Traffic School Option for a Speeding Ticket Usually Results in Lower Insurance Rates: How to opt for Traffic School after already paying your fine

I got a speeding ticket while driving a rental car in April of 2020, and paid it in June as soon as my ticket showed up in the online portal. It was my first speeding ticket in the entirety of my 8 years of driving. I chose not to contest in court since going to the Placer County courthouse would require that I rent a car and also drive up, for no guarantee that I would win my case.

Someone told me that they did the traffic school option when they got a speeding ticket because it was a cheaper, so when I noticed that the online traffic school option was $61 more expensive, I thought the obvious decision would be to just pay the fine without the traffic school option, and also not have to do traffic school.

But then just recently, in August, I found out that the reason why the traffic school option is more expensive is so that it usually doesn’t show up on your public driving record which insurance companies can look up (since it becomes confidential)…and that most insurances will increase their rates after a speeding ticket.

The following Monday, I called the Placer County phone number since my ticket was no longer actionable online, and it turns out I can opt to take the online traffic school option anytime within the next 3 years, since that’s how long the speeding infraction stays on my record.

  1. I could either go in-person to the courthouse and pay the additional $61 for the court to open up my case so I could do the traffic school
  2. OR I could mail in a $61 check, addressed to the ‘Placer County Superior Court’ with a memo including my court case number (or traffic ticket code, which is a different code, but the court ID is preferred). Based on the $61 amount they’ll know what it refers to.


I chose to do the mail-in check option, and while I was on the phone I got the P.O. box address to mail the check to.

Afterward, Placer County will mail a letter back that will basically tell me to go to, to select ‘Placer County,’ and then select a traffic school to do. The online traffic school will probably take around 8 hours and they’re around $5-$10 each (the $61 fee to the court doesn’t cover the cost of the traffic school).


In retrospect, I wish I did more research since while googling paying the fine vs. doing traffic school, I found a place that said they could contest speeding tickets without having to go to court, and it would have been nice to at least consider that option before I paid my fine, which effectively closed my case:

Note that when I went to see how much it would be for them to contest via a Written Declaration, it’s still kind of a lot ($153):

Because I got as far as the quote above, and it required putting in my contact information, I got a call half an hour late where the person on the other end of the phone said that if you don’t want the 1 year traffic protection or the document delivery, you can deselect it.

My California MTC Experience

This blog entry is for anyone interested in taking motorcycle lessons for the first time, or who is interested in taking the Motorcyclist Training Course (MTC) toward their California motorcycle license.

On February 8th, a week after my LASIK surgery, I took a California MTC in Norwalk, CA. It was a 2-day course for $350, and they provide learner bikes and motorcycle helmets (unless you bring your own helmet). If you pass the MTC on the 2nd day, it means that all you have to do is pass the DMV written test in order to get your motorcycle license.

Day 1

Saturday’s session was from 8am-4:30pm. Class started promptly at 8am, so I recommend arriving 15 minutes early the first day to fill out a few forms. Each day you have a classroom session, followed by a session out on the range. The range is where you ride: it’s a sectioned off portion of the parking lot that has paint markings on the ground specifically for MTC. 

In the classroom, I highly recommend participating and asking questions. Yes, I’m that person; no, I’m not annoying about it—a few people from class ended up approaching me since they knew who I was as a result of my participation. Asking questions will also keep you from falling asleep, if you’re not a morning person like me. Also pay attention to statistics or write them down, since some of them will be on the written test.

What I wore or brought to MTC:

  • Snacks
  • Full bottle of water (it can get hot out on the range)
  • Pens (they have some in the classroom)
  • Leather motorcycle gloves (they have extra if you forgot yours)
  • Long sleeve top or jacket (I recommend your top be long-sleeve if it’ll be hot outside. Definitely layer)
  • Long jeans
  • Sturdy shoes that covered my ankles
  • Bag lunch—you have only 30 minutes for lunch (e.g. salad from Trader Joe’s, plus a fork)
  • Cash, since parking was $2 if cash, $2.25 if you paid with a credit card

Our class was pretty much half fresh babies who had never ridden before, half experienced riders. Experienced riders included people who were practicing with their permit, who were riding dirty (aka without a license), or who hadn’t ridden in a while and wanted to get their motorcycle license again. Some of the experienced riders hadn’t passed the riding portion of the DMV motorcycle test, and passing the MTC waives that portion.

There were 24 people in the classroom, and once we got out to the range, we were split into two groups of 12 each, 2 instructors per group. In some exercises, all 12 of us would be riding; in others, we were split into groups of 6 and 6, where 6 people would ride in our half of the parking lot, and the remaining 6 would line up and observe the active 6.

Day 2

Sunday’s session was from 8am-4:50pm. This 2nd day is when you take your written and driving exams in order to pass MTC, after which you receive a completion card that day that you can use at Cycle Gear for 15% off an entire purchase and which you can use at Harley Davidson to have the cost of your class reimbursed if you purchase a bike there.

But the real piece of paper that matters—if you pass—is the one they mail to you, which is what will allow you to get your California motorcycle license in conjunction with passing the DMV written exam. It basically replaces the riding portion of the motorcycle test.

