On practice (and perfect)

Six months ago, I had my first piano lesson. That’s the easiest way to put it.

The much truer, and, as always with that, more complicated version of the one sentence above is: I’ve been wanting to play the piano for a very long time: at first, mostly because I found the instrument beautiful, in the same way that I still think the cello is beautiful. My best friend as a kid was learning the piano, and I still remember this one afternoon in her parents’ living room, standing behind her on cork flooring, looking over her right should as she played Für Elise. I didn’t listen to much piano music back then; whenever I did, it was on the old radio in the bathroom with the tinny sound, on the station for classical music, and I found the sound of piano music strangely cold. And yet, I was fascinated by it, but it was far outside of my reach. Fast-forward many years, to the 2000s, the rise of digital pianos, and my first job after my apprenticeship. My first piano lesson was in 2009. After this first lesson, I left the country (no causation), but I accidentally kept the piano teacher’s book and lost his phone number (in case you’re reading this: I’m sorry). A while after, I moved again, and became part of a band that had a great piano player, who played so well that it seemed like I could never get to this level. In 2015, I picked up piano lessons again, with a great teacher. After three lessons, I quit my job and couldn’t afford the lessons anymore. In 2016, while standing on a terrace late one night, my band mate (the piano player) and I confessed to each other that we needed to break up the band. In the summer of 2018, I made a digital floor plan of my apartment, moved some furniture around in it, and accidentally dropped a piano on my living room floor plan (I still disagree with the categorisation of a piano as furniture). At the same time, I was working later, and had more time in my mornings that I was looking to fill with things that brought me joy. Before I met my teacher and his piano for the first time, I told him the story above, and he responded: “Well, let’s see what we can do for you to stick with it this time.” And then he told me, “I don’t teach people to become concert pianists.” This is why—

Six months ago, I had my first piano lesson.

Now I have a piano sitting in my living room. It’s a digital piano, with pretty wooden keys and a headphone port, which is one of its most important features for me (and my neighbours). It’s big— as it turns out, that’s what happens when you design an instrument with 88 keys which need to be wide enough that you can hit each of them with an adult-size finger. The room it sits in is not big. In this room with furniture in light colours, it sits there, all black, with a black chair half under it. Nothing one would overlook. I pass it multiple times every day. There are many days when I pass it without sitting down and playing, even once, even briefly. On some of these days, as I walk past it, I think it’s staring at me. With judgement.

Whenever I do sit down and play, I keep thinking practice makes perfect. It’s one of the first English phrases I learned, I don’t even know how I picked it up. We have a similar expression in German, Übung macht den Meisterpractice makes the master (though unnecessarily male-gendered in German). Eventually, lots of practice will make perfect. Lots and lots and lots of practice; that’s the hope, that’s the dream.—And then I sit there, again chewing on this one piece that I’ve already been working on for three months, and it’s still not perfect. Far from it, even. On some days, it even feels like it just gets worse over time. Not enough practice, not even getting close to perfect.

The spirit of practice makes perfect is that, to improve a skill, one must practice—but this also makes the idea behind the phrase quite different from the literal meaning. Perfect is, even as a decidedly aspirational goal, so far out of reach for me. Perfect: as good as it is possible to be, entirely without fault or defect. Wich translates to: humanely impossible. If this was a landscape, perfect wouldn’t even be on my horizon; perfect would be long gone, far gone, behind the horizon, on a tiny pony, riding off into the sunset, with only a dust cloud left behind.

It took me the last months to understand that none of what I’m doing is about perfect. What it is about instead is:

Learning about muscle memory, and how to trust my instincts, my senses, of where to hit which key at what point in time. Reading notes in the base clef like they’re a foreign language; trying to stop translating each and every one of them in my head. It’s about learning how to name chords again, and how to make good guesses (and how to cheat). It’s about grasping that thirty percent of the way to playing well, is knowing which keys not to hit.

This is about learning that some musical styles are very difficult for me to even practice; admitting that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around them; and taking, embracing them, as learning opportunities. It’s about being humble, and knowing that I can only learn when I understand, admit, and ask about what I don’t know.

