Interview with Gabriel Valdivia(@gabrielvaldivia)

Lebron and The Land can celebrate, finally! Congratulations to the King himself on another NBA ring.

After many failed Skype meetings, I finally got in touch with one of the coolest people I have interviewed on

I had just finished watching the Cavs top the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Still feeling the excitement of the fantastic win, I checked my inbox and found:

I put my hair up, grabbed some ice tea, and called Gabriel to ask him some questions! In this special Father's Day interview, Gabriel and I covered everything from "Zuck Reviews," to fatherly advice, to the true meaning of "good design."

Gabriel is currently working at Facebook on the virtual reality team, and is a talented designer and musician!

I apologize that the recording started a little bit late! The start of the interview is Gabriel answering the introductory question: How did you get into design?


Shoot! You don't have the time to listen to the whole interview right now but can't bear to wait until you can? Here are a few excerpts of the highlights of my interview with Gabriel. However, truthfully, the entire interview was a highlight so I encourage you to listen to it in full.

What was your first job all together?

...a waiter in a small restaurant. Like a restaurant where each plate, full meal, was like ten bucks. It was super cheap and was really hard to get significant tips...

How do you like working at Facebook?

I like it a lot!...I've found that I have learned a ton and there's a lot of different problems to solve there, so in the two and a half years that I have been there, I have been working on a bunch of different teams...

Do you get any face to face time with Mark Zuckerberg?

...we call them "Zuck reviews"... 

Father's Day Surprise: What is the most important thing your dad has taught you?

...the importance of perspective. In a large sense that means looking at a problem or situation in the context of past, present or future...perspective, and the empathy of considering the context of a situation...

Is English your first language?


What is good design?

...long-lasting. More timeless than time-full...great design is relevant throughout time. For example, I love New York influences the language in which we describe design...

If you could talk to your seventeen-year-old self, what would you say to him?'re not going to be a rockstar...

Links mentioned:

Nielsen Norman Group: UX Training, Consulting, & Research

That's all I'm going to give you folks. I really encourage you to listen to the full interview and Gabriel's amazing and insightful answers to my questions.

I would like to thank Mr. Valdivia for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me and entertain my love of talking to new people and discussing design and technology!

And lastly, to all the father's possibly reading, and especially to my own dad: Happy Father's Day!

Interview with Tara Mann(@taramann)

Before we get into this amazing interview, I would just like to extend a huge ongratulations to my brother for graduating from Northwestern University. 

I can only hope to be half the man you are, and hopefully I'll be on my way in following your footsteps at NU next year.

Also currently watching the NBA Finals and if for some reason Kyrie Irving reads this: YOU ARE INCREDIBLE AND PLEASE STOP PASSING...I WANT YOU TO TAKE EVERY SHOT.

Tonight's interview is with Tara Mann. Tara is a talented designer working at Twitter. She is also one of the funnier interviewees I have had on

I'm so grateful Tara took the time to answer my questions and also learned that one of her good friends went to my high school...small world!

How did you get into design?

I was always interested in the aesthetics of things, but couldn't quite piece together what that meant for my career. I ended up applying to art/design schools for college and ended up at Parsons. It was there that I became immersed in this world of interaction and product design. I did a bunch of freelance work in college, which led to a job at a startup. That was my first professional experience in tech and it's been a pretty exciting ride ever since. 

What is it like working at Twitter?

It's amazing to work on a product that has such a big impact on the world. Watching huge cultural moments happen on the platform is a great feeling. At Twitter, designers have the opportunity to contribute their ideas in a meaningful and collaborative way, in a supportive and tight-knit environment, it's awesome.

What does your workspace look like?

I recently moved away from a two-monitor setup to just one Apple Cinema Display, with my MacBook Pro next to it in a BookArc from Twelve South. I use an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil for sketching, and like to wear over-the-ear headphones (Master & Dynamic MH40 at the moment) while I'm working. I keep my desk super minimal and neat, clutter stresses me out. 

When you aren't working, where could someone find you?

I'm interested in comedy as well as tech, so you could probably find me hanging around some comedy club in New York, or just taking long random walks while I listen to podcasts. I also watch lots of TV, way too much. 

If you could talk to your 18 year old self what would you say to her?

I would tell her it will all work out and to not doubt yourself so much, imposter syndrome is the worst. 

What is it like living in NYC?

I recently moved back here from San Francisco and it's been a great transition. Building products in New York is especially interesting, as you're living in a more culturally diverse environment outside of the main tech hub. It gives you a different perspective on real life problems to solve for. It's humbling. 