For the MTC written exam, you need 80% to pass. There were 50 questions, so you can miss 10. I marked which questions I was unsure of so I could go back to them later if I wanted to, and fortunately I only had 3, but I still deliberated on them since we still had a lot of time. Turns out my instinct was correct, and I’m glad I ultimately went with my initial response. I was the first to turn in my exam and I got 100% correct, and apparently a perfect score is rare. My younger brother also got a perfect score.

Someone who left the classroom toward the end told me that the people who didn’t pass the written test, they had the chance to change/update their answers for the ones they got wrong in order to pass.

For the MTC driving test, everything that they teach you on the range on day 2 is what they test you on. You can miss at most 20 points. I missed 13 points, my younger brother missed 12 points. He lost 6 points since he hit a few cones during the very first test, the weaving one, which was honestly a total fluke.

  • I lost points for stopping past 8 feet from the cone, during the sudden stop test
  • I lost 5 points for not going fast enough during the cornering test. We were told to go as fast as safely possible, and for this test we had a practice corner right before our test corner
  • I forget if I lost points in other parts/which other parts I missed points on, but you will lose points if you hit cones—so try to avoid that!!

You automatically fail if you drop your bike during one of the tests, which from what I deduced, should mean that you’re ok if you drop your bike while waiting/in between them.

Out of the 12 people in my group, everyone passed except for 3 people. There was also a guy from a previous class who was retaking the riding test, and they let him practice on a motorcycle prior to his test, since we got to warm up on the bikes via our riding classes. Since you’re paying $350 for the class, everyone has the option to retake the riding portion another day, if they don’t pass that day.

MTC Notes

For my own documentation, some of my notes are below. 99% of the range notes we learned while in the classroom, but I included them in the range notes for if it was applicable to the training exercises we did in our <20mph range conditions.

Classroom Notes

  • The BAC for drunk driving for people over 21 is 0.08%, and that for people under 21 it’s 0.01%
    • 29% of riders killed in California had a positive blood alcohol content (BAC)
    • You can request a chemical urinology test if you’re a hemophiliac, are on anticoagulents (blood thinners), or if the breathalyzer/standard equipment isn’t working
    • One way to prevent a drunk friend from riding is to loosen their bike’s spark plug so that the engine won’t start
  • It’s illegal for children 6 and under to be left unattended in a vehicle
  • Motorcyclists are 37 times more likely to be injured
    • Most collisions happen at intersections
  • California specific laws:
    • If you’re trailering (towing a trailer behind you), illegal to go more than 55mph, and illegal to be in the carpool lane
    • Can modify your muffler, but not your emissions (e.g. by replacing your catalytic convertor)
    • Legal to lane-split
  • Suggestions for lane splitting:
    • Only do it when traffic is less than 30mph
    • Don’t go more than 10mph faster than traffic
    • Use lanes 1 and 2 (left-most lane, with exception of any carpool/HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes)
  • If you are in an accident more than $1k (which will be most motorcycling accidents), report it to the DMV or to your insurance within 10 days
  • High quality armor can reduce impact energy by up to 70%
  • The front brake has 70% of the braking power
    • This is because the engine power is sent to the rear tire, and since the rear wheel is driving the motorcycle, it’s pushing the front wheel forward and down
      • Since the front wheel tire is being pressed down and it’s squishy, it has more surface area/traction, and as a result more braking power
    • When braking, use both brakes: Gradually increase braking power to the front, and press light to lighter for the back brake
      • Back brake is light to lighter because as the bike is slowing down, and when the front tire is being less squished down/is losing surface area, that means the back tire is gaining surface area as it’s taking on more of the motorcycle’s weight
  • Try to see 15-20 seconds in front of you, check for side traffic, and look for escape routes
  • Maintain at minimum a 2 second following distance
  • Avoid target fixation; intense focus on an object diminishes awareness of other objects
  • Approaching obstacles
    • Try to cross at an at least over 45 degree angle (ideally 90 degrees/perpendicular)
    • Slow prior to obstacle
    • Look ahead, not at obstacle
    • Roll on throttle right before (similar to doing a wheelie) to increase front spring length
    • Release throttle a bit after rolling off, to compress front spring length
  • 18 wheelers have around 18 blind spots. You’re in one if you can’t see the driver in the mirror
    • Always anticipate blind spots of ppl around you
  • At night, avoid overriding your headlight: when you’re riding so fast, you can’t see enough seconds ahead of you
  • Avoid sudden changes: speed (linear acceleration), turns (angular acceleration) when you have less traction, eg on gravel, metal bridge gratings
  • Tar snakes (tar crack fillings) are slippier when hot
  • Watch your speed when you’re on a crowned road and turning in a direction with negative camber (less surface area/tire in contact with road -> less traction)

