A little R&R



Lake Del Valle


One of my biggest blessing also happens to be one of my biggest curses (well, it’s more of a struggle then a curse). When I was thinking of coming out to California for school, one the biggest questions I had to wrestle with was what I would do about housing. If I was going to school full time, I wouldn’t have any income any more, and to make it worse, San Francisco is the most expense city to the U.S. right now. I had some savings, but not enough to live off of for the next two years. During the application process, I had been consulting with a web developer friend of mine; he was a huge encouragement during this process. He was my ‘rubber duck’ when I got stuck on something and needed to talk through the bugs in my code. Sean is just one of my many friends who meet every Monday for a dinner of rice and beans, aptly named O.R.B. (the Order of Rice and Beans). Sean’s parents were visiting Chicago during my application process and came along for our weekly dinner. During that meal, Sean and I were talking about the application process and his parents overheard. They interjected “you know, if you get accepted, you are welcome to stay with us”. I thanked them politely and replied saying “that’s so kind, but I don’t really think I’ll get in, it’s very competitive”. And I left it at that.

You can guess what happened next – but humor me for a moment. It was Thanks Giving and the majority of my family was up at the family lake house in Bethany Beach (Michigan) – by far my most favorite place on the face of this earth. I had brief conversations with family members about how I had been applying to this school, but the likely-hood of me getting in was slim to none. There I was, sitting on the couch next to my dad, and my phone gives off a little ping vibration. I glance at it, and to my surprise I got an acceptance letter from Holberton. I was in utter shock.

One of myIMG_1964 biggest questions – if I decided to go to Holberton, where would I live? I know that Sean’s family had offered me housing, but I had assumed that it was most likely just a polite jester – not an actual standing offer. I reached out to Sean to see if he thought his parent’s offer was still on the table; and he assured me it was. Just a few short weeks later I was moving my stuff into Sean’s old room.

I am so grateful to be hosted by the Zellmers. They are gracious and kind, and it’s such a relief to come home to a family setting at the end of a long hard day. They share their meals with me, and since they they live in wine country, I have benefited from their extensive knowledge in the subject and their superior taste.

The only drawback, is the distance between Livermore and Holberton. School is in the financial district downtown and it’s 47 miles from where I am staying. This mainly means a long commute to and from school. But it also means that I don’t get to do some of the more spontaneous activities with my fellow students. Most of the other students live near the school, either because they were previously residents of SF, or they live in dorm style housing the school helped find. On Sunday’s they have gotten in the habit of goring for a hike or small adventure – but I lack the close proximity to them, so I usually just end up staying in  Livermore. This past week some of the students went on a trail hike through Muir Woods just across the bridge. I wanted to go, Muir woods is beautiful and hard to pass up on. But adding another day of commuting did not sound appealing, so I passed on the opportunity. Instead, I went on my own tail hike in Livermore. I headed to Del Valle for some fresh air after Church. I am so glad I made the decision to stay in the East Bay instead of heading into the city, because it allowed me to have time to myself…completely by myself.IMG_1937

Between the time I wake up in the morning, and when I go to bed, I am surrounded by people. I leave the house within 20 minutes of waking up, and quickly find myself on a crowded commuter train. Then its 12 hours of school with 32 other students, another crowded train back home, a chat with Leanne and Steve over dinner, and then bed. I don’t get much time alone with my thoughts. I feel like I spend the whole week learning and soaking up as much as possible, it is only healthy to take a few hours or a day and let myself unwind.

I don’t know if I can stress this enough. As human beings, we cannot go full throttle all of the time for long amounts of time without a break. And…if you find yourself silently contradicting me, let me make an amendment. One cannot go full throttle all of the time for long amounts of time without a break without putting your mental health at risk. It’s sort of like a workout. You can do a super intense workout, giving it 110%, but you do it in reps (usually) and you take short breaks in-between sets. Going to school is a workout for your brain, and showing up six days a week is a set, after that set, you need to take a break, reset and recuperate to come in better prepared for the next set.

Del Valle Regional Park is a park of the East Bay Regional Park District in unincorporated Alameda County. It’s over 4,000 acres of trails, wildlife, and some spectacular views. Because of all of the rain fall, there the landscape was lush and full of color. As I lay in my hammock, I saw hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and quite a few lizards.


