Why… hello there! I almost forgot about you… almost. It’s been over 3 years since my last post! So much has happened, I don’t even know where to begin. Some pretty big events include: moving to Bellevue for an Internship, graduating University, moving out of Toronto to Seattle (in the U.S. of A) for work, and starting my first full-time just job to name a few.

It’s pretty interesting that I ended up in the USA because my family entertained the thought of moving down here back when I was in middle, but I *strongly* opposed that move mainly because of two reasons: no hockey, and American history (learning about Canadian history was good enough for me). Now, only a few short years later, I find myself living and working in the land of the free. Who would’ve thunk it? Not me, no siree.

One of the two reasons why I didn’t want to move here was mitigated because I finished school, so no American history for me! But how have I been able to cope with the lack of hockey?? Short answer: I haven’t, I’ve been slowly going insane =( I NEED MY HOCKEY!! Oy, but since there’s really nothing I can do about it and I didn’t want to sit around pining all day, I figured I would try to learn about America’s most popular sport… Football! Haha, Jacob playing football!? That’s crazy, right!? But not! I joined a flag football league with some of my colleagues and I’m starting to become a Seattle Seahawks fan (who have come off to an amazing start this season — 6-1!).

As I learn more about the sport, different positions and strategies, I’ve realized that Football mirrors the traditional core American values of different types of people binding and working together to achieve a common goal. All the individual members have distinct skills which contribute to the greater good of the collective unit. Each position in Football is unique and there’s a broad spectrum of athletic skills and body types. In this respect, it’s unlike any other sport I’ve played. For example, you wouldn’t want a lineman playing as a wide receiver. You also can’t succeed with a whole team of big strong lineman, nor can you succeed with an entire team of quick wide receivers. You really do have  to make use of the differences in size and skill to help the team succeed. All these different athletes who specialize in their respective positions are needed in order to be the best possible team. I think that’s why Americans love this sport so much. It reflects their diversity and how a group of seemingly different people can come together, work together, and in the end, reach a common goal.

That’s all I have for now… hopefully, my next post won’t be in 3 years.

June

June 26, 2010

June came and went just like that, I can’t believe it’s the end of June already! Highlights include my birthday, changing my schooling schedule, and getting some pretty awesome work done at Sybase… and watching the NHL/NBA playoffs =P.

I’m actually writing this blog entry from Windows Live Writer. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s part of the Windows Live Essential suite of applications by Microsoft. It provides an interface for you to write, edit and publish blog entries on a variety of different blogging platforms including Windows Live, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, SharePoint and some more…  I’ve never actually tried any other third-party blogging applications, so this is brand new to me. I did have some gripes about the online WYSIWYG editor that WordPress provides. I found it to be a clunky experience, it was definitely not as responsive as a desktop application. I even enabled the Google Gears cache functionality which is supposed to make faster. I have to admit, I did see some performance increase, but still not the same experience as a native application. Adding photos to a blog entry and then getting them positioned where you want is not the easiest thing in the world. So, I’m hoping this will be a better alternative… maybe it will encourage me to post more ; ). I like the fact that you can edit a post just as you would see it on the screen, then preview it and still have access to the source code! AND it’s a super responsive interface. Since this is a desktop application, I believe you have the option to save the draft locally before publishing… this means that you can write posts even while offline! Maybe one day… if I’m really eager to blog in an area without internet connection, I’ll try out this offline feature, haha.

This is me testing out the “Insert Image” feature…

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Pretty sweet.

So another year of my life has passed… and before you ask me what I did on my birthday… well I’m not big on birthdays, so it was just like another day with more birthday wishes =P.

Now I’m going to publish this post and see what happens…

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year everyone!

One thing that I really enjoy about the fall season is the colour of the leaves. Fortunately, I live in Southern Ontario where I actually get to see the leaves change colour before they fall =). I don’t know why, but it seems like this year the colours are particularly nice and vibrant. A couple weeks ago, I took a roadtrip to Montreal and on the way there we passed through many stretches of red, yellow, and orange. It was kind of distracting since I was driving, but t’was breathtaking!

As I was marveling at the landscape, I wondered why the leaves change colours and what triggers them to change.

Well, allow me to explain… [Disclaimer: This is an oversimplification. I am in no way an expert on trees.] We all know that plants go through a process called photosynthesis to convert water, CO2 and sunlight into glucose and oxygen. We also know that photosynthesis relies on a chemical called chlorophyll, this is what gives the leaves their green colour.

Now, in the winter, there is not enough sunlight because the days are short. So, plants basically pack it in and decide to store up for the winter and stop producing glucose and oxygen. In turn, the chlorophyll is not needed for photosynthesis. Then, out comes the nice red, yellow, and orange colours!

Wonderful, ain’t it? Now you know why all the trees change in the fall.

