Day 2 of Hack Reactor: Uplifting

Today was a wonderful day – day 2 of Hack Reactor. Felt refreshed and stoked this morning to have slept for 7+ hours, and walked into the office after a short 23 minute commute (already optimized from 33 minutes yesterday!). We had a series of town hall discussions today on closures and the keyword ‘this’, completed our Underbar.js rewrites in pairs, and listened to the most fantastic lecture from Marcus. I also decided that I would start blogging daily about my experience at HR, if only just highs, lows, and challenges, so that I may reflect later on what will be an intense thirteen weeks.

Day 2 Highs

  • Marcus’ evening lecture ‘How to Succeed’ was inspiring. A few important points:
    • Distinguished between being in the “top 1% in a good cohort” (say, smart peers at university) and in the “bottom 1% in a brilliant cohort” (think Einstein-level genius)
      • The former scenario feels psychologically better, but the latter is objectively more favorable for individual growth. In the latter scenario, the key is that the individual must avoid the negativity that comes with being “less talented” than his peers; that is, the individual must avoid comparison and instead, cooperate and learn. The growth that will result from this environment will be greater than that growth from the lesser cohort.
      • Takeaway: Put yourself in the best environment to succeed; once there, accept who and what you are.
    • Everyone is going to be better, stronger, faster than you at something. Celebrate it!
    • Elaborated on a list of traits that define a successful Hack Reactor student – some of my favorites were: positivity, likeability, work ethic, passion.
      • Reminded me to be positive everyday and greet each challenge with a smile – as it is only through challenging yourself that you can grow!
    • Students need a growth mindset – not a fixed one. We are dynamic individuals with the incredible opportunity to grow our intellectual and emotional capacities. This growth can only come through trying new things and failing. Said another way, failure does not reflect a problem of the self; rather it is the avenue for growth.
  • Figuring out how _.some in Underscore.js works with Allen
  • Getting enough sleep!

Day 2 Lows/Challenges

  • Quite frustrating to not understand _.some for an hour during pair programming – but finally understood it after speaking with one of the instructors, Allen, during a break before lunch (so this was a high and a low!)
  • Leaving Marcus’ lecture when it ended, rather than staying late to chat with the small group of 10 students. When inspired, I will definitely stick around (my gut feeling) rather than going straight back to code.

Day 1 of Hack Reactor: Sleepy

Day 1 Highs

  • Realizing that I was not behind on recursion and having a good pair programming session rewriting getElementsbyClassName and JSON.stringify

Day 1 Lows

  • Not getting enough sleep – was pretty tired most of the day
Day 2 of Hack Reactor: Uplifting

A Retrospective on Cambodia, Thailand, and India


1. Rock climbing to A hidden lagoon on Railay Beach, Thailand

  • Descending steep rocks in sandals and a bikini
  • Jumping into the lagoon with my camera and squishing my toes in soft clay
  • Exploring the caves along the far edges of the lagoon with three boy musketeers
  • Sliding straight down a giant clay hill on my bare butt
  • On my way back, ascending the steepest rocks with muddy, slippery feet, and nearly falling onto my back. A wiry Spanish girl came to my rescue, shouting, “Ayuda!” and “Esta chica is muy loca!”
Steep descents into the lagoon - not to be completed with sandals!
Steep descents – shoes required!
Lagoon views
View of the lagoon from a shady bank

2. Snorkeling in Waters OFF Phi Phi island, Thailand

  • Seeing rainbow fish in clear aqua and teal water
  • Meeting a UK couple that explained posh versus rural British accents
  • The sting of the water on my wounded butt
  • My swim shorts (purchased in Phi Phi) dye-ing the long-tailed boat and my clothes neon pink
Such clear water for snorkeling
Such clear water for snorkeling
Maya Bay
Maya Bay

3. Meeting Anurag’s baby girl Anvika for the first time, India

  • Eating a vegetarian meal of smiley face french fries, kidney beans, and parathas
  • Reading the book I sent her, Elmer!