What can we expect from you in the future?

I hope to ship a few fun side projects, as well as continue to learn and grow as a designer. I have no idea where I'll be in five years, but I sure am curious. 

Interview with Anthony Smith(@anthny)

It has been almost a month since I have posted on

To update anyone who may possibly be reading this: I am graduating from high school this Monday!

And what could possibly be a better graduation gift than an amazing interview with an amazing designer.

This evening's interview is with Anthony Smith, an extremely talented designer residing in San Francisco. Anthony has worked at amazing companies such as Slack, Foursquare, and Twitter.


How did you get into design?

I think I made my first web page in like 1999 or 2000, it was meant to be a fan-site for the band Deftones. I don't think I really got into design truly until somewhere around 2002. I always kinda came from just making flyers for bands and designing weird things for like metal and punk bands. So many Myspace header images. So many.

What is the difference between design and art?

I believe that art is meant to provide a question, and design is meant to provide an answer. Both are good things.

What was it like working at Slack?

Slack was a pretty crazy experience for me. When I joined the company was still in their first SF office, and the team was very small and scrappy. They're very focused on making a good product, so that was nice to see. But after a brief period of time it became apparent it just wasn't the right fit for me.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

London! Still my favorite city I've ever visited or lived in.

What does your workspace look like?

I have a 15" Macbook Pro and a 21" Cinema display. To the right of that I have Aziz Ansari's book and Pentagram's Marks book. There's a old ticket stub from a movie I saw. A few pens. A magic mouse and a keyboard. Pretty straight forward.

If you could talk to your 18 year old self, what would you say to him?

I actually am quite happy with myself and how I've evolved since my teenage years, but I really wish I could tell myself then to quit smoking.

Fast feared 20 years into the future…it is 3 PM on a Sunday…what are you doing?

Sitting outside with my dog drawing on something. I doubt there'll be paper that far in the future, but some sort of device to sketch on.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I always have the goal to help make the internet a better place than when it was given to me, in whatever way I can. So hopefully, more of that. Small little touches of happiness inside of some cool little piece of software, that will hopefully make someone, somewhere happy.


I would like to give a big thanks to Anthony for taking the time to answer my questions!

Learning to cook from a rat.

I love cooking. I discovered my passion for the culinary arts about nine years ago when the film Ratatouille was released.

For those of you who don’t know, Ratatouille follows the story of Remy, a food fanatic and naturally gifted chef, in his quest to get into the fine dining scene of Paris, France. The only problem is that Remy is a rat. However with the help of a clumsy, caring human friend named Alfredo Linguini, Remy is able to live out his dreams, “cooking” through Linguini at Gusteau’s restaurant.

After seeing this movie, at the age of eight, I began cooking up a storm. It just so happened that during this time our kitchen was under renovation — but without a second thought I began creating recipe after recipe in the basement of my house where we were keeping our oven and stovetop. 

I remember one of my first creations was a pizza (my mom was starting up her gluten free pizza business at the time) loaded with purple onion, kalamata olives, spinach and artichoke hearts.

In the following years, much to my embarrassment, every gift I received for any holiday or birthday was cooking related — instead of video games or toys I got cheese knives and onion goggles (which are actually a fantastic kitchen gadget).

It was tough for me to embrace my love of cooking in public — partly because cooking wasn’t exactly, in my mind, the most manly or “cool” hobby, but also partly because it wasn’t necessarily the only thing I was interested in, but simply a therapeutic activity that I could do multiple times a day — I was a very hungry kid.

Now, nine years later, I have embraced my love of cooking and if anyone asks me what I do for fun, cooking his high up on the list. Not only do I think being a competent and comfortable cook is cool, I have come to realize it is very cool, and most of all something that no matter what, I find joy in.

Even the simplest recipes lift my spirits. Waking up on a weekend morning and sautéing an onion, some peppers and garlic for an omelet not only calms me down but it makes me happy. After all, everyone knows that eating a delicious steak or a bar of chocolate gives similar reactions to falling in love!

In this day and age, with fast food spreading like wildfire, I think it is so important for young people to find joy and importance in cooking their own meals. Why? Well, after watching an episode of Cooked, a wonderful new Netflix miniseries on the history of human food culture, I got a wonderful explanation.

Someone on the episode said something to the effect of: “If you want chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken, pie, and ice cream, have it! Just make all of it from scratch.”

Let me tell you, there is not enough time in the day for someone to make all of that on their own. So naturally, cooking for yourself from scratch limits the amount of food you can make and eat and will ultimately lead to healthier living.

