“work-life balance” at school

Everything so far goes great for me. Austin is a nice place: you don’t have to worry about extremely cold weather and unlike Beijing’s summer, the summer here is not about humid air. Everything feels both familiar and strange at the same time. The usual part is that the school life style is the one that I’m most familiar with. However, on the other hand, it feels a little bit strange to me because I become quite okay with working style: you get up, go to work, and after eight hours, you go back home and sleep. To be honest, there isn’t much pressure when you can enjoy your adult single life. You just get out of school, and there is no intensively homework due, and you are free to do whatever you want after work. That’s why I have the opportunity to write bunch of blog posts in the past two years. But, taking a break from work and heading back to school is totally different story. You need to adjust your time schedule back to probably the most intensive and high pressure schedule. There are endless deadlines you have to meet and all of them are quite intense. You cannot say to your professor that due to the limit of resources, you have to push back the GA date of your programming assignment. All in all, you are expected to get the job done in a timely fashion at school (of course, you are also expected this from your boss but lots of factors can make this sentence not strictly hold in a real setting working environment).

That brings up one important issue that people usually emphasize the most when they work: work-life balance. Specifically, under the academia setting, the question becomes:  does work-life balance matter to the students? In my early college year, the answer I’ll give is “No!”. The reasoning is simple: I’m in a state of endless worry. I worry about the job hunting; I worry about I become lazy and don’t make enough out of the expensive tuition and cost of living. So, I spend most of time working at library or labs in the hope of that “hard working” can make myself less anxious. The end result is not good. I can practice this life style until I’m sophomore and I quickly burn out when I’m junior and senior. Those years the intensity of advanced classes and the work in research labs make me breathless. Thanks to the cold weather in Wisconsin, things become even worse: I feel depressed and hopeless. I don’t want to work at all. I end up spending whole days playing video games and I even skip the final exam to my algorithm class in the Fall semester of my junior year.

Now, after two years of work, I gain some new insights from this miserable experience. One thing is about the worry itself. I have been reading Dale Carnegie’s book “HOW TO STOP WORRYING and Start Living“, and in this book, the author says the following:

Clearly, what I needed was a textbook on how to conquer worry – so again I tried to find one. I went to New York’s great public library at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street and discovered to my astonishment that this library had only twenty-two books listed under the title WORRY. I also noticed, to my amusement, that it had one hundred eighty-nine books listed under WORMS. Almost nine times as many books about worms as about worry! Astounding, isn’t it? Since worry is one of the biggest problems facing mankind, you would think, would’t you, that every high school and college in the land would give a course on “How to Stop Worrying”? Yet, if there is even one course on that subject in any college in the land, I have never heard of it. No wonder David Seabury said in his book How to Worry Successfully: “We come to maturity with as little preparation for the pressures of experience as a bookworm asked to do a ballet.”

I have strong feelings towards this text. Lots of important lessons are barely taught or even mentioned in school. In most cases, you seem to be expected to find them out on your own from your own experience. It’s a “Swim or Sink” situation. I don’t blame our education system for this because you can hardly come up with a way to teach a course about “worry” with proper assignments and exams. However, those lessons are so crucial to people and you’d better have some tools in your mental toolbox to know how to handle it. Otherwise, sooner or later, some situation or life events will eat you up just like what happened to me in my junior year. There is a sentence from Jesus: “Take no thought for the morrow.”, which gets translated into “Have no anxiety for the tomorrow” in modern English. In other words, we try our best for today and hope for the best. This one is important for me because I don’t want to work ten hours day because of the worry. I want to work ten hours a day because I just want to work on the day.

Work-life balance means important to research as well. There is no doubt that research is a hard job and unquestionably, I will meet various difficulties when working on research projects. However, I want my future self know that even I face challenge in research, I can still have life. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. This is just like researchers want to work on multiple research projects because you always have plan B when one project doesn’t go well. Keeping work-life balance can help you when you start losing faith in this job because, all in all, you still have something left in your pocket.