4. Exploring the ruins of Ta Prohm (the Jungle Temple), Cambodia

  • Final morning in Cambodia
  • Passing on knowledge of the echoing chamber to a French couple
  • Climbing over the rope boundaries to explore hidden temple chambers
  • Navigating the temple’s off-limit rooms to arrive at the most spectacular tree roots (where a large Korean tour group was taking photos of each tour member one by one)
Roots like you wouldn't believe
Roots like you wouldn’t believe
Carvings past a rope boundary
Carvings past a rope boundary


Category Cambodia Thailand India Other Grand Total
Attraction $130.00 $113.55 $41.47 $285.01
Driver $143.00 $68.71 $76.05 $287.76
Flight $1,466.00 $1,466.00
Food $43.50 $58.39 $50.79 $9.00 $161.68
Gift $29.35 $29.35
Lodging $45.00 $109.68 $274.76 $429.44
Miscellaneous $0.32 $8.69 $9.01
Pharmacy $2.00 $29.03 $4.31 $35.34
Souvenir $52.00 $14.52 $66.52
Visa $30.00 $150.00 $180.00
Grand Total $445.50 $423.55 $606.07 $1,475.00 $2,950.12

$ in Cambodia

  • Expensive attractions and drivers. Cambodia had the highest Attraction and Driver cost, due to its status as a real-life Jurassic Park (minus the dinosaurs). Siem Reap’s infrastructure is designed to optimize revenue from attractions and drivers, and tourists – who venture out to the country almost solely for the Hindu and Buddhist temples – willingly pay for these items.
  • Cheap food and lodging. Food and Lodging costs were notably low, and the quality was on par with India and Thailand. The price of a good Khmer amok (chicken, fish, or beef stew) could range from $4-15, with most hovering around $6; a pint of beer was only $0.50 on Pub Street!
  • Kind, welcoming people. Cambodians are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Street vendors, tuk tuk drivers — any local really — would meet my eyes and light up with the biggest smiles. Unlike in India, where locals rarely smile at first eye contact (many instead stare at foreigners), Cambodians made tourists feel welcome.

$ in Thailand

  • Incredible island hopping. Thailand was moderately priced and my favorite of the three countries during my trip. Quality lodging for an average of $33/night, cheap, delicious food, mild weather and beautiful, accessible islands make Thailand a perfect vacation spot. It is a place I can see myself returning to again and again.
  • High pharmacy costs. Pharmacy costs were highest here, due to the huge scrapes I sustained on my bottom sliding down a hill of clay.
  • Great deals on cheap souvenirs. While I purchased the majority of trinkets for family and friends at Bangkok’s Asiatique Night Market, Souvenir costs amounted to less than $15 – quite a bargain!

$ in India

  • High-stress driving. India is notoriously difficult to navigate, and I spent a disproportionate amount of time and energy negotiating with taxi drivers or waiting in terrible traffic. For example, after an hour of swerving, scary, Satan-like stick shift driving on the way to the airport, my Uber driver nearly ran me over (on accident, I think).
  • Expensive lodging. Mumbai was also the most expensive place to stay — at $80/night, Lodging costs were double Thailand and 7x Cambodia. However, it is necessary to pay this amount for decent housing in Mumbai, as discount hotels are mostly in unsafe neighborhoods and lack proper security.
  • Expensive food. Food costs were also the highest; the only reason my food expenses are low is that two of my dinners were covered by generous Indian friends.


1. Mango in Cambodia and Thailand is a staple good – much cheaper and more accessible than in the United States. My breakfast in Cambodia often consisted solely of a mango cut by a local on the side of the street, eaten with a long wooden stick. In fact, 8/23 of my Food expenses included a mango in its components.

2. Public restrooms in India charge per use and generally have full-time cleaning staff. Imagine trying to pee when you know someone is listening – this is exactly what happened at each stop!

3. International flights are rarely delayed, unlike domestic flights in the United States.

4. English is still the common denominator across all three countries, but challengers are quickly emerging. Chinese (Mandarin) and Japanese are rapidly catching up.

5. Americans don’t seem to travel as much as Europeans or Asians.

  • In Cambodia, I saw fleets of tour buses full of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean tourists, and the occasional British or French couple.
  • In Thailand, Germans and English ruled the day. Bangkok was especially cosmopolitan.
  • In India, there are few tourists in comparison with the locals, and those that are in Mumbai are mostly English. I saw no Asian tourists besides myself in Mumbai, and certainly no other single Asian females.

6. Cambodia was highly dependent on the United Nations for establishing and funding the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Thus, Cambodia continues to operate on the USD$ — to the point where locals must use American money to buy a house or to send children to school. I did not have to use Cambodia currency at all.

7. In Cambodia seemingly all of the locals are poor. In Thailand, I sensed a deeper striving for equality. Not surprisingly, there is the greatest disparity between haves and have-nots in India, where a thriving economy has led a small fraction of Indians to become very wealthy. These folks frequent places like the Palladium Mall in lower Parel and the Taj Palace in Colaba. In these beautiful places, it is easy to forget that outside the walls of the mall or the building — maybe just across the street — there are homeless families and vast acres of slums.


the yoga studio

The yoga studio is my sanctuary. The other yogi, fellow parish-goer. I sit silent, in reverence for the simple act of taking time for myself, for honoring myself with my presence on the floor. In cat/cow breath, in the ringing of five om sounds, in every movement in every breath. I am nobody and everyone, I am no better or worse than those around me. We have all come to find that bit of grace tucked in the flow, the music, every sighing downward dog. And for that reason I feel an equal to those around me.

Around me I see my own struggles for balance and peace. I see women and men fight to stay upright during poses, or allow themselves child’s pose on the mat when tired. Every person is caught in their own little battle, and because of that we are one. This is why I make a conscious effort to practice yoga at a studio no matter what city I am in. It is a place where others are so honest about themselves. Where you can’t hide from who you are.

When I was studying abroad in London I found my solace in Catholic Churches grandly beckoning across western Europe. I liked the idea of people coming together to honor god. Now I have found my own way of honoring god, or the universe, whatever that force is that connects us all. It’s yoga. And in the studio I feel it most strongly.

That is why I want to share yoga with those I love.

the yoga studio

On transitions and thankfulness

Today I left my job at Deloitte Consulting. In my immediate future, I will board a plane for Portland, OR. Bound for joy and intellectual debates and the aisles of Powell’s Books. But what will the proverbial tomorrow bring?

As my next step, I’ve enrolled in a programming bootcamp in SF called Hack Reactor. It is a fantastic JavaScript program with a world of options for its graduates – and boasts a 99% success rate of placing its grads as engineers.

In theory, in the not-so-distant tomorrow, I will be a front-end JavaScript engineer. It hasn’t quite hit me yet, that soon I may return to the startup path that captivated me a few years ago – albeit in a developer role. I will one day be able to run a technology company and understand how my product works, to set deadlines and understand the logic behind them, to be a better and more informed leader.

How fortunate I am to have this choice, how blessed I am to be conscious of it!

I am so proud to stand here and write today that I have left a stable, amazing career that just wasn’t right for me. I won’t bash it, for the lessons I have learned on leadership, priorities, and confidence at Deloitte have made it entirely worth it. At Deloitte, I’ve seen new cities, even spent five weeks exploring India. I do not regret returning for an instant.

Now it is time for me to continue my journey towards what it is I am here for. To live my life in truth and pursuit of my foundational beliefs:
  • That each person shall have freedom of creativity (in art, speech, writing, expression);
  • That each person shall have access to education and learning;
  • That I shall strive for self awareness through meditation and being present;
  • And that I shall give back and in that giving, find belonging in communities.

I will not forgot the people I’ve met, nor the beautiful places I’ve seen. From the Taj Mahal to the J.W. Marriott spa, from the Colorado Rockies to Lake Merritt, I have been so incredibly blessed to see the world. It is a blessing I cannot take for granted. From birth I have been given so much, and it is my obligation to give back to others as much as I can.

For those who say that I have earned it, that I took those opportunities and ran with them, I thank you. But I also acknowledge the struggles and sacrifices of all who came before me, so that I may have the choices and things that I do.

My grandma immigrating to the US, pregnant with my aunt and speaking no English, at an age younger than I am today. My dad, working nonstop so that his family wouldn’t have to grow up in the poverty he knew. My mom, who let go of any career aspirations, so that she could read to her kids at night.

I am thankful for all of those who have come before to give me the rights I have. For the activists who fought for me to have voting rights, for the women who worked during WWII and changed the image of women across the US. For our founding fathers, who despite their differences and acts of intolerance, built a country on the principles of freedom and justice for all.