The recent rain may have provided for some green grass, but you could still see the effects of the sever drought  from the past few years. The docks were all dried up, and a completely dried up river bed (I don’t think anyone has swam in this particular part of Del Valle recently).

I plan to go on a lot more hikes and find ways to unwind outside of school. I want to work hard and learn as much as I can in the short time I have here in San Francisco, I need to remember to take care of my mind and body in order to get as much as I can from Holberton.


This is a few from the middle of the lake. It has been so dry that I could walk between the sand bars and get to the middle without getting my feet wet.


Bootcamps, Tech Schools, and their dirty little secrets

Deciding to do an intensive program like Holberton School inherently means sacrifice. Most of us in the program have left our friends and family and traded them in (only for the meantime, not forever mom and dad) for long hours of sitting in front of a computer. The program asks a lot of us, and the only option is to keep up with the fast pace . We are all in an intense and stressful situation…but it could be worse.

This past week I had the opportunity to attend two different conferences; Developer Week – just a few blocks away at pier 27, and Container World – down in Santa Clara. As I was walking around the different booths, I found myself explaining the basis of Holberton School to just about every one I engaged with. Bootcamps and other tech schools are common place in the Silicone Valley, but Holberton is a bit of an anomaly. Caught in the realm between bootcamp and a four year university – we seem to take up previously unoccupied space. The idea of this school was intriguing to most, and seemed to spur on the conversation.


Holberton School – San Francisco California

Holberton School is not really based off of any other school, despite some rumors saying it derives some of its personality from a school in France named 42 and its predecessor Epitech. Like Holberton School, 42 is open all (well between ages of 18-30 for 42, which is not the case for Holberton). 42 is free  and the program runs between 3 and 5 years (thank goodness ours is only 2 years). The teaching styles are very much the same, peer to peer training being a key component. But quickly the two diverge – 42 initiates about 4,000 students but is quickly whittled down, and only 1,000 remain (more on that later). This creates a super competitive atmosphere only allowing the crème de la crème (sorry about the shameless french cliche) to continue on. There are a lot of bootcamps here in San Francisco who do similar things. They will let go of the bottom third of its cohort after the first three weeks or so. OR worse…they will let go of anyone who is under performing right before graduation to beef up their numbers of job placement.

Bootcamps these days are hiding some dirty little secrets. There is such a huge need for qualified employees in the tech field; bootcamps and schools are beginning to cut corners to churn out as many graduates as possible. There are are some major flaws revealed when you start to cut corners though. The majority of these fast paced bootcamps are focusing on the newest technologies, but not teaching its students how to problem solve and become a self-sufficient programers. They teach just one language, or one aspect of the tech industry – forcing their students to become pigeon holed – lacking the flexibly and ability to deal with ambiguity the industry necessitates.  Another myth – the job placement rates that schools advertise. Oh boy, don’t get me started on this one. The moment that any school looses focus on its students and starts to focus only on its numbers – it begins to write its own eulogy. If a school is working the way it should, focusing on making sure students are understanding key concepts and helping them learn how to problem solve creatively, the job placement numbers will follow. Instead of keeping that focus on the students, bootcamps are letting go of their underperforming students right before graduation making it easy to place only their very top performing students. Doing this ill-represents the program and give incoming students unrealistic expectations.

Bootcamps are just one approach at training up the next germination of software engineers. Another approach would be what Epitech and 42 are doing. Epitech is a well established school in France that specialized in Information technology, and it’s pedagogy is project-based.

Epitech does not teach technologies, but instills behaviors that allow each student the capacity to evolve, to learn independently, to comprehend business practices, to work in teams and to convince decision-makers.”

