How Mexico is using technology to help people after the 7.1 earthquake: interview with Paulina Bustos

Is that an earthquake?” the candidate asked with their eyes wide open, as everything around us started shaking. On September 19th, a 7.1 earthquake hit Central Mexico shortly after 1pm, and I was there interviewing university candidates for Microsoft. We were able to exit the building without issues, and even though my phone was unable to make any calls, it had data connectivity, allowing me to contact my family and friends over WhatsApp.

Many others weren’t so lucky: 369 people were killed, and over 6,000 were injured. The earthquake occurred on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed around 10,000 people. After spending the following days inspired by the amazing reaction of the Mexican society, united and determined to help each other, I wondered how different the situation would have been without technology’s help. How long would it take for people to find out if their families and friends were OK? How would they be able to find help or where help was needed?

My good friend Paulina Bustos was the perfect person to talk about these issues, so I decided to interview her. Paulina studied Computer Science at the Tecnológico de Monterrey University, worked at Microsoft in Redmond, WA for over 3 years and is now living in São Paulo doing a Technology Fellowship with Artigo 19; she is the co-funder of Cívica Digital in Mexico, where she worked with several non-profit organizations and governments to strengthen citizenship using technology, and she also teaches Software Design & Analysis at ITAM University.

Where were you during the September 19th earthquake in Central Mexico and what was your immediate reaction when you realized the magnitude of the event?

I was in Sao Paulo in a meeting, when my cellphone started ringing with all the messages from family and friends. My oldest sister lives in Mexico City and she usually texts back within the first 5 minutes after an earthquake. This time she took almost an hour. I knew immediately that something was off.

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3 reasons why I’m excited about the new iPhone

Apple will present the new iPhone this Tuesday and, as usual, most of the details have already been leaked.

What seems guaranteed is that we’ll see 3 models being introduced: the iPhone 7s, 7s Plus and a special edition to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. That special edition has been known until now as iPhone 8, iPhone Edition, or iPhone Pro, but the official name iPhone X has been confirmed (among other details) thanks to the final version of iOS 11 leaking.

These are the top 3 reasons why I’m excited about the iPhone X.

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Using a Surface RT, 5 years later

Right before my last trip to Spain, rumors of a laptop ban in flights from Europe to the U.S. started appearing. I didn’t want to take my Surface Book and risk being forced to throw it inside my luggage on my way back (we all know how airlines treat luggage).

So what options did I have? Either leave my laptop at home, or travel with a device that I could live without, in case it broke after being handled like a sack of potatoes.

That’s when I thought of my old Surface RT, abandoned in a shelf for years. I wasn’t sure it would be “enough of a tablet” for my trip but coincidentally, that same week happened to be the 5th year anniversary of its presentation, so it was perfect timing for a test.

Would I be able to use my email? Write a little bit? Upload pictures to Facebook? Read Twitter? Buy tour tickets and make trip reservations? Would any of the old apps work?


The answer to all of those questions was, surprisingly, yes.

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My experience with Snapchat’s Spectacles

I got the Spectacles over Christmas thanks to my good friend Carlos. Back then, it was difficult to buy them because Snap was playing a genius scarcity game.

Today you can buy a pair online and get them delivered to your home in 1-2 weeks. Gone are those days when the Spectacles would sell on eBay for $3000.

Now, you might be thinking: “should I get them?” Let me help you.

Have you ever had a vacation to a sunny place, taking pictures here and there to immortalize the scenery? Having your phone with you all day might not be convenient, especially if you want to disconnect.

Have you ever been at a wedding where everyone is looking at their recording phones? Most of these people end up having just the memory of what their camera saw, not their eyes.

Can you think of a summer day when you hiked through a trail with breathtaking views? Getting your hands busy to take pictures might be uncomfortable and even dangerous.

I have been in these situations, and the weird-looking sunglasses truly allow me to be in the moment while capturing the memory.

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Tech interviews and how to cope with them

‘The recruiter will call you back soon’ told me the fourth (and last) interviewer I spoke with after a long day interviewing at the Microsoft campus.

I was pretty psyched about getting an offer and moving to Redmond. I wasn’t desperate (I think) but I definitely was a Microsoft fanboy willing to change his entire world to work there. I had decided to tell the recruiter that although I preferred a position related to developing Word’s ultimate new feature, I was willing to take pretty much any job there.

‘Let’s go straight to the point –  I accept your offer’, I practiced many times with a mirror. You can imagine my disappointment when the recruiter didn’t call me back, didn’t pick up my calls and didn’t reply to my emails.

Though I am not a black belt at interviewing in big tech companies, I have had my share of reality checks:

You had me at ‘hello’. I found that getting an interview with the Tech titans requires a lot more than building a nice resume and submitting it through their careers web page. I don’t think I am overstating when I say that this worked for me once in a hundred times. On the other hand, having someone internally refer me worked more often than not and reaching out to recruiters through LinkedIn also turned out to be a pretty good option. But by far the best way to get these companies’ attention is to be already in the club – once I joined Microsoft, other companies started poaching me.

