Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Erica Joy Baker

Erica Joy Baker

Senior Engineering Manager (Patreon), Diversity and Inclusion Advocate

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Erica Joy Baker and I abuse parentheses like it's my job. My actual job that pays me is Senior Engineering Manager at Patreon. I manage Patreon's Infrastructure team (which is also known as Devops or SRE at other companies) and will be managing our soon to exist Data Engineering team. It's my job to make sure the people who keep Patreon's architecture up and running have everything they need to succeed, and then sing their praises loudly (or quietly if that's what they prefer) when they do.

In my copious spare time, I'm also on the Board of Directors for Girl Develop It and am a Founding Advisor for Project Include (this means I'm a cofounder that isn't actively working on the project).

I also do other stuff, like being a Diversity and Inclusion Advocate and an avid genealogy researcher. My life goal is to reassemble the family trees that slavery tore apart, using applications of traditional and non-traditional genealogy methods, genetic genealogy, good algorithms, and a robust data set. Sadly all the good data sets are locked up in proprietary sources, so you can't do any truly useful querying over them. If Ancestry let you do decent queries, you could probably figure out the trees of several families in a small county and how they were all related to one another in about a week, which would put Ancestry out of business because their whole business model relies on you constantly coming back to do more research. I pushed to have Google focus on creating good and free to the world genealogy data sets (as part of the Google Books project) while I was there, but nobody was interested. So, I have Big Ideasβ„’ for how to create that data set, I just need to wait until I have enough money to do it, or until I can get the folks at the Internet Archive to talk to me about it.

People often ask me why I haven't founded my own startup, and I tell them "because nobody would fund a genealogy startup" and they kind of nod in agreement and stop asking that question, because that answer is so true it hurts. I often wonder if people who are constantly looking toward the future are capable of seeing the value in the past. Anyway, I'm rambling, on to the next question.

What hardware do you use?

Almost all Apple everything. I use an old (like 2011) iMac occasionally (though not lately because it decided it was pissed at me for sending it across the country and back for no reason), a 15" MacBook Pro for work (with the Touchbar, which I love unlike many other folks), another MacBook Pro for home (because working on personal projects on the work laptop is a Bad Idea), an iPad and an Apple Pencil for when I need to take notes. I have this screen protector on my iPad which makes it feel like I'm writing on paper.

I fly a lot and use my Purple Bluetooth Beats headphones on the plane. People say they aren't the best audio quality or whatever, but they block out the noise on the plane and that's good enough for me. My phone is an iPhone X. I have 2 Razer Chroma keyboards, one at home, and at one at work. My friend Chris gave me the one I have at home for Christmas one year and I bought the one at work on my own. I'm not really into keyboards or anything, I just like that I can configure them to shoot rainbows out when I type.

I have an Apple TV in my bedroom and a Roku attached to a projector in my living room. I wear a Verily Study Watch every day as part of Project Baseline.

And what software?

I mean, in a world where we spend so much time in the browser, what even is "software" anymore? πŸ€·πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ I'll give it my best shot: on the iMac, I'm running Plex Server. I mostly use it for that and Lightroom. On the iPad, Gmail, Slack and GoodNotes (the best iPad note taking app) for Serious Business. My iPad is also my "the video selections on the plane suck, I'm downloading a whole season of something on Netflix/Amazon Video to promptly fall asleep to instead" device.

On the work laptop, Alfred 3, Next Meeting, Fantastical 2, 1Password, iTerm2, Chrome, Slack, Sublime Text 3, Spotify, and Signal. Most of my job happens in either Slack or in Chrome (Gmail, Asana, Dropbox Paper, GitHub, AWS, the usual stuff). Everything that is on the work laptop is on my home laptop with the addition of Quip, Trello, VLC, Pixelmator, and Todoist.

Chrome at home is a different story. I live on Ancestry, GEDmatch, 23andMe, and GenealogyBank. I deactivated my Facebook a few months ago and I occasionally log into Twitter but mostly I'm limiting my time on social media right now. I'm trying to heal my heart and mind after a brutal 2017 and social media is decidedly not helpful for that. To that end, I don't have any social media apps on my phone except Tumblr (although I install Snapchat when I get on a plane to go somewhere, then delete it again when I land back at home).

I have far too many apps that I don't use on my phone, but most of my time is spent in Calendar, Slack, iMessage, Signal, Tumblr, Tile (I have Tiles in everything I tend to lose), and Two Dots. I should note that I am not logged into work Slack on my phone because work/life balance is important and burnout is real. Also the only thing allowed to alert me on my phone is iMessage, in case my brother sends me new pictures of my nephew, which always makes my day a little better. I used to use Couch to 5K on my phone a lot, but I haven't run since it started raining in December. Don't worry, I'm judging myself plenty about that.

What would be your dream setup?

Shuri's whole situation in Black Panther is my dream setup.

If I'm limiting myself to what's possible in our current reality, then in my office, a 55" Microsoft Surface Hub running macOS. The idea of doing family tree research on what is essentially a giant whiteboard with a computer inside makes me giddy, but I am too attached to macOS to use Windows (I'm sorry, Scott). Also, a Peloton Tread, because I really should start running again and I'd love a trainer to help me do it. I'd continue using my MacBooks, but would have them always connected to screen sharing sessions from the Hub whenever they were on my wifi network so I could seamlessly switch between devices. I'd have a little nightstand computer (a tablet or something I guess) that at night functioned as the thing that played whatever media I fall asleep to. In the morning, it would function as my alarm clock, and when I silenced the alarm, it would display and read my meetings for the day. Also it would be smart enough to wake me up at the right time based on what I had scheduled for the day.

I dream of having a Sonos in every room type system in my apartment (not in budget currently), so I could have the sounds of Beyonce, I/O, Daft Punk, Cautious Clay, or any other fave fill the whole space on demand. I'd also have Hue lights in every fixture, so I could make my whole apartment mimic the boat tunnel scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for those situations that warrant it.

Ok that was a lot of text! If you've read it all, thank you, and also, I'm sorry, but mostly thank you. πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–