4053858754_3e30cfe9a5_b

Freedom feels great! I finished my final exam last Wednesday and have just been recuperating and relaxing these past few days. Yesterday, I brought my sister’s guitar in for repairs. We bought it way back in 2002, but no one really used it. Recently, I picked it up and noticed that the bridge was separating from the body! It was disappointing because the guitar actually sounds really nice. I decided to bring it in to Long and Mcquade to get an estimate on how much it would cost to fix it. I figured that if it was too expensive, I might as well just get a new guitar. The repair guy told us that the repairs would cost approximately $80 for the bridge and $40 for the setup. Also, he guessed that the Art & Lutherie guitar with a cutaway would cost around $240-$270. We didn’t believe him at first, so we went to check other guitars in the showroom and it turned out he was right!

[Side story]
As I walked into the showroom, the first guitar I laid my eyes on was a Taylor GS. It was just sitting there on the guitar stand in all its glory and splendor, staring back at me and begging to be played. I slowly approached it and picked it up, immediately I noticed that it was heavy… It was without doubt built solidly. When I was playing it, I definitely felt unworthy. It was definitely an *honour* to play a Taylor.

So back to my story, I gave in and decided to get the bridge fixed and setup with new strings. I decided to get a set of 12’s (medium-light), so as not to put too much tension on the new bridge. It’s going to sound beautiful! I haven’t changed the strings on that guitar since we purchased it. It’s supposed to take two to three weeks, can’t wait!

It was quite a long week. 5 exams in 5 days. Should that even be allowed? My week went as follows:

for(n=1; n<=5; n++)
{
     StudyForExam(n);
     TakeExam(n);
     if(n!=5)
          StudyForExam(n+1);
     Sleep();
}

Notice that there’s no time for a break? Well, that’s because the next one was less than 24 hours away! Okay, enough complaining. The point is, I’m done midterms for this term =).

In the midst of this crazy week, there were still some funny moments that arose. You know that time after every exam, when little groups form and everyone starts talking about how badly they did? (Unless your class talks about how well they all did… we usually don’t.) Although it was depressing, I found it somewhat funny hearing their comments and reactions. And it didn’t just stop there after the exam, a bunch of classmates echoed their sentiments on their Facebook status. Here are some of the best comments/replies that amused me:

After the first exam: “Round 1: Epic fail”

After the first 3 exams: “I wonder if the sum of my marks for the first three exams has exceeded 100% yet.”

“is invoking the mercy rule.”

Facebook status:
failed 325 harddddddddddddddd”
Replies:
– “Who didn’t?”
– “Who didn’t x2 ?”
– “x3.”
– “0x04”
– “0x0F … it was so weird”
– “0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF”
[ECE 325 is a course on “Microprocessor Systems & Interfaces”… so we had to work with Hexadecimals =P. Geek failure at its best.]

And a completely random, but hilarious one: “today I realized the word bed looks like a bed”

My class cracks me up =P. It’s good to know that while we’re all suffering, I can get a couple of chuckles.

Although exams are done, I’m still stuck in exam mode and that translates to my exam sleeping pattern… That explains why I’m still up at this insane hour (2:50 am). But seriously, I really need to fix this schedule. Great, I just realized that there’s a lab report due on Monday which means I’ll be spending tomorrow (today) working on it. When will this end!?

Recently, a couple friends from Calgary came to visit us in Waterloo. As usual, we (who were considered local) had the daunting task of deciding where to take them for lunch. This was a difficult task because we weren’t too familiar with the restaurants in the Kitchener-Waterloo region and we wanted to make a good impression. It’s not like they come everyday! To make matters even more complicated, we wanted to find a good Chinese restaurant (because that’s their favourite type of food). Why did this make it more complicated, you ask? Let’s just say that KW isn’t known for their abundance of Chinese food, nor do they really have enough of a market for it. So it’s totally understandable.

After reading online reviews and surveying a couple friends, it was decided that we would try a place called “Cameron Seafood Restaurant” for Dim Sum.

camerons

When we first pulled in, it looked really sketchy. It was pretty much a house with a built-in extension (which we found out was the kitchen). Once we were seated, they presented us with a photo album. This was definitely one of the most unique menus I have ever seen in my life. It was actually really helpful for me, because I didn’t know the names of 90% of the dishes I wanted =P. As you can see, they cater to the non-Chinese speaking/reading population. Speaking of which, a friend told me that he saw Mike Lazaridis there once, but he was too afraid to approach him. If RIM’s CEO eats there, it must be good =). Actually, I’m not sure if he speaks Chinese or not, maybe he does… In any case, I liked the photo album idea.

Aside from the lovely menus, the food was also pretty good. It was authentic and I was really impressed that such a restaurant existed in Waterloo! It was a bit pricey, but hey, we don’t get visitors everyday. All-in-all, it was a good experience. We had a good time trying different dishes and would definitely go again.

camerons_food

As I sit here and ponder about my next work term, I realize that my view of Product Management (also referred to as Program Management or PM) has broadened throughout the course of my last work term. After my experience at Sybase, I can say that my glimpse into the PM world has stirred in me a desire to pursue a similar position.

