TCS NYC Marathon 2016

I finished! I really finished! My first marathon on the books.

I got around to it just barely in time to check off a bucket list item that I casually suggested to a friend in a meandering lunchtime conversation 5 years ago, as something I wanted to do in the next 5 years… I don’t even remember who I was talking to and I’m sure they wouldn’t remember the conversation either but it stuck in my head that I was supposed to run a marathon by 2016 and now here I am.

The race went a lot more smoothly than I expected. After a slow start hanging out by the 4:55 pacer and nursing some deep concerns about a 5+ hour finish, as FiveThirtyEight’s marathon time calculator had predicted for me, I managed negative splits to then pass the 4:45 and 4:35 pacers for a nice round 4:30 finish. (As one friend says, “On par with the rest of FiveThirtyEight’s predictions this year!”) Still none too fast but very acceptable given my baseline level of slowness in running and lack of interest in training for speed. I think a couple of weird-tasting but well-timed gels at miles 11 and 18, plus Gatorade every other mile, helped. And the perfect weather today: brisk but sunny fall weather, slight breeze, temperatures in the 50s, ideal for running.

Oh and the cheering! I brought headphones so I could listen to music but the cheering along the entire course was a much better acoustic complement for the race. I loved all the energy from the spectators, their cheering and their cowbells, and all the singers and bands and boom boxes along the way. There were lots of fun signs to serve as visual distraction as well: “If Trump can run, so can you!” “26.2, because 26.3 would be crazy” “Who needs toenails anyways?” “Seems like a lot of work for a free banana…” The cheering made the miles go so, so much faster than they ever did on any of my long training runs.

For the first time ever I also had friends come watch and then meet me at the end of the race. It’s kind of nice to be loved! And now I get to enjoy my finisher flowers in their mason jar vase.

A little bit of magic in our Muggle world

“Imagine Star Wars was opening in one cinema in one city and that was the only place you could see it. That’s sort of what’s happening with this.”— Sonia Friedman (quoted in The Telegraph)

In what was to us a small feat of magic in of itself, my friend Helen and I managed to get our hands on tickets to the Harry Potter play yesterday. We lined up at 10am in the returns queue and waited for four hours (!) and just barely got the last tickets to the day’s shows. The last hour before Part 1 was due to start playing was particularly nerve-wracking, as crowds of blissfully-already-ticketed theatre-goers pressed against us and we hoped against hope for more returns to come in. But finally the theater attendant came by with his clipboard and tickets spreadsheet and theater layout plan and asked us if we were interested in two singles that were available. Our answer was a very quick yes.

The play is amazing. It’s magical, spellbinding, bewitching, any choice of thaumaturgic adjective works.I was completely enthralled for the entirety of the 5+ hours of showtime. I even had to switch from contacts to glasses towards the end because my eyes were drying out from staring so intently at the stage. The story and plot are iconic JK Rowling Harry Potter; the stagecraft and special effects are wonderfully designed and thrillingly executed. I’m so so delighted I got the chance to experience the play as it was meant to be experienced, on stage in the West End, with its original cast and in its opening months no less.

The show deserves all of its five star ratings.

(I can only warn that reading the script on its own is unlikely to evoke the same sort of immersive thrall, so if you think you might have the chance to see the play performed live, hold off on reading the book!)

Observations from an impromptu user research session on the streets of Huxton

A middle-aged Black woman — from what I could glean, an overseas transplant here in London as a caretaker for the elderly — came pattering up to me and asked for my help finding her way to her destination, the address of which she pointed out at the bottom of a paper printout.

She had an iPhone 5 or 5S: a decent phone, but at least a couple years old, and a little worn. She showed me the screen of her phone, where she had put the address into Google Maps, but it wasn’t returning a result and she was clearly feeling a bit frantic about getting where she needed to go.

Google Maps has a lot of issues with UK addresses; apparently the key is to strip the addresses down to the postal codes which are uniquely identifying. Putting in the street address in addition to the postal code often doesn’t work; it’s gotta be just postal code.

I told her this and she tried to search for the postal code: watching her engage with the UI / UX was the ultimate in cringeworthiness. She struggled a few times to delete the street address from the search input field because the box was too small and she couldn’t get the cursor in; and then when she switched tacks and tried to hit the “x” to clear everything and re-enter the postal code it was too small of a tap target so she missed many times before she got it. Although Google Maps is case-insensitive, which I take for granted (and I would posit most tech-savvy people do too), she wanted to make sure she got the postal code exactly right and kept hitting the Shift key to make sure she was capitalizing her input. Which she ended up mis-entering anyways because it’s hard to type with thumbs on a small screen. I asked her if she wanted me to help her on the phone and she was so relieved and grateful to hand it over to me.

Google Maps was happy to return a result for just the postal code, but she had it set on walking directions; so she was happy at first to see a result but then immediately worried when she saw the estimated time to be 44 minutes. I switched it to public transit directions by tapping on the walking man icon, but I also realized how completely non-intuitive it is to have to do that. From there, she was still squinting to figure out where she needed to go, and asked me to read the instructions and tell her. I scrolled down to see which Tube line, direction, and exit she had to take; read them aloud and pointed out to her where on the screen she could see that information, which was fine, but also frustrating to me to see how difficult it was for her to figure it out on her own.

