1

Europe 2017 – Reykjavík

And now, finally, the last stop on my trip, Reykjavik. This was my first time in Iceland and it seems like it’s been all the rage in the last few years for people I know, so I was pretty jazzed for it.

The basics

My flight from Berlin didn’t land until nearly midnight on a Thursday night so it had been a long day, but the trip from the airport to Reykjavik itself takes another 45ish minutes so it wasn’t over yet. That, of course, is after you get your bags and get on a bus. By the time I arrived at my Airbnb, it was nearly 2am and I was beeeeeeeaaaaaat 😴😴😴😴😴😴. Luckily, it was easy to find from where the bus dropped me off and the key to get in was in a lockbox outside so there was no issue getting in. I crashed immediately.

The Airbnb was super centrally located in downtown Reykjavik, within 5-10 minutes walking distance from almost everything I did while there. And my window gave a beautiful, though partially obstructed, view to the north. The room was very tiny, but it was more than adequate for my needs.

Not a terrible view.

One of the first things I noticed was the hot water smelled strongly of sulfur. I didn’t know this ahead of time, but this is because the it’s naturally heated in Reykjavik—though, some other parts of Iceland heat the cold water instead. The cold water is very crisp and clean, though! Still, the sulfur-smelling hot water is very safe to use for showering and such.

Downtown Reykjavik is pretty small so getting around on foot is very easy and most of the things to see in the city are right there for you. Anything outside of the city requires renting a car or taking a bus tour.

Running

Thanks to nice, cool weather, in the 40s and 50s, running in Iceland was great. I felt strong and fast, despite how exhausted my body was.

My first run was 10k-ish based on a couple routes I had found on sites dedicated to running in Iceland. I ran along the water on the northern part of the city and up to Harpa, then up through part of the city and around Hljómskálagarður and its lake, Tjörnin, and Reykjavik City Hall. From there, I ran up to the domestic airport and did a loop entirely around it, running along the beaches there and by one of the hot springs. There were so many amazing views from here! Finally, I looped back towards Hljómskálagarður and finished up there.

This was such a fun route to run!

A quick photo op with Sun Voyager on my run.

On the other side of the airport, this was the view.

A little beach with a hot spring.

My second run was the Reykjavik Half Marathon. Since I already wrote about that separately, I won’t go into much detail, but it was a great race and a ton of fun! I can’t wait to go back one day for the full marathon.

Before the half marathon, I did a four mile warm up to make sure I’d hit my 17 scheduled miles for the day. This run was mostly along the northern shore of the city. I ran east first, and up along part of the course, and then turned around to head back to the west and around Harpa again before turning up to the start of the race.

The half marathon!

And my four mile warm up.

In general, Reykjavik felt like an amazing place to run. Though, I can imagine it gets pretty tough in the winter.

I love this little medal for the Reykjavik Half Marathon! I'm a fan of smaller medals.

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Let’s race!

The food

I had SOOO many places on my list to check out for meals. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit them all up, but I wanted to do my best.

I’ll note right off the bat, eating in Iceland is expensive. You probably have heard this before, but this is coming from someone who lives in Jersey City / NYC. Meals were quite not cheap!

First up was The Laundromat Café for a late breakfast / early lunch. This place was super yummy with a great atmosphere and friendly staff. I followed it up with my first of two trips to Valdís for ice cream. Did I mention that I ate ice cream every day of my trip? Well, I did!

So many photos of laundromats on the walls!

Ice cream!

Late lunch / early dinner that day was at Lemon, a juice bar and healthy style sandwich place. Their menu had so many great options and I wanted to try them all! I ended up going with the Pescado (tomato, mozzarella, avocado, and pesto) and a Good Times juice. Holy shit that sandwich was amazing! It was so simple, but so fucking good!

This sandwich had no business being that good.

After Lemon, I met up with my brewery “tour” to go to Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson ehf. I put tour in quotes because this was less a tour and more a drowning in beer. The tour part was very short, about ten minutes. The rest was sitting in a bar at the brewery while learning about the history of beer in Iceland—it was illegal until 1989!! Ölgerðin is Iceland’s oldest brewery and actually opened 1913, two years before prohibition went into effect. They survived by producing soft drinks and such.

Icelandic beer.

Just a couple of the brews we tried.

The moment we walked into the brewery, we were handed pints of beer and told those pints would be endless. They weren’t kidding! As soon as you’d finish, they’d fill it back up. We also tried a number of their other beers, including their Pride beer which they were very proud of, and a brew that was a collaboration with Cigar City brewery in Florida. Each beer we tried was about 6oz each. Considering I was running a half marathon the next morning, this was not the smartest way to spend my night, but it certainly was delicious!

Gay pride beer

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After the tasting, I went to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for hot dogs with some of the people I’d been chatting with at the brewery. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur was recommended to me as pretty much the best place for hot dogs in the city, which is already known for its hot dogs. Their menu is basically…hot dogs and a few topping options. That’s all they do. And they were fantastic!

The next morning, after the half marathon, I got a danish from Köku Kompaníið and then hit up Kaffitár for coffee. From there, I was off to the Secret Lagoon where I enjoyed a fish and chips after my wonderful soak.