It sounds amazing…right. Almost too good to be true…maybe? There are some hidden flaws in the design of this school. One that stands out is the fact that they only teach C. The problem being, everyone in the software engineering industry should know C (I can’t stress this enough), but they should know how to work and write in other languages as well. If you only know one langue, by the time you graduate (if you graduate) you have had no experiences of adapting your tools based on the project at hand. Depending on what you are woking on, C may not be the right tool for the job. 42 derives it’s structure a bit from Epitech. Like Epitech, it only takes the best of the best. By the end graduates are professionals in C, but they have no soft skill training, no web experience, and no system administration experience. This doesn’t even take into account the application process; its a grueling adventure. A basic break down of it is as follows. It begins with an application on line. If you make it through that round, the pressure only increases. The next step to admittance is essentially a month long technical interview. The school takes waves of a thousand students, each wave lasts a month. By the end of four waves or so, they look at the grades and they only accept the top 25%. And those that can actually stick with the program until the very end are even fewer. Another remarkable flaw is it’s lack of structure and instructors. There is no-one on site to go to for help when you need it. You have your peers, and that can be super helpful, but when you and your peers can’t solve a problem, you don’t have the resources of teachers or mentors to help point you in the right direction.

There are a lot of problems with these two ends of the spectrum. It’s as if schools are forcing students through an extruder treating them like palydough. Those who can mold themselves into the perfect shape will make it through to graduation- while those who fail to fit are doomed to become yet another statistic in the ever growing drop-out rates. This industry is growing exponentially, and because of that we cannot afford to only train up the Einsteins and Beethovens of the tech world. That’s not to say that we don’t need those fiercely ingenious people, please, by all means if that’s you…come and change this industry for the better…but big changes can’t be done alone. We are not all destine to be the best-of-the-best, we will not all become the next Marie Curie (or better yet, the next Betty Holberton)…but we can make a difference, and we all have something to offer. Holberton School is setting itself apart because it is not looking to ONLY educate the best-of-the-best. Well, it will educated SOME of the best-of-the-best, but it also hopes to retain the other 85% of students that would otherwise become dropout statistics at most other schools. It just requires appropriate training and support.


 “This is not a function”


So where does this lave us? Holberton is just getting it’s feet of the ground, so there are a lot of unknowns about the future of the program. There is one thing that is already sitting this school up for success, and that’s its holistic approach to teaching the ins and outs of this industry. Software engineering is not two demential, it has a lot of nuances and intricacies that can only be taught though dedication and an ever adapting curriculum.


Ladies who Linux

Silicon Valley is an interesting place to be studying software engineering. Patricianly if you don’t come from a tech background…(like me). I live about 45 miles from where I attend school; so every morning I have to take a commuter train into the city.  By 6 a.m. that train is filled with every tech badge imaginable – some I saw this morning, Salesforce, Oracle, Pinterest, Slack, Uber…just to name a few. How do I know…? Because it’s embroidered on everyones jacket, backpack, or other form of branded apparel. It’s a density of no comparison. It can be overwhelming most of the time, but sometimes I get to reap the benefits of of this close proximity to so many resources.

Last night I attended a Meetup at Dropbox. The theme of the night was ‘Ladies who Linux’. The Meetup caught my attention by the title. Not because it was specially for women, but because it was from a line from one of my favorite musical, song by one of my favorite actresses. The song is directly poking fun at women who are pursuing very little in life – the crux of their day being brunch. It’s funny and ironic choosing that for a title of a Meetup for women who are in fact doing the opposite, pursuing the world.

“Here’s to the ladies who lunch–
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf. “

Elaine Stritch, from Stephen Sondehim’s “Company”

I joined a group of women who are working in the industry, and who all really enjoy Linux. That is an opportunity that only proximity can give you. All of these women, ranging in experience and personality, had such so much to bring to the table. Tammy Bütow, formally with DigitalOcean, now with Dropbox, organized the evening. She recently ran a similar group in New York when she was living there, but now that she has relocated to San Francisco, she decided to help create the space for women to come together and share experiences and knowledge based around the topic of Linux.

My biggest highlight was talking with Jessica McKellar – currently  an engineering manager at Dropbox (although, she tends to wear many hats at the same time). Jessica is quite impressive, and she filled the space with an air of composure and strength. She has worked hard to get to where she is today, and I believe that her passion for low-level systems has been her driving force. Jessica is a director of the Python Software Foundation, and won the O’Reilly Open Source Award for here contributions to Python back in 2012.  She’s written a few books on the subject as well. It’s women like her that give me the confidence to burst through walls when I come face to face with them. Right now Jessica is working on a video series on an introduction to Python. You better believe that I will be following that series to soak up as much as I can from a women who knows what she’s talking about.