It’s about being gentle with myself, and keeping my wish to be good at what I do in check. Often, this means walking past the piano in the morning, awake and ready to work, and once more at night, tired, after a long and good work day, the only keys I touched being those of my keyboard; accepting that that’s where my life is at. It’s about writing down fingering for an entire piece one night, and realising the next morning that I mixed the finger numbers up. Again.

It’s about reminding myself that I always go too fast, and learning to pace myself, even though it’s hard. It’s about sitting down and playing this same piece again that I’ve been working on for months; and about the same three bars in Chilly Gonzales’ version of Shake it off, which I keep stumbling across like pebbles in the street. It’s about taking 37 attempts to play saman by Ólafur Arnalds and make a video recording of it on my phone, one that I’m sufficiently okay with that I share it on Instagram. It’s about 28 attempts at recording a beginner’s version of Ludovico Einaudi’s Primavera, and it’s about this point halfway through the piece where moves through a Crescendo and it gets really intense and loud and I get really excited and emotional and the piano vibrates and it’s about the eight attempts during which the phone crashes onto the floor; always at the exact same bar.

It’s also about the times when my teacher and I decide to start the lesson late and instead sit together outside the small cafe in the sun with black tea and coffee and we don’t talk about music, but about the latest neighbourhood gossip.

It’s also about learning that, when I’m working with this instrument that’s much heavier than I am, the way I conduct myself in relation to it matters: how I arrange the chair and sit on it; whether I pull up or lower my shoulders, how I use my arms and hands. Learning how to play this one bar without feeling like my hand is falling apart; and that the feeling of my hands falling apart will only very slowly fade. All of this is also about, five months in, realising that, all of a sudden, my hand span has increased from 10 to 11 white keys. This is also about breathing: learning that I tend to hold my breath when I’m very focused; and that holding my breath makes my body tense; and that this body tension gives me pain. It’s about learning to relax while focusing.

Now, every time I sit down again, and I still think, practice makes perfect. But then I think of all the above – and I remember what my teacher said about not training concert pianists.

It’s not about practice makes perfect. It’s about sitting down and putting in the time, and none of this is about perfect.

All of it is about practice.

Twenty-Eighteen

This was quite something. Thinking about it and going over last year’s events, I’m not quite sure how all of it ever fit into one year. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a red couch with a piano nearby while the wind is blowing outside, I just had some tea and mini pizzas, and, honestly, this is the best I could wish for.

And, in good old tradition (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017): here goes. —


The months

January

Last year with a treasure hunt in Tuscan vineyards, and the new one starts with a dog by the fireplace, pretty horses, and cold, sunny days. I buy too much olive oil, wine, and too many cookies, and have significant excess baggage. Spending just enough time at home to do the laundry before heading to Asia for the first time in my life. I travel to Hong Kong for work and stroll through the streets in the mornings and at night, trying to grasp the impressiveness of this place. And then, the view from the hill, these narrow streets, the trees and roots everywhere. Have lots of very good food of which I only remember the taste, and the hope to return one day. Travel onward to a Thai island for a few days right after – it had looked so close on the map, and is still a day’s travel away. I get off a bus very tired and suddenly the air is warm and humid, and the beach is only a minute away. Trying to find a helmet to wear while riding a scooter, and even the largest one I can find sits on top of my head (yes, there are ridiculous photos). I ride a scooter for the first time, have the best pineapple I couldn’t even have dreamed of, almost blow up a gas station, climb through a cave, go snorkeling and see incredibly beautiful fish, get horrible sunburn and have to go swimming wearing my “don’t look for love, look for pizza” shirt, spend days with friends at the beach, in the hammock, and in the inflatable pineapple, floating in the water, looking at the star-strewn sky above.

February

I get home and immediately want to leave again. I quit my job and accidentally eat heart-shaped pizza on Valentine’s Day. See a Belle and Sebastian concert and visit the the local animal shelter. Other than that, it’s a pretty uneventful month with very bad weather which doesn’t really matter, I have a lot of memories to process and big change ahead.