Range Notes

  • Low speed turning happens at 15mph or less. Countersteering starts to happen above 15mph
    • Countersteering is when you push diagonally on the handlebars, not horizontally. Pushing the handlebars horizontally moves the handlebar, but not the bike. You should be pushing diagonally in the below exercise:
      • Sit on a motorcycle or a bicycle. Then stand up so the bike is underneath you
      • Push on the left handlebar so that the motorcycle leans to the left
      • Push on the right handlebar so that the motorcycle leans to the right
      • This is countersteering!!!
        • This happens because the tire is larger in circumference in the middle, and smaller in circumference toward the edges/outside. Image result for shape of a motorcycle tire
        • To exaggerate this shape, imagine the shape of the tire as two paper cups glued together at the mouth of the cup/the larger circumference. When you push down diagonally on the right, your 2-cup-combo will turn to the right. (Ignore the centrifugal force in the below, since we’re not talking about that in this paragraph).Image result for wheel made of paper cups
        • This is also similar to how train wheels are able to turn, despite the wheels being a fixed shape and distance apart (therefore they have the same angular velocity), and how when making a turn, the outer circle requires a higher linear velocityImage result for train wheel
  • With SLOW turns or slow U-turns, counterbalance the bike by leaning the OPPOSITE direction as the turn
  • At faster speeds (not sure what the inflection point for this is), lean into the curve to help with the turn
  • LLP = Look, Lean, Push
    • If you’re going wide on a turn, look more, lean more, and push more!!
    • Look where you’re going
    • Lean more into the turn
    • Push more (diagonally) on your handlebars so that you do more countersteering
  • ONE-C is for starting and stopping the engine. However, I’ve noticed the clutch has to be in when you press both the engine cut-off switch, AND when you start the engine—not just for the 2nd part, but for the 1st part as well—otherwise, the bike won’t start, so I’ve updated the order to ONCE:
    • O is for On. Turn the key one notch to the right (clockwise) to turn the fuel and ignition to the “on” positions
    • N is for Neutral. If the clutch is fully out/released and you can roll the motorcycle freely, you’re in neutral
    • C is for squeeze the Clutch and Choke (if equipped). Use the choke if the bike has a carburetor and the engine is cold, to help warm up the engine. Squeeze in the clutch…
    • E is for Engine cut-off switch. While the clutch is in, make sure the switch is toggled toward the “run” or “on” position…
    • and with the clutch still in, press the Start Engine to start your engine.
  • To turn off your engine, toggle the engine cut-off switch, AND turn your key to off so that you don’t drain your battery since your headlights will be on.
  • Leave your bike in 1st gear at stops and pull in the clutch
    • You can ride the clutch in a bike, unlike in a manual transmission car—this doesn’t wear the clutch out in a bike
  • If your engine is fuel-injected, that means you don’t need a choke and you don’t need to warm up the engine
    • If your engine has a carburetor, that means the carburetor manually mixes the fuel and air at a certain ratio due to the physical design of the carburetor
    • Fuel-injected means there’s a little computer that determines how much fuel to inject, based on 2+ sensors
      • If your exhaust is “rich,” you have too much gas in your combustion ratio
      • If your exhaust is “lean,” you have too much air in your combustion ratio
  • SPAT is for cornering. Cornering mean to going around turns, including intersection corners.
    • S is for SPEED. Adjust your speed before you turn
      • When you’re turning, you have less traction since you’re using the edge of your tires, and not the center. That means you have less surface area, and therefore less grip (traction)
      • Braking also reduces your traction, because when you’re slowing down, your front tire isn’t being pushed into the ground as much.
      • Get into the habit of not braking while making a turn
        • Our instructor had a little shtick where he held up his hand with all 5 fingers, each finger representing traction
          • If just braking reduces this much traction (2 fingers: pinky and ring)
          • And if just turning reduces this much traction (2 fingers: pinky and ring)
          • That means if you turn….and if you brake while you’re turning….you’re left with THIS situation (his middle finger was the remaining finger)
    • P is for POSITION: body position on the bike, and the bike’s position in the lane, traffic, or within a group
    • A is for AIM. You go where you aim. Look through the corner and plan your line by “connecting the dots” of your turning and exit points. Turn your head.
    • T is for TURN. Turn your head! And depending on your road speed, some combination of steering (including countersteering, aka pushing), and leaning will get you where you want to go
    • Maintain steady throttle or roll-on slightly while cornering
      • Rolling on (increasing) the throttle increases traction, since as you accelerate, the back tire pushes the front tire more into the ground, and because the tire is squishy, this increases its surface area contact to the ground aka traction aka grip
        • More traction = more braking power
    • If you apply front brake too suddenly, your front tire will swerve/twist and skid. So always go gradual
      • During the sudden stop exercise, I accidentally grabbed my front brake too quickly, and immediately stalled since my clutch wasn’t in and my speed was too low. Since the bike wasn’t moving forward to maintain balance, the bike fell.
        • Fortunately it was super slow moving accident, and I got out of the way so it didn’t fall on me. I landed on my right palm (grateful for the gloves) and my right foot, then right knee.
    • When swerving, practicing looking at where you want to go/at the negative space!!
      • Brake then swerve, or swerve then brake—never both at once!
      • Once you’re comfortable swerving and avoiding obstacles is when you can start riding on the freeway. Not when you’re comfortable going 35mph, but when you’re comfortable swerving at 35mph. Since these swerving and obstacle avoidance skills are what will save your life at higher speeds
      • I need to practice swerving by just countersteering at around 15mph. Need to look up how much of swerving at higher speeds is countersteering vs. regular steering

My Acrylic Paintings

I started experimenting with acrylic paint when I was in college. Acrylics tend to be cheaper, and since I was living in a small dorm room at the time, it was also easier to clean up than oil paints (due to how acrylic paints are water based, and consequently, water soluble).

