How Things Change – Part 2

This is the second post about my Kings Canyon/Sequoia first-timer, solo backpacking trip – the original plan was here and the first post about what actually happened is here.

Day 2

Woke up from the stressful fighting with ex dream, checked on food & other things I had left near the bear canisters and everything was fine and untouched.  Thank you bears for not destroying my stuff in the night!  I stiffly went about preparing myself to try and do a second long day of backpacking – again with a heavy pack and a lot of elevation to deal with.  Today’s hike would take me over my first mountain pass (Granite Pass) and then down 5600′.  All the work I did yesterday, undone. It was depressing to think about because I worked so hard that first day to lug myself and my 11 days of food UP.

So much downhill should be easy, right? NOPE.
So much downhill should be easy, right? NOPE.

That first morning I did not enjoy the oatmeal I had brought for breakfast and I buried it after one bite.  Was able to drink miso soup and a protein powder shake to get some nutrients into my system for the first couple of hours of hiking (I usually get protein at

Once I was packed up and headed back to the main trail, it was 8am (this would be my latest start of the whole trip) and the older couple from Utah were already gone.

Only 0.8 miles to my first pass.
Only 0.8 miles to my first pass.
Approaching Granite Pass.

The main challenge with Day 2 was trying to quell my internal fears about getting further and further away from my car, from any sense of safety, and what that would mean if I was to become seriously injured. Traveling in this rocky and remote terrain, by myself, locked my brain into an intense level of survival mode, which comprised of both an overwhelming awareness of how every single step needed to be careful and solid as well as having no additional space for deeper thoughts – my brain kept looping snippets of the same song for hours each.  Where was the experience I’d imagined – the one where I was listening to Spanish podcasts and teaching myself a new language while robustly traversing meadows on packed dirt trails?  Where were the life-altering ideas that had been dormant, awaiting the opportunity to catch up with me but too suppressed by urban busyness? Not to be found on Day 2.  What I found instead (TW: suicidal ideation) is that I got really despondent and there were many times I imagined just letting myself fall over into the rushing river below – even going so far as to imagine putting rocks in my pockets – because I could only imagine how to end this, right here, right now.  I’m happy to report that for whatever amount of my brain goes to those dark places, there is fortunately some other part of me that keeps my feet going, played loops of songs, and bombarded my thinking with the mantra “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo so that I was able to push on.

Push on, indeed.  That second day included an incredibly dusty 5600′ descent, 6.6 miles, with no water, in hot sun, that took 4 hours to complete.  I pulled up to the first water source – a small stream – at about 6:30pm that night.  I’d passed the Utah couple on the descent and they arrived about 15-20 minutes after I did.  All of us were monosyllabic and exhausted.  I had set up camp at the first opportunity prior to the creek, they went over to the other side and found a spot, and we both hit the hay early.  For me, that was after trying to eat dinner and finding that I could chew the same bite of food for minutes and never want to swallow.  A second night of burying dinner.

Me and another woodsy loner facing off at dinner time.
Me and another woodsy loner have a staring contest.

It was starting to occur to me that maybe this trip wasn’t supposed to be about miles per day.  Maybe I was supposed to figure out how to have a good trip, a trip that would leave me wanting to do this again. I had joked with a friend back home “sometimes I do these extreme things and then I never want to do them again” – like running the half marathon, doing a triathlon, or cycling a century.  I never wanted to do any of those again after doing them once (though currently the idea of a triathlon has been circulating and I’m tempted).  She said “don’t do it then!” very concerned, I guess, that I would never want to backpack again.  In the 13.5 hours of hiking 13+ miles that day, I had started to wonder if I should consider shortening my route so that I would be able to enjoy it more.

That night I put in earplugs to sleep because I was finding that the sound of running water and random bird noises was not calming or sleep-inducing.  They helped me sleep deeper but I woke up a few times in the night, yanking them out, feeling like someone was speaking to me.  At least I didn’t dream about fighting with my ex again, or dying.