March

Spend a lot of time with very good dogs in the park and the forest. Take a trip outside of Berlin and landed in the snow. Realise that, after years of remote work, I don’t own interview-appropriate pants anymore. Meet someone who wants to take a selfie during our first date to commemorate it, in case we last (we don’t). Have my last day at work and start an interview marathon. Rearrange my apartment. We welcome a new dog into a friend’s life.

April, May

I celebrate my birthday a few months late, and it’s the most wonderful night with drinks that taste like salt and pineapple, and beautiful friends in one of my favourite neighbourhood bars. I try to find a good dress. Still looking for a new job, I spend a lot of time preparing for interviews, in interviews, on my way home from interviews. My job search takes me to New York, where I have a lot of good pizza, go to my favourite book shop, finally see MoMA and fantastic exhibitions (Adrian Piper was so good, and I walk into a Monet painting, completely flabbergasted), and meet some of my favourite people.

There’s a gentle feeling of spring in the air and, as always, my stay is too short. A dog moves in with me [eventually, he’d only live with me for a little while, and is now thriving and living a very happy life in another home]. I go to a wedding, nervous and exhausted, get to show a favourite person around a favourite place and have ice cream in the place I used to go to every night, and have drinks and Schnitzel on a boat. I finally sleep, for once, wear a beautiful dress and look fabulous while meeting a lot of people I haven’t seen in a very long time. I briefly wave at what could have been, and return feeling so much better. When I get home, my cacti blossom.

June

Spend two nights by a lake. I’m back to work, and go to San Francisco for a few days for the first time. I’m still trying to understand this place, and how the tech industry has impacted it. I go to SF MoMA, sit by the water for a while, eat a grilled cheese sandwich and fresh yellow cherries, and watch the seagulls. This is the furthest West I’ve ever traveled, and I’m horribly jetlagged for over two weeks.

July

We sit by the canal very far in the West. Back to riding my bike everywhere I go, and it brings me so much joy. I contemplate moving house and end up not doing it. I attend a dinner with a bunch of lovely women, speak at a D&I panel and meet a few very good people. Enjoying a bunch of late-night bike rides home. Spend a lot of time in the park and by the lake.

August

We see the blood moon over the water by Berlin Dome. A lovely friend is visiting, and we sit outside over drinks and watch people pass by, and nudge each other when we spot a good dog. Another D&I panel and meeting old acquaintances again. I take a few trains to get to another wedding, enjoy looking out the window and seeing this familiar landscape pass by; spend the weekend in the countryside, meet goats and horses, I wear a suit and my favourite bowtie, dance until the last song, walk home past 5 in the morning, and sleep in a bed that’s too short and too narrow. The stars are brighter than I’ve seen in a long time. On a whim, I buy an inflatable donut. I spend a week working from a lake house with a few friends, we go for swims in lunch breaks, float across the lake, watch the clouds and waterlilies, find a frog, make barbecue in the backyard, and have dinners on the balcony, almost seeing Mars.

September

I have visitors and get to show them around town; we spend a wonderful weekend together, going out and wandering the parks of Potsdam. I start taking piano lessons again. Spend a few days in New York, meet friends who help me stay awake with pac-man and ghost-shaped dumplings, and another friend and we share a cheese plate. I get myself the most wonderful gift. Another round of apartment rearranging. I get back to a balloon donut and brunch with my best friends and the best dogs. I find the first chestnut this autumn. I find a piano teacher and take my first piano lesson in a very long time, and it’s mind-boggling.

October

I miss New York and good bagels, and while I can’t bring the city to my home, at least I can make bagels. I go to Hamburg for a night to wander around this city again (it’s been too long) and see Ólafur Arnalds at Elbphilharmonie, which is absolutely phenomenal. Take a train back home and perform my first stand-up comedy bit; needless to say*, I’m killing it. (*Absolutely not needless, I was incredibly nervous and anxious, which is the whole reason I even did this in the first place; but that’s another story for another time.) I see Ólafur Arnalds once more, this time in Berlin. The leaves are turning yellow and we marvel at the trees by the lake. I get sweet treats from a fabulous new bakery in my neighbourhood. Friends host a Halloween party and I get to dress up and turn myself into the Pizza Witch that I’ve always been.