Below are some of the things I’ve done with acrylic paint.

Yosemite. 16×20, completed in 4 hours.
Monterey. 16×20, completed in 4 hours.
Desert Sky. 16×20, completed in 4 hours.
National Geographic Wolf. 16×20, Painted at Yi Yan art studio in San Francisco, over the course of 8 non-consecutive hours.
Golden Gate Bridge: Sunset. 12×16, painted in 3 hours.
Golden Gate Bridge: Dawn. 16×20, painted in 4 hours.
Hawai’i. 16×20, painted in 4 hours.
Relative size of three 16×20 paintings.

My Oil Paintings

I took oil painting lessons for 4 years when I was in high school, and this introduced me to painting. I would go for 2 hours every Wednesday. Below are just some of my completed works from 2009-2013.

To take these photos, I used the CamScanner app, which unskewed things so that the edges would be straight.



Basic Intro: Acrylic Painting Supplies

If you’re interested in getting started with acrylic painting, you might find this post useful. This post is dedicated to recommended supplies since it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Prices for items were at the time of writing and are subject to change.

The supplies I recommend are primarily for painting landscapes and seascapes; feel free to take a look at some of my paintings to see if my style is something you’d be interested in learning, where my oil painting style and my acrylic painting style are effectively much the same.

Where to Get Acrylic Supplies

For procuring supplies, I highly recommend Dick Blick. Their online prices tend to be better than in-store, with the exception of in-store promotions, and they’ll price match if you’re a Dick Blick member (which is free!). The only drawback to the price matching is they also factor in the cost of shipping, so if your order is less than however much the minimum is for free shipping that day (currently it’s $35), the total online price might not always reflect as cheaper.

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If you have a local artist or art supply store, I recommend checking out their prices and inventory as well.


I recommend the below Blick Studios starter set ($26). I like this because when you mix your blue and your red, you get a pretty nice purple instead of a grey mess.

For those of you who are interested in what I mean by that, the short of is that if you were to choose your own blue and red, you have to make sure both are either ‘cool’ (aka bluish) or ‘warm’ (aka reddish). Typically, red and blue is purple, right? However, if you mix a warm blue (such as ultramarine blue) with a cool red (such as alizarin crimson), you get more of a grey. If you mix a cool blue (such as phthalo blue) with a warm red (such as cadmium red medium), you also get a grey!

Blick Studio Acrylics: Set of 6
From left to right: Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Cadmium Red Medium Hue, Ultramarine Blue, Mars Black, Phthalo Green, Titanium White. Each is 4 fl oz, or 120 mL.

Note that ‘phthalo’ is pronounced ‘thay-low,’ where it rhymes with the word ‘halo’ or ‘J-Lo.’ The ‘ph’ is kind of like the ‘pt’ sound in ‘pterodactyl’: ABSOLUTELY SILENT. I’ve also heard it pronounced as ‘thallow,’ where it rhymes with shallow. Your pick.

Outside of this starter kit, I personally prefer the Liquitex brand over Blick, since Liquitex has a 400mL size squeeze bottle that can be refilled—perfect for when I need to consolidate paints of the same hue. This is something you can keep in mind when purchasing paint in larger quantities.


I recommend this set of paint brushes by Princeton Real Value ($18). I actually recommend getting 2 sets of these for if you need the same brush for two different colors you’re swapping between. There’s also a set on Amazon that’s eligible for Prime shipping and is only $7 for a pack of 2, which sounds like a good deal, but I haven’t used them myself.

Princeton Real Value Brush Set - 9155, White Taklon, Long Handle, Set of 5

I really love filbert brushes (4th from the left in the above), and I call them my “workhorse brushes” since I use them so often. ‘Filbert’ refers to the shape of the brush bristles, and like all brush shapes, comes in various sizes (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.) where a larger number = larger brush. As a result, my paint brush arsenal has a few more filbert brushes in various sizes. So as an alternative to getting a second set of the above paint brushes, you can opt to get duplicates of whichever paint brushes you’ll need more than one at a time for.

Painting Knife and Palette Paper

Technically, a palette knife is for mixing paints on your painting palette, and a painting knife is for applying paint onto your canvas. I use a painting knife for both, and since I primarily paint with paint brushes, I use my painting knife for mixing colors on my palette. I recommend the Blick Style 6 ($7) for both.

Blick Painting Knife - Style 6

If you would prefer a plastic painting knife, I recommend this plastic Richeson Plastic Painting Knife – Diamond Trowel ($2).

Diamond Trowel

I recommend Googling how to mix paints using a painting knife if you’re not familiar with the motion, such as by checking this video by Will Kemp Art School which has good examples.

I recommend the Blick Studio Disposable Palette Pads. The size depends on how much paint you’ll be mixing at a time; the more paint you’ll be mixing, the larger the surface area you’ll need. I personally use the 12″x16″ palette paper when painting on a 16″x20″ or 24″x26″ canvas.

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Even cheaper alternatives if you already have them on hand or can get them for free: Disposable butter knife + paper plates, preferably plates with a waxy or styrofoam coating to reduce paint adsorption onto the plate.


