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Rainier's 2015 in Review

Rainier Ababao ยท January 01, 2016 ยท 6 min read

In 2015 I...

"Figured out" the kind of people I want to spend time with. It's a well-known adage that "you are the average of the top five people you spend time with". Ignoring cases like, raising four babies or something, there is definitely some truth to this in college. In Fall 2014, I joined two student orgs. In one of them, I quickly figured out that the majority were mainly preoccupied with gossip and padding their resumes, so I did not re-apply to be a member the next semester. The other was Lambda Alpha Nu, a brand-new co-ed tech-interest fraternity. I was in the very first "Alpha Class" following its establishment.

The organization has left a huge impact on my career aspirations. With the founders (now alumni) working at high-impact tech companies and beginning startups, I feel like a career dedicated to computer science is my opportunity to optimize the balance between largest net positive impact on the world and my own personal enjoyment of the field during my relatively short time here on Earth.

Got lucky and had a lot of interviews. From the entire year, I completed 31 interviews and 4 coding challenges. Over two-dozen of them were during September and October 2015.

Truth be told, it was a less-than-optimal strategy! But I knew that I wouldn't practice or gain confidence unless I actually interviewed with companies, no matter how much I actually wanted to work for them.

Went to the Bay Area three times and the Northeast once. I had the privilege of traveling out of state several times in 2015. I flew out for 2 interviews and 2 hackathons.

In late March I went to Weebly's beautiful office in San Francisco for an on-site trial for their software engineering internship. Considering I had never made a web app backend before ๐Ÿ™ƒ, this was a huge learning experience. Needless to say, I wasn't extended an offer, but it was an experience that really inspired me to try to get an internship in the Bay Area.

As an early 20th birthday present from my parents, I visited the 6Sense HQ in the heart of SoMa to attend their first data science-oriented hackathon! I had a lovely experience and it was the first hackathon where I won a prize. They even got me cake for my birthday.

In November, I went to the Clover HQ in Sunnyvale for the 1st Annual Clover Network Invitational! From Thursday through Saturday we:

  • Had two practice interviews with immediate feedback followed by the real interview on the last day.
  • Had a resume-building workshop where I was fortunate enough to be reviewed by their head of product!
  • Hacked with a few other students and one of the Clover engineers, a UTCS alum!
  • Gorged on catered lunches and dinners, followed by adventures in SF and more food.

The week after Clover, I went to a small school in Princeton, NJ to participate in HackPrinceton. It helped reinforce my belief that if the endgame is working at \$COOLTECH_COMPANY, starting a successful startup, or building an awesome network, you don't have to be at an Ivy, I was in a good place all along! But even more importantly, I realized how important resources and a network is to young engineers, better understood how _privileged I am without patting myself on the back, but also how good it feels to be a mentor.

Went to a lot of hackathons. Nine, to be exact. A large reason of why I went to a lot of hackathons earlier this year is because I felt somewhat behind. I started learning how to code in September 2014 when I began my computer science major, and when I joined Lambda Alpha Nu, I felt behind as a lot of my new friends were landing all these glamorous internships. Understandably, they had been coding much longer than I have, and because of how time works, will always have been coding longer than I have, as long as all of us are alive. But after this interview season and coding nearly every day of my life this year, I feel confident enough to try to be a mentor more often.

  • HackDFW 2015 - worked on MakeRoute, a PHP/MySQL web app that determines nice restaurants on the route between two places.
  • SXSW Music Hackathon - worked on an Android app that filters an Rdio API playlist based on your heart rate determined by the Microsoft Band.
  • ATX Hack4Change Civic Hackathon - worked on an Android backend with Parse and game logic for a collection of nutrition-oriented games aimed at toddlers, called Monstralia by the HealthStart Foundation.
  • athenahealth MDP Hackathon - worked on HealthCruncher, a Python/Flask web API that calculates heart disease and diabetes predisposition probability with a basic machine learning model.
  • 6Sense DataHack - built text-graph/"Fran", a library for parsing text backup files and generating a weighted graph based on people they mentioned in texts.
  • HackTX 2015 - I played around with the Yelp dataset and learned how to use RethinkDB, a key-value store that is probably better than MongoDB.
  • Clover Network Invitational - See above.
  • HackPrinceton 2015 - built Feelsbook. I teamed up with two NYU engineering freshmen named Claryssa and Minah who were hackathon newbies to help them get their feet wet in web development. We built a Python/Flask-based social networking site-like newsfeed that pooled data from the Indico, Clarifai, and Microsoft facial emotion recognition APIs to ask the user just what exactly was on their mind, whether something was wrong, what made them joyful, and so on, and filtered tweets based on their face as well.

The hackathon community's been so instrumental in my development that I decided to join the leadership team for HackTX, which was my very first hackathon in 2014 (when I had just learned about for-loops). The organizing community of HackTX are all very amazing people.

I had a very productive, mindful, and lucky 2015. In 2016, I want to be humbler, feel more secure about my abilities (which involves improving them), maintain and create honest, impactful relationships with people.

How was your 2015, and what are your plans for 2015 + 1?

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