This is the first letter between two friends across coasts.
Jasdev is trying to figure things out after ending a three and a half year
run ride as an engineer at Peloton. He gets a bit more into that, below.
Justin is currently an engineer at Stripe and the maintainer of Buttondown (a newsletter tool) and Spoonbill (a social media metadata tool). He’s trying to get back into writing (and, if we’re being honest, reading.)
We hope you’ve been safe through gestures widely and that this convinces you to write a 001 to a pal.
(Jasdev ⇒ Justin)
It’s hard to ask “how’s it going?” with, as Ryan put it, Mario-Kart Question Mark Boxes over head. I hope you’re finding everyday anchors to ease these, well, every days.
Although, I’m not too worried because it seems like your Double Desk battle station has done just that.
Justin’s [Buttondown] Cribs debut.
I couldn’t help but notice the XOXO badge on the wall. Those badges have been mile-markers of past-selves—here are mine from ’16 and ’18 (I miss the conference, and even more so with ’20’s cancellation).
I actually re-read my ’18 “Dear Future Me” card the other day.
For the uninitiated, here’s a snippet Alice Lee wrote about the project alongside her incredible installation:
I created an installation for XOXO called “Dear Future Me,” in which participants wrote a letter to their future selves that were then hung up. With over a thousand letters written, walking through the installation was at times poignant, heartbreaking, hilarious, sweet, and all too relatable. My goal was to bring people closer to each other and to create a space for self-reflection. The letters will be mailed in a year, creating a ripple of intention outward from the conference itself.
And the ripple has reached shore.
Here was mine—
It’s tricky to project out a year, since so much is in flux. You started a new relationship, you’re trying out management, moved into a new place with Vinay, are about to embark on an essay-writing class, and so many minor arcana1—hah, Justin is right next to me—that aren’t coming to mind as you write this. I will say this, though, go with your heart. Right now, I’m hearing this internal voice pulling me towards functional programming and I’m not sure if I should jump head-first into that world. I’m curious if you will. This year is going to be formative. Finding myself saying that each year, which is hopefully a good indicator.
—Jasdev, September ’18
That last bullet is what the “upon further reflection” heading hints at. While I planned before I leapt from full-time work, it’s different not wearing a company’s name and the resulting freedom can sometimes feel like swallowing endless mouthfuls of seawater.
If I were to listen to that internal voice, again, here’s what it’s saying:
Work on translating researchers’ abstractions into prose and implementation for practitioners.
Bringing that down from orbit. I want to stand somewhere between mathematics and software engineering, bridging learnings between the two. Currently, the latter keeps treadmilling in place with ad hoc iterations on last year’s frameworks and the former has built troves of abstractions just waiting to be applied.
Thankfully, I’ve spent time in both circles.
Still, what does this mean in practice?
I planned to write and eventually adjunct a course on Apple’s declarative programming framework, Combine. But, I’m not quite sure a School school would be a fitting—and now, remote—host for the course. On the other hand, Gumroad’s longer-term educational focus is a promising alternative.
In the math camp (ayy), I have one effort under way
, one I’m waiting to hear back from,* and another I’m considering.
(*I got notice after writing that Causeway’s ’20 cohort is cancelled. :/)
I’m lucky enough to be a part of Minorities in Applied Category Theory’s ’20 research group. Lucky in that, as an industry practitioner, getting into mathematics is…brutal. Which has convinced me to try to break any gatekeepings along the way.
Bringing me to the one I’m considering.
I’ve struggled to call myself a “mathematician” without any sort of capital-c Credentialed affiliation (even after studying it in undergrad.). There has to be others outside academia silently navigating this, too. I want to start a group for folks to recreationally study mathematics slash do research. And I’ve sort of approximated this with a Point-Free study group that’s had 23 meetings to date (!).
There’s an ivory tower-ness to graduate math’s status quo. It’s reserved for those who can afford to take practically minimum wage (or negative wage, in the Master’s case) for two to six years. Folks should have the option to make a living outside of academia and then use it to fund their mathier interests, whatever those may be.
That’s what I hope to do by writing developer educational material to provide financial ground for the more abstract. I’m not quite sure where this goal will take me in a year’s time, so maybe 001 is my long-form substitute for a skipped XOXO Dear Future Me card.
I can’t wait to read yours in letter 002.
In your corner,
A nod to Justin’s old newsletter, Minor Arcana. ↩