I saw that PM is a very unique role in the technology industry. Although it is not compulsory to have a PM team, like it is to have a development team, I think that all software companies should adopt a team of product managers. Why? Because it is the PM’s responsibility to link the market needs with the code in the software. That is not to say that they write the code themselves, but rather they communicate effectively with the developers so that features can be implemented that satisfy the customers.

It is just as important to have people who develop the vision, write out the specs and work with the customers, as it is to have people who write the software. The PM’s and the developers are not rivals, but co-exist mutually in harmony [sort of]. Although the two parties may not see eye-to-eye on some decisions, the best features usually come out from constructive disputes during a brainstorming session.

This term proved to be a great learning experience and one of my busiest terms. I had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting projects:

– A proof-of-concept port of phpBB with offline synchronization
– Usability testing on the customer install/upgrade experience for the latest minor release
– Online PHP Developer Centre
– Features that would increase SQL Anywhere’s web server compatibility
– Customer demos and code samples-
– Whitepaper to get more out of the SQL Anywhere Monitor
– Edited a developer viewpoint
– Developed a prototype of a tool that addresses inquiries by potential customers and solves 30%-40% of the problems in the online forums
– Utility for Sybase’s latest announcement with Amazon Web Services

Many times, I worked closely with software developers to ensure that the functional specifications were met. That is, the feature will work the way a customer expects.

I learned that the build or install team plays a crucial part in a software company because their work is the first aspect of the product a potential customer encounters. If the install fails or it is unintuitive, what does that say about the product itself? First impressions are crucial. That’s why our installation process had to be put through careful usability testing.

I also met with members of the documentation team to make sure that they understood how my whitepapers would be presented (consistent form, terminology, and tone).

I finished off the term by doing some work for Sybase’s first venture into Cloud computing. I think it’s a huge step for Sybase as they announced earlier today that they’re working with Amazon Web Services to offer Sybase software in Amazon Elastic Compute (EC2) environments. It’s really awesome to be able to work on things that count and reflect the direction of the company.

The greatest part was seeing how my contributions were affecting the final product. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – a better product. My manager once told me, “As PM’s, our job is to make the product better for future customers.” So that takes foresight, creativity and some risk-taking. It may not always work as you planned, but when it does, it is extremely rewarding.

I wrapped up my fourth work term today. I had a great time working as a Product Manager at Sybase, learned a lot and gained valuable experience. This being my third term at Sybase, I wanted to fully leverage my previous experiences to get the most of out these fourth months. So I fully committed this term to develop my skills as a Product Manager. I guess it helps that I was very enthusiastic about the work too =).

I gave an “End of Term Presentation” today and as I went through some of the projects that I worked on, I surprised even myself with the amount of work that I accomplished this term! It was one of those terms where you enjoy going to work and being challenged by the projects given to you. It may sound cliché, but it was true. Work is so much better when you like it!

Now, I have a few days to rest before hitting the books again. 3A starts on Monday. Meanwhile, I should probably get started on that work term report…

A couple days ago, I spent the afternoon changing the oil and swapping tires on my car, and fixing a lawn mower. I almost felt like I was practicing the Mechanical aspect of my Mechatronics Engineering degree =P.

It turned out that removing the snow tires wasn’t such a good idea since it started to snow this week. However, it was a good learning experience… just in case, you know, I ever need to change a spare tire. Actually I got a flat last winter and I didn’t know how to change a tire, so I had to call a friend to help me out. I felt really embarrassed and hope that it doesn’t happen again.

31hcejho6jl_sl500_aa280_The tire swap went pretty smoothly except for the fact that we managed to flatten a lug nut. The nuts on the Malibu Maxx have a hollow cap, see photo. When we were removing one of the nuts, the wrench slipped and flattened the cap of the nut. Luckily, it didn’t damage the actual screw. It just doesn’t look the best.

Changing the oil was quite an interesting event. After draining the oil and changing the filter, it came time to pour in the new oil. We poured the oil in the engine, and popped the dipstick in to check the level of the oil. When we pulled it out, guess what? There was no oil markings on the dipstick! That got us really worried, I frantically checked under the car just to make sure nothing was leaking and there was nothing. I then proceeded to start the engine for a dozen seconds, just in case the oil hadn’t made its way into the pan, and still nothing. It was certainly quite a mystery. In the end, we concluded that the oil couldn’t have just mysteriously disappeared, so we just left it at that. Let’s just hope nothing bad happens.

Finally, the lawn mower. One of my neighbours and family friend was having trouble starting her lawn mower. Apparently, someone had done an oil change last summer and it couldn’t start ever since. I was reminded of my experience of changing the oil in my gas lawn mower. I remember having trouble starting the engine as well. It turned out that I put way too much oil and flooded the engine. With that experience, the first thing I checked was the oil level and boy was it high! There was definitely waaay too much oil… After pouring out some oil and making sure the level was proper, I started the engine a couple times and voila, it started like a charm!

Pretty productive day if I don’t say so myself.