One of the unspoken things about being in the military is that your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is only a small part of your job. In the military you aren’t just an Infantryman, an Unmanned Aerial Systems Repairer or a Cannon Crewmember.

Instead, you are a manager of a mission-driven system. Even a two-man machine gun team is a complex system with variable inputs (ammunition, batteries, food, transportation) and defined outputs (support by fire for an infantry element) but lots of freedom in between to tweak stuff. …


In Weapons of Math Destruction, a data scientist named Cathy O’Neil argues that behind the scenes, opaque algorithms make financial decisions using input data that are not readily accessible to the people who are materially affected by these decisions. For people applying for a home loan or a job, or trying to get the best insurance rate, their fate is determined by a model whose inputs are unknown: their web browsing data, their payment history, their ZIP code, their credit score.

The brunt of the cost (in the form of higher interest rates or lost opportunities from not being able to get a loan) falls on people with the greatest information asymmetry. People who do not have access to information that financial companies collect about them will be pay more for loans and insurance. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo Credit: Shifaaz Shamoon

Last year, I sat down with the Breaking Into Startups Podcast to talk about how I went from being deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army to working as a professional software engineer.

Although I’m proud of this story, lately I’ve been feeling that it’s necessary to caveat it slightly and to re-emphasize my main point: “Nobody looks cool going through tough times.”

This is a lesson that I find myself needing to relearn over and over in different contexts.

To me, telling my success story feels reductive, because even in the days after I became “successful”, I still regularly faced anxiety that I wasn’t good enough, didn’t deserve to be here, had no idea what I was doing, would be found out to be an idiot.


Adrian Ballinger, a mountain guide and alpine climber, talked to us about his #EverestNoFilter project, where he documented his attempt to summit Everest without supplemental oxygen. Using social media platforms, like SnapChat, and more than $75,000 dollars worth of satellite internet, Adrian shared with the world in real-time the suffering and ecstasy of attempting a climb that 90% of people fail doing.

According to Adrian, high altitude climbing on Everest is different than you would expect on the outside looking in. Instead of starting at the bottom and steadily walking up, climbing peaks above 8000 meters requires you to slowly acclimatize to the altitude by making many shorter climbs over a month long period. …


After leaving the Army, learning to program and moving to Los Angeles, I found my first software engineering job working on monetization products (ummm…advertising) as a front end web engineer, spending most of my day coding in React.

When I joined my team, my first project was to replace some of the views on our website with components from an internal library created by designers at our company. I had to change an old boxy UI to a new rounded one.

Image for post
Image for post
Old confusing UI- hitting the up caret actually increases the hour, which is the opposite of what you would have expected. Also, to change the time from ‘PM’ to ‘AM’, you have to click the ‘PM’ text, which is not intuitive.


Image for post
Image for post
Photo courtesy of Lee Campbell on Unsplash

About a year ago, while deployed to Iraq as an Army officer, I started coding for fun. (You can read the whole story here.) Well, after a lot of studying, I landed my first job as a software engineer at Snapchat (Snap) in Venice Beach.

The job search wasn’t easy. I faced a lot of rejections, false leads, and moments of doubt. …


On Monday, I met up with a friend at SFO and called an ride into San Francisco. Our driver, Sami, overheard us talking about Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries. Finally, he paused and in a low voice said:

“Sorry, I have to say this, but fuck Trump.”

Sami was an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for 8 years, which is a long time to put your family in danger for. He is a permanent legal resident of the United States now.

To be clear, Afghanistan is not on the list of countries blocked by Trump’s executive order and the administration reversed their position on the applicability of the order to green card holders and dual citizens. However, the fact that the White House could so casually release an order (which a prominent law blog calls malevolent on the face) put a chill on Sami’s plans to eventually bring his wife, his parents to the United States. How could he be reasonably sure that Afghanistan wouldn’t be on some future list? …


I recently found this little Mozilla plugin that will hash every password you type into the browser into a set of colors. This seems like a good lightweight solution to the use case of “which password did I use for this site?”

By using a quick visual reminder (people are better at remembering images than text), you can avoid having to do a lot of password resets.

Here is a small pen I made which uses a small puppy sprite based on the hash of your username and password. Hope it gives you some ideas!


I recently hung up my uniform for the last time.

In my four years as a U.S. Army officer. I’m extremely grateful that I got to work with great teammates on things that mattered, make progress toward my own goals, and come back in one piece from a combat deployment.

This is the most important thing I learned:

When I was a junior lieutenant, my commander made us run outside when the temperature was 30 below zero until sweat froze through our watch-caps. …


As a self-taught JavaScript developer, I’ve tried hard to distill my most important lessons from this year into a series of 5 examples that I’ll help navigate you through. This tutorial will start with Vanilla JS and go all the way to up to React.js and Redux.js.

Instead of an exhaustive explanation of each framework, I’m going to present you a heavily commented example (inspired by the format of https://learnxinyminutes.com) …

About

Jon Deng

Web Worker. Los Angeles. Formerly @USArmy. Likes running in the woods. I write to think better.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store