November

Many walks in the park, as long as there’s daylight. There’s less and less light, and it’s really wearing me out this time. I spend a particularly dark and rainy afternoon in one of my favourite museums in town and probably trying to see three exhibitions in one day was a little too much. Speak at a local meet-up. The sun is out for a few days and I hope it never ends (it does). Go see a musical and end up closing my favourite bar with the staff; have gin truffles for the first time, and it turns out they’re even better when you have them with extra gin on the side.

December

Spend the weekends with friends. Make a new batch of pizza dough. Go to New York once more, meet up with friends and finally make it out of Manhattan, have a little pizza, buy a few books, go to a social justice holiday market (and it’s as fantastic as it sounds), stand by the water looking at the skyline, and wear the bowtie again. Get home, jetlagged. Spend a few days with friends and dogs in a house in the countryside and it’s marvelous. Learn what it’s like to really fall in love with a dog. I meet calves and watch dogs playing and staring out the window, we go for long walks, make cookies, cook dinners, get milk from a farmer, have homemade gelato for dessert, unfortunately have no panettone, and I finally get to play card games again.


2018 in numbers

(I like numbers)

  • Traveled around 82,934 km: returned from Italy, went to Hong Kong, Thailand, New York, Vienna, San Francisco, Stuttgart, two villages by lakes near Berlin, Hamburg, a village by the Baltic Sea, and another village near Denmark,
  • spoke at two conferences, one of them my first management conference, hooray!
  • wrote not much, really (and as always, I wish it was more),
  • posted 540 Tweets,
  • way too many Instagram stories,
  • took more than 11,033 photos,
  • read 21 books, plus 12 Mio. words in Pocket (they say that’s 163 books, whatever that means),
  • Bought way too many books. Finally got a book shelf.
  • listened to music for a lot (my last.fm counts 14,867 songs),
  • went to see live: Belle and Sebastian, Ólafur Arnalds (twice), Welcome to Hell (a musical),
  • Quit my job. Found and started another one (yay!!).
  • made 68 contributions on GitHub,
  • accidentally quit drinking coffee regularly; probably got to around 50 cups over the year,
  • Listened to 4,839 songs and over 72,000 hours of music
  • The 11 songs I listened to the most this year:
    • Keaton Henson – Beekeeper (made it into this list again)
    • Blondie – Call me (it’s not a song, it’s a mood)
    • Santigold – Disparate Youth
    • Portugal. The Man – Feel it still
    • Django Django – Marble Skies
    • The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show
    • Sequoyah Tiger – Sissi
    • Flunk – Only You (Yuleboard Live Version)
    • Chromatics – I’m on Fire
    • Cosby – Everlong
    • Fruit Bats – Humbug Mountain Song

Bits and pieces

  • Learnings: Realised how hard it is to make friends as an adult (still working on it, but I got very lucky a few times this year).
  • Best decisions: Starting a new job. Not moving house. Taking piano lessons again. Not dating anymore (for now, sigh).
  • Endings & beginnings: a bunch.
  • Change: Went through some big personal changes, which I’m really excited about. I’m, probably unsurprisingly, turning another year older next year, and still grappling with it; also still thinking a lot about this thread, and what it means to be the age that I am.
  • People: many good ones.
  • The day I ran out of fucks to give: January 29

2019

Doing more of the things I greatly enjoy and am not doing enough of: Meeting friends, meeting new people, making new friends; protesting; dancing; practicing piano more frequently and learning exciting new pieces; cooking better food for myself; baking more. I’d like more dogs in my life, more nights out, more park time, more good books, more photography, more ice cream, more learning, more floating on lakes, looking up into the sky.

The biggest lesson I learned from my piano practice over the last months is: even on good days, you’ll rarely play perfectly, and that’s okay. But don’t let it keep you, don’t restart – when you fail, what matters most is that you find a way to recover, maybe even with grace (or at least a little dignity), find a way get back on track, and keep going.

And on this note: happy 2019 to you. May it be a good year for you.