I asked her for some advice for a beginner programer. Her one tip… contribute to open source projects. That is now on the top of my priority list.

– So here’s to the Ladies who Linux –

Changing the world one line of code at at a time.




To all of my Valentines

You may not be all that into Valentine’s day – I certainly never have been. This Valentine’s day has been a bit different for me though. I am out West, and all of my Valentines are back in Illinois. No…I’m not in a relationship, but it just so happens that I have quite a few Valentines.

Before coming out to California, I had a full time job, but more importantly, I also helped look after some girls out in Wheaton every Monday. Some background – After I graduated from school, I was given the opportunity to go along with a Professor and his family on their fourth adoption. They where heading to China to pick up Sadie, and they needed a third person to come along and help look after their older girls so they could focus on the newest addition to the family. I jumped at the opportunity. After that, I was welcomed as an extended part of the family. Soon after Sadie joined the family, we welcomed Sena just a few months later, making that a total of five girls. After being grafted into that family, I quickly learned that Valentine’s day happened to be one of Mary’s (the mother) favorite holidays. It seemed a bit odd to me at first; the only people I know that claim Valentine’s day as their favorite holiday are sappy romantics. Mary had never seem a sappy romantic to me. She explained though, that Valentine’s day is really about showing those you love just how much they mean to you. For Mary, that meant her husband, of course… but it also meant all of her girls. Mary has never taken for granted how lucky she is to be able to nurture and watch her five girls grow up. Children are a gift, they force your heart to grow bigger then you ever though was imaginable. Why not celebrate that on Valentine’s day?

I had never thought much of Valentine’s day before, but it started to grow on me. It’s weird because Valentine’s day seems to be a very dividing day. If you are in a relationship, people like to go all out – chocolate, roses, romance…the whole nine yards; but if you are not in a relationship, it’s a day of turning up noses in an air of “I don’t need a relationship to be happy”. Neither camp is a bad one – honestly – both are very valid places to set up a tent and call it a day. But I still prefer Mary’s approach – it’s a great day to stop and appreciate all of the people in your life that you love. For me, that’s my parents, my closets friends who have been with me though thick and thin (and still FaceTime me from halfway across the country), and the five girls that stole my heart away. These are the people who have made me who I am today, and I love them all the more for that. This has been my first Valentines’s day without the before mentioned people, and it makes me all the more grateful of them.

So happy Valentine’s day – to all the sappy romantics and stoics alike. If you have people in your life that have commandeered space in your heart, take some time to celebrate that.


Numbers are not just symbols on a page

The above was the title of a project we had to work on this week. We have had a few projects in C before, but all of the previous projects were mainly an introduction to the language. This new project was very different. See, Holberton School’s goal is to shape us in to ‘full stack’ engineers.

mmmm… but that term is a little vague, and is used loosely in this industry. In fact when I was thinking about heading west to attend Holberton School, I was weary of the term. Before coming out to San Francisco, I was planning on attending Mobile Makers in Chicago, a boot camp for iOS. Don Bora, co-founder and chief instructor of Mobile Makers, and a friend of my father, was excited when he heard I was going to attend Holberton, but was weary of how the school train up ‘full stack’ engineers. Full stack is a very broad term, and it morphs into a lot of different things deepening on how people want to use it. You might run into people who call themselves ‘full stack’ engineers because they can do both front-end and back-end. Cool, great… glad you can do two things…. but ‘full stack’ at it’s core means something very different. Look at it this way – lets take for example a a webpage to purchase a flight to California (this being an open invitation for my Chicago friends to come visit…hint…hint). You have the front-end, the part of the webpage that you are interacting with, where you put in your personal information and your select a destination of California. The back-end deals with servers, an application and a database, so that when you log back into that webpage, you can check your flight status and see that unfortunately it is delayed because of bad wether in Chicago (more reason to visit California).  So there you have it- front-end and back-end… but wait… there is so much more to software engineering then just that. What about all the other parts like security, and the construction of the very languages that everything is written in?  I haven’t even mentioned the soft skills like marketing , or other behind the scene things like system administration. There are so many layers when it comes to software engineering. With a humble and realistic understanding that nobody can be and expert in all areas of the full stack, Holberton’s goal is to make us all at lest proficient enough to peel away each layer and deal with bugs no matter how deep down they go. To be able to do that, you do not need to master every aspect of software engineering, you just need to have a solid understanding of how each part fits together and have the tools in your tool box to figure it out from there. And that is why we are solving algorithms in C.

