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Amy Nguyen

Infrastructure engineer (Stripe)

in developer, linux, mac, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Amy Nguyen and I'm an infrastructure software engineer. Right now, I work on the Stripe observability team, which is the team that helps others "see" what's going on with their systems. I used to do the same type of work at Pinterest, and before that, I was studying computer science (systems) and philosophy (ethics) in college. You could say I have a need to get to the root of everything, both in life and with servers. Outside of work, I love reading about self-improvement, cooking, and writing.

What hardware do you use?

For work, I just use what my company gives me. I have a 2017 15" MacBook Pro Retina with a Touch Bar (ugh), second monitor, an Anker ergonomic mouse, and an Apple Magic Keyboard. I used to have wrist pain when using the Apple trackpad (though I love the gestures), so I'm making a bigger effort to learn about ergonomics. I also have the Bose QuietComfort 35 noise cancelling headphones, which have been a game changer. I used to use the wired version, but I found myself getting tangled up in my bag straps all the time. Now I can comfortably sit on the train with no tangling! I love them so much that I might buy a second pair so I can keep one at work and one for home/commuting.

For personal stuff, I have a ThinkPad T430 from 2012. I didn't use it much once I started working at Pinterest, but now that I'm at a new job, I'm trying to train myself to make a bigger distinction between work tools and personal tools. So I'm back to the ancient ThinkPad when I'm at home. Some other electronics I consider important are my iPhone 6S Plus (obviously rose gold) and Kindle Paperwhite. I commute to work and like to alternate between reading and blowing through my phone's monthly data limit.

For non-electronic things I love, I always keep a notebook and pen at work. Right now, I'm using the Leuchtturm A5 dotted journal in navy blue and Muji 0.38mm black gel pen. I also loved the Cottonwood Arts dot matrix notebook and went through two of them. I switched to Leuchtturm for the cute colors and larger page size. My criteria for notebooks so far has been hardcover, dot grid, sturdy paper, and inner flap. I cry really easily (like, if I tell you the plot of a sad movie, I will start crying), so I use the inner flap to carry tissues around.

I know you probably weren't asking about this, but I feel like I would be doing a disservice to your audience if I didn't also mention that I have a phone mount on my bathroom mirror so I can watch videos while I brush my teeth. It's very important to me.

And what software?

I started using vim in college because I thought it would make people respect me. Now I use it because I have Stockholm syndrome and a sick .vimrc I can't abandon. Every few months, I think that I should try a modern editor like Sublime/Atom/IntelliJ/PyCharm etc., but I'm too entrenched to figure out all of my workflows in another IDE. Other than that, I use iTerm2 and tmux - I try to keep it no frills when it comes to development. I don't even remap my escape key to capslock. I love scm-breeze for making git easier - it adds some really great shortcuts and highlighting. The other application I want to give a shoutout to is Spectacle for Mac OS X window management. I'm a big fan of keyboard shortcuts and Spectacle is great for that.

On my ThinkPad, I'm still running Windows 7 and Ubuntu 12.10 (that's how old it is!). I'm not a big fan of either, but I needed both in college to get homework assignments done.

As for "serious" iOS apps, I use Chrome, Google Calendar (if it's not on my calendar, it's not happening), Gmail (I hated Inbox), Slack (I wish it was faster), LastPass, and Duo Mobile. I use Aviary for blurring out identifying info before posting photos online, which I think more people should be mindful of!

For everything else on my phone, I'm usually on Twitter, Reddit, the Kindle iOS app, Spotify (Premium, because I'm not a savage), Pinterest, Pocket, Hearthstone, Twitch, and YouTube. I use the Kindle iOS app whenever I have an expired library book on my Kindle. I put the Kindle in airplane mode so that the expired book doesn't disappear, and then I read another book on my phone. It's not a very sustainable system, but it's what I do.

One miscellaneous thing I want to share in case it helps other people: I just found out a week ago that there's an iOS/Android app for the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones called Bose Connect! It allows you to toggle noise canceling (which was not possible before) and customize some other settings. I'm really happy about this, because I hate being snuck up upon when I have headphones on.

What would be your dream setup?

takes deep breath I want an Amy-sized desk where my back is against a wall and there are potted plants everywhere, natural sunlight that doesn't directly shine in my face, a nearby water cooler, a bathroom on the same floor, and at least three cats at all times. Also Bluetooth headphones that understand how to never embarrass me at work and never run out of battery.

To explain: I'm too short for my desk/chair setup at my new job. When I put my desk at the lowest setting, it's still too tall for my arms to be parallel to the floor. If I raise my chair to the height where my arms would be parallel, my feet dangle. I really wish I had a desk that was just a few inches shorter - it would make a huge difference for all of my ergonomic pain. I'm looking into getting a footstool, but still figuring it out.

I keep accidentally playing loud music from my laptop because I forget to pause my music before turning off my headphones or some sort of Bluetooth weirdness happens to unpair my devices. Now my coworkers know how much I like Taylor Swift and anime music.

Some other miscellany: I wish I had an ergonomic mouse that wasn't so tall. I knock it over all the times when moving around my desk. I tend to switch between writing in my notebook, grabbing my cup of water, typing, and talking with my hands, so I knock my mouse over a few times every day. I'm sure I'm annoying my coworkers a lot. (It's either that, or the headphones, but I'm sure they hate me by now.) I'm also still on the hunt for my perfect notebook. I realized over the past few weeks that I want a notebook that can fold back on itself because I want to have more desk real estate. I don't like spiral notebooks because the pages fall out more easily, but that seems to be the only option. I'm open to suggestions!