27 things I learned about hiring in tech from looking for a new engineering management role

This spring, I spent some time looking for a new professional challenge. This search turned out to be much more interesting and intense than I’d expected. Along the way, I learned quite a lot about myself, the broader industry, and how to do hiring well, and wanted to share those learnings with you. —

Getting started

I’d been hoping to find a new role without doing public outreach, mostly because I hadn’t done that before and had no idea of what was going to happen (and didn’t think it’d result in much). Unfortunately, my search behind the scenes and applications for jobs hit a limit very soon. As I told a good friend about all of this, she convinced me with one thing she said that stuck with me since:

“Do not deprive yourself of opportunities.”

(And she was right.) So I pulled myself together, took a little time to update my “work with me” website (it’s been online for almost three years now, thanks to an idea that Jessica once shared with me), worked on a draft for a tweet, and after feedback from another manager friend, I changed the tweet to focus on areas of work I was interested in, instead of listing titles (short reasoning to summarise the whole rant that would be appropriate there: titles in the tech industry are not used consistently, are rarely comparable, and rarely mean much without context).

Slept over it for a night, changed my Twitter settings to “receive direct messages from anyone”, took a couple heavy breaths, and hit the “tweet” button for this:

Then I turned off my phone for an appointment. As I turned it on again the morning after, there were a bunch of former colleagues and fellow community members that had tweeted incredibly kind and wonderful things about me, which almost made my heart explode. And I had a couple more Twitter DMs, emails, replies, mentions, and, overall, more communication than I could handle. So I decided to start how I start best: with…

The spreadsheet of doom

I created a spreadsheet that would soon become the one thing that kept me from completely losing it. I started a bit more low-key, but expanded it over time, until it contained the following columns:

  • Company name
  • Contact name
  • Contact role
  • Application status
  • Berlin / remote
  • Details (company, role, inquiry)
  • Last interaction (date and kind)

Plus a few extra columns for tracking and decision making purposes:

  • Interview number
  • Time spent on interviews
  • Notes
  • Interview process notes (more on this later) 
  • My interest level (high / medium / low)
  • Ranking

One by one, I responded to messages and reached out to other people who’d been mentioned to me. Row by row, I filled the spreadsheet. And soon, I went into the first conversation. — Fast forward many weeks, here we are: at

27 things I learned from looking for a new engineering management job

7 things that may be useful for you if you’re looking for a job in tech

  1. Know what you want and need: Before starting your job search, write up your thoughts about the organisation, role, work areas, impact areas that you’re interested in, and details that matter to you, which you want to watch out for during your search. Keep updating this document throughout the interview process.
  2. Focus on areas of work: When you do (public or private) outreach, focus on the areas of work you’re interested in (instead of titles). Also publish further information about the areas of work you’re looking for and what matters to you.
  3. Figure out how to organise your search: Start your job search with a spreadsheet or another tool that helps you stay on top of things (including timelines, deadlines, when to follow up with whom,…). Keep updating this document over time.
  4. Make notes: Keep a separate document for each company you’re interviewing with. Take notes during interviews. (I sometimes had up to 6 interviews in one day, but even with only two interviews with different companies, this was really useful to help me focus and do my interview preparation and post-interview summary.)
  5. Help future you: Write up a short note of your thoughts and impressions after each interview.
  6. Make note of a company’s interview process. I deeply care about hiring and know how much very hard work and dedication it takes to do well, and that the way they approach hiring says something about an organisation.
  7. Go into first-round interviews with a default set of questions. I was most interested in the organisation (structure, status, plans,…), culture (diversity, inclusion, hierarchy, learning and development, Code of Conduct,…), Engineering (department details, work organisation, learning, tech stack, plans,…). Based on my pre-interview research results, I’d sometimes be able to skip a few of those. This was really useful as in many first-round interviews, there wasn’t much time for my questions, plus it helped me establish a baseline for comparison.