The Blick Super Value Canvas Packs are pretty cheap online. In fact, they’re cheaper than some of the canvas panels (the flat canvases) I’ve seen in-store. But I recommend higher quality canvases than these once your painting skills improve so that your work of art will be physically more durable. Blick super value canvas packs
I like the 16×20″s because it’s a size that looks good hanging on your wall, and because the larger the painting, the easier it is to paint in terms of technique, but not necessarily in terms of making enough paint. This is the size that most ‘Paint n Sip’ places use.

Below is an example of three 16x20s I have hanging in my apartment (I used two 1.5″ wire nails to hang each, and used a leveler to get the alignment perfectly horizontal):

For beginners who want to take it slow, I recommend the 12″x16″ if you want to derp around and not commit to an entire painting, or if you’re having trouble mixing colors/mixing enough paint.


An easel isn’t 100% required. At my parent’s house, I used to use our stand up piano plus 4 paper towels (wherever the bottom of the canvas would come into contact with the piano), and would oil paint on top of it. You essentially need a steady place to prop up your easel so that it’s for the most part vertical.

Otherwise, this Blick aluminum easel for under $25 is sturdy and lightweight, can fold or be disassembled into a straight line, and can fit easels with a height of 24″. This is the easel I love using when painting at home.

If you plan on plein air painting (painting outdoors) or prefer to stand, I recommend this adjustable 2-in-1 Blick aluminum tripod travel easel ($33) instead, since it can function as a regular easel or a standing easel. It’s a little finicky so I use the above easel instead of this one when I’m at home…and if you really want to, you could get both like I did!!

I highly recommend aluminum over wood, due to weight, and I’m also not a fan of any H-frame easels since they take up a lot of space when stored.


You’ll need paper towels to wipe your paint brushes and palette knives with (when switching colors), and two receptacles for water. I reuse two disposable plastic cups.

For hanging your paintings, I recommend using two wire/common nails from Target to hang a 16×20. You can get away with just one nail, but your painting is more stable hanging on two.

For heavier paintings, I recommend adding wire to the back, and using picture hangers, such as this one from Target that can support up to 20 pounds.

My LASIK Experience

For those who are eligible, and if you think it might be worth it—I highly highly recommend LASIK!! For those who are seriously considering it, I wrote this detailed account of MY experiences. Fair warning that it’s not a short read; it’s aimed toward people who want to know all about something before doing it themselves. Jump to “Procedure Itself” if you want to learn about the actual surgery.

My LASIK procedure was a lot easier than I ever could have expected, and it was not terrifying for me at all. I got mine done in January 2020, at the NVISION Eye Center in Torrance (Los Angeles), CA. Amanda—whom I met during my free consultation—is the reason why I chose to go with NVISION, and Dr. Lusby did an awesome job with the procedure.  I wanted to write this article to alleviate any concerns or fears of friends and family who are considering it. *Casts spell: “Dispel Fear of the Unknown”*

Disclaimer: Individual results may vary. The information herein is not professional medical advice, and merely a recount of my own personal experiences, which happen to be very positive. It is also not meant to be prescriptive nor comprehensive—for example, I don’t mention how you shouldn’t squeeze your eyes the day of your surgery since it might dislodge the flap, etc.—so be sure to read and follow all instructions provided by your medical professional + medicine bottles.

Why I Wanted LASIK: Pain Points

  • When I travel, I usually stay at hostels or Airbnbs due to cost. This means there might not be enough countertop space for my toiletries, and it’s usually a hassle ensuring a sanitary environment for putting in and removing my monthly contacts.
    • Having to bring glasses, prescription sunnies, contacts, contact case + solution, and a backup pair of contacts…takes up a lot of space. Some of you know I love shopping, and as a result own TOO MANY THINGS!!
  • When I go backpacking or camping, I usually don’t have a reliable place to wash my hands. This means I have to bring both my glasses and swap between the two: if it’s shaded, it’s too dark to see with my prescription sunnies, and without my regular glasses, I can’t appreciate the views.
  • I prefer wearing glasses over contacts since glasses don’t make my eyes as dry. But when I go skiing, I wear contacts so I can wear snow goggles…except, at higher altitudes, and with indoor heating, the air is dryer.
  • My glasses have smears and are always falling down, because my face is oily and I have an Asian nose bridge.

Every time I got nervous about my upcoming LASIK procedure, I would reattribute my nervousness to excitement; I would mentally go over and envision the future state for each of my paint points above, to reaffirm my excitement.

I had scheduled my procedure in December 2019, for January of 2020—so around 1.5 months in advance, because I wanted to use my 2020 FSA toward it. Flexible Spending Account = non-taxable money that you can reimburse yourself with toward medical expenses.

During these 1.5 months until my surgery, every time someone asked if I was nervous, it triggered me to think of my future state. Eventually, that excitement (formerly nervousness) made me resolved—I couldn’t wait to not need glasses nor contacts!!

Impetus for LASIK

I have 2 close friends, and I knew a third person—a coworker—who had gotten LASIK done. All were around 20-25 when they got LASIK. Knowing it was possible for people my age to get LASIK, and hearing them answer all my questions about it, made it feel psychologically attainable for myself.

However, it wasn’t until the end of 2019, a year after talking to my third friend, when I finally decided to schedule my free LASIK consultation. The real reason why I was seriously considering it? I was on my last pair of contacts.