As creators of technology, we still aren’t doing a good job serving people who aren’t us. “Us” usually being young, mostly male, mostly White and Asian, tech-savvy urban professionals with disposable incomes and the latest shiniest devices and apps, with a strong geographic bias to SF / Bay Area and maybe NYC. It’s still very impressive that this woman will eventually get where she needs to go… But we still have so much room to improve if even some of the best of what the tech industry has produced — the Apple iPhone, Google Maps — is so deficient.

https://li.st/triketora/observations-from-an-impromptu-user-research-session-on-the-streets-of-huxton-6nlkAsHqc9QlR42OGYJxRL

A hiker has no name

On the trail, we knew each other by nationality and traveling companions: The Malaysian couple. The Brit, solo. The American family. The two Danish friends. In the suspension of our normal identities and lives and the world beyond the trail, we didn’t need names. We breakfasted and supped and overnighted together for four days and everyone was unfailingly friendly and conversational and yet there was no awkwardness about being nameless to each other. At the end, there were some brief belated exchanges of first names by way of simultaneous introduction and farewell, but no exhortations to stay in touch — just well wishes in upcoming travel and pleasant wave offs in appreciation of companionship for the few days we shared.

17 Cutest Corgis in the World

Okay, sorry, no corgis.

Today is my last day at Pinterest. It’s simultaneously bittersweet and terrifyingly exciting to be moving on to a new startup adventure, this time my own.

I still often think back to when we were just three rows of desks at the High Street office in Palo Alto, and marvel at how far the company has come since then. And it’s been such a joy and privilege to come in to the office every day to work with such a talented, creative, inspiring, and also warm, collaborative, and humble team that is so committed to doing good work in the world.

February 2012. The office was starting to feel a little scrunched.

I first encountered Pinterest in 2010 with the passing curiosity of a startup junkie that loves trying any new site and examining the user flows. Upon discovering a typo on the site, I thought to write to the team, sending over an email titled “typo and other thoughts” to hi@pinterest.com. Within an hour a very nice person by the name of Ben Silbermann had replied to me, thanking me for the feedback and signing off with “I hope you keep using the site and keep your thoughts and suggestions coming!”

A year later, we were re-connected through the Palo Alto startup scene, summer BBQs and the like. Although I hadn’t been looking to leave Quora, Ben made me an offer to join Pinterest and I considered. I was immediately compelled by his thoughtfulness around the type of company he wanted to build: the sort of place that in 30 years, people would look back and be proud to have worked at. I was using the site more and intrigued by the product and business potential. And I was excited by the opportunity to help scale not only the engineering but also the engineering team. I crossed my fingers, hoping I wasn’t making a terrible mistake, and took the offer.

The early days were crazy chaotic, but I didn’t know to expect any different. I was only a year and a half into my software career, with just enough experience to be dangerous, but not so much to have lost my fearlessness. I dove right in. We were hurriedly migrating off a Django ORM setup that only had enough id space for a few more weeks of pin creation; the codebase was a tangle of dependencies via careless import *s and magic functions; and we sometimes took down the site on deploys without knowing it for lack of unit tests, deploy validation, or even uptime monitoring (#yolo!). I loved it.

Just kidding, one corgi! This is Kira standing in front of screens we probably should have been using to monitor the site.

It’s been four and a half years since I joined, and I can’t imagine a better opportunity than being on the Pinterest rocket ship in these intervening years. I’ve had the chance to work all up and down and across the stack and build infrastructure, products, frameworks, and tools; I’ve worked with wickedly talented people across every function, and made friends that I’ll keep for life. The culture that Ben was so deliberate to craft when the company was only eight people has scaled as we’ve grown to 100x the size. I can only hope to be able to recreate that kind of hyper-productive camaraderie I’ve experienced at Pinterest in my future pursuits. (Special shoutouts to the web team of the Denzel Black Hole Sun era, and to my Sterling team omies, thank you for coming to Rusty yoga with me. Love you g̶u̶y̶s̶ all.)

To say nothing of the sheer scale we’ve achieved, reaching over 100 million MAUs across so many platforms and countries, we’ve grown up as a company.


I’m still terribly excited about Pinterest. I’ve personally always been an avid Pinner (17k Pins and counting!) and will continue to be. I believe in the mission of bringing inspiration to people around the world, and the team’s ability to realize that mission.

And though I’ll stay involved as an advisor to the company, I also think it’s time for me to close this chapter of my life and begin a new one. After taking some time to travel and tramp through Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, I’m planning to move to NYC for a much-needed change of scene. I’ve been in the Bay Area my whole life and I can’t wait to experience the bustle and diversity of life and industry and people in the city that never sleeps. I think it’ll be the perfect place for me to be creative in new ways as I start my own company.

On that matter: I’ve never been attracted to the notion of starting a company for the sake of starting a company — I even once wrote a post venting some frustration over that Silicon Valley meme — but over the course of the last year I’ve found myself drawn to a particular problem space that has substantial social impact, particularly along gender lines, and is currently underserved by technology. With some gentle nudges from new friends I’ve made at this career crossroads, I’m excited to try to build a business around solutions for this problem space.

#squadgoals

04include-superJumbo
Credit: Damien Maloney for the New York Times. Project Include, from left: Susan Wu, Laura I. Gómez, Erica Baker, Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, bethanye McKinney Blount, Freada Kapor Klein.

What a treat to be able to work with this amazing (and diverse!) group of women on launching Project Include. I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to code on the website with a few fun co-conspirators.

Miscellaneous nice press coverage:

My favorite: