Sunday, July 22, 2007

Noogler, Day 19: TGIF!

I HAD so hoped that I'd be able to get a few things done during work Friday. Well, to be fair, I did get a few things done... just not the things I had intended to.

I started off by going to the gym. I had class over my Thursday gym appointment, so had moved the appointment to Friday. This meant that I skipped a couple of minor meetings that I didn't have to go to anyway.

Normally, I don't like to start off a day at the gym. My knee is worst first thing in the morning, and I'm usually pretty tired... I'm just not a morning person. But if needs must!

My gym doesn't have a shower, so I went to Google still in my gym clothes. I'd heard there were showers in my building, in the first-floor bathrooms. On the way there, I passed by my Todd, my boss's boss, and stopped to tell him my idea.

In my day 18 entry, I talked about how I'd given Cheryl some advice on getting through the first bits of training. I figured it would be good to give some of the same advice to everybody coming in to the group: a kind of "new hire survival guide". For example, while there's an excellent internal glossary at Google, you can't look up every unknown word you see every time on the team mailing lists. It'd take a half hour to get through a five-line email!

There's a few terms you'll hear again and again when you first get started. In other words, the distribution of the usage of unknown terms you'll encounter follows the 80/20 rule. That means that a short, one-page, context-free glossary could give a Noogler a big head start on understanding what they're seeing... just something you could print out and put next to your monitor, so you're not constantly looking up words.

That sort of thing, I figure I could put together pretty easily. There's also some general advice I'd give. It's the same advice I always gave to new Juniperites: don't panic. In their first few months at Juniper, every new employee is certain they're about to be fired. There's so much coming at them from every direction, you get overwhelmed, and think you're not keeping up with expectations. The reality is, you're doing fine, people expect you to take time getting up to speed, and you're not expected to keep up with everything coming at you even after you're an established employee.

Besides, Juniper doesn't hire you unless they think you've got the chops. Once you're hired, you've got what it takes... they're not going to fire you a couple of weeks later!

I'd say the same "don't panic" advice applies to Google. That was the most important advice I gave Cheryl, and it's that sort of thing that I'd also like to put in the survival guide. I did, however, have to verify with Todd that he hadn't ever fired somebody a couple of weeks after hiring them! I figured that was a sure thing, but I wouldn't want to write it down without fact-checking. Todd, of course, said that he hadn't, and gave me some advice on the survival guide. He thought it was a great idea.

I also took the time to get the footrest that was recommended during my ergo eval. It will let me keep my knee extended, which helps with my knee problems, without giving me a bad posture. Fortunately, the footrest is a lot easier to get than the Kinesis... I just had to drop by the hardware depot and pick it up. (Regarding the Kinesis, I did drop by Fry's Sunday to get one for home. No luck; I didn't think about that Kinesis keyboard, while more common than Maltrons, are still pretty uncommon.)

After that, I had to catch up on my email. I've been talking to a couple of groups internally about their products. For example, just for my own convenience, I wrote a plugin to interface with one of our internal websites, and was talking with the responsible group about it. They had some responses, etc.

I also spent a few hours writing some code for some other Nooglers, to them with a question that had come up. Most programmers have code they've written just to customize and improve their development environment. You can often get a good indication of how far a programmer has progressed in their career by looking at how much they've customized their environment. This is partly because as you go through your career you tend to add on to the customizations you've made so far, so they accumulate. It's partly because more capable programmers can quickly write a customization without losing much time; a veteran programmer can write a customization in an hour what might take a new programmer all day or longer. It's also partly because old programmers tend to be more crotchety about the way they want their computers to do things! (I personally have about 3000-4000 lines of such code, 3/4 of which is for Emacs. It's been accumulating since 1993.)

Anyway, one of the Nooglers asked about a way to do one such customization. His question was actually a good one, and I thought of a solution that would be applicable to a wide range of similar problems. But it took me a while to write and the code— about 50 lines of shell script— and some time to write up the email.

Well, by the time that was all done, it was lunch time, followed by another class. This one was a more detailed class on our cluster infrastructure (see day 17). Exciting stuff, but I've still got more to learn on the topic. The rest of my learning about the cluster system will be self-directed, though.

I was barely after class when it was time to go to a TGIF. I ducked out of the TGIF halfway through, and that's when I heard from a friend who wanted to hang out. Since it was half past five, I figured it was okay to meet up, and so finished another day as a Noogler.

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