Dinner was at Sushi Social. Sushi Social used to be called Sushi Samba until Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes went there and led to them being sued by an American restaurant of the same name. The atmosphere was like a fancy lounge kinda vibe and it was quite busy still, even though I was rolling up around 11pm. I ordered a chef’s special prix fix option from the menu to try a few different things. The menu didn’t say what would be included, just that it would be chef’s selections. However, the menu did include minke whale and whale was not something I wanted to eat.

When the first course came, the server told me what it was, but I couldn’t hear her. It looked and tasted like beef, but what she said didn’t sound anything like it could have been “beef” or “steak.” Still, I didn’t think anything of it until two courses later when what I was served was definitely beef (which I clearly heard her say). Now, I don’t know what whale tastes like, but it is a mammal so I’d expect it to taste similar to land-based mammalian meat. And it’s unlikely that two of the courses would have been beef. Though, I guess it’s also possible it was horse meat, but I don’t remember seeing horse on the menu and I also really don’t want to eat horse. Sooooooo yeah, I think I ate 🐋 and I’m kinda not too happy about it.

My next meal was at the Black Beach Cafe while on a Southern Iceland tour. This was mostly like a tourist kinda stop, but the soup and sandwich I had were both pretty good.

For dinner, I hit up Noodle Station for a GIGANTIC spicy noodle bowl with a couple of people from the tour. It was delicious! And then we followed that up with my second trip to Valdís for ice cream.

On my last morning in Iceland, I stopped at Brauð & Co for a delicious cinnamon roll to nom down while on my way to the airport.

Activities

I packed my first day in Reykjavik with a bunch of things and really had to hustle to see them all. First up was Whales of Iceland. This is a museum exhibit thing dedicated to all the types of whales found around Iceland. It was a nice learning opportunity, but if you don’t know what it is ahead of time, it could be easy to be disappointed. Because I knew it was mostly plastic (I guess?) molds of whales hanging from the ceiling with displays telling you all about the species, I was properly whelmed with what I expected. The molds are all life size so it really does give you a good sense of scale.

A blue whale.

After the whales, I went down into the Icelandic PUNK Museum. This was an interesting but cool experience. The guy who runs it (or at least the one that was there when I went) is this old crusty punk rock guy who clearly hasn’t changed his aesthetic in 40 years. He was super friendly though! The museum walks you through the history of punk bands and the scene in Iceland in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and was much like reading books like Our Band Could Be Your Life and The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting. It was also really interesting to see, in addition to the stuff that was internal, the influences from US and English punk scenes that affected their scene. And I should also mention the museum itself is in an old public restroom and…well, yeah, it’s obvious because the toilets are still there. The whole place is crusty and dirty and punk af. I was into it!

The Icelandic Punk Museum is literally an old public toilet.

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ACAB.

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The entrance to the PUNK Museum.

Headphones in a toilet?

Next I hit up the expo for the race and then went to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Yes, this is what it sounds like. It’s a penis museum. This was weird, but really cool at the same time. Basically, you walk in and there are dicks all over. The cocks are a mix of actual animal penises in jars (hundreds of them), molds of penises, penis art, and penis paraphernalia. There are a lot of dicks here, including molds of the penises of the entire national handball team.

Taking selfies with a narwhal penis, as you do

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Penises.

More penises.

Handball player penis, anyone?

The next day, after the half marathon, I rented a car and drove part of the Golden Circle, mostly hitting up the highlights.

I started off with about an hour and a half just soaking and enjoying the Secret Lagoon and getting my hot spring on. After 17 miles, this was a nice bit of recovery. That is, after I actually got into the water. I was completely unaware that the locker room and changing area was just one big open space without any private changing rooms. At gyms, I always go into a private space to change because, as a transgender woman, changing out in the open is terrifying. The reality of it wasn’t that bad, though, as I changed quickly and just sort of kept to myself. Anyway, the lagoon itself was relaxing and everything I wanted it to be.

Ahhhh so relaxing!

From there, I hit up Strokkur and Geysir. I was able to see Strokkur erupt 4 or 5 times while walking around the geyser park here. From there, I went on to the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.

Errrruuuuuppppptttion!

Hole.

This waterfall is crazy!

Following up Gullfoss was Thingvellir National Park. In the park, I hiked around for a good couple of hours and checked out Öxarárfoss waterfall and Almannagjá, where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. Coming out of Thingvellir, I nearly hit a herd of while sheep on the road!

Just, you know, the edge of the North American tectonic plate. NBD.

Walking between two tectonic plates. Normal stuff.

So many waterfalls to see!

Last up on my self-guided tour was Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I really only just made it before the sun started going down, but I’m glad I did. I did a lap around the top of the crater and then went down into it for a lap around the lake.

The lighting here was *really* starting to wind down, must more so than the photo makes evident.

On my last day in Iceland, I took a guided tour of South Iceland. This tour picked us up in Reykjavik and drove us down through Selfoss and to the southern coast. Along the way, we stopped and made friends with some Icelandic horses and laid on the mattress-like moss covering old lava fields. I would have never guessed that moss could be so soft and comfy!

Bed made of moss.

I made a horse friend

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The first of two waterfalls we saw on this tour was Seljalandsfoss. This is the waterfall you can walk behind and see THE BACKSIDE OF WATER! While really neat, it was also cold and wet. The second waterfall was Skógafoss, which is another beautiful waterfall and typically has a double rainbow in front of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the eighth wonder of the world, THE BACKSIDE OF WATER!!!