Day 3

I never got their names, and I never saw them again after this day, but boy am I grateful for the existence of the Utah couple – practically my only points of human contact on those first 3 days.  I got up at 5:30am (which was now the norm) and was packed and boiling water for breakfast at the creek by 6.  The man came to the river to get water for his breakfast & prepare for that day’s travels so we had a chance to talk a bit more – both of us now rested, hydrated, and able to form complete sentences.  I confessed to him that I was scared, this was my first big trip, and I might have scheduled a more intensive itinerary than I could do.  He shared with me that he had done the JMT, that he hiked 500-600 miles on average per year, that he and his wife had just completed the PCT over the course of 39 years of doing segments, but how even for them yesterday had been a supremely challenging day.  This helped me immensely.  I needed to know that I wasn’t weak for finding the last two days so hard.  Our conversation turned to what their plan was – 75 miles in 7 days, turning back towards Road’s End at Woods Creek Trail.  When I suggested that I was torn between turning back or going forward he spoke of some people he ran into yesterday who did turn back and how he felt that going forward was actually the less difficult option.

More uphill, but only 2700'? Easy.
More uphill, but only 2700′? Easy.

I’d still been turning over the idea of retracing my route back to the car, it would mean another day of going up 5600′ – this time with no water – and then at least another day of going down…though I could maybe stretch it into two smaller days.   It felt so defeating to think of going backwards though.  The Utah couple’s itinerary sounded good to me and so that morning I decided that I was going to do it too, and that decision enabled me to move forward with curiousity about what lay ahead and removed my dread at the thought of having to go back.

I’m glad I kept going and got to see so much more than just Granite Pass & Simpson Meadow.

Once I got moving and changing scenery, a lot shifted.  I wrote in my journal that night “I didn’t think about suicide today” and that felt like a huge accomplishment.  On this day I passed the Utah couple on their first break in the morning and then never saw them again.  I made good time towards my next goal (I was still on track for the third day of my original itinerary and was in fact going to go further than planned).   I started to take electrolytes at each of my timer-alerted 2 hours breaks, was able to down snacks, and my body was beginning to acclimate to a full day of hiking.  I felt more energized and able to take on anything, even more elevation.  The slow-going uphill treks were just taking the time they took and I didn’t dissolve into a puddle of self-doubt anymore.  I started noticing a feeling of being grateful for how strong my heart & lungs are and that my legs and feet were doing a good job of tackling the various trail compositions.  From chunky granite rocks to stone stairs to packed dirt to gravel.  My toes were a little numb but otherwise everything was functioning pretty well and while I would have little moments of noticing new ways that injury or death could occur in this environment, nothing overtook my thinking as in the previous days.

I intersected with the John Muir Trail at around 4pm that day and I’ll admit I had a moment of fan excitement.

You have arrived at the John Muir Trail, pick a direction.
You have arrived at the John Muir Trail, pick a direction.

My other human encounter on that day was a young woman who was doing the JMT Northbound solo (for the time being).  She said she’d just finished grad school and this was her ‘treat’ to herself but she had to laugh at calling it a treat.  I was inspired to hear again that this type of experience was challenging other people, not just me, and I happily pressed on beyond my expected day’s goal (8.5 miles to the junction). Now that I was planning to do the 7 day loop, i needed to hit at least 10 miles that day, but I knew I could and it was still early.  I had started at 7am that morning and by 5:30pm I had set up camp beside the river. That night, for the first time, I enjoyed the hot dinner (beef stroganoff) and tucked myself into bed feeling excited for my first full day of hiking on the John Muir Trail.

Stay tuned for one more post that will cover the two days on the JMT and the day getting off the trails.

Tech Job #2

Today marks the end of my third week at my new job (Technical Program Manager – Mobile) @ Pinterest.  It coincides with May Day and a Twitter stream today about #talkpay which was triggered by an article by Lauren Voswinkel over on Model View Culture.  The hashtag comprises of people “outing” their salaries over the years, location, levels of training, job titles, and a variety of other factors.

