Great Whale

Thoughts by Bili Xu

Software Engineer @ Edison Software

The Effective Engineer

Summary of a great book on being productive at work.

February 5, 2019

That’s How I Got To Memphis

Memphis is a stand-in for wherever you are right now. What it really means is how I got here. (Charlie Skinner – The Newsroom) 2018 is probably the fastest year I have experienced in my life so far. I am not sure if that could be said for the past 24 years that I have …

December 15, 2018

500 (?) Days of Summer

It’s good to be writing again. While the title above is that of a romantic love movie, I am writing a plan for my first ever relatively relaxed summer. My internship did not turn out the way I’d like them to and now I’m left with approximately 3 months to rest and work on more …

May 14, 2017

“Stop Wasting Time”

A month into life in Silicon Valley and I find myself wasting too much time on things that don’t matter. I don’t feel like I am making full use of my time in a productive manner. As a result here are a few of the things I would want to focus more on. Level up …

February 20, 2016

Silicon Valley

The past two weeks of NOC has been a whirlwind ride. It stretches from looking for housing to finally settling down. There was a bit of drama here and there, but I am glad that we’re all settled down nicely now. Having heard so many stories about NOC, I have experienced for myself the struggle …

January 20, 2016

NOC: Prelude

As most of you already know, I departed for NOC a day ago. It still feels pretty surreal that I am here in Silicon Valley, where I dreamed of going ever since I fell in love with programming. I think it’s important to set the goals and aspirations straight for NOC. It’s a very unique …

December 29, 2015

Y2S1 – A Whirlwind Ride

Results came out earlier today and I wouldn’t say I’m very satisfied with them. The entire semester has been a whirlwind ride, here are some reflections. Work is manageable, time isn’t. This has to be the greatest lesson learnt. Modules are actually pretty straightforward and easy to understand if I had put in consistent effort …

December 22, 2015

API Rate Limiting

Since WordPress’s new admin site is so awesome <insert emoji with heart eyes>, I think I should document my little learning notes here instead. Shall use a sub-domain for this WordPress in time to come! Letterbox’s traffic went a bit off today, causing our instance’s CPU usage to spike. Apparently people were spamming API calls to …

November 26, 2015

Where the Actual Learning Takes Place

Just came back from lunch in a pretty cool suite and it gave me a little musing/flashback. As my Economic teacher in Junior College used to tell us when we’re in the middle of a chaotic discussion about any concepts: Go ahead. Discuss. This is where the actual learning takes place. It’s been three semesters in …

November 25, 2015

CS3216 Post Mortem

It was a bold decision to take this module in the first semester of my second year, and I certainly do not regret it. Not many people are given this opportunity and I certainly learned much much more from this module than all other modules combined. That being said, I am probably very screwed for finals. The …

November 20, 2015

Oh I’m a mess right now, inside out.

It’s only after recess week and my semester just took a turn for the worst. A series of events happened and I really feel bad about the way I took it in my stride. First of all, midterm results were not satisfactory. I performed slightly below average for both papers. Given that I only had …

October 11, 2015

Half-time, once more.

It’s the semester’s half-time again. This time I didn’t spend it studying my ass off in school. I actually did project after project and went home for a break. Having only two papers next week, I feel strangely confident. That’s a bad thing. I have a tendency to stay in school most weekends for fear of …

September 27, 2015

Restructure

I wrote about not treating school seriously previously and felt that maybe it is time to do some life restructuring. It’s already 3 weeks into school but I don’t feel like I’ve learnt or achieved much at all. I need to tidy up what’s currently on my plate since I have so many things to juggle …

August 30, 2015

Learning Through Mistakes

Just came back from a CS3216 talk on Growth Hacking by Zopim’s Bjorn (very cool name I swear) and Wei Xiang. It was a pretty inspiring and relatable talk especially after I completed an internship at a growing startup. One of the more relatable point that was mentioned is learning through mistakes. Several questions were brought …

August 24, 2015

ShopBack Post Mortem

Well I didn’t exactly die in ShopBack, but I’d want to document what I’ve experienced from the 3 months spent here. My official end date is next week and I think it’s the right time to do some reflection (again). I like to split what I’ve learnt into three different categories. Mainly: Software Engineering Business Operations …

August 7, 2015

Goodbye Summer, Hello Year 2!