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Seljalandsfoss.

Yeah, uh, this guy was in his underwear.

Gay.

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At Skógafoss.

Next up on the tour was Reynisfjara, the black sand beach. Now, here, what was most important to me was to see some fucking puffins. I was ready to throw a fit if I didn’t see any puffins while in Iceland, but luckily for everyone, no fit was needed! There were hundreds and hundreds of puffins flying around. I didn’t get to see any up close, but it was still pretty cool to see so many of them.

You can't tell, but there are hundreds of puffins in this photo

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Look at all the puffins!!

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Black sand beach and puffins. The best place on Earth?

The last bit of the tour was a hike on Solheimsjokill Glacier. This was a guided tour walking around on the ice and seeing some of the features of it while also learning about the glaciers themselves.

Hanging on a glacier

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I’mma hike the hell out of that glacier back there.

After the tour, I grabbed dinner with a couple of the other people from the tour and we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights! Typically, August is too early so I didn’t expect to see them on my trip, but apparently they were out a bit early. Now, here’s the thing, when you see photos of the Northern Lights they look super saturated or you see time lapses where they’re moving and such. In reality, that’s not quite what they look like. I fully expect they look more intense later in the season, but mostly it was just a light glowing in the sky. It was still awesome to see, but it wasn’t life-changing or anything like that.

Northern Lights! TBH, this photo is a fairly accurate representation of what we saw. There was some light pollution where we were, but it wasn’t much more than this.

Other bits

Iceland is great! I’d love to go back and see more. There are so many different things to see and the time of year you go can really change the experience of those things. All the people I interacted with were incredibly nice.

I made a new friend today

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Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at or walked by. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom. And some, I checked in multiple times as I passed them more than once.

  

4

I found a job and now summer vacation is ending

After nearly three months since being laid off from Tumblr, I’ll be starting my new job this week. I’m pretty excited about it, but before I go into that, I thought I’d write a bit about what my time off and job hunt have been like. I’ve been pretty quiet about this whole thing on social media compared to the way I am about most things, so there’s a bit to catch up on here.

The plan

My plan for my unemployed time was to take at least a few weeks, but probably closer to a month, before doing anything at all. I was going to decompress and relax. Maybe even, I don’t know, enjoy the time off????? I haven’t had more than two weeks off from working in about 14 years so I felt like I deserved to enjoy just a little bit of time.

After a few weeks, I was going to start applying for jobs and asking around for who might be working somewhere that’s hiring. But with six months of severance, I was going to take my time with things.

The reality

The reality was much different than planned. I actually wrote a 3,000 word blog post going into a lot of detail about it, but I decided to scrap it for something a bit different.

While I wanted to take the time off before doing anything, I also wanted to at least deal with my inbox first. The layoffs at Yahoo (who owned Tumblr prior to being acquired by Verizon) weren’t exactly a secret, even before they officially happened. So a lot of recruiters blasted out emails to people they found on Linkedin with Tumblr/Yahoo listed as their employer.

At minimum, I wanted to reply to a few of the non-gross sounding recruiters so their messages weren’t just sitting there forever. In addition to this, I had one recruiter I had been working with for a little bit before I was laid off. I wasn’t looking to get out of Tumblr ASAP, but I had started looking. I just didn’t have a strong motivation to get out because I loved Tumblr.

From here, things ramped up immediately. Before I even caught my breath, my schedule was filled with phone calls and tech screens at companies. This was in addition to trying to schedule plans with both friends I hadn’t seen in a while and former coworkers for catching up.

My schedule quickly became busier than when I was employed. I was on the go non-stop from waking up until late evening. It was exhausting, but also good. Any free time between scheduled stuff, I spent doing practice coding exercises online so I could be prepared for interviews.

Trying to schedule things was a whole new level of hell. Each company/recruiter would ask for 3-4 times I was available so they could schedule on their end, but there were points where I had a ton of things scheduled already and then had two or three companies I was waiting to hear back about, but had to hold multiple spots for until one was confirmed. A couple companies did make this easier, though, by using system that allows you to just pick a time from what they have available. This was super helpful! If your job entails scheduling with people, you should do this!

Trying to deal scheduling things when your calendar looks like this is hell.

My first five weeks of unemployment were the exact opposite of what I had planned for them to be. I could have decided to put all of this on hold, but I was interviewing with a few companies I wanted to work for, so I didn’t want to hold up those processes. Additionally, Tumblr/Yahoo wasn’t the only NYC tech company that had layoffs this summer. Etsy and SoundCloud, among others, also had layoffs. Typically, there are way more jobs in development than there are developers to fill them, but I knew there might be a bit more competition for the jobs I was looking for.

What are tech interviews like?

If you work in tech, you can skip this section, but for those who don’t, I figured I’d give a quick little overview of what it’s like to interview as a developer. Note that none of this is an endorsement of the process; I think the tech interview process is incredibly flawed.

Things start off probably the way they do for a lot of other jobs. You’ll have a call with a recruiter (or someone performing the role of a recruiter). This is just a quick screen where they ask a little about your work history and what you’re looking for, as well as tell you a bit about the role and the company. On one level, they’re just trying to get a quick feel for whether you might be a fit for their company and the role, but they’re also trying to sell you on working at their company. At a really small company, this might actually be with an engineer, but it’s separate from any of the technical interviewing.