So, to everyone reading this, I encourage you to listen to the immortal words of food critic Anton Ego (from Ratatouille).

“Not everyone can be a great cook, but a great cook can come from anywhere.”

Let’s get cooking, folks.

Interview with Don Melton(@donmelton)

Happy New Year to all who may be reading! I know that 2016 is going to be an amazing year and I hope all of you are as excited as I am.

Part of the reason why I am so excited is because we have a great interview today with Don Melton, a self proclaimed "Web geek."

Don Melton, as described by his website bio, is best known as the person who started the Safari and WebKit projects at Apple." Nowadays, Don spends his time in sunny California, refining his skills, storytelling, and tinkering. And, like me, Don spends time walking his dogs...dogs rule.

When you were a senior in high school, and people asked you: "what do you want to be when you grow up,” what was your response?

"A comic book artist" was always my response in high school. And I believed it, too. Of course, that had evolved from "a comic strip artist," when I was in grammar school.

While blessed with a natural talent for drawing, I was never interested in portraits or landcapes. I wanted to tell stories like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, with pictures.

And by the time I was in high school, I drew underground comics. I even had a few of them published.

So, I was certain about what I wanted to be when I "grew up." Essentially, I wanted to get paid for what I was already doing for free.

What was it like working at Apple? When did you start? Any specific memories come to mind?

I started at Apple on June 25, 2001. Not coincidentally, the same day the Safari and WebKit projects started. Of course, we didn’t call them that yet.

Even though Steve Jobs returned in '97, nobody took Apple seriously back then. Financially or otherwise. I think my stock options were under water the week after they were granted.

So, at that time you joined Apple to change the world. Or you went somewhere else. Because the money, if that was your motivation, wasn't in Cupertino.

That filled the Fruit Company with crazy people on a mission. Which meant it was never boring there. And I loved that about the place.

But it could also be stressfull. Especially with so many strong personalities. And I don’t mean just Steve.

It was like working at a nuclear reactor. And if you didn’t develop a tolerance for the radiation from those luminaries — well, you died.

To say that I was fortunate to work at Apple during that time is undervaluing the word “fortunate." Sometimes it’s still hard to believe. We really did change the world, too. Me and all those crazy people. Well, mostly them.

And now that I'm retired, they’re who I miss. Not the work.

How did you get into writing or blogging or whatever you want to call it?

It started as a joke at my retirement party. My friends at Apple kept asking me, "Gramps, whatever will you do now with all your free time?"

And, to be flippant, I said, “Writing."

Nine months later, to my surprise, I followed through and created my eponymous website.

I really thought only my close friends and former colleagues might read what I was posting. But I was wrong about that.

When and why did your fascination with technology begin?

My first visit to Disneyland. At least, the first I remember, sometime in the early '60s.

Sure, I knew that Disneyland was all make believe. I just admired the skill and control it took to create it. And, like every other kid at the time, I wanted to live in Tomorrowland. I wanted to be part of it all. Everywhere I looked were possibilities.

Years later, around 1980, the same mind-expanding experience happened when I got my first computer. I was 24 at the time. Practically a fossil. But I taught myself to program anyway. I mean, why not? I could finally create my own little Disneyland.

When I don’t describe myself as a “storyteller," I use “tinkerer." This is why.

When not “working,” where could someone find you?

They can't. That's why I have two houses. Makes it much easier to hide.

Actually, I have no idea what “working" means anymore. And that was true before I retired. I just dive into whatever I’m passionate about at the time. Everything else is “chores."

But when I’m not occupied on the Internet I like to spend time with my family, walking my dog, and drinking a good glass of wine with a big meal. You know, prosaic stuff.

Of course, I’m still writing during all those times. And normally I can hide it, but it’s a dead giveaway to my wife when I stare into space for too long or get lost while driving. She always knows.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Another hundred years of virility I would hope, but that doesn’t seem likely.

So, more storytelling. For as long as I’m able. On my website, in a podcast, at a lectern, around the dinner table. Maybe even on the pages of a novel. Somewhere.

I do plan on more actual writing, but I’ve told that lie before. We’ll see. Motivation has never been my problem. It’s lack of focus. And I’m not ashamed since I share that curse with the rest of humanity.

Of course, I’ll still write code from time to time. But don’t expect me to develop apps, join startups, manage engineering teams, etc. That’s not happening. I’ve moved on.

You are trapped on a desert island, and can only bring your family and three things…what are these things?

Dog food, Netflix and a satellite phone. Sure, Buddy is only seven and half pounds, but he and his stomach don’t know that. My family can’t make it through the week without Netflix now. And the phone? That’s obvious.