I was using the hydrogen peroxide cleaning solution for my soft hydrogel contacts so that I could wear each of my monthly contacts for 2 months, instead of 1 month. Ordering contacts in the USA requires an active prescription (<1 year ago)……..and having a SoCal based Kaiser Permanente membership but living in NorCal meant that I had to USE THE PHONE, and not the website, to schedule all my NorCal appointments. (My mom works for Kaiser, I’m still under 26/can be considered a dependent, and she lives in SoCal: hence, the SoCal based membership).

So it was literally easier for me to consider LASIK than it was to try to schedule an eye doctor appointment, after 2 years of not having one. By the way, you’re supposed to get your eyes checked once a year. Note to Kaiser Permanente: Please make it easier to schedule phone appointments. Also, every time I call, my MRN doesn’t get recognized, so I have to hear the error message thrice in order to be rerouted to a live operator.

Fortunately, I knew that my eyeglasses prescription between 2015 and 2017 hadn’t changed, at least in terms of SPH and CYL, and that even in 2019 my eyeglasses still worked fine. My Axis did change a little, which indicated that the extent of my astigmatism had changed.

I had received a coupon from the LASIK Vision Institute in May of 2019, so I scheduled a free consultation with them in December of 2019. To be honest, I didn’t have a good experience at their Oakland location. So I texted my high school friend and asked where she had gotten hers done, looked at the Yelp reviews for NVISION Torrance (very very reassuring, let me tell you), and scheduled my free consultation for over winter break, when I would be back in Los Angeles with my parents.

Consultation at NVISION Eye Center, Torrance

Whew, no eye puffs at all. At NVISION Torrance, I was with Amanda [redacted] the entire time for my free consultation. She measured my eyes, and since I was wearing eyeglasses, she also measured my eyeglasses. NVISION Torrance (aka Amanda) had way better bedside manners than LASIK Institute Center Oakland, which is why that, the Yelp reviews, and no pressure to make a commitment then and there made it such an easy decision to go with NVISION. Since I had developed a rapport with and had trust in Amanda, I chose to have my surgery scheduled at the Torrance location and not at the San Francisco center, even though I live in San Francisco.

I was eligible for LASIK because my cornea was thick enough for how much they needed to correct it by. My contacts prescription for my left eye is -2.75, my right eye -4.75, and both have astigmatism. When I asked what the correctable range was, it was surprisingly high to the point that when I got home, I googled how bad the eyesight of someone who’s legally blind is. I forget what the eligibility limits are but you’ll have to go to a consultation and see if your eye shape in general is eligible—don’t let an eyesight of -16 deter you from the free consultation part, at least.

Pre-Operation Checklist

Measuring the Eyes

After the free consultation to determine eligibility, and before the surgery itself, I needed to go in for a dilation and for my eyes to be measured again, so that those measurements could be used for the LASIK corrective surgery. I will henceforth refer to this appointment as my ‘dilation.’

Since contacts affect the shape of your eyes, and I have soft contacts, I couldn’t wear them starting 2 weeks prior to my dilation. If you wear rigid contacts, you might have to avoid wearing them for longer than 2 weeks. Reminder that this is not professional advice.

I scheduled my dilation for Thursday Jan 30, the day before my LASIK surgery on Friday Jan 31, 2020, so that my measurements could be as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

I did more measurements, similar to during the consultation; again, no eye puffs. My eyes continued to be dilated for around 6 hours before they went back to normal.

Leaving the dilation, when I put on my prescription sunglasses, I couldn’t read anything on my phone…EVERYTHING WAS BLURRY!!! At first I started freaking out, because I needed to drive to Cycle Gear before they closed, and I didn’t know how to get there. But don’t worry—at least for me, removing my prescription sunnies allowed me to better read the text and Google Maps on my phone just fine. I think it had something to do with how they said that dilating your eyes also relaxes some of your eye muscles.

Far-sighted viewing during the day was no issue with my prescription sunglasses while dilated. I had skiied without glasses the weekend before (so that I could wear my ski goggles), and realized as long as I knew where objects larger than a basketball were, and could read traffic and street signs, I could safely navigate.

Contura Eligibility

During my dilation, I also asked to test if I would be eligible for Contura. I wasn’t.

Contura is proprietary software that better/more precisely measures the contours of your cornea, and is optional. Because it’s proprietary, it’s an additional $600 to use it during the surgery. Since my eyesight was decently bad, and because I wanted to increase my chances of getting 20/15 instead of 20/20 vision, I went into my dilation hoping that I would be eligible.

Unfortunately, my eyes were too dry and I couldn’t open them wide enough (not sure if being Asian is related) to capture good enough images to use as data points, so I wasn’t eligible.

Fortunately, I saved myself $600. It turns out a decent number of patients at NVISION Torrance get 20/15 vision anyway, without Contura. Ultimately, I’m glad I didn’t spend the additional $600.

Other Preparations Prior to Surgery

Starting a week before the surgery, I needed to put preservative-free eye drops in each operating eye, around 4 times a day. Amanda gave me really good advice that I would not have figured out myself:

You can re-cap each eye drop capsule!!!!! No need to throw them away after one use. I got around 5-7 uses out of each.

Cappable eye drop capsules
Above: Unopened. Below: Recapped. The preservative-free eye drops can be used more than once; each capsule can be recapped.