My participation was as follows:

For people who have also class-jumped or who understand what it’s like to live on social assistance or other low income realities, you will know from the above that it was not easy to leave my first ever well-paying, benefit-having, valued-for-your-knowledge, professional job.  But I did.  I took a leap of faith (and a strong referral) and turned it into my second ever well-paying, benefit-having, valued-for-your-knowledge, professional job.  ALMOST a pattern here…if I could only put aside impostor syndrome for a second and believe that I have transferrable skills and marketable ones to boot.

Anyway, the point of this blog post is to document for myself the differences now that I am in a new job and have gotten a bit of distance from the old one.  It’s important, also, to note that I am now able to reflect on my past 6 years as being a job.

Key areas I want to cover at this stage of being only 3 weeks in are recruiting, onboarding,  and culture. Here we go!


Mozilla got me through an internship and I left said internship with a job offer for when I completed my final year so I never did the all-day panel of interviews or any sort of salary negotiations.  I took what I was offered (because it was AMAZING) and I was quite happy about it.   Being ‘recruited’ by Pinterest was a wonderful experience.  I got to come in for the day and interview with 6 different people from various areas I was going to work with (iOS/Android engineers, product managers, and then a ‘culture fit’ interviewer that was just about the happiest person I’ve ever met).   In retrospect I worried they were easy on me because I was a referred candidate.  At some point I should ask them if that’s the case.  On my end I felt like it was all too easy.  I had some conversations, I asked some questions, I learned a ton about what they were doing and how different teams within the org operated, and then I went home with a nice notebook.  It didn’t feel stressful and shouldn’t interviewing for a job be stressful?  I suspect my experience was more laid back because I was coming from a place of already being employed and so I didn’t really need the job but I was curious about it and was being diligent about ensuring it would be a good fit for what I wanted to try next.  It was. I’ve read a few things about salary negotiations now and so for this job switch I tried out the advice. I’m quite pleased that it worked and felt good to do if only to test out the advice I’ve been giving others over the years but have never gotten to try.  The rest of the process was smooth and everyone had excellent communications – just the right amount of checking in and communicating status.  I appreciated that my Permanent Resident status coming in a week late, pushing out my start date, didn’t cause any problems.


Apples to apples – Pinterest is winning big time here.  At Mozilla new hires are introduced at an all-company meeting and then they are off with their team learning the ropes for their jobs.  We had an onboarding portal (I checked it out last year when my team had a new hire) and it contained some videos and wiki pages, a bit of direction for weekly tasks to accomplish.  While I know that it took a lot of work by some amazing people just to get that much set up, Pinterest is really firing on all cylinders when it comes to integrating people into the company.  They do a 3 week process where in the first week  you and your cohort spend 2 full days together being addressed by various company areas of importance to the larger goals and mission – it’s just the right mix of immersion and indoctrination – meanwhile you’re becoming familiar with, in my case, 17 people who will always be familiar faces to you going forward regardless of the diversity of work areas you’ll be in later on.  They also have 101/bootcamp classes over the next week or two to get folks on the engineering side learning all the tools, data, systems that are currently in place so that you’re not so green when you move into the next stage:  fixing some bugs.  Mozilla should really consider doing this sort of bootcamp, get new engineers to fix bugs from various parts of the code base as a way to learn how the whole picture works before going deep in their assigned areas.  Finally, at the end of your first week you are introduced to the whole company as a cohort and you must speak in front of everyone at the Q&A that happens on Friday afternoons.  At that point you and your cohort have bonded and you design and lead the theme for that week’s happy hour – all these little things give you tangible experiences to reminisce about as you go forward and that means a lot when trying to integrate into a 500+ person org.