And this is, of course, after any email or Linkedin correspondence you might have before. If you’re working with a third party recruiter, that conversation would also be before this call.

The second step could be one of two options, both are designed to suss out if you actually know how to code at all and to get a quick sense for whether or not you’re worth the time to bring in. This step could either be a take home coding exercise or a phone-based one. Some companies will give you a choice between the two, but most will just give you one or the other.

The phone-based exercise is typically you and an engineer on their end. The call might start out with a quick chat about their role, the role you’re interviewing for, and/or your past, but this is brief. Some interviews just get right into it. Your call is either via video chat or the phone, but will (almost) always have a shared screen for coding. The interviewer will ask you one or two questions and you’ll work through how to solve them. Sometimes, you’re expected to write code that will run and produce the desired results. Other, you’ll be writing actual code, but won’t have to actually run it. These calls are typically 45-60 minutes so it can be hard to solve the problem and produce bug-free code. Generally, you’re being evaluated on your approach to solving the problem and the efficiency of your solution. At the end, there is typically some time to ask questions about the company and the role.

Take home exercises are similar in idea, but a little different. Here, you’re given a problem or two to solve on your own time. You usually have a few days to a week. Then you submit your solution afterwards. In my experience, these are expected to take three or four hours, but I’ve done some that take longer. You’ll be expected to produce an actual working solution that is (relatively) bug-free. And because you have more time, you’re usually expected to write higher quality code than on a phone-based screen.

Between the two, I prefer the take home exercise and would opt for that when given the choice. They’re a little more involved and take longer, but I always feel like I can better show off my ability when someone isn’t actively watching me write code and I have a little bit of time to think. They’re also just wayyyyy less stressful, I think.

The final stage of a tech interview is the onsite portion. This can be between three and six hours and may or may not include lunch. Basically, it’s a long ass thing.

The onsite interview will consist of a number of different sessions. Anywhere from three to six, in my experience, but usually four. Each will be 45-60 minutes and with one or two interviewers (most of mine were with one). These sessions will include any mix of coding on an actual computer, writing code on a whiteboard, solving system architecture problems, having a sample of code you brought with you reviewed, reviewing a sample of code given to you, figuring out and fixing a breaking issue or code with a bug in it, and a more values-based subjective type of interview (what most non-technical interviews typically are). It’s common for multiple sessions to be of the coding on a whiteboard type. Here you’re typically evaluated on your approach to the problem and the efficiency of your solution.

The onsite portion of tech interviewing is exhausting and stressful.

Interviews

I went on a total of six onsite interviews since being laid off. The shortest was 3.5 hours and the longest was 6 hours. Two were 5.5 hours. 😴😴😴 And the first five of them were within a three week period. For the most part, I thought they all went pretty well on my end. There was one company I was really excited for and thought I would love working at until the interview which made me lose all interest in wanting to work there.

If I’m remembering correctly, I did eight take home and phone screen evaluations with seven different companies (one company wanted me to do two 🙄). Of those seven companies, all of them invited me in for onsite interviews. The seventh one, I canceled after accepting an offer, hence having done six and not seven.

Three of those eight were take home style evaluations. There was also a fourth that I started, but didn’t submit because of accepting an offer. For the most part, I actually sort of enjoyed working on these. They were fun little projects and they also gave me an opportunity to get more practice writing Go (the programming language I was teaching myself at the beginning of summer).

There were a few additional companies I talked to without actually having anything go anywhere. One didn’t seem to have any interest in pursuing things with me, which was fine by me because the person I talked to there sounded like a massive douche…


(I didn’t literally hang up, but mentally, I was done with that)

The rest of the companies I spoke to seemed interested, but got caught up with scheduling and timing issues or ended up filling the role before I would have gone in anyway.

In addition to all of the above, I had one onsite interview with one company and a take home evaluation with another before being laid off. The onsite interview did not go well at all. I was totally out of practice and rusty on interview-type stuff (which is usually nothing like what a developer actually does day-to-day). It was my first technical interview in three years. I also had gotten a bad vibe from the company beforehand and wasn’t super excited for the interview so that may have played into my performance as well.

Offers

In total, I got two offers. Because of the timing of the second one, I had about 3.5 hours to make a decision between the two. Company A had come the week before and was expiring. Company B, I was expecting immediately following the interview (I knew I nailed it), but the timing made things really close.

Choosing between the two was agonizing. Even though I had three and a half hours to make the decision, I did find out the night before (a few hours after the interview) that I would be getting an offer from Company B. I just didn’t know how much it would be for. This started my decision-making process, but it was hard to really make a decision without having the offer in front of me.

Between the two companies, I was really excited about them both and knew I couldn’t go wrong with either. Company A is a very stable, but smaller company that is profitable. Company B is a small startup that hasn’t yet launched (they’re targeting later this year), but has funding and should be good with money for a while. Their product was something that looked great and I knew I would be very excited and passionate about working on.

Both companies offered me working in languages I wanted to work in. Both are Go, the language I most was hoping to work with, and Company A is also Python, which I’d like to finally learn anyway. I felt like I could make a big impact at either company, but Company B would allow me to really own what I was working on and drive a lot of it. It would likely be much more challenging. Both companies came across as having awesome people that I’d love to work with.

So choosing suuuuuuucked. I was really back and forth on it. Luckily, they both were through the same third party recruiter so I was able to talk things through with her without her being biased over which direction I went. Danielle definitely made clear where she wanted me to go.

