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Week 2023#02: how do you know?
It's super easy to fall into the trap of your own biases. But how do you get out of it?
Historic flooding levels on the old city wall in Aschaffenburg, at the shore of the river Main.
What I’ve learned
Keeping records is important to make informed decisions. It is equally important to not just gather data, but also review it regularly: make sense of it, spot patterns, and develop an intuition for what is “normal”.
At the hospice, an institution for the terminally ill, where the sole focus is on easing any pain and allowing the guests to transition peacefully to the next world, caretakers develop this intuition. Of course, there are surprises, but apparently one can get pretty good at spotting when somebody is transitioning from “living” to “dying”.
We all develop intuitions like this for all the things we get exposed to daily: traffic in our city, the feelings of the people we see every day, and how things are going at work.
These intuitions are great tools to detect situations that deviate from the “normal”. However, being based on statistical likelihood, they are also often wrong.
Having the wrong intuition about morning traffic on a given day is annoying, but not critical (hopefully).
However, imagine having the wrong intuition when making decisions that affect other people’s lives. Or, if that doesn’t get you worried: imagine trusting your intuition on something, being wrong, and making your own life a whole lot more difficult.
What to do then?
This week I came to believe that intuition is great for setting up hypotheses, but actually digging into the data is necessary for validating them.
Essentially, intuition tells you where to look.
But you still need to go and actually look.
And in order to be able to look, you need to gather data.
Rediscovering the joy of programming
Given the need to gather data and analyze, and share the results with others, I turned to Google Sheets at work.
Over the course of last week, I built a Google Sheet that’s connected to JIRA and Github and gives me deep insight into where my team might be struggling.
The experience of developing this sheet reminded me of when I started programming: the feedback loop is tight (running custom formulas takes only a few seconds), and the data can be further processed immediately.
Thus the process of developing moves away from the think-write-test loop toward inspect-modify-evaluate.
Instead of designing concepts on an empty sheet of paper and eventually turning that into something real (as real as a computer program can be), you’re suddenly working again with an existing thing.
You’re modifying something you can see.
This really sparks creativity: you just look at what’s in front of your eyes and very often your brain will just tell you what you want to do next: “It’d be cool to be able to customize the date range for queries in one place”, and then you just iterate on that one thing until it works.
That’s a lot of fun!
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Expectation vs Reality
Here I messed up this time 😅
Last Sunday I didn’t record my expectations for the week.
To compensate for this, I’m making my expectations for next week public here:
Something will happen w/r to the house in Sweden: a confirmation from an interested person I found through Workaway, a handyman taking a look at the house and building a bigger container for pellets in the basement, or finally getting the title for the house transferred to my name in the land registry.
My father will stay stable at the hospice: he’s already improved in the few days he’s been there, so I don’t expect any sudden changes right now. But of course, you never know for sure.
I’ll have polished some of the teaching material for the Estonian Language Workshops: of all my projects, teaching Estonian so far has been the most profitable. Given the burning pile of cash that is my electricity bill in Sweden, I should probably double down on teaching Estonian to support work around the house.
I’ll continue with detailed tracking of my days: that would be week three of doing this. This week I experimented with doing this for the time I spent outside of work but stopped after Wednesday because it felt like it was distracting me from being present in the moment. Today I look back on the week and wonder what I did in the evenings 😅
Work Work Work: working at Bolt is still very exciting, and I’m learning new things every day. By now I feel more comfortable with navigating the organization, and how things work around here and feel like I can start spending more attention on what my team is doing, where it’s headed, and what the coming challenges will be.
Read all the bad reviews about Bolt on Glassdoor: my experience at Bolt has been great so far, but like with Amazon reviews, I find that the most valuable information is often in the bad reviews. Employer reviews are not different in this regard, and also: every person’s expectations are different, so they are to be taken with a grain of salt.
The most striking thing for me was how often management was criticized in those reviews, even recent reviews and reviews about Engineering in Tallinn (that’s where I’m at!) because that doesn’t match my experience at all.
Not matching my own experience doesn’t mean anything though, so I took all of these reviews as a checklist for what not to do and what to watch out for.
Kind of like “avoid these 5 common mistakes, and everything will be alright”.
On Saturday I had another 1-on-1 workshop for Talking To Strangers: this one was done remotely, with me being in my room in Aschaffenburg and the (test) client being at Balti Jaama Turg.
We went through 5 conversations with strangers in the span of 90 minutes, learned how to spot people who are not ready to talk, and how to develop interesting conversations.
Sometimes I’m feeling demotivated and down about this project, but experiences like this fill me with the energy to continue!
Figured out what to do to apply for Estonian citizenship: in February I can finally apply (that took 8 years of waiting!) for Estonian citizenship, which includes renouncing my German citizenship.
Estonia wants confirmation from Germany that I’m going to lose German citizenship upon receiving Estonian citizenship.
Germany wants to know for sure that Estonia is going to grant me citizenship before allowing me to renounce my German citizenship.
How to break this loop? Apparently, the process is to apply for Estonian citizenship and then contact the Bundesverwaltungsamt and inform them about my wish to not be a German citizen anymore.