A Recap Of My Summer Out West

September 21, 2013

I wrote this on a plane a couple days ago but forgot to post it until now. Enjoy!

The greatest adventure of my life thus far has come to an end. And with nothing to do for a couple hours in an airplane on its way to Chicago, I'm going to attempt to distill the most amazing thirteen and a half weeks of my life into one blog post. Here we go…

The story begins almost a year ago. I had just gotten back from New York City (where I lived and worked most of that summer), fully intending to return for another round in June. I had just started my junior year at Northwestern, and I wasn't even close to thinking about which company I was going to work for next summer.

But then, a random email from an NU alum in October 2012 led to a conversation with the CTO of a small startup called Ribbon. I decided to talk to him on a total whim. At the time, it was a three-person company and I knew none of them. They barely had a product and didn't have much funding yet either. After talking to the CTO for about an hour, I got the sense that they were a bunch of really fun guys who were building something that interested me. They asked me to join the team for the summer, and they offered to pay for my housing in San Francisco along with a pretty nice paycheck. Not a bad deal at all.

Even though summer was 9 months away, I took the offer immediately. I had a good feeling about it so I acted on impulse. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Now, let's fast forward to the summer.

Week 1 - Arrival in San Francisco

I arrived at SFO on a monday afternoon. Hany, the CEO of Ribbon, picked me up from the airport and drove me to the office. It was beautiful. The office was in the penthouse of a 5-story building with a nice outdoor balcony area and easy access to the roof. I also briefly met the team for the first time… a team of people who would quickly become some of my best friends.

This week wasn't extremely eventful. I spent most of my time getting situated with the team and the product. We actually started building a new product during my first week, which was exciting. Most of my free time that weekend was spent walking around and exploring the city.

One thing I learned this week is how much I suck at ping pong. Everyone in the office takes it very seriously, going so far as to have an entire whiteboard devoted to ping pong wins and losses. My area of the board, even at the end of the summer, mostly represented losses. Oh well.

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The roof of the office.

Week 2 - Getting settled

After living in a hostel for a week, I moved into the house where I'd be staying for most of the summer. It was a house in Chinatown with 11 other interns from various companies all over the city. My roommate, Connor, was also an engineer (at Twitter) and we got along really well.

I won my first game of ping pong at the office. Woohoo! I also got stuck in an elevator when the power went out in the building. Boooo! Good thing that day was followed up with some of the best sushi I've ever eaten at Sushi In.

That weekend was the pride parade, which was the craziest urban celebration I've ever experienced. I've never seen anything quite like it.

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Pride parade.

Week 3 - 4th of July weekend

All the eventful stuff here took place during the long weekend. I spent most of 4th of July afternoon at Fort Mason with part of the Ribbon team, and then spent the evening walking along The Embarcadero, looping back to Pier 39 to watch the Fireworks.

The next day was quite possibly the best day of the summer. My roommates two friends from the University of Michigan were in town, and I joined the three of them (along with another housemate, Steph) as we biked across the Golden Gate Bridge and had dinner in Sausalito. After taking a ferry back to San Francisco, we stopped at Trader Joe's to get a case of Two Buck Chuck. We drank at our house until shortly before midnight, then headed to the bars on Polk St. to ring in my roommate's 21st birthday.

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About to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Week 4 - Lake Tahoe

During the week, I spent most of my time at the office. I started becoming really invested in the project I was working on, to the point where I would lose track of time quite frequently.

I also decided to extend my stay in San Francisco by an extra 3 and a half weeks, mostly because I enjoyed working with the Ribbon team so much. And also because San Francisco is pretty fucking sweet.

That weekend, I rented a car and a bunch of us from the house drove up to Lake Tahoe for an insanely fun weekend. Some others joined us the next day, and we ended up fitting 16 people in a beautiful resort house by the lake. We spent the day at the beach and spent the night partying. (Did I mention that the resort house came with a complimentary bottle of wine?) We also spent a good portion of the night drunkenly singing Disney songs at the top of our lungs in a hot tub. It was a weekend well spent.

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Hot tub at the house we rented.

Week 5 - A big decision

Shortly after I got back from Lake Tahoe, Ribbon gave me an enticing job offer to stay with them full time. So enticing, in fact, that I almost dropped out of school to stay with them.

Not much happened during this week, as I spent most of my free time thinking about this decision I had to make and getting advice from others.

Week 6 - All around The Bay

I finally made the toughest decision of my life. I ultimately decided to ignore most of the advice I had been given and return to school. I still second-guess myself every day, but I'm starting to feel a bit more comfortable with my decision as I get closer to starting my senior year.

I spent my saturday with my friend Travis driving down Highway 1 (along the coast). We drove down to Santa Cruz, then looped back up to San Francisco.