Company A was offering me more money, better healthcare that’s also trans-inclusive and 100% covered premiums, 401k (with employer match), commuter benefits and a better commute (literally one block from Tumblr HQ 🤣🤣🤣), a dog-friendly office (not that we have a dog, but I want to hang out with other people’s doggos!), and a few other small perks. Because Company B is a small startup, they couldn’t offer most of that and the offer was lower.

In the 3.5 hours I had, I asked Company B for more in the base salary, but they could only offer me a signing bonus making up the difference between the two offers. Of course, that only makes up the difference for my first year there. Between the two, Company A also offers a better work/life balance and no on-call rotation, while Company B isn’t at a stage to be able to offer that.

In the end, I had to make an actual adult decision. At 34, things like a 401k matter. If I was in my early 20s still, I would probably approach things differently and even be disappointed in myself for approaching this how I did, but 🤷‍♀️. Even though I only had a little bit of time, I decided to at least rough estimate the true difference between the two offers. I estimated what it would cost me out of pocket to make up for the 401k, the health and commuter benefits, the commute itself, and the other differences. In the end, I would be coming out about even with what I was pocketing at Tumblr, at best—a salary I felt was no longer where I should be.

After agonizing, I made a decision. Despite the above, I chose Company B and went with the role that would be more challenging and the product I would get to have the most impact on. That was at 2:52pm, with 8 minutes until my call with Company A to tell them my decision.

At 2:55pm, Danielle asked me “are you happy with your decision?” And, honestly, I couldn’t say yes. Something felt off. I wanted to be happy, but I wasn’t. I think in that moment, it really hit me the difference in what the work/life balance would be between the two and how much the benefits really mattered. I could have been fine with the work/life balance if it was only lower salary or worse benefits, but I couldn’t do it with both.

At 2:58pm, I messaged Danielle and said “I’m going with Company A. I think that’s the right decision.” Two minutes later, it was official!

So that was that!

Company A is Bitly!

Yup, Bitly! The link shortening company. I’m pretty excited for it! I got a really good vibe from everyone there and it’ll be nice to work for a company that is profitable. Plus, it’s the same short and easy commute as I had at Tumblr and just a block away so I can meet my favorite old coworkers for lunch.

I’m really excited to work at a company whose mascot is Chauncey McPufferson!

The company is small enough that I think I’ll get to have a pretty solid impact, but also stable. While I am in a place in my career and financially that I could have taken a risky position at a startup without too much worry, I think it’ll be nice to have have some stability in my workplace. As much as I loved Tumblr, it wasn’t really the most stable company to work for in the last two years because of Yahoo being up for sale and, eventually, selling to Verizon. And before Tumblr, I was at a company that made money, but had been acquired by a larger company and had been slowly but consistently changing with processes and such in flux for years.

I’m also excited to work in Go and Python. I’ve really been loving Go and I’m surprised I’ve gone this long without needing to learn Python. I think it’ll be a good skill to have for my career.

Additionally, I’ve been starting to realize just how bad it was the way I let Tumblr invade my whole life. I’ve always been a very big proponent of keeping a good work/life balance and had never let myself stray from that. It’s one thing to have friends from work whom you hang out with after hours and on the weekends, for sure. It’s another thing when you let your life start to revolve around that whole world and you’re constantly checking Slack all the time. Your job shouldn’t be your life. I made that mistake with Tumblr. It became everything and sucked up so much of my life. I don’t want to do that again. I want to work at a place that I really enjoy being at, but that is only part of my life, not the entire thing. While working after hours wasn’t a thing I did at Tumblr, I think Company B had a strong potential to try to suck me into doing stuff well beyond 40 hours/week.

Some other interviewing bits

In the end, both of my offers came from companies I got in the door at because of the recruiter I was working with before being laid off. She’s, honestly, fantastic. She was super nice and really made me feel like she cared about finding me the right fit. If anyone is looking for a job in tech in NYC, let me connect you with her!

Not everyone I worked with was like this, though. I worked with one recruiter who did just about everything he could to annoy me. I talked to a few companies through him and did one phone tech screen. That company wanted me to come in for an onsite interview, but that was the interview I canceled.

This recruiter constantly texted me about opportunities, which just like…no. Don’t do text me unless it’s urgent. And his texts were always like “do you have a few minutes to hop on a call?” Then the call would just be him telling me real quick about the company and asking me to email him some times I was free to schedule. Like, dude, just email me. Don’t text me. Don’t make me talk on the damn phone for something that’s better emailed. Eventually, I had to ask him to stop texting me. In addition to those two strikes, he also didn’t really listen to me with the companies he was trying to set me up with. One of the companies, in particular, I told him wasn’t interesting to me. They seemed cool, but it wasn’t a product I had any interest in working on. He set up a call anyway. And then, it turned out the role wasn’t even a senior level even though I told him I was only looking for senior roles. Still, he kept pushing me to interview there anyway. He was clearly more interested in filling roles than he was with fitting the right people with the right roles.

I know recruiters make money by filling openings, but he made me feel like nothing more than a product he was trying to move. He was otherwise a nice guy and we talked about cats a bunch, but when it came to business, it felt totally cold and impersonal.

