes, about the collective, and about the lasting feelings you impart on anyone you take in.
Every word must be the right one. I take on the risk of my narratives being universal yet acute, here and then timeless. If I want to capture my life and my vision, this must be the only way.