That Sunday, I went paint balling down in San Jose with most of the Ribbon team. Then we had some amazing fried chicken at Bon Chon Chicken in Sunnyvale. Then ice cream sandwiches at CREAM in Berkeley. Then Taqueria Cancun in The Mission. So much food in one day that I couldn't keep it all in. Literally.

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Paintball with the guys from work.

Week 7 - Salt Lake City

I discovered an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant called Sushi Hunter in North Beach. I set a personal record by consuming 55 pieces, and the only reason I stopped was because they were closing. Don't worry, I'll be come back to this later…

Saturday afternoon, I flew to Salt Lake City to visit my good friend Brian. We spent the night hitting up the bars, and spent the next day hiking on an island in the middle of The Great Salt Lake. It wasn't quite the land of paradise described in The Book of Mormon (which happens to be my favorite musical), but it was still fun as hell.

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On an island in the middle of The Great Salt Lake.

Week 8 - Las Vegas

My roommate moved out to go back to Michigan, and I got a new roommate named Thomas. Also an engineer. He's doing Dev Bootcamp, which was really interesting to hear him talk about.

Thursday night, I consumed 80 pieces of sushi at Sushi Hunter. A record that I haven't managed to beat yet, although I did try.

The next night, I flew to Vegas to spend a weekend with Brian (who I visited the previous weekend in Salt Lake City), and two other good friends from college. We ate, we drank, we gambled, and I lost way more money that I wanted to. But it was totally worth it.

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Vegas, baby!

Week 9

Nothing special. Spent the week making cool shit at work, and spent the weekend hanging out with the team plus my friend Jen from school. Had bottomless Mimosas for lunch one day, and watched a ton of Breaking Bad. Also played basketball and ate more fried chicken down in the valley.

Week 10 - Los Angeles

First Giants game! And they won against the Red Sox! Fun experience, even though I'm not super into baseball.

Towards the end of the week, I had dinner with half a dozen of my friends that I met last summer in New York City. It was really great catching up with the cool thing they're doing with their lives, and also sharing my stories.

I spent the weekend in LA with my friend Taylor. We had some great French food, Mexican food, Korean food, and Cajun food. We walked along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, saw The World's End in the nicest movie theatre I've ever been to (they have assigned seating!) and hit up the bars downtown.

I watched the latest episode of Breaking Bad on the plane from LAX to SFO. Best plane ride ever!

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Right next to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Week 11 - Northwestern football

I tried breaking my record of 80 pieces of sushi. The friends I was with said they would pay for my meal (which cost $50, so that was kind of a big deal) if I managed to break my record. But I couldn't do it. I only made it to 79. Bummer.

On Saturday, I headed up to Berkeley to hang out with over a dozen of my friends from Northwestern and watch the Wildcats beat the Golden Bears. It felt pretty awesome to wear purple again.

My friend Laksh came to visit the city so I spent a lot the three-day Labor Day weekend with him. I also spent a fair amount of time hanging out with Gabe and Kashif, two friends who just moved to the city and started working at Google and Disqus, respectively. Gabe lives in The Mission, which is definitely somewhere I'll consider living when I'm here more permanently.

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Northwestern wins!!!

Week 12 - Seattle

My housing in the intern house ended since I wasn't originally supposed to stay this long, so I moved in with Hany, the CEO of Ribbon. The house in Chinatown was a ton of fun, but it got a little cramped after a while so it felt good to move into a more spacious place.

That weekend, I went to Seattle to visit Mo and Natalie, two friends from school who are working at Boeing. I ate at Paseo, went to the top of the Space Needle, saw the Chihuly glass exhibit, and partied all night long. I also read a book (All My Friends Are Dead) to a bunch of drunk NU alumni in a Gilbert Gottfried voice. The next morning, a bunch of us made brunch and built IKEA furniture.

Then, it was back to SFO for my last couple days out west.

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Outside Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Week 13 - Farewell

I only worked Monday and Tuesday. Most of that time, I couldn't stop thinking about how difficult it was going to be to leave this job, these people, and this city. My biggest consolation is that I'm not leaving. Not really. Even though I'm spending the next 9 months near Chicago, I decided to keep working with them from Chicago until I become too busy to do my job effectively. And even after that, I fully intend on re-joining them in June, this time without an expiration date.

I wrote a year ago about how last summer was the greatest summer of my life. I'm happy to say that this one blew it out of the water. I just spent three months building interesting products with a team of people I genuinely care about. It doesn't get much better than this, and I'm incredibly grateful for this experience.

I'll be back soon enough. In the meantime, don't have too much fun without me :)

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The entire Ribbon team at of the end of the summer.