I had two companies I expected to offers from give me the same reasoning for not moving forward. They both said they liked me a lot and thought I might be a good fit, but not for the roles they were currently hiring for. They each said they wanted me to connected back with them in a few months. The first company really irked me with this. It should have been super obvious from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be a fit for the role they were hiring for. Nothing in the recruiter call or technical phone screen should have indicated my background was right for that role. They shouldn’t have even brought me in for an onsite interview. Instead, they wasted 5.5 hours of my time. During the process, they made no indication to me that they weren’t hiring for a role I thought I’d be a fit for.

One last thing to sort of mention here, it’s weird to be interviewing for a new job when you’re, for lack of a better term, notable. By notable, I mean, if you Google me, not only am I the only Amelia Gapin, but the results aren’t just like my blog and Twitter or the typical things you get when you search most people. Because of the magazine, there’s all this other stuff that comes up when you search me. If you go beyond the first couple pages of search results, you’ll find a few other articles about me that aren’t related to the magazine. Some are other articles about me as a vocal trans athlete and some are about the startup I co-founded. Still, they’re things that likely stand out.

I always hate bringing up the magazine or doing anything that might come across as humble bragging or whatever it sounds like when you read this, but it was a thing. I expect companies and interviewers to Google people before interviewing them, but it’s weird when there’s actually something for them to find and all of it is just out there.

It came up in one interview when the CEO of the company mentioned he Googled me. He didn’t say it to particularly talk about the magazine, but instead to talk about what all of the results he found for me, in addition to the way I talk about things on my blog, say about me to him (it was a good thing). Still, it was weird. It’s one thing whe people read my blog or Twitter beforehand—at this point, everyone has some public-facing internet presence that can precede them. It’s another thing when there’s stuff about you.

And besides the magazine itself, I’m also walking into a interview with someone who likely already knows I’m trans before I get there. This would be the case anyway thanks to my openness on my blog and my Twitter, but it’s definitely a thing to consider. It means I might basically be “the trans one” to them. Not necessarily in those words, but that’s the thing about me that sticks out. I guess the good thing about this, however, is I likely have to worry less about getting a job offer and finding out my transness is going to be a thing there after starting. This would, in theory, have already played out.

ANYWAY, I’ll stop throwing words at you now and wrap this up here. I start at Bitly on Wednesday and I’m excited for it. I’m not really ready for my summer vacation to end and I absolutely hit a point where I no longer want to ever work again, but I’m excited for my new job!

1

Europe 2017 – Berlin

Berlin is, by far, one of my favorite cities on the planet. It’s just so damn good in so many ways. I’ve been saying for years I want to move to Berlin and when shit goes to shit in the US, Berlin is where I want to go to.

Hello Mr TV Tower!

The Basics

I arrived in Berlin to Schonenfeld Airport in the early afternoon. I remember when I was in Berlin in 2012, the new airport was supposed to be open, but it was delayed and still isn’t open yet. Anyway, I hopped on the train to the city and got off at Alexanderplatz. Google told me to transfer to another train to get to my Airbnb, but I decided it was a nice day out and I’d walk the mile or so instead, even with my heavy backpack.

👋👋👋

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When I arrived at my Airbnb, my host’s cleaning lady let me in. The apartment was on the 21st floor and provided an amazing view of the city from both the kitchen and my room. My room was absolutely huge, much more than I needed for just myself. Since I was feeling pretty gross thanks to not showering before leaving Edinburgh, I took a quick shower before heading out for the afternoon.

The view of the TV Tower from my Airbnb.

I didn’t actually end up meeting my host until the next morning after my run, but she turned out to be a sweet old German woman who had lived in East Berlin during the Cold War. She was very friendly and offered me breakfast every day and was eager to sit and talk with me. She also insisted on doing my laundry for me after I asked her how to work her washing machine—it was entirely in German and I can’t make heads or tails of it.

My Airbnb was very conveniently located in Mitte, within a reasonable walk from most things I wanted to do. It couldn’t have been much better. However, next time I’m in Berlin, I might stay in the more northern section of Mitte, closer to more of the nightlife.

Getting around Berlin, well at least Mitte, was pretty easy from memory so that was helpful. And the U-Bahn and S-Bahn are easy to navigate with Google Maps to tell you where to get on and off.

Running

I did three runs while in Berlin. When Danielle and I were in Berlin in 2012, we had plans to run in Tiergarten, but never ended up doing it because we were exhausted. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time.

❤️🏃‍♀️🇩🇪

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My first run was five miles along the river. A lot of cities have paths along their rivers, but the section of the Spree I was running along didn’t have one so I was running on the sidewalk next to the river. This left me with a lot of street crossings to contend with, but for the most part they were small enough to cross without having to stop. I ran just into the northern section of Tiergarten near the Reichstag and then turned around to head back. My legs were pretty exhausted for this run, but it was still an enjoyable. Mostly, I was just happy to be in Berlin and going for a run!

First Berlin run!

My second run was supposed to be a morning nine-miler. Unfortunately, my clothes were…MIA. My host had taken them to wash as she said she would, but I guess they weren’t dry yet and I had no idea where they were. She also either wasn’t home or wasn’t awake when I woke up. So I just went about the rest of my day with hopes of fitting my run in later. And if not, I had a little flexibility to move things around for the next few days.