13 things to keep in mind when you’re hiring engineering managers (or any other role in tech)

  1. Know that people talk to each other: People in the tech community will reach out and tell others which companies not to talk to. Knowing people who will do this is a great privilege, and, unfortunately, this still a time when it’s needed to have these contacts. If you’re hiring people, assume that people talk to each other.
  2. Don’t look for unicorns. — Most engineering management roles have far too many and too broad requirements and overload the people who take them on. A combination of people management for 6-8 (or more) direct reports, plus technical leadership, plus hands-on work, will inevitably stretch people thin, and be harmful to this person, as well as their team. There’s still broad lack of understanding that engineering management is needed, and, even more so, what it should entail. Oftentimes, the much healthier setup would be to have an experienced engineer take on the role of technical lead, plus a good people manager who works with them. If you’re hiring engineering managers, ensure the roles are actually realistic.
  3. Talking with men: Most people who are in a position to (make a decision to) hire someone are white men. Most people who are in a position to (make a decision to) hire someone into an engineering department are white men. This is how the people who are representative of the homogenous status of the industry (especially within engineering departments) become gatekeepers for change, and are likely to perpetuate the status quo. Seriously, I talked to so many white men. Make sure that this doesn’t happen when people interview at your company – have people interview with a diverse group of people, and promote members of underrepresented groups into roles where they make hiring decisions. Give management roles to members of underrepresented groups (and remember that diversity goes far beyond white women).
  4. Be respectful of your and the applicant’s time: No matter what job postings or role descriptions say, many companies still don’t know exactly who and what they’re looking for. “Having a coffee”, “just chatting to see what happens” costs you and the candidate time and energy, and, even though they may be fine with it, it requires a certain amount of privilege from a candidate where they are even in a position where they can afford having such open-ended conversations – which means that it’s an exclusive approach. (And please don’t even think of asking someone to “pick their brain”.)
  5. Know your applicants: When you’re an interviewer, do your research on the person you’re talking to: read their CV, be up-to-date on what they spoke about with your colleagues. Or at least ensure you know what their name is, who they are, and which role they’re applying for.
  6. Making space for people: Give applicants time to ask you questions in each interview round (including round one), and ensure you make time for this within the initially scheduled meeting duration. Ensure this is also the case when your internal or external recruiters are screening candidates.
  7. Ensure privacy: If you use video calls for interviews, ensure to send each applicant an individual video call link, to avoid that candidates accidentally show up during another candidate’s interview.
  8. Remote engineering management roles are very rare, even with companies whose engineers are partially distributed, which is problematic for a variety of reasons (it’s exclusive, and means you’re lacking remote representation, which by itself results in a bunch of issues).
  9. Employer branding: Companies still use ping pong tables, kicker, and alcohol based events (like the infamous Friday beers) for employer branding and promotion. If your company is still doing this: stop it, it’s exclusive. And consider how the perks you offer exclude people.
  10. Diversity matters… or does it? —It’s still rare to find companies that have any numbers on the diversity in their teams. (Any numbers, let alone numbers that are up-to-date, or that go beyond binary gender or countries of origin.) It’s rarer to find companies whose management is not completely homogenous. It’s even rarer to find companies that are actively working on inclusion beyond using it as a buzzword.
  11. Know your culture smells if you talk about how great your company culture is, and the only people who weigh in on the greatness of this culture are white men.
  12. See the signs that you should rethink your hiring process if it takes you more than two months between someone submitting an application and your first time getting back to them (or your first interview with them). I learned much about this from my former teammates as well: lengthy hiring processes are incredibly exclusive, as they assume your applicants can afford it (because they’re able to stay in their current role, or that they have the time, savings, and lack of (care) obligations that allow them to take time off between jobs), which, in many cases, is just not given. — If you’re involved in hiring, remember that your hiring process says a lot about you, and how much you care about people within and outside of your organisation. And remember that this reflects back on you (see #1).
  13. Communicate, communicate, communicate. This is crucial to the experience you create and the message you send (especially as you’re interacting with people who may be at a very stressful point in their lives), so this should be a given. — Unsurprisingly, it’s not. Here’s how you can communicate better:
    1. Let people know that you’ve received their application (not just on a confirmation screen, but via email, so they have it on record).
    2. Communicate timelines (“you’ll hear from us by $date”).
    3. Stick to the timelines you communicated (or let people know if and why you can’t).
    4. Get back to them after every interview round within a couple of days.