It might take some effort forcing the lid back on the first time, but once the hole has been stretched out, or if you reuse a cap from a previous capsule, recapping it is no problemo.

Starting a week before the surgery, I also needed to consume 2000 mg of fish oil a day. I was taking 1 pill a day until I realized that each pill is only 1000 mg…so make sure to read the instructions for your pills and to double check your dosage. 

Starting a day before the procedure, I needed to incorporate the anti-inflammatory and the antibiotic drops, also 4x a day. Since ensuring I did this was pretty important, I sent alarms for myself. For these alarms, I used the ‘Harp’ ringtone, which was gentler and different from my wake up ringtone, ‘Playtime.’


Because Kaiser Permanente is my healthcare provider and they’re weird about accepting prescriptions outside of the Kaiser Permanente network, I purchased my pre+post-op kit from NVISION. I did this the day of my free consultation (Dec 13, 2019), which was also the day I scheduled my LASIK surgery. The kit included all 3 drops and the fish oils, and it was $135. I received an itemized invoice for it so I could submit it to my FSA.

Day of LASIK Procedure

Three main reasons why the procedure was so chill for me:

  • I was more excited than I was nervous
    • Having a list of things to look forward to, and scheduling so far in advance helped a bit with that
  • I have no issues swallowing pills the size of a fish oil capsule
    • Btw: NVISION Torrance gives you Xanax and Ibuprofen to ingest right before the procedure. Both were smaller than my fish oil capsules
  • I have no issues with eye drops; I don’t flinch when self-administering eye drops without a mirror, nor when others put them in my eye

If any of the above is not true for you, I highly recommend PRACTICING MAKES PROGRESS so that day of the surgery, you have one fewer thing for your nerves to get jumbled about.

During my free consultation, I was able to watch Amanda’s own LASIK video and hear her narration, so I didn’t have to ask about what to expect leading up to the surgery. I also asked a lot of questions about the procedure (how the laser tracked my eye movement and how it would shut off if for some reason I looked away), had faith in NVISION (and also that they would have thought of edge cases such as power outages or earthquakes), and my friend plus her father had gotten LASIK at NVISION Torrance.

After checking into the reception at 9:30am, I…:

  • Waited around half an hour
  • Had my name called to go inside
  • Paid the $4,600 for my procedure with credit card
  • Set an alarm for 8:10am the next day, for my 1-day follow-up at 9:30am
  • Watched a video of Dr [redacted] explaining what to expect
  • Had anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drops administered to my eyes by someone else
  • Swallowed 1 Xanax and 2 Ibuprofens
  • Had numbing drops administered to my eyes by someone else
  • Met Dr. [redacted] in-person, who answered some of my questions and described the procedure to me, which I will describe in a bit
  • 10:45am, Got moved to a comfier waiting room, where they put a blue disposable medical cap on my head (my hair was already in a ponytail)
    • Here I passed out for 30 minutes. I was super tired as a result of not being a morning person + the Xanax
  • Got called into the operating room, where I lied down
  • Was reminded of important instructions: Keep your eye on the green dot, and open both eyes when told to open; close both eyes when told to close
  • Had cotton pads placed above my ears to prevent drops from getting into my ears
  • By noon, I was back in the car! My mom drove me to and from the surgery ❤

During my free consultation, Amanda had shown me a video of her procedure and described what was going on, so being able to match that with the things I was seeing above my eyeball in the operating room did a lot to placate my desire to understand what was going on. Feel free to ask for a narrated video of the process during your free consultation if they have one available.

They operate on your right eye first, then left. This was fortunate for me because I’m right eye dominant, and it’s easier for my right eye to focus on things. The other eye is covered with something so that you’re only seeing out of one eye at a time during the procedure.

During the entire time, the doctor also lubricates your eyes not with eye drops, but instead by touching it with a little tool that has eye drop solution on of it.

Procedure Itself: Creating the Flap

To start, they press a device on top of your operating eye that perforates your cornea with little air bubbles, using a laser. The perforation is to allow the doctor to lift the corneal flap out of the way. At this time, your operative eye sees black and some twinkly blue lights.

All you feel is pressure because your eyes have been numbed, and because the device creates a vacuum suction seal around your eye to prevent it from moving. You still try to look as straight as possible, which was difficult for me since I had no visual reference point for my eye to focus on.

Good news is that because of the suction, your eyeball is pretty much stuck to the device.

Procedure Itself: Reshaping the Corneal Tissue 

I had to focus on the center of the green dot, which also tracks your eye movements. Sometimes it gets fuzzy and larger, other times it’s crisp and smaller. This is when the excimer laser resurfaces your corneal tissue.

If for some reason you were to look away, the machine would shut off and everything would have to be restarted.

There’s also a weird smell when your corneal tissue is being resurfaced. The second time it happened, i.e. with my left eye, it reminded me of crispy fried chicken. I really didn’t want to find the smell of my burning cornea appetizing, because…GROSS, so I forced myself to think of something else.

Procedure Itself: Eyes Wide Open

Each eye only takes around 3-5 minutes. It was quicker than I thought, and I had no issues with not blinking—there are forceps that prevent your eyes from blinking, so all you have to do is relax. The Xanax, lying down, and looking at the green dot in the distance helped.