Because, island or not, I grew up in a desert and I’m not spending anymore time in one. So it’ll be a quick call and then just waiting for an Uber.

But nobody my age ever gets trapped on a desert island. They either crash into one and die, or they have “people" to take care of that and other little annoyances. I’m far too boring and cautious to ever go anywhere near a desert island anyway. And I’m fine with that.

Interview with Matt Haughey(@mathowie)

It has been almost eight months since I last posted on I realize now, looking back on my handling of the college process and the "crunch time" of my high school career, that this blog was absolutely something I could have continued -- but alas, teenage and adolescent laziness and disinterest caused me to stray from a great project.

However given a wonderful turn of events, I have been gifted an abundance of free time(in actuality I haven't been gifted any time just a relief of stress that allows for flexibility). And thus, I am rededicating myself to and the interviews I have done. And let me just say, it is going to be better than ever.

For anyone that actually reads this, here is an update on myself:

I completed a summer at Camp Moosilauke

This past summer, I was in charge of six, seven-year-old boys at my old sleep-away-camp in Orford, New Hampshire. The summer was incredible; I had an amazing technology and connectivity detox and also gained a newfound respect for the dedication and patience my parents had to have raising me and my sibling through...what would you call it...some tough ages.

I was accepted into the Class of 2020 at Northwestern University

Thank god. Through a lot of stress, handwork, and amazing assistance from my parents, I have finally been accepted into college. All of my schooling has lead up to this point and by some stroke of luck, it worked out perfectly. I am so happy and excited to be able to move on to a new phase of my life in Evanston and Chicago.

But enough about me, here are the goods for today.

Matt Haughey is a truly incredible person. Why? Well let's just say he is the only person I have ever interviewed with his own Wikipedia page. Among other impressive ventures, Matt is the founder of MetaFilter and the co-founder of Fuelly. However, now Matt works along side an amazing team at Slack.

Side note: I have abandoned my five question format. It was about time to start learning more from the amazing people that answered my questions.


If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Curious, compassionate, and fun. 

When you were a senior in high school, do you remember what you told people when they asked: “what do you want to do with your future?”

Yeah, at the time I really loved graphic design so I would tell people I was going to college and likely major in art (I wasn't 100% sure at the time).

How did you get into the tech industry?

In 1995, I fell in love with the web and quickly taught myself how to build websites myself. I was in graduate school at the time for environmental chemistry and seriously considered leaving school to build sites for others. I stuck it out though but by Fall of 1997 I was working at an environmental engineering firm and totally unhappy with the work. I loved the web still, and my big break was replying to an want ad in the LA Times for a web designer/developer at UCLA. It was probably the best job interview of my life. I connected with everyone there, made it clear I spent every second of my free time building sites, and got the job.

What is it like working at Slack?

It's incredible and fantastic and I wake up every day feeling lucky to be at Slack. My coworkers are fantastic and the work never stops being interesting. No two days are the same, my work there is mostly with words and that can take any shape or form. Sometimes I'm interviewing customers to write up on our blog, and sometimes I'm arguing with coworkers about which precise emoji combo we should use in a tweet, and sometimes we're talking about what words to put on a button that comes up rarely in an error message. I love the variety and unpredictability, the job is never boring. 

When you aren’t working, where could someone find you?

Most likely on Twitter. If I'm not on a computer, I'm on a bike. Generally I'm out on long slow rides in the Oregon countryside.

What does your workspace look like?

Currently my home office is a disaster area, but I get more/better work done either at a library (wearing headphones, cranking classical music to drown everything out) or a coworking desk (same headphones/music combo).

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That's an impossible question to answer for me. One food item, one song, one movie—I'd get sick of all of my favorites if I was confined to just one of anything so frankly I'm pretty happy we live in a time of almost unlimited choice for any of these things. 

And finally, if you had to give one piece of advise to your 17 year old self, what would it be?

Chill out, things will get better. You'll eventually find places where you'll be rewarded for going above and beyond what is expected of you. Also, your high school friends are all total jerks, and it's going to be alright when you move away and never talk to them again—you'll soon find new friends that are supportive and respectful and you'll quickly learn what real friends are like. College will be a great challenge, and moves so fast you'll look back at high school as glorified baby sitting years from now.

Also? Remember that essay you wrote in 4th grade in 1981 where you said you'd grow up to be a computer programmer and the teacher thought it was ridiculous and other kids thought you were nuts? Well, even though you don't currently own a computer at age 17, it comes true in less than a decade.



Big thanks to Matt for being my comeback interviewee.