This post is part of Series: Being a programmer again
I traveled to Los Angeles for my first summit with Zed Industries in March. I haven’t done that for some time now. I used to do that a lot when I worked at GitHub. The route was always pretty much standard. Thessaloniki to Frankfurt or Munich, and then a 10 or 12 hour flight to San Francisco.
This time I flew from Thessaloniki, to Munich, to Los Angeles. The trip back was similar with a tiny difference. I had to wait around 7 hours in Munich for the layover. I thought it would be tough, but it wasn’t that bad. I drunk lots of coffee, walked around to check the shops and buy presents, and observed people and their behavior as that’s something I like to do in the context of being a stand up comedian wannabe.
We call those trips company or team summits. Or some folks call them off-sites. Regardless the name, those trips happen for the same reason. Bring everyone together in the same place for a week. When you are a fully remote company, you have to meet with folks in person at least twice a year. That’s the cheapest way to develop and maintain the relationship needed to collaborate well through the rest of the year.
The trips are often a week long. Which means that one could choose to travel light. That is, without checking in any luggage. I haven’t done that before. I’ve always packed this big suitcase that I had to drop off and then claim at the destination.
There are a few issues with that.
First, you have to carry extra weight around. Second, you have to drop it off at the airport which wastes time. Third, you have to claim it when you arrive which is even more time consuming. Last but not least, they may lose it, and then you find yourself having travelled even lighter. Which is not very convenient.
This time, I wondered if I could pull it through traveling with just a backpack! And I did!! It felt really great!
- 6 t-shirts
- 6 pairs of underwear and socks
- 2 pants
- A toothbrush
I was also carrying or wearing— depending on the weather—a heavy jacket, and a hoodie. I used a 30 liter backpack.
Based on my experience in this trip, here’s what I would do differently next time:
- 4 t-shirts (I didn’t get to use all t-shirts)
- 6 pairs of underwear and socks (I like to have each per day)
- 1 pant (I only used one pant and I was already wearing the one I travelled with)
- A toothbrush
I would also not take the heavy jacket with me. Too much volume and weight. Depending on the weather I’d either get a hoodie and a light jacket, or just a hoodie.
When you travel like that, there’s a certain type of items you cannot really bring with you. What I do, is buy those items when I arrive at the destination. Here’s what I bought:
- Shaving foam
- Shaving razors
I tried to find the smallest packaging to reduce the waste as I would never be able to use them all up within a week. Unfortunately, I couldn’t this time. But fortunately, we were able to donate the items.
Entering the US
Here’s what’s important to the immigration officers, given everything else is fine (your visa, passport, vaccination certificates, etc.):
- Why are you here?
- Where are you staying?
- Do you have a contact person, and who are they?
- How long are you staying for?
- Do you have a return ticket?
- In rare cases, who paid for your stay/tickets?
- Do you carry a large amount of money with you?
- When are you heading back?
For company summits, it may also help if you carry a letter of invitation in company letterhead addressed to the officer that explains most of the above. It should include contact information of the person that signs the letter.
Most of the times, I only have to answer a fraction of the above. But that’s a good full list of things you should have written in a piece of paper and have it with you for easy access as you go through the check.
I got very similar vibes as the vibes I got at my very first summit with GitHub in 2011. Zed Industries is even earlier compared to when I had joined GitHub. This means, I had the chance to interact with everyone, as we were only 9 folks in LA.
Everyone had to prepare something to present for 5-10 minutes. That happened the first day. The talks ranged from technical to silly. Mine was on the silly side. I talked about something that blew my mind, maintaining a now page, Rust’s steep learning curve, and what is a joke. As a stand up comedian wannabe, my main topic was scratching the surface of how we structure jokes and why people laugh.
Here’s what blew my mind though. The place we were staying had bathrooms with automatic toilets!
It was incredible. I live in Greece. I had heard the rumors and the stories about the existence of such marvelous machines. But I never thought I would experience one.
They had heated seats, posterior cleaning, THEY EVEN HAD A REMOTE CONTROL! I wanted to find excuses all day to sit on the toilet!
It was my first visit to Los Angeles. I spent a couple of days around the Hollywood area. When I visit a place for the first time, I want to get a feeling of how safe it is to start wondering around.
The first time I walked around I noticed quite a few homeless people. Coming from Thessaloniki there’s a scale difference, that’s why I noticed. We have homeless folks, but the numbers are nowhere near what I saw in LA. You will not see tents blocking pavement access, for example. I later learned that the area was much worse and had improved in the most recent years. I also learned Los Angeles is often considered the city with the second-highest number of homeless people in the United States, after New York City. The underlying causes that make addressing the issue difficult are complex. Some of the reasons include expensive houses, big gaps in income, mental health and addiction problems with a lack of social and support systems, and high living costs.
Other than that, Los Angeles was beautiful. It even had certain areas where the houses had a distinctive architecture, with different colors and an external design that was not something I have come across in other places.
It was also full of Teslas, 😃.
The summit took place in this big house somewhere in Hollywood Hills. So, we were mostly inside which helped with the low cloth and resource usage. The view was beautiful.
We also had dinner at Yamashiro restaurant which was a great experience. Here’s the view from there:
Summit and March takeaways
Closing, here’s a bullet list with a few takeaways from the Summit and March in general:
- My team is really smart.
- Everyone is passionate about Zed.
- I still have to learn a lot.
- I have learned quite a few things since January 17.
- Rust is difficult.
- Traveling to the US for a week and back is hard on the body of a 48 year old.
- I still don’t know if Zed is better with me or without me.
- I would love to make it so that Zed is better with me.
- I have now been part of a few product launches, and Zed was one of them.
- An idea is one thing, execution is a whole ‘nother.
- Debugging async code in Rust (or elsewhere) is hard.
- Traveling light is awesome and doable.
- The quest for creating AGI is both exciting and scary as frak.
Oh, one more thing. It turns out I love bagels with various cheese creams.