Summer is coming to an end soon and I’ve grown so much both as a person and as an engineer. School is starting in a mere 2 weeks’ time and here’s what I hope to achieve for my Sophomore year’s first semester! CS3216: Software Engineering on Evolving Platforms This shall be the love of my …

July 27, 2015

“Engineers Cannot Panic”

This is probably one of the most important lesson learnt so far for my summer internship. After writing code for so long, it should be ingrained into me that software breaks all the time.  As a new developer, I panic very easily. I will not think properly and logically, and as a result breaking more things …

July 8, 2015

If there’s one thing you could change about your internship

What would it be? David, our senior engineer, posed this question to me today over dinner and I honestly didn’t know the answer. I may be stagnating after a month of really fast paced work. Now that things are starting to settle, I find myself learning at a slower rate. Maybe it’s time to force …

June 15, 2015

Two weeks into Internship

Half a month into my internship and I’m pretty overwhelmed by the amount of things I’ve learnt. I’ve never been exposed to a large (and to some extent, messy) codebase and be expected to understand how it works in a single week. In addition, the work I’m doing right now brings me great satisfaction. I should …

May 31, 2015

Summer Internship

After a couple of interviews, I’ve finally decided on my summer plan. It’ll be a 3 month internship at ShopBack, focusing mainly on frontend development. 3 months will fly by in the blink of an eye and here’s what I wish to gain from the internship: Level Up as a Developer This should be my main goal. …

May 16, 2015

Negotiation

In an attempt to expand my toolbox, I decided to take part in my college’s negotiation workshop. It was 3-day long and really intense. Nonetheless it was an experience worth having. It is not possible to summarise everything that I’ve learnt in the past three days, but here are the main takeaways. Claiming & Creating Value …

May 10, 2015

End of Freshman Year

I just had my last examination today and here’s to the end of my freshman year. I think it’s always a good idea to sum up what I have learnt, and reflect on what could be done even better. CS2020: Data Structures and Algorithms (Accelerated) – 6MCs The main highlight of this semester. Not as …

April 30, 2015

Correct Decisions are Never Easy to Make

I’ve just made a decision which I never thought I’d make. It was for a really personal matter, but through it all I believe I have matured a little bit more. Correct decisions are never easy to make. Be it in the workplace, school or our daily lives. Perhaps taking a nap sounds better than …

April 25, 2015

Presentations

I decided to give presentations a try since I’ve never been really good at it. It was pretty fortunate that I was given the opportunity to present in a lecture to CP3101B students about my experiences contributing to NUSMods. There’re a few lessons learnt from the short 5 minutes. Speak slowly. I spoke too fast …

April 2, 2015

13AM musings

I just came back from my algorithm coding quiz today and feel totally stumped. It was an easy paper, I thought I had it in the bag… But I clearly did not. Whenever things start to veer into the direction of hard work not paying off, I think it’s good to reflect on quality of …

March 19, 2015

Second Hackathon Thoughts

A while ago I wrote a post about my first hackathon experience at HacknRoll by NUSHackers. Just yesterday, I participated in Emirates Travel Hackathon, co-organized by Web In Travel (WIT). The experience this time was much more fulfilling than the previous. From the ideation to execution, there were key takeaways in every phase. We built Big Brother, which …

March 15, 2015

Build Character

3 days into 2015, and I’ve had two interesting experiences. Jumpstarting a car. This actually happened on New Year’s Eve. Darren actually forgotten to turn off his hazard lights after parking. So while we were happily having Korean BBQ, his car was flashing away. The battery was flat when we returned. It was our first …

