Ravi S. Rāmphal

svādhyāya // contributing to the understanding of myself

Say Sorry

Say sorry when you’ve fucked up. Just own up to it. Ignoring it or defending your actions just makes things works and fosters resentment.

Some Git Tricks

Here are a couple of git commands I have mastered on the job since starting:

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  git add -p                         # add partially

  git commit --amend                 # add changes to previous (*unpushed*) commit and update commit message

  git diff                           # see changes so far
  git diff --staged                  # see staged changes

  git show <commit>                  # show the changes for a given commit

  git revert <commit>                # revert a given commit

  git stash                          # stash current changes
  git stash list                     # show list of stashed changes
  git stash show -p stash@{<number>} # show specific changes for a given stash
  git apply                          # apply the most recent stash
  git apply stash@{<number>}         # apply a given stash
  git stash clear                    # clear all stashed changes

  git reset --hard <commit>          # reset the state of all files to that of a given commit

Ego and Code

Don’t get attached to code. The next release of the codebase might strip all of your code. Just let it go. The experience and the learning is not just the code accumulated on GitHub, it is the process and the choices and decisions.

This is just like Buddhist mandalas. Monks painstakingly take enormous amounts of time to build the beautiful, intricate mandalas, and then they just brush it away. It is the skill and the patience and the focus that matters, not the end result.

Credit

I recently suggested a feature for a product that I am working on at work. When the task was entered in, the description said, “As discussed with Ravi.” Everything in me felt that it should have read, “As per Ravi’s suggestion.” Normally, I am not a credential whore, but in this case, I was very uncomfortable. I took a moment to reflect and I realized that many people work because they feel it gives them purpose. Particularly in the tech field, where impostor syndrome is prevalent and where salaries are generally higher, people want to feel that they are actually adding value to their company commensurate with their pay. This is especially true for me.

There is no virtue in stealing ideas. In fact, I am always surprised that people are comfortable with it in the first place. Now, I don’t believe that there are truly new ideas in the world. I believe that we are always riding the crest of ideas which came before us. In that way, we should all be grateful to each other for taking thought beyond where thought has been before. However, I do believe that in the moment where someone has a realization, that experience is truly and utterly theirs. Stealing that from them feels like a violation. But even more detrimental is the impact that it has on the thief. How can you feel good about appreciation that you don’t rightly deserve?

This is not my first experience like this. Of course we have all experienced something like this in our lives. I once had an ex-girlfriend whose sister always rebroadcasted my jokes to her family seconds after I made them. It always made it seem like she had no sense of humor and didn’t help me to like her any more. However, in the professional world, the impact is much worse. Once, I interned at a tech startup in San Francisco. I ended up coming up with a system of using aText to save time and keystrokes in replying to emails. When we had our weekly meeting with the CEO and the CTO, another worker said, “Great job on using aText! I know Irene told you about it, but good job on running off with it!” I had three reactions:

[1] Surprise: This is my default reaction whenever I hear lies or things I know not to be true.

[2] Anger: I had just started as an intern and I wanted to contribute to the team. Here, my contribution was stolen from me and fostered resentment and division where there didn’t have to be any.

[3] Pity: I bet that Irene had never told him to lie about aText. As soon as I realized what he said, I looked over at her and she seemed embarrassed and just as shocked as I was . She ended up saying, “Well I haven’t even seen what you guys have done.” I felt sorry for her because if I were here, I would feel like my own contributions weren’t good enough to the point where a coworker had to falsely attribute successes to me. I would hate that.

I went home confused and angry given that I had never experienced something like that professionally before. So what did I do this time around? I took some time to reflect and write this article, and then I went right in and changed the description. Might this make me seem like a credential whore? Yes. Do I care? No. I have realized that while it might be silly to fight for credit, it is not appropriate to play down your contributions. When you own your contributions and they are recognized, either through your superior’s acknowledgment or through you going in and changing the task description yourself, you actually become a better worker because your creativity and productivity is encouraged. If you don’t take it upon yourself to create the conditions for your own success, then no one will do it for you.

The question still remains whether my superior intended to downplay my contribution at all. Honestly, I don’t think he did. But I’ll never know for sure.

Moral: Always give credit where credit is due.

Just Do It

Just jump in and do it.