SO back to the top of this post. Our task was to ‘Write a function that takes an integer in parameter and prints it’. Sounds easy right. Just write a function that takes ‘n’ number and prints it on the screen. HA. NOPE. Not easy at all. This was a restriction among many others.

  • You are not allowed to use the standard library. Any use of functions like printf, puts, etc… is totally forbidden.

WOOF. The only function we could use was ‘print_char’, which prints a single character. Not super helpful when a six long digit is passed into the parameter. We needed to figure out an algorithm that would take a given number, figure out how many digits were in that number, from that extract each individual integer that makes up that number and print them in order. Figuring out the algorithm was daunting. After the task was posted, a bunch of us were still stumped… so we shoved ourselves into the only meeting room with a white board to hash out the problem. A few hours later, we had a semblance of an algorithm, with no code attached. Some of us felt like, “oh, great… we haven’t gotten anywhere”. But Julien, one of our co-founders, wanted to make a point with that. He said, the hardest part of this task was figuring out the algorithm, the code part is easy (well, maybe once I am better at C it will be the easy part). He wanted us to realize that when we are faced with a problem like this, you can not start with the code – you have to first figure out how to solve it with pen and paper. Let me make myself clear, pen and paper will never be antiquated. It’s a hard lesson to learn when you have been spending upwards of twelve hours a day typing way on a computer.

Algorithms are not going away. We are learning to use our brains and the tools at hand to solve problems. And that is exactly what a ‘full stack engineer’ should be able to do with confidence an ease. I’m not there yet, but conquering algorithms and C are a few of the tools in that tool box.

Queue the metamorphoses – the cusp of deep learning

I currently have three windows up on my computer, this web page, terminal, and Rick and Morty playing in the background.

I absolutely love Rick and Morty (thanks Kyle for introducing it to me). The tech industry take itself very seriously sometimes, and this TV show manages to lighten the mood. One of my favorite snippets is in an episode from season 2 – Rick and Morty want Summer to stay in the car while they go and take care of something. Rick proceeds to instruct the car  ‘to keep summer safe‘. The parameters ‘keep summer safe’ then proceed to break all convention in an attempt to fulfill that one goal. Watch the clip and you will know what I’m talking about. The short scene is almost a synopsis of the movie ‘A Space Odyssey’ – adhering to these three rues (in this order)… 1. do not harm humans, 2. obey humans, 3. protect yourself. Put in the hands of un-conscience beings, these parameters do not seem to work in a world of conscious ones.

Lets start by establishing that we are ALL very well acquainted with deep learning. YES – YOU – you have a lot of experience with deep learning. Here are some everyday, concrete examples… Google allows us to find information based algorithms, Netflix recommends shows and movies based on what you have enjoyed in the past, and Amazon suggests products based on what is currently in your shopping cart. These are all examples of machine learning, or more specifically deep learning. Right now a lot of us are entranced with the idea of deep learning. Wether it is body augmentation, or the dream of owing a self driving car, we all have ideas about how deep learning could improve our lives – make us more productive while at the same time making our lives easier.

This past week Louis Monier and Gregory Renard gave a seminar on deep learning at Holberton School. They covered everything from the ethics of deep learning to hands on projects allowing us to see how machine learning happens first hand. At the very end we had a fire side chat about some of the ethical implications, both good and bad, of deep learning. There was mention of the possibility of improving elderly care, or those with disabilities, but we kept coming back to this one issue… what will happen when deep learning has to make moral decisions?