Leaving IBM

To be honest, this is probably the most difficult post I have ever written. This is majorly because there is a ton of stuff I want to say but I’m unsure whether I should keep them public or should keep it to myself. Another factor that makes this post hard to write is because the span of drafting. I have been drafting this post since April in 2016, right after when I decide to start the whole process of quit-IBM-and-get-a-PhD project.  I used to use this post as a log to record things and feelings when somethings happens around me at IBM. Frankly, if I take a look at the stuff I record (mostly are rantings) retrospectively, lots of stuff still hold but the anger just passes away with the time. So, that year-long drafting really makes me hesitate even more because the mood when those stuff are written are gone. However, two years can be a significant amount of time and quitting IBM can be called “an end of era” and I should give a closure to my happy-and-bitter experience with IBM anyway. So, here it goes.


Thank you, IBM!

I’m really thankful for the opportunities working with IBM. This experience really makes me grow both technically and mentally.  Technical-wise, I have the opportunity to get hands on experience with DB2 development. DB2 as a database engine is extremely complex. It has over 10 million lines of code and it is way beyond the scope of any school project. Working on those projects are quite challenging because there is no way you can get clear understanding of every part of the project. I still remember when I attend the new hire education on DB2, there is one guy says: “I have been working on the DB2 optimizer for over 10 years but I cannot claim with certainty that I know every bit of the component I own.” This fact really shocks me and based upon my experience so far, his claim still holds but with one subtle assumption, which I’ll talk about later. There are lots of tools are developed internally and reading through both the code and tool chains are a great fortune for any self-motivated developers. I pick a lots of skills alongside: C, C++, Makefile, Emacs, Perl, Shell, AIX and many more. I’m really appreciated with this opportunity and I feel my knowledge with database and operating system grow a lot since my graduation from college.

Mentally, there are also lots of gains. Being a fresh grad is no easy. Lots of people get burned out because they are just like people who try to learn swim and are put inside water: either swim or drown. I’m lucky that my first job is with IBM because the atmosphere is just so relax: people expect you to learn on your own but they are also friendly enough (majority of them) to give you a hand when you need help. I still remember my first ticket with a customer is on a severity one issue, which should be updated your progress with the problem daily. There is a lot of pressure on me because I really have no clue with the product at the very beginning. I’m thankful for those who help me at that time and many difficult moments afterwards. That makes me realize how important is to be nice and stay active with the people around you.  Because no matter how good you are with technology and the product, there are always stuff you don’t know. Staying active with people around you may help you go through the difficult moment like this by giving you a thread that you can start at least pull. In addition, participating with toastmasters club really improve my communication and leadership skills and more importantly, I make tons of friends inside the club. Without working at IBM, I probably won’t even know the existence of the toastmasters club. If you happen to follow my posts, you’ll see lots of going on around me when I work at IBM. Every experience you go through offer you a great opportunity to learn and improve yourself. Some people may look at them as setbacks but for me, I look at them as opportunities.


( the picture on the left is all the comments people give to me about my speech and on the right is the awards I have earned inside the club in these two years)

With the help of all those experience, I have developed a good habit of writing blogs (both technical and non-technical), reading books, and keep working out six days per week. All those things cannot be possible if I work at a place where extra hour work commonly happened. I’m very thankful for IBM for this because staying healthy both physically and mentally are super critical for one’s career. Even though those stuff don’t directly come from IBM, but IBM does provide the environment to nurture this things to happen.


IBM has its own problem. The problem is centered around people. There are many words I want to say but I think I’ll keep them secretly but I want to show my point with a picture:


I don’t know why IBM’s term “resource action” on firing employees and the sentence “IBM recognize that our employee are our most valuable resources.” bother me so much. I probably just hate the word “resource” as a way to directly describe people and how this word get spammed so much around IBM. I know everyone working for a big corporation is just like a cog in a machine. However, what I feel based upon lots of things happened around me is that IBM as its attitudes represented by its first-line managers (because those people I commonly work with) makes this fact very explicitly. It hurts, to be honest. No matter how hard you work and no matter how many prizes you have earned for yourself and your first-line manager, you are nothing more than a cog in a machine, which is not worth for high price to have you around because there are many cogs behind you that are ready to replace you. They are much cheaper, much younger, and more or less can work like you because your duty in the machine is just so precisely specified, which doesn’t really depend on how much experience you have had under your belt. To me, that’s devastating.

