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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Cruise Automation 2018: Welcome to San Francisco

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non-technical: suitable for any reader
I had alluded to an upcoming work-term in previous blogposts; however I didn't really believe it was happening until I arrived in San Francisco on April 30th. I'll be a software engineering intern with Cruise Automation working on autonomous driving tech until the end of December. I interviewed for Cruise back in October during the Robot Magic competition at IROS 2018.


After first meeting the team and trying out the tech, I did a series of technical and behaviour interviews that spanned until the end of November and I accepted an offer at the beginning of December. Fast forward a few months through a full University semester and here we are! 


Welcome to San Francisco

SF Has very steep streets. This was a picture I took during a jog on the first weekend of arrival around Hyde Street.

Almost looks like a stock photo


My accomodation in San Francisco will be in a Hackhouse. That may sound grotesque if you misinterpret "hack", so let's just say "hackerhouse". I found one online: SOMA hackhouse located in (you guessed it), South of Market, San Francisco.

This hackhouse provides cereal, and a nice working area for folks who work quite a lot.

This suite fits 16 people; many of which are tech interns or travellers.
Since Canada follows a different semester system than the US, I was one of the first to arrive as a summer intern. Considering how expensive rent is in SF, I was quite satisfied having the place "almost" to myself. I'd be curious as to what the amortised utility is on a daily basis. That is, even if the location were to become extremely crowded, I'd have offset some of the potential displeasure by the surplus of utility I obtain when the house is almost empty. Anyway, let's not make this post about amortised analysis...

The entrance to the hackhouse has a card scanning mechanism built into the wall that is hidden from plain sight. This custom built system reminds me of something my friend Wynand would propose for the CSSA lounge via a rasperri pi or something of the sort. The front of the building has opaque walls if viewed from outside; but transparent if viewed from inside.

The last day of travel was long, as usual. I arrived and went to sleep after meeting with a couple of developers living under the same roof. One is a senior developer with IBM doing IOS, and the other is a Turkish migrant with many years of experience looking for his next break in android development. I went to sleep that night and hurdled out of bed the next morning.

The First Morning
I setup my laptop to begin my day of work, since I've still got a weekend to finish tasks before my internship starts. The rush of adrenaline hit me... It's been 4 years since I declared this grind. The lighting that poured through the half-transparent building reminded me of a particular June morning in my grade 12 high school year. I had gone to bed the previous night asserting to myself: It's time to stop slacking, to stop playing games, and it is time to get disciplined. I woke up that next morning and remember seeing the sunrise for the first time I could really recall. I ate a bowl of rice and vegetables that I had prepped the night before and dashed out the door to begin running, although I couldn't run well.
My workstation setup for this morning. 
It has been just shy of 4 years since that morning and the realisation has begun to kick in... Those hundreds of relentless days, of early morning, of late nights... I was the generic hustler from a 90's flick, a hotheaded overly ambitious introvert that believes he has what it takes. I sat up in my new apartment and looked out the window and vividly tracked back into these last few years recalling those many nights... It's those nights when your head is pounding, your eyes are bloodshot, and aside from everyone thinking you're high, you've never drank, or smoked, or partied, you've kept your head down, and you sacrificed those nights at the club, those house parties, those potential careless youthful experiences. I remember the constant droning voice asking "do you have what it takes", "are you just going to give up?"... and drowning it out. I remember looking up at a whiteboard ridden with lecture notes and wondering if I'd already gone insane, or if these transcriptions were moving me forward. All of these memories and past selves ringed in my ear this first morning.

As of writing this I'm looking out the window of my new home, out onto downtown San Francisco, and no matter what internal voice attacks me with uncertainty, the reality is: I've made progress, I have absolutely no regrets, and I am happy with everything in this life. It's also super important that my family and friends realise how influential they have been in my life. Those who know me well, know it's not all sunshine and rainbows. As with any life, it can be ridden with hardships and struggle; but I've always had tremendous supports along the way and close connections cheering me on. It's also Mother's day: thanks Mom for everything you've done for me! I may not be at home right now; but I definitely wouldn't be here if It weren't for your support.


Conclusion

I'm enjoying this relaxed state while I can; but I know that there is plenty more work to be done. I'm finally beginning to get recognition and achieving opportunities I never thought possible. For every local maximum I reach, there is another maximum to be achieved after ascending back into the depths of that prolonged uncertainty. This uncertainty is something I've never looked forward to so much until now.

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