Let me give you a specific example. In about fifteen years when self driving cars have become the norm (and yes, that is inevitable at this point), what happens when the car is in a situation where it needs to make a moral decision? Lets say the car is driving down a busy city side street and out of nowhere, a small child runs in front of the car chasing after a ball. The car does not have enough time to make a complete stop without hurting the child. To the right of the car is a cement barrier and to the left is someone on a bicycle. The car needs to decide how to react to the situation. If it goes straight, the child is harmed, if it goes right the passenger is harmed, and if it goes left the bicyclist is harmed. How should it proceed? Now, this might be a hypothetical situation – maybe a little unrealistic… but humor me. How do you program a car to make a decision like that. One might argue, well, people find themselves in situations like that all of the time, and we always have to make moral decisions like this every day. If self driving cars did not exist, the passenger would be the driver, and they would have to make that decision in a split of a second  – harm the child, harm the bicyclist, harm herself. Moral decisions are made by every singe one of us every single day. The big question being ‘How do you program morals’? This isn’t a new question, and the discussion is going to be around in the foreseeable future. Deep learning integrating into our lives is inevitable, but it brings along some very difficult questions. Get your thinking caps ready, because we are in for some trough conversations.


(Greg getting our fireside chat going)

If you are behind in your A.I. media – watch these to catch up

  • Rick and Morty (pretty much any episode)
  • A Space Odyssey (one of the most classic examples of deep learning)
  • Terminator (deep learning gone wrong)
  • Eureka – (season 1 episode 2 – the next steps in home automation – or the internet of things)
  • Her (but be prepared to be depressed about the future of our relationships with technology)
  • Transcendence (Johnny Depp uploads his brain to a computer – can you take human intelligence and transfer it to another object)
  • Ex machina (who can we trust, humans … or technology)

Impossible Octopus Fitness


One of the things that I am really loving about Holberton School is how they iterate on projects to give us a full emersion experience of what it is like to be a software engineer in the real tech world. We are most recently working on a simple web page. Part of the application to get into Holberton School was to create a web page, so it’s nice to be able to revisit front-end development now that we have some experience under our belts. The first part of the project was simply to create a web page with very specific guidelines – all designed to force us to learn specific skills. Elements like, float, clear, and myriad css statements. Once we finished that project, we were given an iteration based on SEO (search engine optimization). The same web page is now a small competition in web marketing. The goal – get the highest ranking on google for a given query. What’s the query you ask… if you haven’t guessed already “impossible octopus fitness”. The website was made in about two days, and it was the only the second one I have ever made, so it is by all means, not a great site, but do me a favor and check it out, maybe Rona (my partner on this project) and I will raise in our rankings when you do a google search of impossible octopus fitness.

impossible octopus fitness

Coffee is a girls best friend


SO – let’s establish that I am not a coffee connoisseur… but I do enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning. About a year ago, I was introduced by a few friends (Sean and Robb) to the aeropress. I’v been drinking coffee for a while now, but let me tell you, the aeropress is a cut above. I’m pretty sure it can make the shittiest of coffee taste mediocre. It is also the easier, cleanest, and cheapest way to make a dang good cup of coffee. I don’t always drink fancy coffee (there is no way I could afford that habit). A few weeks ago I was doing my final errands before I left Chicago to head West. I was donating one of my bikes to West Town Bikes in Humbolt Park, and nearby was Dark Matter Coffee – I had to stop in to pick up some of their barrel aged beans. I think these beans might be magic, because they are so robust, and yet so sweet (no sugar added of course). It’s an Ethiopian bean, married with a 30 year old Heaven Hill bourbon barrel. The barrel first housed Heaven Hill bourbon, then went on to host Pipeworks Imperial Jones Dog (for a whopping 10 months) – then… (yes…then) – it played host to Pipeworks Elijah’s Revival Wheat Wine Ale. The barrel’s final resting place was with the Ethiopian Reko beans. Placing coffee beans in a barrel with a history like this means they are going to come out with character and depth. The bourbon leaving behind oak and touch of peaty essence – the Imperial Jones Dog  lending notes of vanilla and dark fruits – and the Elijah’s Revival leaving notes of orange and spice. The fruity nature of the bean (pineapple and cocoa) and the flavor rich barrel gave birth to a barrel aged bean like none other. Next time you find yourself in Chicago, make sure to stop in to Dark Matter and pick up some beans, no matter the variety – you will not be disappointed (and then stop by Pipeworks and pick up a beer – coffee an beer go very well together).

wait…this is a blog about a girl’s novice entry into the world of tech – why is she written about coffee beans?

