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Software Engineering, University of Waterloo

Farewell 2016, Hello 2017

It’s been forever since I last updated my blog. In this post, I reflect on my experiences during my sophomore year, and set personal goals for 2017.

Peaceful sunrise

Peaceful sunrise in Mountain View, California

2016 in Review

Summary

Here’s a brief recap of my 2016:

  • I was on 14 one-way flights, doubling my previous lifetime total of 7 flights
  • I interned at Addepar twice, 4 months in California, 4 months in New York
  • I maintained my lazy habits in school, but gained an appreciation for learning
  • I gained new friends, strengthened some friendships, and lost a few as well
  • I started lifting weights in October and have been going consistently

2A School

During 2A, I lived in the Velocity residence, which markets itself as an opportunity for students to live in an innovative and entrepreneurial environment. Though I didn’t work on any entrepreneurial ventures, I had a blast living there, primarily because of the other Velocity residents. They were all super driven people and they had interests and passions in various fields. I was motivated by them to work harder and succeed.

I spent the entirety of August 2015 preparing and optimizing for my upcoming internship application process. I really wanted to work in Mountain View, but for the wrong reasons, which I won’t mention here. To keep myself accountable, I decided to do a risky move and blogged daily about my 2A Jobmine experience. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the smartest idea, but it sure did push me. A month later, I ended up accepting my offer to Addepar in Mountain View, California. I was beyond happy that I was able to set a goal, work my butt off, and get rewarded.

Velocity 2A

Thanksgiving dinner at Velocity Residence


I took 6 courses in 2A: CHE102, CS241, ECE222, SE212, STAT206, and SPCOM223. I maintained my terrible habit of attending very few classes and procrastinating a lot. I often questioned why a SE student has to take chemistry. Though SE212 and CS241 were interesting courses, I still wasn’t particularly excited about the term. The highlight of the term was definitely the public speaking course I chose as my elective. I contemplated switching to CS many times, so that I could have more flexibility with electives, and not take some of the required SE courses. At the end of the term, I decided to stick with SE to the end.

Other highlights included:

  • Going to my first semi-formal in university
  • Handing off Enactus presidency
  • Learned how to cook
  • Skated for the first time
  • Montreal trip with the boys

SE Social 2A

An event I organized for all SE students on campus, huge turnout!

2A Co-op

In my first flight of 2016, I almost missed my transfer from LA to SF. Being the young, foolish traveller, I didn’t know that I had to switch terminals in LAX, until 20 minutes before my flight. Anyways, I eventually arrived at the Addepalace (Addepar’s corporate apartment).

Silicon Valley companies tend to treat employees extremely well with respect to compensation and perks. This is something that I feel is lacking comparatively in many Canadian companies; however, I won’t discuss this heated topic today. At Addepar, the Operations team absolutely nailed down the perks part. They provided me with an awesome corporate apartment, which was only a 3 minute walk from the office. Addepar provided daily catered breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Other perks included a fitness stipend, free laundry, weekly house cleaning, and etc. Furthermore, the Ops team were all amazing people and would gladly help out with anything!

From day one, it was clear that this internship wouldn’t be a traditional internship. In my first two weeks, I think I had over 20 one on one’s, including one with the CEO. The Product team gave me a list of 8 possible projects that I could work on. Looking back, I worked on 0 out of the 8 items on that list. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because I’ve learned that, sometimes, the best thing is to not work on something, rather than working on the wrong thing. I determined the 8 projects were not a good fit for me, at the time, because of business priorities, value provided, self interest, and a few other criteria.

After on-boarding, I eventually figured out what I’d work on for the next few months. While I won’t discuss the specific details of the projects, I can definitely say they weren’t “intern projects”. One of the major projects I worked on, RepGen2, was shipped, providing huge value to our clients’ reporting workflows.

The culture at Addepar was the #1 highlight of my internship. Addeparvians are some of the most intelligent, hard-working, and chill people I’ve met in my life. Though every company will have flaws, including Addepar, I was quite pleased with my internship experience. It was an easy decision to return to Addepar for another internship, or what some people coined “re-ternship”. I wanted to return for two reasons: the amazing culture and a role with expanded responsibilities and learning opportunities.

Intern Skit

Me delivering a comedic skit to the entire company at Winter Retreat


Every university student has that period in their life where they’re overly sad about something that’s not really a big deal. At the beginning of 2016, that kid was me. Thankfully, Mountain View was the perfect, peaceful and quiet environment I needed in my life. People say that there’s not much to do in Mountain View. Sadly, I agree with them; however, I still had a great time. I had a bike that I took everywhere, from Steven Creeks trail to even biking all the way to San Francisco. I enjoyed all the little things the “city” had to offer: delicious meals at Zareen’s, chilling out at Red Rock, long walks to Walmart, strolling through the RV encampment near Rengstorff Park, In-N-Out Burger, and etc. Most importantly, it was the people I met that made my experience so memorable. By the end of my time in Mountain View, I had peace of mind.

