Tess Rinearson

Engineer at Chain

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 03, 2016

Discussion

Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
Hi, I'm Tess Rinearson, an engineer at Chain, where I work on blockchain infrastructure. Before that, I dropped out of school to join Medium, after being their first intern! When I was still in school, I interned at Valve and Microsoft, and won a couple hackathons ;) More recently, I also started !GHC, which is a celebration of Bay Area women in tech. I'm a fan of emoji, golang, and badass women--ask me anything!
Jordan Scales@jdan · Halogen Softworks
Hey Tess! Really excited to see this Live Chat. What are some of the characteristics of Chain that make engineering work a lot different from a place like Medium? (or are things suspiciously similar?)
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@jdan I think the biggest differences come from age/size. When I joined Medium, there were ~15 engineers or so and many of them had been building products together for a while. A lot of the engineering practices had been set, and there was already a fair amount of infrastructure in place and the codebase was relatively mature. (Tbh I'm not _exactly_ sure what it means for a codebase to be "mature", but that's what it felt like.) When I joined Chain, there were ~4 engineers, and the codebase was evolving fast. There were a _handful_ of engineering practices, but they weren't solidified or formalized at all. (It was stuff like "when you think a pull request looks good, mark it 'LGTM'") And the codebase was small and young enough that just about everyone was familiar with every part of it! One of the biggest differences has been being given the opportunity to help shape engineering practices here. It will be interesting to see how they evolve as the team and the product grows!
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
Hi Tess! Super cool story, I dropped out too to join my startup, so I know what you're talking about 👌 Here's my question: I'm probably one of the few Indians who can't code, but I'm a quick learner. Where can I start learning, and what steps would you recommend? PS - Since you're in the Bay Area, would love to grab coffee! Thank you!
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@mrsharma It's been a while since I first learned how to code (~~humblebrag~~) so I can't really speak to the resources that exist now (like Khan Academy or Codecademy). But I can suggest this: Find a project that lights you up and figure out how to make it happen. I really think that my first project was the only thing that carried me through all the tricky syntax errors when I was first learning!
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
@_tessr Basing! Thank you, Tess!
Dan TheMan@dan_theman
@_tessr Can you share what was that first project that helped you to learn programming?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@dan_theman This is super embarrassing, but when I was 12 I made a website about tofu. I was a really enthusiastic vegetarian.
Dan TheMan@dan_theman
@_tessr Hey tofu is gr8! I appreciate your honest answer. I believe the point your trying to make is, the project has to be something you love/passionate about.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Who are some badass women who inspire you?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@ems_hodge When I saw this question, I started to panic because there are so many. So I'll cop out slightly and tell you about four who I got to see recently: * https://twitter.com/EricaJoy * https://twitter.com/skamille * https://twitter.com/catehstn * https://twitter.com/triketora They happen to all be technical, but there are a lot of women who I admire who don't work in tech, too!
jack rometty@rometty_ · student
Hi! I'm a junior studying CS in the midwest. Not a week goes by without me finding an uncomfortable account of sexism in tech while sitting in a CS class comprising 90% men, just like me. Combine my lack of ability to relate with the media's proclivity for editorializing and I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. It's *very* clear to me that minorities are maltreated in tech, but within the walled garden of university everything is sunshine and rainbows. I know the storm exists, but it's far too distant and nebulous to be understood. What can I do, aside from keeping an ear to the medium for new perspective, to better understand sexism in tech? This question may be cliche, obvious, or otherwise seem uncoordinated to someone in the valley, but I'm still trying to figure out how I can help create the obviously better future most understanding people want. Learning from my own mistakes isn't a valid excuse for maltreatment in the most transparent and networked industry, so I feel a need to understand before I join the world of professional code next year. (sry 4 lng q 🙊 thx in advnc 🙏) side question: i want to follow as many smart and innovative minds on twitter as possible, have any suggestions? :)
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@rometty_ This is a really important and hard question--thank you for asking about it, and I won't be able to do it justice briefly. I think the most important thing is to realize that you have privilege that other people don't have, and to figure out how you can use that privilege to improve the industry. To start, you can listen with an open mind to people who are from underprivileged groups, believe them when they share their stories, and help make sure that their voices are heard. And if you do make a mistake, apologize and move forward--I think people are pretty understanding and eager to forgive. Thanks again for asking about this, I wish I could go into more detail but I'm trying to move through these questions quickly!
Daniel Jackoway@jackowayed
@rometty_ To add to Tess's great answer, I'll venture to guess that your university is not all sunshine and rainbows. At my university, I heard all kinds of stories from my woman classmates. Things like, "I ran into a male friend outside the first day of , told him I was a bit scared, and he told me that if I don't feel like I can do it, I should probably just drop the class." Or people dropping hints that they think someone only got an internship because they're a woman. Someone saying, "I can't believe you don't know what X is!" and making others feel stupid, when that person literally learned it 20 minutes prior. Humbly look for ways to affirm and support people at your university coming from underrepresented groups. Really listen to the people you're trying to help. Call people out for sexism, even if it's minor, even if it costs you social capital. Make sure you're making those people feel like you think they're as smart as you. And make sure not to make that process about you and be too pushy or proud with your help. And as Tess aptly pointed out, accept the fact that you will make mistakes, and be prepared to notice them (even if the signs that someone is displeased with you are subtle), avoid responding defensively, apologize, and move forward.
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@jackowayed @rometty_ This is a really great addition. Thank you!
Stephen@syktek · i'll figure it out...
Should I be interested in blockchain in general? What are some good resources to learn more about blockchain and how it might shape the future?
