Alright I admit it. I didn't write last week, but you wouldn't want me to spend too much of my precious time in San Francisco typing on my laptop, would you?
The highlight from last week had to be the tour of Saint Frank, coffee roaster, just a few days before its opening. A few of my roommates and I walked a to the address from our apartment, unsure what to expect.
Within a few minutes of our arrival, the owner, Kevin Bohlin, had a cup of iced coffee in our hands and was educating us on the pitfalls of cold-brew coffee.
In case you're curious, cold-brew is good, if you want to smooth out some of the undesirable flavors of low-quality coffee. For high-end coffees, however, cold-brew results in the loss of some of the most delicious flavors that make each coffee unique.
It turns out that most large scale cold-brew production takes place using a sock like filter, which is generally not cleaned regularly. This leads to what the founder likes to refer to as "dirty sock" flavor. The more you know.
From there, he sat us down for a presentation on the history of coffee, Saint Frank's, and most importantly, the coffee producers with which he works directly.
If you're a big coffee drinker, it's fascinating to learn how complex the process is that takes a green coffee bean to the cup of coffee that you consume every day.
Saint Frank's works closely with Farmer's in Honduras, Guatemala, and places around the globe to improve their livelihood, and make fantastic coffee in the process.
By the end of the presentation, I could feel his passion running through me. There were a few times where I legitimately thought that he might come to tears talking about the farmers he works with, and the impact that he has made on their lives.
“I want people to drink less coffee, but better coffee. Less coffee, but more expensive coffee.”
He had me sold. Our purchasing power matters, and the more we treat coffee as a commodity, the more we hurt the livelihood of the people making it. Sure coffee is kind of a commodity, but if you've tasted a variety of well crafted coffee, you know that coffee's from different places can taste radically different.
Turns out the owner also makes some pretty decent lattes
If at this point you're thinking that this is just another pretentious SF coffee shop charging $5 for a coffee, I get it, but I have to disagree.
When I finally tasted the four coffees that had been prepared for the tour, I got it. By no means do I have a refined coffee palette, but each coffee was packed with flavors nowhere to be found in a cup of Dunkin or Starbucks.
It's a good reminder to us all of the power of doing one thing, and one thing extraordinarily well.
You won't find a long list of fancy drinks or baked goods at the roastery. The focus is on the coffee. There are dozens of shops in SF that they are competing with, but Saint Frank's has earned a reputation by having a ruthless focus on a simple goal: producing the best cup of coffee they possibly can.
Thanks to The Real Intern for making this event happen.
Since then, my roommate Tyler and I have been brainstorming ideas for how we can encourage others to discover the deliciousness of high-end coffees, and to share them with others.
A few of our early ideas include:
- Untapped but for coffee
- A beautiful way to search coffee's by a number of categories including notes. Some websites similar to this already exist, but I'm pretty sure we could do it better.
I also listened to a highly entertaining podcast about Blue Bottle's sixteen dollar cup of coffee. That might be a bit excessive, even for me but it's a great story.
On Saturday we also walked down to the Ferry Building to get lunch at the farmer's market and do a little exploring. If you're visiting SF, it's a must do.
Tuesday, I went out to Tropisuno with my team at Braintree, to celebrate my manager visiting for the week. Afterwards I couldn't resist going to Azucar Lounge with a few of my roommates for five dollar margaritas. It's safe to say we celebrated Taco Tuesday in full force.
What I Wish I Know @20
Braintree held a fun panel Q & A event on Wednesday about career tips and life advice for interns all over the Bay Area.
It was a fun chance to talk with fellow interns at google, twitter, stripe and other tech companies about what they're working on. Like most advice, it was nothing earth-shattering, but it was fun to hear a diversity of perspectives.
During the event, an intern asked "I feel like I could attribute all of my successes in my short career to luck, how do you think about luck?"
I wasn't asked the question, but it got me thinking about my answer. The odds of any of us becoming humans, being born in the U.S, and somehow ending up in San Francisco during one of the most exciting time periods ever (in my person opinion) are ridiculous.
It's this incredible combination of things that I hope I can always stay thankful for.
But that being said, I'm not sure it's ever helpful for us to believe that our life is ruled by luck. Even if there is no way to know, it seems better to assume that we as individuals are control of our future, so that we will act in the most beneficial way (ideally for ourselves and for society) as we possibly can.
You are not a lottery ticket.
Luck undoubtedly plays a massive role in our lives, but what matters it was we do with it. One of my favorite podcast episodes, which I recently re-listened to, talks about this philosophy.
Exploring Buena Vista
Software engineer or not, I think it's worth the listen.
Lassen National Park
My parents arrived Thursday night and promptly took me out to Roti (thanks Alix for the recommendation. The goat cheese naan was on point).
On Friday I cut out from work a few hours early, and passed out for the better part of the four hour drive to Lassen National Park. Our original backpacking plans were quickly thwarted when we realized the section of road needed to reach our trailhead was closed due to snow. Crazy to think places are still feeling the effects of the record setting snowfall this year.
After car camping Friday night, we pivoted Saturday and hiked into Rainbow lake where I took my 2nd nap of the trip (software development is hard work I guess?). This morning we hiked out, and then summited Prospect Peak. By the end, our boots were filled with cinder (black volcanic sand), but our efforts were rewarded with a dip in Butte before starting the trip back home.
It felt kind of crazy driving this far for just a weekend, but the value of getting away from the city, and spending time with family in a beautiful place can't be overestimated.
Thanks Mom & Dad for including me in another one of your crazy x-c road trips.
One conclusion I've come to talking with other Braintree employees and interns are that internships are one of the best aspects of being a college student right now.
When else in your life is it possible to work for a company for ten weeks with no repercussions if you never return?
It's absolutely something I wish I had taken better advantage of, but I am thankful for the amount of value my internship at Braintree has already provided.
I think the best part of the deal is that interns have real value that they can provide to their respective companies. A fresh, young, excited perspective that an intern brings will always be valuable.
Sure, the development time for my project has certainly taken longer than if two full-time employees were working on it, but we're still making steady progress and I'm confident we'll be close to completion by the end of my internship.
On top of that, even working as a software engineer, writing code is only of of the many ways you can provide value. Want to write a blog post for the marketing team? Go for it. See a place where documentation could be improved? Fix it yourself. There are so many ways to add value, where you don't need years of experience to help the company.
Last week, the interns also got to sit down with Juan Benitez, GM at Braintree.
My favorite quote from the session was "Legacy code means you're doing something right".
Simple, but I love it. The Disputes team has only been around for ~2.5 years so I'm lucky enough to not work with much legacy code, but for those working on Braintree's monolith, working with legacy code is a fact of daily life.
At least for me, I love always working with the latest and hottest new technologies, but that's not always what's best for building a business.
Having clean code is important, but at the end of the day your customers don't care what language you use or what the code looks like.
This seems obvious, but it's easy to forget when you're buried in the details for the better part of each day.
It's hard to believe, but recruiting for full-time positions starting summer 2018 has already begun.
As far as prepping goes, I've actually been fairly disciplined, all things considered. My biggest areas of focus going forward are dynamic programming, searching and sorting, with a little graph theory on the side.
I won't bore you with the details, but maybe if I actually end up doing well on interviews I can write up a more detailed post on what I have been doing at some point.
Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read. See you next week with more thoughts and updates.