January 3, 2015

Semester Break So Far

4 weeks into semester break and here’s what I’ve done: Shipped Ecomore Corp: One of the greatest accomplishment is to see your crafted project go up online, even if there’s not much people viewing it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time making sure certain features work, and nothing beats the feeling of uploading the …

December 26, 2014

Results, and a 2014 Wrap-Up

It’s the time of the year again. A time to look back at all the moments and achievements, also at all the missed opportunities and failures. But before I go into that. Results just got released today. I did pretty okay, considering that both of my As came from my CS modules. Well let me just …

December 23, 2014

Recess, and Code Golf.

It’s recess week! Also known as the week of pure studying for mid terms, at least for us CS students. To start the recess week off proper, I attended a Code Golf session by NUSHackers. It sort of show me how detached I am from recreational programming. Lately CS1101S is getting more intense, and I’m …

September 19, 2014

Week 4, and beyond.

Week 4 has just ended, and it’s 2 more weeks to recess week, 3 more to midterms. That’s really very, very fast. Where did all the time go? Newton’s first law explains this very well. I read an article recently about how the laws of physics can be related to productivity, and this is exactly …

September 6, 2014

Being an underdog, intentionally.

School is officially starting tomorrow. I’ve went through my previous posts (once more) and figured how far I’ve come, and how long I’ve waited for this moment. But now that school is really starting, there is an overwhelming sense of loss.  It’s time to be a student again.  After a short get together with Hume …

August 10, 2014

New room, new beginning.

I’ve moved in to Tembusu College, finally. I’m staying really, really high up on the 19th floor. Pros and cons of staying so high up. Well but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Sadly most of my friends are staying in the lower levels. 😦 We’re still neighbours though, living in the same block! So …

August 4, 2014

Technical Interviews and debates.

Yesterday marked the last day of Tembusu Orientation Week, and it was a totally different experience of freshmen camp. In my opinion, camaraderie and friendship forged during the camp was more important than the camp itself. I’m really proud to be part of this amazing OG, Hume! #NoPlaceLikeHUME Other than the amazing friends made, I’ve …

July 25, 2014

Keep up the learning.

I am hitting a plateau. It could mean a lot of things when I’ve reached a plateau.  Firstly, it could mean that I am getting good at what I do. Which leads to what I like to call a pro comfort zone. It’s the nirvana of what you’ve been working for. The highest level of your skill. Obviously, …

July 13, 2014

Where do we go from here?

I was lazing in bed this morning, when the long awaited acceptance email from Tembusu College came.  I made it.  They had accepted me. I do believe that after all the reflections and lessons learnt, this is the fruit of my labour. But what’s more important is to view this not as a destination, but …

July 7, 2014

Suck less.

I’ve went for my first IFG basketball “get together” yesterday, and it was surely disappointing. Not in a sense that it wasn’t fun, but it’s hard to admit, I still suck at this sport.  Despite all the effort put in to make sure I can shoot a lay-up properly, or make the easy open shots, I …

June 27, 2014

Post Camp Syndrome

I just came back from Freshmen Social Camp a few days ago, and boy it was helluva camp. (Despite the fact that I got down with fever and sore throat the second day I came home) Back to reality though, I realise that I’m pit against some of the best in NUS, and it’s not …

June 20, 2014

Relax.

I have just submitted my UTCP application. After what happened with my USP application, I learnt a really valuable lesson. Relax.  I’ve been unable to sleep days before my USP interview. On the day of interview, I arrived too early at Cinnamon and was in a total mess. I look fine on the outside, but …

June 1, 2014

Rejection.

I just got the rejection email from USP this morning while enjoying my daily cup of coffee. My heart sank. But I told myself, Savor the taste of failure, grow and learn from it.  It is not the end of the world yet, I still have other options for a more holistic education. Tembusu and College …

May 22, 2014

Learning to sell myself better.

