Sunday, September 27, 2020

Reading Break Getaway - Impulsive College Travel

Floyd, one of my good friends at college, sat down at the table where I was enjoying great college cafeteria food.  It was the last Friday before Reading Break of my second semester of college.  He interrupted my culinary reverie wondering if I wanted join a group of friends on a road trip to California during the break.  No week-long lead up planning or anything like that.  Totally spur of the moment.  If I wanted to go, I needed to be ready by suppertime.  I had some questions that needed to be answered first:

  • Who was going?  There would be 7 of us in two cars to begin with.  There'd be four in our car and we'd drop a fellow of at his parent's house in Olympia, Washington on our way down.  The other car would go on ahead of us.  There was a couple of 3rd years (Kelly B., and Dan P who we were dropping in Olympia), one second year (Dan J. whose Aunt we'd be staying with in LA), and the rest of us were first year students (Floyd D. who invited me, Andrew S. and Dan M.)
  • When were we leaving?  Our car would leave that evening after supper in Andrew's Subaru.  Kelly, Dan M. and Dan J. would leave earlier in the afternoon. 
  • Where would we stay?  Dan J. had an aunt in LA with a condo that she was happy to let us stay in for the week.
From right to left:  Kelly B., Floyd D., Dan J., Dan M., and Andrew S.
This is in the lineup to 'Its a small world' at Disneyland.  We are wearing
hoodies we bought down at Venice Beach earlier in the week.

This all sounded great to me.  I told Floyd I'd have to call my parents and let them know what I was thinking, which I did straight-away.  My mom told me to get some travel insurance, since being Canadian I wouldn't be covered if a doctor/hospital visit was required.  I took that advice and arranged a week's worth of travel insurance that afternoon.  

I packed quickly - excited at the thought of going to California - somewhere I'd never been before - and to travel without parental supervision for the first time in my life.  Royce, another friend from across the hall in the dorm, walked in while I was packing.  He asked me what I was up to and I told him.  He couldn't believe I'd planned to go so impulsively, but was very interested in joining us.  I told him to talk to Floyd and he immediately went to find him.  In the end, Royce didn't come with us as he decided to stay and get some actual school work done.  

We left after supper in a snowstorm.  I don't think we were more than 2 miles across the border into the US when we skidded off the road into the ditch.  Fortunately the Subaru was an AWD and with the manpower we had in the car, we were back on the road in a jiffy.  Man, but it snowed that night.  We dropped Dan M. off at his parents' place in Olympia and decided to stay for a little bit and watch Lawrence of Arabia (first time I'd seen that movie).  I'm not sure why we did that as it was a long movie and we wasted a bunch of travel time.

Back on the road after the movie was done in (literally) the middle of the night, we drove into Portland Oregon and I-5 was was deserted.  Four lanes of highway with snow and nobody around?  We decided to do some donuts with the car.  Switching drivers we made it into northern California around mid-day the next Saturday and we were getting quite hungry and thirsty.  We stopped in Yreka, California for gas and some sustenance.  We were on a budget, so we bought a big, glass bottle of apple juice to share.  I don't remember what we ate, but I saved that bottle and still have it today - its our change jar

Apple juice bottle from Yreka, California

We drove in snow pretty much from the Canadian border all the way the Mt. Shasta in northern California.  Coming into California, they strongly suggested we put chains on the tires, but we couldn't afford them.  Besides, we were Canadians and had driven in snow a lot (never mind the fact that we had pushed the car out of the ditch the night before).  In the end, the snow wasn't a problem for us.

We detoured through San Fransisco on the way because none of us had been there and it seemed a shame to miss it.  That cut into our LA arrival time significantly, but just driving across the Golden Gate Bridge was worth it.  Now that I know more about California geography, I wished we'd stuck to highway 101 south from San Fransisco instead of going to back to the I-5, but no harm done.

We saw a possum cross the road in the middle of our second night of travel.  We thought it was a rat and couldn't believe how big it was.  Arriving in LA the next morning, we immediately drove through Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  We got enthralled with the morning sun shining through the palm trees on Sunset Blvd - I don't think any of us had seen palm trees before.  

Dan J.'s aunt lived in a condo in Rancho Palos Verdes - basically the opposite side of LA from Hollywood.  We made our way there and once we'd met everyone and caught up on our travel stories, Dan's aunt took us out for dinner to a restaurant on the pier that overlooked the surf.  I ate shark steak for the first time.

Running in the surf (we called it 'doing the
Chariots of Fire thing') on Venice Beach.

The rest of that week we spent doing LA things:

  • Spent a day at Venice beach checking out muscle beach, the markets, the sand, and the entertainers there.
  • Spent a day at Universal Studios.  Four of us got chosen to be included in a 'mock' Star Trek set shooting and got dress up as Klingons or Enterprise crew members.  We saw the set for 'Back to the Future' and a Miami Vice demonstration with actors and motorboats and pyro
  • Tried surfing on Long Beach - I did not like how much the sand moved underneath my feet.  It almost left like quicksand if you stayed still.  
  • Tried to get close to the red carpet on Oscar night (as the Oscars were happening sometime that week)
  • Spent a day at Disneyland.  Lots of fun doing that with the guys.
  • Some of the guys went to see a PGA tournament for a day.  Floyd and I decided to stay at the condo and suntan.  We bleached our hair with peroxide and it worked rather well.
In the end, it was a great trip.  Definitely worth our money and we certainly had stories to tell coming back to college.  Royce was pretty bummed he decided to stay back and still talks about regretting not going with us to this day.  

