Some thinking I’ve done on how to do hiring

Below is an email I sent out to everyone at Infer in August of 2016. I’ve made some changes to clarify terms that the general public might not understand. Read only the bold sentences if you want a summary.


A little over a year ago Yang [one of the cofounders at Infer] asked me my opinion on the hiring process for the Data Analyst position, and I didn’t have a thorough answer at the time, but I said I would think about it. I have a tendency to take a long time to think something through, but when I’m done I usually feel like I have a crystal-­clear answer. And I think that is what has happened in this case: I feel like I have a crystal­-clear answer on how to think about hiring.

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Advice for those interested in learning more about mathematics

A few months ago an acquaintance of mine (Cornell / Harvard Law School, so a smart guy) emailed me and asked if I had any advice for how to explore mathematics further:

Wanted to see if you’d recommend any online math courses (available free) lots of MIT stuff available and the like but wasn’t sure which one was good.

My response (edited for clarity):

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Problems that prevent routine white-collar tasks from being automated as a service

Recently I had a serial-entrepreneur acquaintance send me a form email for a new company he’d started with six others that aims to automate all routine tasks that white-collar workers have:

I have a quick question: When you hear the phrase: “Annoying business processes”, what comes to mind for you?

My company automates these processes. We can handle anything (anything!) that can be turned into a set of instructions. Even if the instructions contain complex logic — we’re totally custom. Even if the labor required would normally take hundreds of hours — it’s the same price.

I responded:

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How to create a new Python project using PythonAnywhere, Bitbucket, SourceTree, and PyCharm

  1. I often find it difficult to start new projects on PythonAnywhere because setting them up properly requires a lot of steps.
    • (By “properly” I mean “using tools that will help you avoid headaches down the road”.)
  2. To help my future self get past that initial roadblock, I recently documented the steps involved when I start a new project.
  3. You can find it at the link below.

An email to a friend with some ideas for creating a repeatable sales/growth process

Here’s an email I recently sent to a Stanford/HLS-grad friend of mine who started a delivery company that sells to individuals and businesses. He’s currently trying to figure out a repeatable sales/growth process. Because his product involves physical delivery, he’s aiming to target groups of businesses that are within close proximity of each other (eg in a strip mall / office park). As with Box/Dropbox, he can sign up one person at a company and then try to get that person to sign up others. I’ve made some clarifying edits and removed some identifying information.

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I have made a bet that Trump will win the Republican nomination for President

Update 2017.08.15: I’ve added an image of the webpage where I placed the bet, which obviously doesn’t perfectly reflect the way it looked when I wrote this post.

In 2012 I wrote a post in which I suggested betting against people who believed that the world was coming to an end. Unfortunately I didn’t know how to find such people.

I recently discovered that you can currently go onto betting sites and get ~3:1 odds on a bet that Trump will be the Republican nominee (so if he’s the nominee, you get $3; if he isn’t, you lose $1). I bet some money on PredictIt.org on December 16 (about a week ago) at 3:1 odds that he’d do it, not because I’m totally convinced that he will, but because: Continue reading “I have made a bet that Trump will win the Republican nomination for President”

Alcohol may reduce anxiety while programming

On Sunday I had my first-ever alcoholic drink on my own initiative, without being prompted by someone to drink (it was a Stella Artois in the fridge at work).

I decided to try it as an experiment to see if it would take away this anxious feeling I’ve been getting for years when I’m trying to program and I’m running into one error after another; the feeling ends up making me procrastinate really heavily, to the point where I’ll go an entire day without getting anything done.

I got the idea from reading Mark Zuckerberg’s blog posts from when he was creating Face Mash, in which he seems to describe drinking to take away the anxiety of not having your code working: “It’s taking a few tries to compile the script…another Beck’s is in order.“.

Well, it seemed to work. I’m not sure if it was just the placebo effect or not. I didn’t finish the beer. I’ll probably keep experimenting with it. Obviously it’s something to be careful with.

How to Read Business Biographies

Here’s an email I recently sent to someone who is interested in starting a business within the next few years; he had asked me if I had any advice from having read a bunch of business (auto)biographies:

I’ve attached a list of some of the books I’ve read since graduating college. Note: I haven’t read all of those books cover-to-cover, but I only included books on that list where I read the “meat” of the book. I’ll explain:

I recommend you think about reading books like eating steaks at a restaurant or in your home. Sometimes you’ll get a steak served to you that has a little fat around the edges, and what I do is cut that part out and not eat it. Sometimes you’ll have a lot of fat, and you only end up eating half of what was given to you by weight. Books work the same way.

I recommend that if you decide to read business biographies, you focus on the first few chapters, where it is explained how the person went from being like anybody else to being more successful than other people. If those chapters make up only 1/10 of the book, I think it’s smarter to read those chapters 10 times than to read the entire book once.

Another analogy I use to explain how to read is Ikea furniture: when I’m assembling Ikea furniture, I don’t read the instruction manual cover-to-cover before I start. I just read the first step and do that step, and then I read the next step. Business biographies work the same way: most biographies spend the bulk of their pages talking about the subject once he/she was already successful, but that isn’t as useful to people like us because we haven’t yet gotten to the same level of success.

So instead of reading these books cover-to-cover, you’d be better off focusing on the beginning, which is more relevant to your current situation. If you follow that strategy you’ll also be able to get through more books, and you’ll develop a better sense of what other successful people have done early in their careers.

Wailes, Nathan – Continued Study

Update: December 2014 & How I Got My New Job

I have moved from Washington, D.C. to Palo Alto, California for a new job. On December 8 I began working at a start-up called “Infer”, which is using machine learning to help companies focus their salesmen on the potential customers who are most likely to buy. I got the job offer after I created a Python script that automatically applied to jobs on HackerNews’ monthly “Who’s Hiring?” thread.

One thing I found interesting was that I actually applied to Infer twice: once on August 1st, and again on September 10th. The first time I applied I never heard from them, but the second time I was offered an interview. I thought that was interesting because I had made several changes to my application materials between the first and second time I applied.

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Update: September 2014

Below is an email I sent to a friend of mine who is coaching me through the process of how to break into the programming world. He went to Princeton, worked at Google for a year or two, and has now been working at hedge funds for the past few years, so I trust his advice.

————-

I made good progress this month: I made changes to my job application email (see below), my Python script sent out ~130 emails about a week ago to people posting in the HackerNews “Who’s Hiring” thread, and my inbox is now full of ~30-40 responses. I’ve had ~5 phone interviews in the past few days, three or four of which were with people who went to Princeton / Harvard / Yale / MIT, and I have a bunch of people I need to get back to via email.

I think I’ve pretty much figured out how to get an interview. Now I need to practice getting past the interview. For the interviews I’ve had I can tell I have consistently underwhelmed my interviewer when they give me a coding challenge. For the next month I’m going to focus on HackerRank and Cracking the Coding Interview.

What I did this past month:

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