The lucky streak. Succeeding in interviews requires a (very misbalanced) mix of luck and technical depth. I feel humbled to say that I have worked with a few brilliant minds who shine not only for their technical excellence but also for their outstanding ability to collaborate and their driven execution. Yet, many of them have failed to get an offer at these companies. How is that possible?

Think different. I agree in principle that it is expensive and risky to bring in someone new, so employers want to be very, very sure. In practice, however, these companies seem to have ultra-standardized processes that require applicants to interview a lot and only then, the ones who adapt quickly to the system get the offers. Presumably, this ‘uniform’ hiring bar ends up impacting the tech giants’ ability to attract diverse talent who can boost innovation.

‘Patience is a virtue’, said no one who has ever interviewed in the tech industry. The interviewing teams made an astonishing job on ‘selling’ me the position so I put my future in these companies’ hiring processes only to get disappointed after hearing back months after the interview, if at all.

Forwarding my life by a dozen rejections across multiple tech giants, I now sit on the other side of the table. I am someone who has been part of Microsoft’s and Google’s engineering teams and their hiring troops and someone who still scratches his head every time he is asked how to fix this. My guts tell me that there is plenty of bias to be removed and that no candidate should need to study for months before interviewing.

I’ve been told that tech startups are changing the game by doing more hands-on interviews where the candidate’s aptitudes are assessed as they fix a random bug in GitHub. I wonder if that will be the next turn… or maybe we should just go back to the era of erratic brain teasers with questionable ethics (just kidding!).

I broke Facebook

I’m sitting on a train, on my way to Whistler, and I decide to check Facebook. I’m hoping to see what my friends did last night, or what their plans are for Thanksgiving, but this is what I see:

I don’t see almost any personal posts, or pictures that help me connect with my friends, with the people I love. Isn’t that Facebook’s mission? Instead, I get irrelevant stories.

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Will Nintendo switch fortunes with the Nintendo Switch?

Last week Nintendo finally unwrapped their super-secret project NX. We finally got to know the name of the new console and got confirmation of when we will see it in stores. The name is Nintendo Switch and it will be hitting stores in March 2017. Many rumors and predictions were right!!

Unfortunately, Nintendo did not release a lot of details about the console other than a very short video about some of the key concepts behind it. In a nutshell, the new Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console, but you might wonder what do I mean by hybrid. Simple, it will be a portable console (think Nintendo 3DS) and a home console (think Wii U) bundled in one unique device.

switch

For years, I have thought that Nintendo was going to push for this hybrid idea, after the first time I saw the Nintendo Wii U, back in September of 2012 I thought: wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if I could take the tablet (controller) part of the Wii U everywhere I wanted and not be constrained to just my home? Then Nintendo broke news about the company merging their handheld and console divisions. Obviously, I started dreaming about a possible console that you could take with you anywhere you went but when you come back home you can easily dock into your TV and keep playing. That concept is exactly what was shown in the video for the Switch! Nintendo is basically making my dream come true.

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How to swap your iPhone 6s for the new iPhone 7 using the iPhone Upgrade Program

If you used the new iPhone Upgrade Program to get your iPhone 6s, you will probably be wondering how to swap it for the new iPhone 7 when it comes out next month.

Since this is the very first year that the Upgrade Program has been active, I was wondering the same thing, so I went online to get some answers from the always helpful Apple Store Specialists.

Here is the full transcript:

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016 06:48 PM
Duration: 9 minutes 51 seconds

Apple:
Welcome to Apple.
What can we do for you today?
Ivan:
Hi, I wanted to know how will the iPhone Upgrade Program work when a new iPhone is released. How will I be able to exchange my iPhone for a new one?
Apple:
Please wait while I connect you with an Apple Specialist.
Kaitlyn:
Welcome to the Apple Online Store! My name is Kaitlyn! I can absolutely help with your iPhone Upgrade Program questions.
Are you currently on the iPhone Upgrade Program?
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My experience with the Surface Book and Windows Hello

When Panos Panay announced the Surface Book on October 6, I was immediately intrigued by it: could Microsoft really make a great laptop on its first attempt? The Surface line needed 3 iterations to reach maturity, so would it be different this time?

I preordered the Surface Book knowing that there would be quirks here and there (it’s a first-generation device after all), but I was excited to see if it was a true convertible. Would it feel like a real laptop while typing on the physical keyboard? Would it feel like a real tablet while holding it with one hand and tapping around with the other?

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Steve Jobs would have loved the Apple Pencil

You have probably heard about the announcements that Apple made on Wednesday around the Apple TV, iPhone 6S, iPad Pro… and the Apple Pencil.

As usual, there are a lot of memes and jokes about the keynote, specially around the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil; for example, a comic is making the rounds on Twitter highlighting the new iPad’s similarities with Microsoft’s Surface; and then there is this:

Putting aside whether or not the Apple Pencil is revolutionary, is it fair to bring back that image from 2007? I don’t think so. Steve Jobs’ words were uttered in a very different context, when people were used to interact with their incipient smartphones with a stylus (or with their nails).

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