A postcard from the trip that I never ended up sending 
to my family back home.  It made it into the photo album though!

Tips for travelling during college reading breaks:

  • Being impulsive makes it fun, but stay safe!  Get health insurance if you need to and make sure people know where you are.
  • Keep a journal if you can - you'll capture some great memories.
  • Make a point of making memories.  Do things you wouldn't normally do and budget accordingly.
  • Bring some simple keepsakes back home.  I never thought I'd still have that change jar from the apple juice we drank in Yreka.  Its now a great show-and-tell piece for my kids.  The look on my son's face when I told him about our trip and then pointed to the bottle in the room and said 'that's the bottle' was priceless.
  • Buy postcards and actually send them to friends and family

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Targeted Job Hunting | Leveraging Your Contacts

Several years ago, I had a student (lets call him Jeremy to protect his privacy) with an accounting background in my WebDev Javascript and CMS courses at SAIT.  Jeremy was keen to learn and had lots of questions and actually sat beside 'Hermione' from this post of mine.  The story of how he found work after school was rather interesting, so I thought I'd share it.

Several weeks after school, Jeremy messaged me on LinkedIn and asked if I could connect him with one of my LinkedIn contacts - an HR manager at a company called Benevity.  Our initial correspondence on LinkedIn looked like this:

From Jeremy: 
Hi Perry, I was wondering if you can introduce me to xxxxx xxxxxxx? I'm looking to stand out among the applicants for their intern program and ask some insightful questions.
Thank you,

From Perry:
Hi Jeremy, 
I'll see what I can do but I can't guarantee anything. She works remotely in xxxxxx and frankly I found her a little difficult to get a hold of (some people work better remotely than others) I send her a message and refer you to her - we'll see what that does :-)
From Jeremy: 
Hi Perry, 
I understand, that's actually all I was looking for. Just an introduction through linkedin.
Have you ever written any coding tests through testdome? There's a preliminary screening interview I have the pleasure of taking by this Monday for xxxxxxxxx(some other company). The test itself is around 37 minutes and from what I've heard from Gary it was two questions on JS using for loops and if statements and one java question to solve some math problems. I think I may be overmatched but I'll still give it a shot.
Thank you Perry for reaching out to her.

From Perry:
Jeremy, I sent her something like this:
Hi xxxxxxxx,
I had a student recently for several weeks at SAIT that is keen on getting an internship at Benevity. If possible I'd love the chance to refer him to you. His name is Jeremy XXXX. He is well spoken, seeks to understand and be understood, and was one of my top students.  Here's his contact info: xxxxxxxxx Let me know if there's anything else I can do to connect the two you.
I think Benevity would be a super cool place to work. They have a fantastic client list and a cool business. Good luck!
I haven't done any coding in testdome. I've never done a coding interview myself. Good luck with that too!
From Jeremy:
Hi Perry, 
Awesome, that's more than I could have asked for!
I'll keep you posted on how things go. 

.... and then several months later.....

From Jeremy:
 Hey Perry how's the teaching going this semester? Are there a lot of students? I'm not sure if I told you but I got hired on in October after the internship ended.
Jeremy then reached out to me and asked to take me out for coffee.  He wanted to thank me for setting all of that up for him as well as get some advice on his career path forward.

At the appointed time and place, we met for coffee and I got the back-story I had been missing...

After an education in business finance and becoming an accountant, he worked for a few years when he felt he needed a change.  A significant change.  He ended up travelling overseas and teaching English.  While he was doing that he got interested in web development and scoped out a school to learn from - it turned out to be SAIT, the school I was teaching in.  Not only did he scope out a school, but while still teaching English overseas he had discovered and investigated Benevity and decided to try and get work there when he was done.  

I have to say, when I discovered this, I was rather surprised with how he had planned things out, set goals for himself, and then made them happen - all the way down to targeting the place to work after school and leveraging me as a contact to get 'in the door' so-to-speak.  Its a great example of targeted job hunting and networking.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

In Pursuit of a Dream

I've volunteered leading a senior high 'worship band' at the Christian School my kids have gone to for the last 6 years.  The first year I was there I had a young man who could play piano fantastic, but just wanted to sing with us.  'Josh' (name changed to protect his identity) had a dream to be an computer animator - making movies at a company like Pixar.  He was a gregarious, well-mannered, eloquent leader in the band and in the school....  and an average singer.

The school itself is rather small, and at that time didn't offer any computer programming or design courses.  Josh being the guy that he was did his own research online.  He downloaded software so he could program and do computer animations at home to learn and practice.  He'd sometimes post his efforts on Facebook.

At one point towards the end of his grade 12 year, I asked him what he was going to do after high school.  He told me his plan was to get a computer science degree and pursue computer animation for movie production.  Duly impressed, I remarked that I was working in the computer science field, but of course, not focused on computer animation.  I asked him which university he was planning to attend.  He told me his plan and the university he planned to attend, and he followed that plan.... for the next two years.

I'm not entirely sure what happened at that point.  He must have gotten inspired/encouraged to submit an internship application to Pixar (likely along with a demo movie animation he made, I'm assuming), because the next thing I know he's let all his friends know that he's going to be the youngest intern Pixar has ever had.  Talk about following your dream!  He interned at Pixar that summer, and then leveraging his experiences and new knowledge gained from there, he got a full time job a Sony Animation Studios being a computer animator.  He subsequently returned to Pixar to intern as an animator the following summer, and has been working in London, England for various Film animation companies since then!