Marty Hu

The light shines in the darkness

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Coursework vs. Production Code

I’ve been speaking to a number of first-time technical entrepreneurs recently who are starting businesses for the first time. One question I often get is regarding the difficulty involved in writing production code. Given that probably a lot of them (you) have similar experience to what I did, I thought I’d share some reflections I had about the differences between academic work and production coding.

Programming at a startup is, in general, much easier than the work you’ve already done in school.

I’m assuming a lot of things when I say this. Naturally, I’m assuming that you challenged yourself while you were in school. You took some of the hard classes and didn’t just coast through the easy ones [1]. You completed all of your assignments (likely taking multiple late days, but hey, finishing is finishing).

In school you work on problems that get progressively harder. By the time you...

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I had lunch with one of my mentors yesterday. He has a son, who just started the second grade. For a good part of the lunch, we discussed his concern that his son may not be as successful as he is. He told me that he feels clueless about what to do if his son does not end up being naturally talented.

My mentor explained that he never learned that lesson for himself, because for him by some fluke raw talent always ended up being good enough for him. As he told me, he was always naturally the best in everything that he did. He never did extracurricular work, because he was always at the top of his class. He doesn’t understand the notion of summer internships because throughout all of grade school, his summers were devoted solely to vacation. Even in college, he spent all of his time playing sports and hardly did any work. His most well-acclaimed paper (that landed him his professorship at...

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Work Life Balance

The modern work life balance equation is interesting to me in that people seem to have all of these rules for when they should or shouldn’t be working. I have some friends at tech companies who work something like: “long enough to get all three meals in the office, weekends when it’s urgent, at least eight hours a weekday, never after 9pm”. der…? what?

To be contrarian, I prefer to distill my work balance into a few rules that are easy enough for my brain to wrap around. This is what I do:

  1. If I’m awake, I should be working.
  2. If I can’t focus enough to do my work well, I should take a break.
  3. If I’m too tired to work after taking a break, I should be sleeping.

I once asked one of my most diligent friends in college how he was able to take all of the hardest CS classes, work a part-time job, and do academic research in his spare time.

me: “How do you manage your work/life balance?”


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