I believe I have a problem of feeling inferior, and not selling the complete image of myself to others. When I say ‘sell myself’, it does not refer to prostitution. Rather, it refers to the ability to show others what kind of person you are.  After reflecting how the USP interview went with my parents, …

May 21, 2014

Good Enough

I just browsed through a few blog articles about other people’s learning tips and experience, and it dawned upon me that everyone who gives a damn about themselves, are striving to begood enough. It probably takes some pressure off that I’ll be pit against some of the brightest and smartest people in NUS, and it’ll be more so the …

May 5, 2014

Interviews, I never had a problem with them.

Until I applied for my first job. The question was “Tell me more about yourself.”  “Hi, I’m Bili” was my response. *major facepalm* (Yes, I got rejected) Tomorrow is going to be another interview, for NUS University Scholar’s Programme. I’ve learnt my lesson to prepare for interviews, and I sure did this time. More importantly, …

April 29, 2014

Pre-University Preperation

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I’ve been updating Quora quite frequently, do check out my recent travel diaries, and also a project diary here! From now till school starts, it will be hell of a ride. I’ve got a trip to China from 9th May to 20th May, after which …

April 22, 2014

Hobbies.

Everyone has got to have a hobby, right? Recently I’ve developed an interest for two things, photography, and RC helicopters. First up, Photography. I’m going to Chicago pretty soon in mid-March to visit my aunt, and at the same time help her out with a small project which has a bit of coding and design involved. …

February 17, 2014

Daily Coding Plan

It’s the end of the year, and while everyone is busy doing up their 2013 reflections and 2014 resolutions, I’m here to construct an effective coding plan for myself. I discussed with my friend recently and came to a conclusion that I’ve been coding daily, but have not been making (significant) progress. It’s probably because …

December 31, 2013

Learning alone is really tough…

But it’s the only road that I could take for now, NUS hackerschool went on hiatus due to the school holidays and, yeah that was basically the only place where I talked to someone else about coding.  I finished problem set 4 of Harvard’s CS50, and I guess I’ve made a great leap forward by …

December 21, 2013

Reserve.

I’m not a ‘sports person’, but I somehow decided to join swimming for my division’s Sports Day. Well, it was a great experience overall, despite the fact that I was only a reserve in the end. Couple of reasons why I really enjoyed past month training for this event: Keeps me exercising everyday! I think it’s …

November 27, 2013

Effective studying methods

Came across this useful article on the web: The Art of Stealth Studying: How To Earn a 4.0 With Only 1.0 Hours of Work It is these simple things in life that people find and make a difference in that will differentiate the best from the best.

November 25, 2013

It’s November.

What a lame and boring title, right?  It isn’t for me. November signifies yet another month closer to ORD. It also reminded me of how long have I been coding, and how much I’ve improved. So, without further ado…  I built a Griddler app for my unit. It was just a small project which I wanted …

November 19, 2013

Due for an update

I’m back with an update for what’s up lately. A few things! First, I’m focusing a lot on C++ depth.I brought my Primer C++ textbook into camp, so that I could focus on a topic a day, be it the basic arrays/variables, or the advanced classes and polymorphism. Learning something new a day would really …

October 2, 2013

Hackerschool, my weekly remedy.

I’ve just came back from hackerschool, a really great programme by NUSHackers. I’ve been to two sessions so far, learnt some basic git and Expressjs (though I admit I really still suck at Expressjs, gotta play around with it more) The past two weeks was really hectic. A parade that included two days of rehearsals, …

September 14, 2013

Across clear skies. Among glowing stars. That’s where I’ll find us.