Oh this is the big one, isn’t it?  This is the all-important catch-phrase of the knowledge worker class.  What is the culture? Are you a good culture fit? Here’s the thing:  when I first joined Mozilla the “culture” wasn’t a thing that was being discussed and analyzed yet.  I was excited to be part of a movement, a community, an ethos, and a politic of open-ness/transparency and general things do-goodish on the Web.  Culture as it is currently examined came later than my start date.  It came in the form of starting Homozilla, a mailing list for queer employees and their allies because I was starting to feel isolated not knowing if there were many other people at Mozilla who were also queer.  I was happy when I kicked that initiative off and there were all sorts of people that I never would have pegged as being LGTBQ.  It also came up when a handful of paid and unpaid contributors started highlighting awareness of diversity and inclusive behaviour in Mozilla communities.  I did a lot of work on that issue and put a lot of my ‘extra’ time into trying to drive materials and discussions around how Mozilla could be a strong player in encouraging, retaining, and promoting a welcoming culture.  I also put a lot of time and energy into building out opportunities for Mozilla to be a leader in educating and onboarding new contributors in more varied spaces – LGBTQ youth, lower income, PoC, any community that wanted to learn more about how to develop or integrate tech into their activism and community-building initiatives. Sadly, I don’t know how successful I was because without me driving them, those partnerships are not carrying on.

I’ve only been at Pinterest for 3 weeks but in that time I’ve learned that there is already a queer employees group (yay, I don’t have to create it!), there are already people working on diversity and inclusion at a level that surpasses our fledgling efforts at Mozilla (they have executive-level support and are building out programs and recruiting efforts in measurable ways), and there have been several instances where I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the positivity and open-ness to change/build/grow whatever is needed to support employees.  Example:  I emailed the workplace team about our new building’s plans to have non-gendered washrooms on one of the 3 floors – I asked if that would be possible to have on all floors – and the response was quick, warm, and welcoming of the feedback as well as being clear that having non-gendered washrooms was as much a priority (as build-out would permit) as having mother’s rooms and quiet rooms.  Both of those two things being already in existence in the current space because of there being employee need for them.  The takeaway for me?  I can ask for what I need and be heard and supported in (eventually) getting them.  That’s some great culture, in my opinion.  I wasn’t made to feel weird or out of order for asking for something that is probably always going to be an edge case in the workplace and I really appreciated that.

Wrapping Up

It’s been a whirlwind the last three weeks.  I’ve been getting up to speed with what I’ll be doing and I’ve got 30, 60, and 90 day roadmaps.  I’ve had a great time learning about things I’ve never done before – like iOS releases.  People have been super happy to hand off work to me, and I feel like I’m managing the work I’m taking on as well as having lots of energy for what’s to come – when I’ll have the basics down and can work on creating more ways to add value to a lean, fast-moving company doing very interesting things.  So all this to say that I’m grateful for all the years and roles at Mozilla, the people I’ve learned from, the experiences I’ve had and at the same time I have a ton to look forward to in this new space.

Ascend New Orleans: We need a space!

I’m trying to bring the second pilot of the Ascend Project to New Orleans in February and am looking for a space to hold the program. We have a small budget to rent space but would prefer to find a partnership and/or sponsor if possible to help keep costs low.

The program takes 20 adults who are typically marginalized in technology/open source and offers them a 6 week accelerated learning environment where they build technical skills by contributing to open source – specifically, Mozilla. Ascend provides the laptops, breakfast, lunch, transit & childcare reimbursement, and a daily stipend in order to lift many of the barriers to participation.

Our first pilot completed 6 weeks ago in Portland, OR and it was a great success with 18 participants completing the 6 week course and fixing many bugs in a wide range of Mozilla projects. They have now continued on to internships both inside and outside of Mozilla as well as seeking job opportunities in the tech industry.

To do this again, in New Orleans, Ascend needs a space to hold the classes!

Space requirements are simple:

* Room for 25 people to comfortably work on laptops
* Strong & reliable internet connectivity
* Ability to bring in our own food & beverages

Bonus if the space helps network participants with other tech workers, has projector/whiteboards (though we can bring our own in), or video capability.

Please let me know if you have a connection who can help with getting a space booked for this project and if you have any other leads I can look into, I’d love to hear about them.