7 things I learned about myself

  1. What do I even want? — Before even considering looking for a new role, and over the whole course of my job search, I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of life I want to live (yes, one of those easy questions). — I love my work, and it’s an important part of this life. I wanted to understand what really mattered to me, not only in my work, but also beyond. After the different roles I’ve had in the past (after all, I’m now in the 14th year of my career (yes it feels strange writing this down)), I’ve gotten a much better understanding of what I want to do, and where – as well as a clearer idea of the direction I want to take my life in. These thoughts became the foundation of my search.
  2. Never really stop interviewing — I spent a lot of time over the last years hiring people and working on hiring processes. On the one hand, it was equally strange and fascinating sitting on the other side of the table again, while, at the same time, I also noticed early on that I couldn’t really not interview – and ended up using this understanding to change my idea of job interviews a little to interviewing organisations (because, after all, that’s what it’s about).
  3. Using experiences to learn from them is great. — I’ve become a person who writes down her experiences learnings as she does things, because it will always be useful at some point (like, say, for a blog post like this one). Using this approach also helped at times when the whole endeavour became exhausting and frustrating, as I always knew that, in addition to the main purpose, it was also a learning experience for me.
  4. Privilege is a privilege. — I’ve always been really bad at actually building professional networks. At the same time, what I’d completely underestimated was the impact of the community work and public speaking I’ve done in the past, in terms of access it gave me now. (Again, a privilege, my friend.) 
  5. Statistics may bite you. — Even though I know how job postings work, and I know that women don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified. I still don’t apply for jobs unless I’m 100% qualified.
  6. I have questions about how to engineering management, even. — A ~topic~ in this job search was, again and unsurprisingly, my not having an engineering background. This could be worth another post, another time, and was sometimes very frustrating, especially in those times when I had to even justify my career choices. And yet, it made me realise I want to join an organisation where I can support people through the experience and skills I bring, and that wants me on board because of those.
  7. Learning, pt 2. — This whole process, intense and, at times, exhausting as it was, gave me great insight into how different organisations work, their culture and values (in theory and practice), into how they work, how they hire, and how they approach management – and I learned a bunch of things that got me thinking and researching and changing some approaches to my work, which I’m looking forward to trying out in my new role.

And now, for some numbers!

I love numbers, here are some for you, just in case you like them too. (Accidental rhyme.)

Location

I’d been looking for a role that would have me work in Berlin or remotely. Of the 37 companies I was in touch with, here’s the breakdown of the locations I’d be working from:

  • Berlin: 26 (70%)
  • Remote: 4 (11%)
  • Other (roles in other locations or in Berlin with more than 60% time spent travelling): 7 (19%)

Having worked with semi- or fully distributed teams for a while now and knowing the benefits of this setup for individuals, teams, organisations and, after all, myself, I was very keen on keeping on working in such setup. Even before my public outreach, I had known that finding such a role would be hard to impossible.

Interviews, commute, communication, and other numbers

  • Interviews:
    • Number of interviews: 57 (fun fact: more than halfway into my search, I realised that the spreadsheet I was using to keep this number up-to-date had a formula error, and that I’d had 41 interviews instead of 20 already. Not my proudest moment.)
    • Time spent in interviews: 68 hours
    • Average interview duration: 1:12 hours
  • Companies
    • that I was in touch with initially: 37
      • that I had applied with: 6
      • that I had been referred to: 31
    • that I interviewed with: 16 (of 37)
    • that I had more than one interview with: 8
    • that I had more than two interviews with: 5
  • Time spent on communication, interview preparation, and commute (if necessary): 75 hours
  • Average number of interviews with one company to job offer: 10

In total, I spent 143 hours over the course of 6 weeks on this process, and this whole endeavour was quite something. I was really lucky to have the support of great colleagues and, most of all, a bunch of wonderful friends, and be lucky enough to have a chance to meet so many people and companies throughout this process.

Now I’m looking forward to a little more processing-/downtime, before I’ll soon start interviewing again – this time from the other side of the table, in a new role that I’m very much looking forward to taking on.