I am thankful to have started my career as a startup founder. I am thankful to have experienced the whirlwind that is Deloitte Consulting. I am thankful to have the self-awareness to know my own heart and better yet, the bravery to follow it.

It’s a beautiful notion, this idea of being thankful. It allows me to imagine ways that I can give back. It provides a place for me to belong in the world.

If you are reading this, I thank you for hearing this testimony. Today, I leave my career at Deloitte, free to pursue that which I love and brings me joy.
On transitions and thankfulness

Welcome to another year

I wanted to hack together a piece for you to read. A piece that is honest, that manages to capture this startup journey in a few paragraphs. A piece that skids and sings and wanders to an eventual conclusion. I don’t have those perfect words, so these will have to suffice.

Today is January 2, 2013. It’s the start of another year of growing Travelstrings in Los Angeles, and I have to admit that I’m exhausted. It’s been a rocky thirteen months since Tri and I first conceptualized a “personalized travel journal” back in November 2011. I’ve experienced the extremes of emotion – the highs of building something novel and beautiful tangled with the lows of insecurity and anger. Starting a company is not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s challenging and scary and reward is constantly delayed.

There are days when I flat-out hate myself and the only reprieve is sleep. There are days when I am so lost that I resort to losing myself in Dexter or How I Met Your Mother rather than continue thinking. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed because doing so precipitates opening an inevitable string of emails. (The worst is when there are no emails and it feels like nobody cares.)

I struggle with patience. I’m not sure when it’s impossible to finish a task by a certain time and when I should push because our capability is there. Despite being twenty-two years old, I compare myself to older, wiser CEOs, and it has required every bit of discipline I have to quiet the steady steam of criticism in my head. I am still fighting the idea that I cannot know everything.

And yet this year was pretty amazing. This year, we incorporated Travelstrings before we graduated from college. We applied for Startup UCLA with a bare bones MVP and somehow got in. We were featured in four articles and magazines, and launched two awesome products. And I found cofounders that believe in the same things that I do, and two that continue with me on this journey.

I don’t expect the future to follow any sort of traditional path, because I don’t anticipate making conventional choices. My team and I have declined salaried jobs to chase this dream of Travelstrings, moved in together, and haven’t killed each other yet. Through hard work and perseverance, we’ve learned more of the skills we’ll need to survive. We’ve surrounded ourselves with talent and support, from our home at Cross Campus to our families at home.

And though we’re faced daily with the existential question of whether we will exist tomorrow, I’m never been more excited for what tomorrow brings.

Welcome to another year

Portrait of this girl

“She sat hunched over, her back curving inwards slightly. It was her sixth straight hour staring at her computer, and she was tired. She looked to the water bottle on her right, filled with fruit punch. Taking a few swigs, she leaned back, trying to straighten her back and ease the pain. Thinking about her task list, she sighed. It would be a long night, and she knew that she would stumble into her cold apartment past midnight again. If she was lucky, she would fall asleep immediately. If not, she would resort to meditation and melatonin pills to ease her racing mind. The next day, she had meetings until the afternoon, and then would do it all over again.”

Such is the life I lead. It’s not quite as dry as this makes it sound, but it’s not as glamorous as it seems in The Social Network either. Entrepreneurship is tackling one hurdle at a time, unsure when the next will come. It’s hoping and planning and having a big vision, but being prepared to take detours to get there. It’s being criticized, doing more research, figuring out a response, standing up and doing it all over again.

Portrait of this girl

Christmas Day

Sitting next to my mother at our oval kitchen table, reading love stories on Storylane. My dad’s in the room next to us, the Clippers are on television, and my youngest brother is opening a video game from his Christmas stash.

I’m thinking about our lives today, and how the average American lives 75 years. I’m 22 right now, and assuming I live to 75, I have 53 years left.

I have so much time, and yet so little. I’ll write more about this later tonight, but for now, I wanted to give thanks for how I’ve spent these formative 22 years. My parents have taught me to think independently, to expect the best of myself, to pursue that which makes me happy over all. Now, looking forward, I have all the tools necessary to live my life in its happiest state.

I feel so blessed to be surrounded by love.


Christmas Day