A quick mid-run selfie in Tiergarten

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I ended up squeezing it in later that evening. I was debating if I’d have time to do it before it got dark and how safe it’d be if I didn’t finish before the sun was down. My tour guide from a tour earlier that day said it would still be very safe for me to run even if it was dark so I decided to go for it. I quickly changed and took off towards Tiergarten. Once I got there, I felt right at home along its paths. It was the perfect place to run. Despite being dusk, there were tons of other runners out. It was glorious and my legs were feeling amazing. I was crushing mile after mile and looping all over the park. I was feeling so good I decided to throw a tenth mile in before finishing up. This run literally couldn’t have been better and I finished up before it was completely dark out. Wins all around!

So much Tiergarten! Look at that blobby mess of my just running little loops and stuff in the middle there.

The next morning, less than twelve hours later, I woke up and knocked out my third Berlin run. This was a simple four-miler that just looped a bit into Tiergarten and then back to my Airbnb.

More Tiergarten goodness!

Food

Food is one of my favorite things in Berlin. There’s just so much good stuff to eat!

One of my main goals was making sure I had currywurst. The best I had was at Dom Curry, but I also had it a couple of other times while walking around the city. Yum yum!

Currywurst!

The fanciest meal I had in Berlin was at Lebensmittel in Mitte. This is a delicious German restaurant with a 9.2 rating on Foursquare. This wasn’t on my list before going to the city, but I had trouble finding the place I was trying to find one night and ended up picking another one on Foursquare nearby. Unfortunately, Foursquare didn’t tell me you need to have a reservation here, but they were nice enough to sit me at a table outside anyway. The menu was all in German, but I was able to make enough sense of it to order my meal and a beer. It was fantastic! Highly recommended. I followed this up with ice cream from Bandy Brooks on my walk back to the Airbnb.

Ice cream from Bandy Brooks.

The morning that I couldn’t run because of my MIA clothes, I decided to take a long walk to find Bonanza Roastery. It’s a coffee roastery and is most excellent!. I stayed for a couple cappuccinos and a pastry for breakfast. Bonanza has a great atmosphere and they require people sitting with laptops to only be at certain tables so as to make sure there are still tables for other people.

Bonanza flat white and pastry that looks like poo, but tasted like awesome.

Check these mini cupcakes from Tigertötchen.

A repeat restaurant I hit up from when I was in Berlin in 2012 was Chipps. This was our favorite place on that trip so I wanted to come back for breakfast one day. It was as good as I remember! And it’s in a convenient location to start off your sightseeing day.

Breakfast from Chipps.

On my last day in Berlin, I went a bit overboard trying to hit up some places before leaving. I had lunch at Shiso Burger and ordered the bulgogi burger. It was 👌👏. From there, I went around the corner to The Barn for a coffee and then continued walking around. I walked over to Zeitgeist für Brot for a coffee cake with pie filling. It was so fucking good! And then from there I grabbed another coffee from Five Elephant because it looked cool when I walked by, but it turned out to not be that great in reality. Can’t win them all, I guess. My last stop before heading off to the airport was at Rausch Schokoladenhaus for some chocolate.

Bulgogi burger from Shiso Burger.

Chocolate Reichstag from Rausch Schokoladenhaus.

Some chocolate from Rausch Schokoladenhaus.

My pastry from Zeit für Brot.

Going back to my first night in Berlin for a second, I went on a beer tasting tour. Unlike the pub crawl in Edinburgh, this was much more about actually tasting beer and learning about the history of beer in Germany. We started at Weihenstephaner Berlin which is a restaurant run by the world’s oldest brewery still in existence. We sampled a few different brews there before moving on to Brauhaus Lemke. Part of the tour also included buying some beers to walk around the streets with, as that’s legal in Germany 🍻🚶‍♀️🤤. We ended at Kaschk, a fantastic craft beer bar which was had also been recommended to me before my trip.

During the tour, I made friends with an Australian couple who was in the middle of a four week European trip. They were great company to have while drinking.

Some beer tasting glasses at Weihenstephaner Berlin.

Tasting that beer!

Fantastic German pretzels for the beer to wash down.

A map of all the different types of beer.

Beer bottle chandelier

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Activities

Like the rest of my trip, I packed my time in Berlin.

In 2012, we took an amazing free walking tour from SANDEMANs that we loved. Our tour guide, Sam Noble, was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable and you could tell he just straight-up lived for giving tours and sharing history. At the time, he was working on his PhD at Humboldt University in Berlin. Fast forward to a couple weeks before this trip and I found out he was still giving tours and listed his Instagram on his bio on the SANDEMANs site. I decided to be a little creepy and send him a message asking him if I could request to be in his tour group. He was kind enough to send me his schedule and I made sure to book for when he was doing the tour.

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To my delight, he was as great as he was five years ago. His tour had evolved a little, but it was still superb. He was no longer pursuing his PhD and is now giving tours full time so he really puts his all into it. It was such a great time! This tour included Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate, the outside portion of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Führerbunker, Bundersministerium dear Finanzen (the old Luftwaffe HQ), the Berlin Wall Monument, Checkpoint Charlie, Konzerthaus Berlin, Französischer Dom, Bebelplatz, and The Memorial to the Book Burning of 1933. And, of course, more history than you could possibly hope to remember.

This was the Luftwaffe HQ during WWII. Now it’s the tax office.

Konzerthaus Berlin.