I normally try to avoid shoutouts on my blog, but I have to make an exception for Rosanne, who was like a big sister to me. Thank you so much for your presence and advice throughout the months.

Other highlights included:

  • Thursday night basketball despite the fact we got crushed every game
  • Seattle & Portland trip, being vegan for the long weekend
  • Watching Purple Rain the movie
  • Company Winter Retreat at Lake Tahoe
  • LA Road Trip, Highway 1 scenic route

Mushroom haircut

The forgettable time of my life back when I had a mushroom cut and gained double digits weight from eating too much free food

2B School

New term, same old habits. The usual skipping classes, procrastinating on assignments and cramming for tests. It feels like I’ve told my friends the same thing every single term, “this is the term where I develop good study habits and attend all classes”, but frankly things haven’t changed. I had 6 courses in 2B: CS240, CS247, MSCI261, MATH213, MATH239, and SCI238. For the first time in university, I enjoyed most of the courses this term. I think I’ve slowly developed a genuine interest in learning and academics. The course content has become more interesting to me, especially CS240. Overall, it was a tough term, but felt like the usual term to me. Some of my friends didn’t enjoy 2B, so a signifcant number of them have transferred to CS for more course flexibility. This has been coined as the “SExit of Summer 16”.

As it was the spring term, the weather was splendid most of the time. In the first week, I hosted a house party, went bar hopping, and attended my first Bomber Wednesday (never waiting 2 hrs again). The amazing weather was the perfect excuse to just go outdoors, walk in the park, and explore places in Waterloo. I joined two intramural teams: ultimate frisbee and basketball. I also borrowed my friend’s Fitbit, gained a new interest in long walks, and was able to lose much of the weight I had gained at Addepar. Overall, social life was great this term. Spring terms are the best!

Frisbee champion

Ultimate Softies: champions of Spring 2016 term


Other highlights included:

  • First time being in Vancouver
  • Meeting a friend I haven’t seen in 3 years and probably won’t see for another 3
  • Going to Art Gallery of Ontario for the first time
  • Tennis with old high school friends
  • Watching the NBA Finals Game 7
  • Countless games of Settlers of Catan
  • The endless memes
  • I learned how to flip a water bottle such that it lands vertically

Japanese Crepes

"$5 crepes, never regret!" at Richmond Night Market

2B Co-op

Hands down, my second internship at Addepar in NYC was the best co-op term I’ve had. The beginning of the internship was rough, as it was difficult to onboard into the Data Build org. This experience was quite different from my previous internship, where I was working on the more client-facing org. As my manager had put it, “Bo had a difficult technical project with a team that initially had skepticism of his role and value. His work is being implemented and the team he worked with will definitely feel his absence”. Again, without going into details of what I actually worked on, I was able to solve the ambiguous problem I was assigned to. I built great relationships with my fellow co-workers and especially enjoyed being at the office 7AM, and working closely with Data Recon. Finally, the New York City office had an energetic and exciting working environment that I enjoyed.

Product team

Our amazing team! Picture was taken before the legendary offsite of the year.


Outside of work, there was plenty of things to do in New York City. Fall is also my favorite time of the year, not too cold, and not too hot. Once again, what made this term special was the people.

Things I did in Fall 2016:

  • All of the touristy places (Times Square, Central Park, World Trade Center, …)
  • Watched 5 broadway shows (Aladdin, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, On Your Feet, Chicago). Only paid ~$30 for each show, sometimes getting great seats!
  • Got a haircut from a new barber for the first time in 5+ years
  • Watched a Yankees game live. Walk-off home run win & bobblehead giveaway
  • Watched a NBA basketball and NHL hockey game live (both firsts)
  • Attended a couple comedy shows
  • Ate Halal guys too many times. The usual weekend ramen
  • Road trip to Philadelphia & Boston
  • One week visit to the beautiful Mountain View
  • Walked on several bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queen Elizabeth, Williamsburg, George Washington, Pulaski)
  • Visited several art galleries/museums
  • Lined up Macy’s Black Friday, first 50 in line.
  • Several EDM concerts

The list goes on and on…

In my opinion, New York City is the place to be. During this time, I believe I really found myself and gained the utmost confidence. To put it simply, I’ve never been more happy in my life.

Living Life

Living the dream near Hudson River

2017 Goals

2016 was a huge year, 2017 is going to be even bigger.

Here are some things I want to achieve for 2017:

  • Attend over 90% of my classes, work on assignments early. No excuses this time.
  • Travel a lot in August (Japan? Singapore? Hong Kong?)
  • Continue gym consistency 3x a week, new PRs, leaner body
  • Seek mentorship and follow through with it, gain significant value from it
  • Waking up and getting out of bed, rather than playing with phone in bed
  • Stay accountable to my progress, acknowledge when things are going downhill
  • Set aside dedicated time for productive time, where I must stay focused
  • Don’t criticize others, don’t blame others, avoid arguing, less negativity
  • Remembering to listen to others, put myself in other people’s contexts
  • Get G2 driver’s license
  • Be on time for everything
  • Significantly reduce my use of plastic water bottles