My experience of jumping ship from my previous life and entering this foreign one is not just about the challenges of learning a new trade, or learning how to be in school again – it’s about how the day-in-day-out small things that bring me joy, and the brick walls that show up when I least expect them. I have a lot of early mornings and late nights ahead of me… coffee will definitely be a part of that. The better the bean, the better the experience (in my opinion at least).


p.s. thank you Angela Venarchik for the beautiful mug



Don’t trust. Verify.

Today marks the end of week one at back at school. It has felt strange and refreshing not being at work anymore – I feel challenged and leave exhausted at the end of the day. The type of exhausted that means I REALLY did something today. On the other hand, it’s terrifying. I got my last pay check today from my previous job. That means that it’s budget time. I have a very specific amount of money to ride out on for the next foreseeable future. At times that scares the shit out of me. I’ve cut as many corners as I can – but at the end of the day I am still living in the most expensive city in the country – and I still need to eat, and get from point A to point B – and that is far from cheap.

Today, we had a Nicolas Bacca, the CTO at Ledger an Btchip, come in to talk to us about security. His tag line was – don’t trust. Verify. He wanted to drive home the point that in the technology industry, we can’t just trust every program we run or every website we log into – you need to verify everything. Trust leads to holes in security. Trusting things, without verification, means hackers have the opportunity to swoop in and take advantage of your information. This is a crucial tag line to implement when you work in the technology industry. I got to thinking about it more – and I quickly realized that it may work for the technology industry, but it doesn’t work in most other parts of life. Or – at least it shouldn’t. Don’t trust, verify – it implies that we should assume all control. That just isn’t feasible in life, nor is it healthy. We are not in control.

A few months back when I was just starting to talk about the possibility of starting down the path of software engineering, I found myself standing in the kitchen of the Lewis family home. I was talking to Mary Lewis, a mentor and friend. The past few years, I have been helping out at the Lewis home with their five girls (ranging in age from 5 to 17). But long ago, before Mark and Mary were parents of these five girls, they were actors in New York. Originally from Arkansas, Mary found herself in love with New York. Between her work on soap operas, and stellar roles dancing on broadway – the Big Apple had captured her heart. While in New York, Mark was offered a job in the Communications department at Wheaton college (just west of Chicago). Seeking council, the two headed to their pastor – at that time it was Tim Keller. Tim Keller is a big supporter of Christians choosing to live in our cities (I put some links to some recent posts from Tim Keller on the subject). That being said – when Mary went to seek council, she was pretty sure Tim was going to tell them that they were needed in the City. You can guess where this is going – Tim told them to go to Wheaton. Shocker.

Mary didn’t want to go at first. But God had bigger plans – plans Mark and Mary couldn’t quite see yet. When I got accepted to Holberton School, I felt a similar way. I couldn’t make out a clearly defined path of what deciding to go into software engineering looked like. Making a big decision like that without knowing all the facts is scary – and very uncomfortable. But there I was, standing in the the kitchen talking to Mary about her decision to make uncomfortable decisions nearly two decades ago – not too different from mine. It wasn’t the decision to move across the country, leaving behind the city you love – but rather the decision to trust the doors that God opens for us, and to walk through them with grace.

Here is the take away. We try really hard as human beings to remain in control of our lives. We make plans, we save our money and tighten our belts if needed, we make safe decisions to ensure we live a comfortable happy life. But it doesn’t matter how much planning, or securing we d0 – disasters strike, stock markets fall, and our loved ones get sick. There is no verification in the world that could stave off the reality of this fallen world we live in. Control does not lead to happiness, it leads to a self-centered, stale, life. God gifs us times of trial – he places fog on the path right in front of us. Our job is not to wait for the fog to lift, or take out our map to check of the possible hazards that may lie ahead – our job is to trust that He has our best interest at heart.

I challenge you – the next time you see fog up a head, don’t wait for it to clear, but seek council and if God is leading you forward, walk with grace and trust that His plans are far greater than you could even imagine. Don’t verify – TRUST.

(My path is still foggy – I’ll let you know when it starts to clear)


The Difference Christianity Could Make in the City

The City, the Church, and the Future – Tim Keller