I also did the SANDEMANs Third Reich tour with Theo. This tour was an interesting deeper dive into some of the WWII portions of the free tour. Theo was good, but not as good as Sam. This tour included some of the same stops as the free tour, but also Tiergarten, the outside of the Reichstag, the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism, Soviet War Memorial, Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, Potsdamer Platz, Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin, and Jüdischer Friedhof Berlin-Mitte.

The final guided tour I did while in Berlin was a tour to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg. This was, obviously, a somber and heavy tour, but it felt necessary to squeeze it into my trip. Our guide, Rob McCracken, took us on the train to Oranienburg and then on the same walk from the train station the prisoners of Sachsenhausen would have been forced on.

The main watch tower at Sachsenhausen.

The tour was extremely well done and Rob did a great job of telling the history—a lot of which I had zero idea about—and also going deep into the societal, political, mental, and emotional aspects of what happened at the concentration camp and in the town around it. He constantly posed the question of what the German people really knew about what was happening at the time. And he repeatedly urged us to think hard about what each of us would have truly done at the time. It’s easy to look back on something like this and say what you’d have done, but it takes a lot to think critically about yourself and what you would have actually done when faced with that same situation. This should hit any American who takes this tour hard right now.

Some of what’s remaining still at Sachsenhausen. The tower memorial in the back was actually built by the Soviets when they took over the concentration camp after liberating it from the nazis.

Despite being emotionally intense, I’m glad I went and I’m even more glad I did so as part of a tour. The tour added a lot more than I would have gotten doing this on my own. I learned more and got a much greater sense of context in which all of the atrocities here happened. At the same time, the tour also allowed me to experience everything with other people and to have a little reprieve from the gravity of it all. On the tour, I made friends with woman from DC whom I chatted with the entire time. I don’t want to say this dulled impact at all, but it helped to give frequent and well needed emotional breaks.

The remains of the crematory ovens.

I took a lot of photos while at Sachsenhausen, which is something I felt a bit weird about. It’s one of those things where you want be respectful and you don’t want to make light of anything. But on the other hand, it’s something you need to remember. It’s something no one should ever be able to forget. For me, it felt important to have those photos in my phone’s camera roll. Not because I’d purposely go back and look for them, but because they should be there when I scroll back looking at other photos. They should be there to be stumbled upon as a reminder. For me, taking photos was a way to take it all with me.

Prisoners of Sachsenhausen would have to sleep three across in each of those little beds.

Aside from my tours, I did a lot of exploration on my own. I spent some time walking around Mitte and enjoying the street art and walking through Haus Schwarzenberg and Hackenscher Markt. I also walked around Michaelkirchplatz and Kreuzberg on my way back from Bonanza Roastery.

Good street art at Haus Schwarzenberg

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Leave it to me to always find a Doctor Who reference.

After the free walking tour, I went back to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and actually went down into the memorial. I didn’t even know about this part of it when we were in Berlin in 2012. This was, by far, the most emotional part of my trip. This memorial focused very closely on the Jews who were murdered. One room had parts of letters and postcards sent doing the Holocaust. Most of them were little more than recovered fragments. Few were full letters. I cried while reading many of them. This room in particular, to me, was the most real of everything in Berlin. It was the most personal and put more of a human face on Holocaust then even Sachsenhausen did. It was more than a gut punch. It was a pummeling.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The meaning of the design is meant to be open to interpretation and the number of blocks is not representative of anything, it’s just what fit there. For reference, it’s okay to sit on them, as approved by the Jewish architect of this memorial. It is not, however, okay to stand on them.

The next room told the story of more than a dozen families. Each family had a section talking about where they were from, the members of the family, what they did, and other personal stories. It then went on to detail what happened to each member of the family during the Holocaust. This was another really tough section to get through.

From there, I decided to keep things heavy for a bit and went over to the Topography of Terror. In 2012, this was one of our favorite parts of Berlin. By favorite, I mean it’s very well done and we learned a lot from it. It’s obviously not fun, but it’s a really great museum to spend some time at.

The largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, sitting between the Topography of Terror and the Bundesministerium der Finanzen.

Some of the Berlin Wall.

Other bits

As I’ve mentioned, I really love Berlin. There is a lot of great food to eat, a lot to see, and a lot to experience. It’s the kind of city I could come back to every year. My only real complaint about Berlin is that Germans don’t serve tap water. It’s harder to get water than it is beer in Berlin. When you go out to eat, you have to order bottled water and if you ask for tap water, they won’t give it to you.

I like this guy

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Good bear

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Not ready to leave this city yet, but the time has come

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My time in Berlin was incredibly surreal, as this was during the height of what was happening in Charlottesville. Being in Germany and visiting the places I did while white nationalists and nazis were holding rallies in America was a strange experience. But the thing about Germany is they’ve dealt with their past. They don’t pretend it wasn’t a problem and they learn from it. Learning from it is a deeply ingrained part of their culture and education. Rather than try to forget it, they keep reminders of it out in the open. This is something America still has not done with racism and slavery. We need to deal with our past the way Germany has. Everything happening in our country now is because we haven’t dealt with it and refuse to.

An important quote from the Topography of Terror that all Americans should think about.

Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at or walked by. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom. And some, I checked in multiple times as I passed them more than once.

    

I don’t know how this happened, but apparently two checkins at the Führerbunker is enough to make you mayor. I guess no one wants to check in there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