February 2018

Found

  • What I hadn’t been looking for.
  • 5€ in the street and left them there.

Wrote

Watched (or saw)

  • The void
  • Belle and Sebastian live

Overheard (or said)

  • “You should really get onto teleportation. It helps with so much.”
  • “Another friend just got engaged. I think I only need another ten casual dating scenarios and I’ll be ready to settle.”
  • “Have two shots for me tonight!”
  • “This relationship is just an attempt to figure put how long it takes us to get absolutely sick of each other.”
  • “:donut: :donut: :donut:!!!!!!” 
  • “I won’t return to Berghain. I just disliked the customer experience. The music was too trashy also. The people were strange. Lots of folks from Brandenburg. But the sound system was nice.”
  • “I’ve developed some tolerance for being made feel like I need to apologise for wanting to order a coffee in Berlin cafés.”
  • “I don’t want to spend 350€ on a Christmas party DJ.”
  • “I didn’t laugh at you, I was laughing with you. — You just hadn’t gotten the joke.”

Was

  • Out late
  • In organising mode
  • Running after a bus at 2am
  • Out very late
  • At the animal shelter
  • Very sad
  • Very excited

The best pictures

  • The day the sun came back
  • The snow at 5am
  • A reflection in a lightbulb
  • The sunrise at 6:25am
  • This GIF, open in a browser tab on the side of my monitor:

First times

  • Making spring rolls
  • The 2018 Grand Thai Curry Fiasco

Did

  • Not travel for a whole month, for the first time since May 2017
  • Lean out the window
  • Miss someone
  • Jump
  • Anti-sadness-Karaoke
  • Turn a conversation with a stranger into the script for my first movie
  • Jump the shark

I did…, although it was a bad idea

  • A lot of things, actually. Too many to list here.

Had

  • Board games night
  • Homemade Thai curries
  • Risky Whiskey
  • Homemade pizza
  • Lots of time with good dogs
  • Heart-shaped pizza
  • Conversations about Alpacas
  • Plans
  • Heart-to-heart conversations
  • No coffee for 7 weeks in a row. By accident.
  • Puppy time
  • Breakfast (with coffee)

Read

Books I finished

  • None. Reading game not strong this month. (But I sorted my book collection, if that counts.)

Learned

  • A sad phone call with a crying puppy in the background really helps the mood.
  • Some things about feedback

Overheard (or said), pt 2

  • “I’d relocate to San Francisco just to troll you.”
  • “Marriage is also kind of a scam.”
  • “There is a micro universe in your tool box.”
  • “You should start your own moving company.”
  • “You negotiate like you were North Korea.”
  • “I think we’d just bore each other.”
  • “Negative anecdotal data is one of the strongest forces in the universe.”
  • “I’m taking the ‘confident mediocre cis white man’ approach now. It really helps!”
  • “You have style, and I don’t.”
  • “It’s always kind of impressive to see the limitlessness of entitlement in action.”
  • “I’m pretty sure you learned English through reading poetry.”
  • “What’s your name?” – “Lena”. – “Like my mother. I should call my mother again.”
  • “Friday night is no time to be fearful.”
  • “I’m impressed and a little scared.” – “You should just be scared.”

Listened to

  • Flunk — Only You (Yuleboard Live Version)
  • Albin de la Simone — Le grand amour
  • Phoebe Bridgers — Funeral
  • The Killers — Run For Cover – Naderi Remix
  • Abay — THE QUEEN IS DEAD
  • Alex Turner — It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind
  • Wolf Parade — Lazurus
  • The Czars — Paint the Moon
  • Lost Horizon — She Led Me
  • Oneohtrix Point Never — The Pure and the Damned
  • Belle and Sebastian — Show Me the Sun
  • Lambchop — In Care of 8675309

Thought about

  • Gracefulness
  • Choices
  • Performative feminism of cis white straight men online
  • A theory: at any given point in time, someone somewhere in the world will play Amazing Grace.
  • Learning
  • Growth

Have a lovely March, and wonderful adventures!