This leads to the problem that talented people are reluctant to stay with company. My mentor and the people are so good with DB2 have bid farewell to the team. That’s really sad to me because they are the truly asset to the company and the product. The consequence of this is that crucial knowledge is gone with people. Some quirks existing in the product are only known by some people and once they leave the company, the knowledge is gone with them. That makes mastering of the product even harder. That’s the subtle assumption that the person makes during the new hire education and that’s also part of the problem when working with legacy code. The whole legacy code issue is worth another post but one thing I now strongly believe is that any technical problem has its own root cause in company culture and management style. To me, I’m not a guru now but I cannot see the way to become a guru with my current position, which scares me the most

That’s it for this section and I’ll leave the rest to my journal.

书评:《男人的一半是女人》- 张贤亮











“你好了!” 她的声音从很深很深的水底浮了上来。

”是的。。。我也不知道。。。” 我笑了。一种悲切的和狂喜的笑,一种痉挛的笑。笑声越来越大,笑得全身颤抖,笑得流出了眼泪。

“你还。。。能吗?” 水底又浮上来模糊的声音。


书中像这样的描写其实有很多。这对读者来说是一种小刺激。但是,同时我却非常感谢作者这一种坦诚。在那个年代里,可以想象,崇高理想并不会让一个人时刻保持着活下去的冲动。但是,相反,恰恰是这种人性欲望和情感需要才会让人能艰难度过那段时光。老章最开始没有性能力其实并不是老章自身有什么生理问题。恰恰相反,从这次以及老章在林子中和黄香久的一段云雨看出,老章的身体其实一点问题也没有。那么是什么让老章最开始不能的呢?其实是心理上的一种压抑。这点从老章在第一次和黄香久相遇的场景就可以看出。老章和黄香久第一次相遇是黄香久在池塘了洗澡出浴的时候。老章第一次看到女人的裸体 。长时间艰苦的劳动改造和自己的本能让老章想要与她欢愉一番(”开始,我的眼睛总不自觉地朝她那个最隐秘的部位看。“)而黄香久也摆出了一番欲迎还拒的姿态(”她并不急于穿衣服,却聊下手中的内裤,像是畏凉一样,两臂交叉地将两手搭在两肩上,正面向着我。“)。但是老章总后却没有行动,他用自己的理性战胜了自己的欲望,但是与此同时这也给老章带来莫大的内心痛苦:



。。。 那么,刚刚我要是与她媾合了,我就将不成其为我,我今后的命运就可能大大改观–


我对老章这番思想斗争还是颇有感触的。因为,不论在何种年代,做一个好人真的是非常非常的不容易的。有些时候,在生活中你会发现似乎最后总是坏人,不道德的人,没有那么多像老章这种精神束缚的人笑到了最后。就像老章说得那样:“我对自己的行为负责,那么谁又曾对我负过责任?社会的责任似乎就全在于折磨我和迫害我。” Google的名言是“Don’t be evil”。但是,仔细想想,这是一个多么高的道德要求:”倘若我迎了上去,世界也并不会因此更坏些;我转身逃了开区,世界也没有因此变得更好。“ 如何在面对诱惑,面对那些最后 ”be evil”然后获得利益好处的做法,保持一种不作恶的行为准则。这是多么苛刻的要求。最后,也许就像老章那样,不停地去压抑自己,去符合社会所谓的准则,去活下去。但是,这真的是“活着“吗? 我不知道,书中也似乎没有给出这方面的答案。最后,老章为了自己的信念选择了离开黄香久。这也许是老章选择的 “活着”的一种方式。那么,我们自己真正应该以一种怎样的姿态去活着呢? 我还没有一个明确的答案。