Title was just a quote from a WongFu video which I really enjoy watching. Just watched ‘The Internship’ just now. Caught it alone because, I didn’t know why too. Was supposed to catch it with a good friend of mine. But I decided I should catch it alone first. It was a really good movie …

August 28, 2013

Humble Beginnings

I am here again, trying to pen down all of my thoughts so far. I started this WordPress site at almost the same time I started to learn coding, and to see how far I’ve come, it’s great. Honestly, I admit that I still do not know most of C++’s utilities, despite playing around with …

August 25, 2013

Focus.

I haven’t really been focusing lately, mostly due to the fact that I fell sick. Bili’s self-diagnosis would say that it’s a case of chronic sinusitis, but I wouldn’t be able to confirm that until I visit the ENT specialist this coming Thursday. I came to the point where I am not doing anything, at …

July 28, 2013

To-do.

I came up with this idea to create a To-Do list in order to put my new jQuery skills to the test. It wasn’t really that smooth sailing. As always, I’m having troubles recalling all of the syntax that I’ve learnt from the online videos, and also, weak fundamentals. To me, programming is all about …

July 11, 2013

Three.

Yes it’s been a while and I’ve made some great progress in coding. Yay! Let’s begin with the three languages I’ve played around with recently: C++. Yes, the language which I started with. I never really got to build things with this, but it’s a sooner or later thing. I’m still revising this language in order to …

July 1, 2013

Haze in Singapore: What we should really be doing?

I think it’s been made very clear that all of us are very much affected by the haze, scrolling through numerous tweets and Facebook posts about how bad it is. Many of us attribute this to our neighbouring country. I do not deny that, but let’s take a step back, and view things in a …

June 23, 2013

Weather.

Weather in Singapore is really bad these few days. Considering that the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) is currently at a record high 290. I’m coughing really badly. My guess that it was mostly due to my previous episode with flu and cold, which has now evolved into sort of a sore throat and cough. The …

June 19, 2013

New MacBook

It was a beautiful day this morning when I was met with a pleasant surprise. Had to return to camp to settle some “stuff” which I shouldn’t be blogging about. So I won’t! Okay so here’s what happened after I returned to camp. Went to Gain City with my dad who picked me up to …

June 15, 2013

See what’s it like to go Google.

Honestly I’m really impressed by what Google is doing, and has been doing. They’re making things easier for users by integrating it into a single platform. Yes, probably MSN Live tried to do that once, Facebook tried it too, but nobody did it as good as Google has. Right now, my emails, contacts, calenders, and …

June 14, 2013

Too many things at once.

I went to the library today to borrow a few more books, mainly on coding and scripting. Right now these things have become integrated into part of my life and that’s exactly what I want to achieve. Immerse myself in an environment where I will be motivated and spurred on to learn more and venture …

June 12, 2013

Another.

Another weekend just flew by like that. Well I’ve accomplished quite a lot for this weekend. Managed to cover pointers in C++! It’s a confusing concept, especially it’s applications, but I hope to master it by Tuesday. Coding is like math, I need more practice in order to fully understand a concept. I’m already halfway …

June 9, 2013

What I started off with…

I was scrolling through “The Verge” forums today and came across this discussion about which language would be the best to start programming with. Many chose HTML5/JavaScript, while some went ahead with Python and Ruby. But me, a person with no background is starting off learning C++. Well, I read also in a comment that …

June 4, 2013

stringstream

The title is as above because that’s where I am with C++ right now. It’s really hard to pick up something from the scratch with nobody to show you the ropes. I’m doing that now and, honestly if I ever master coding before I ORD from NS, it’ll be really an achievement. I figure that …

June 2, 2013

What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains

Well this is really awkward that this video is on the Internet. But well, this video sparked something in me. Maybe this is exactly what’s stopping me from performing well lately. I’ve been on the Internet for way too long… (And I still am) So right now I should probably start working on two of …

May 31, 2013

Why do I do this?

I started this website to record down my achievements in life so far. I think it’s important that we could pen down what we’ve done and how we feel to refer to in the future. It could do us good in two ways. One, we can laugh about how immature our mind was in the …

May 27, 2013