jackyalciné@jackyalcine · Software Engineer
I never got to ask you this but why Go over other languages? I personally never tried it (more of a C, Rust, JavaScript kind of person) so I'm curious as to what convinced you!
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@jackyalcine I _started_ writing Go because Medium started using it (which was a decision I wrote about a little here, look for the section titled "Why Go": https://medium.com/medium-eng/ho...). But I ended up sticking with it because: 1. I felt like it really helped me "level up" as an engineer. Go has a nice level of abstraction, people don't go wild with frameworks in Go in the same way that people often do with, say, Node. So it really helped me learn how web services should work. 2. The community is pretty great. All the gophers (yes, people who write Go are called gophers) who I met were incredibly warm and welcoming to me, especially when I was just starting out. I could ask any question on twitter or on the mailing list and people were just... so dang nice and happy to help! It was honestly something I hadn't experienced in technical communities before. And this pattern is continuing with all of the thoughtful work and feedback that has gone into the community's Code of Conduct.
Sebastian Szturo@sebastianszturo · Developer @ Shopify
What's your favourite emoji?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@sebastianszturo How can I choose just one? 😱 At the moment, I'm really feeling this pair 🌚🌝 because I feel like they're pals exchanging a knowing look with one another.
John Edgar@jedgar · Building better cities.
Hey TessTess, I just wanted to say thanks for all the great work you do supporting and building a diverse culture in technology for all of us. Keep up the amazing work.
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@jedgar Thanks John!
Bryan Wade@bryan_wade · Software Engineer
Hello Tess. I had 3 questions, mostly about bitcoin. 1. Core or Classic? 2. If you were the benevolent dictator of Bitcoin, and you could make one, non-blocksize related hard fork, what would you do? 3. If you were in a room, with Stalin, Hitler, Theymos (the r/bitcoin mod), and everyone who attended the Hong Kong Bitcoin Scaling Conference, and you only had 1 bullet, who would you shoot?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@bryan_wade To be brutally, BRUTALLY honest... I don't have strong feelings about the challenges bitcoin is facing, but I'm optimistic that it will all work out. :P
Aaron Ng@aaronykng · AR @ Facebook
Hey Tess! I've always been really interested in hackathons, but as someone who's never been to one they seem pretty intimidating. Any resources / advice on getting into the scene?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@aaronykng Yeah, they definitely can be intimidating! To be honest, I don't have a lot of experience with non-college hackathons, but my suggestion would be to find a team you're excited about working with, and take it from there. I'm still BFFs with my teammates from my first hackathon, and even though we didn't win anything or even build anything that cool, we all had a great time.
Phil Renaud@phil_renaud · Developer, Affinio
Hi Tess! For people thinking about starting their career in engineering, how important do you think proximity to SF / the bay area is? Do the benefits of living in SF outweigh the cons, in your opinion?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@phil_renaud This is really hard for me to answer, since I haven't worked full time anywhere other than SF. There's a fluidity that SF offers that is really valuable (i.e. if you want to switch gigs, you can find almost anything you want here. I feel like my friends in other cities end up more wed to their jobs, even if their jobs aren't that great!). On the other hand, the cost of living is really high, and the tech monoculture can be overwhelming. Additionally, the smaller tech communities in other cities can be great--when I was in college, I loved going to tech events in Philly because there was much more of a warm-fuzzy community feel. For me, at the end of the day, it comes down to this: Most of my friends are here, so I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.
Erick Arbé@erickarbe · Co-Founder, HIBR
Hey Tess, I'd love to hear your thoughts on where Bitcoin is going. I'm glad to see it's price has gone up of late, but I still don't see much adoption as far as online merchants go. With what you're working on, do you see this changing?
Alexandra Leigh Johnson@alexandraj777 · Software Engineer at SigOpt
Now that it's several years down the line, how do you view your decision to leave school?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@alexandraj777 Well, I don't think I can have any regrets. Right now I am so incredibly happy: I live in a beautiful city, surrounded by sharp, passionate people, and I have a job that challenges me every day. So given the way this all turned out (so far), there's no way I can look back on my decision to drop out and wish I'd done something else. I will admit that there are times occasionally, where I'll be reading a paper or watching a lecture, and I'll wish that I were a little fresher or more knowledgable about certain algorithms or systems or even notation. And in those moments, I think, "Hmm. Maybe I should've stayed in school." And then I look it up, or I ask my coworkers, and I feel pretty darn good about my decision again. :)
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Thanks for being here Tess! It's been a pleasure hearing your thoughts 🙌
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
Alright, I think that's all there's time for today. Thank you for asking such thoughtful questions; hopefully I'll get to expand on them in blog posts or something! Feel free to ask me anything anytime on Twitter (@_tessr) and I'll do my best to answer.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Tess! What's been the biggest challenge of your career to date and how did you overcome this?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What three things would you recommend to someone just starting our in engineering?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@ems_hodge I don't know about _three_ things, but I do have one strategy that I'd love to share, and it's something I absolutely still do! I have a short, informal list of people (other engineers) who I would like to work with some day. They're people who are: 1. Woke (or, more specifically, fighting the exclusive nature of our industry). 2. Have some domain knowledge in an area I'm interested in. And then I just, you know, keep an eye on them. This strategy led me to Medium and then it led me to Chain, so I feel like it's worked out pretty well so far!
Stephen@syktek · i'll figure it out...
Morgan Freeman's voice vs James Earl Jones' voice... go!
Stephen@syktek · i'll figure it out...
Yesterday I asked a question we differ in opinion on. Thinking more about your side, if I am a good cultural fit but not 100% a great requirements fit, should I not attempt to sell myself to them and focus on becoming a better requirements fit? Should I drop the idea completely? How do you suggest going about this for a company you feel passionate about?
Tess Rinearson@_tessr · Engineer, Chain.com
@syktek Hmm.. I don't want to tell you to drop the idea! I'll say this: If you have an advocate inside a company, they can work wonders for you.