The only time I twitched was with my left eye, and I think it’s because I focused on what was right in front of my eyeball instead of looking into the distance, at the green light yonder. *insert Gatsby reference here.*

Day of: Right after the Surgery

They added eye shields to my face, and I got a photo with Dr. [redacted] which I’ll receive later. On top of the eye shields, they put on the curved sunglasses they had given me that day, and I also received 2 sleeping pills. I offered me another Xanax because I was able to walk in a straight line after the first one, and I took it. After my second Xanax, I needed my mom’s help to maintain my walking balance.

My eyes had generated mucus so when I opened my eyes, my eyelashes were stuck to my face, meaning I couldn’t open my eyes all the way, and I also couldn’t smile that much since I didn’t want my cheek movement to tear my eyelashes off. Until the next day, I didn’t realize the stuck eyelashes was a result of my own eye mucus, and not something they had administered for my own healing process.

They told me not to squeeze my eyes shut, to keep my eyes closed for at least 5 hours since my eyelids would act as bandaids, and to avoid reading or looking at things close up. I also couldn’t shower. But I was able to eat lunch and watch a bit of TV, and all of that day, I didn’t respond to anyone on my phone and only made video (as opposed to text) updates for my Close Friends on Instagram.

In car right after surgery
The complete look. 😉 Eye shields + curved sunglasses provided by NVISION Torrance. The tape is to hold the two separate eye shields together, and I was also provided with extra tape for just in case the shields fall off my face.

After my mom drove us home, I wolfed down my lunch, then fell asleep for 5-6 hours. Every now and then, my eyes felt like they were burning so my eyes would tear up, and the tears would make things a little better. Then I woke up to the smell of food, ate dinner (moreso out of boredom rather than hunger), and then took a sleeping pill to help me fall asleep.

Face shields. My left eye was more closed than the other, but both eyelashes were stuck to my face.

1 Day After the Surgery

Since the clinic couldn’t be sure whether my vision would be fit for driving, my mom drove us to and from my 1-day follow-up on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 at 9:30am. I recognized some of the patients there from the previous day. Only my left eye felt like it was burning every now and then, at which point it would tear up and things would feel better (an improvement from the night before, when both eyes were tearing up).

They took off my eye shields, wiped the mucus off my eyelashes and told me that it was my body that had generated it, and administered eye drops.

They checked my eyes: my eyesight will fluctuate for around 3-6 months, but at the time I was almost 20/20 in each eye, and almost 20/15 with both eyes. They told me I could now shower, and then sent me home, reminding me to wear sunglasses.

At this point my left eye had improved, so with the eye shields gone, I was able to preemptively add lubricating eye drops whenever I felt that my left eye was going to feel like it was burning.

For the next 7 days, I have to add eye drops 4 times a day (antibiotic, anti-inflammatory), the lubricating ones as needed (I’m noticing it’s around once every hour), and continue consuming the fish oil capsules until I’m done with the bottle. At my 1-week post-op they’ll determine whether I still need to take the antibiotic or anti-inflammatory drops.

During the 1-week, I’ll also be sure to remind them how my 1-month follow up is currently scheduled for in San Francisco, because almost everyone at NVISION Torrance has expressed concerns that the SF location is either already closed, or might possibly close lol.

1 Week After the Surgery

Day 2: Eyes aren’t that dry! I’ve only had to lubricate once every 2 hours, as opposed to once an hour.

It’s still the day after the surgery, so I’ll update this as needed. But the scary part is over—knowing what to expect during the surgery itself!!

If you’re considering LASIK, I recommend writing down my name as a referrer since when I wrote down my friend’s name, I (as the new patient) got a discount for having been referred by her. 

9 Months After the Surgery

I haven’t updated this in a while, but I am so so glad I got LASIK!! I thought the biggest benefits would be when I was traveling. But actually, the biggest benefits have been the daily convenience of not having to deal with glasses or contacts. I’ve really loved not having to remove my contacts when I’m tired at night, nor keep track of where I put my glasses. It’s been amazing not having to deal with slippery glasses that I have to wipe with a lens wipe every few hours because my face is so oily. I also don’t have to plan out when I wear contacts based on the activities I’ll be doing or how many photos I’ll be taking or how many times I’ll be changing my clothes.

In terms of dryness, my eyes stopped being dry after a few months. Now, the only time they’re dry is when I wake up (and I haven’t been blinking aka lubricating my eyes in a while), or when the air is really dry!

Why Does the Air Feel Drier at Higher Elevations, and When the Heater is on?

At higher elevations, the absolute pressure of water vapor—aka, absolute humidity in this case—decreases due to the lower air pressure at higher elevations, even though relative humidity, relative to the concentration of everything else in the air, might be the same for a given temperature.

[Still trying to understand why the air feels dryer when the heater is on, but something something to do with warmer air can ‘store’ more water, and that as a result draws out moisture from our skin]

Becoming Passionate for Promoting Inclusion and Diversity

Originally posted on July 24, 2017, to my company’s internal blogspace.

Two days ago, June 22nd, 2017, I went to the Authentic Leadership summit hosted in San Francisco by HAERG (Hispanic American ERG) and AAERG (African American ERG), where ERG stands for employee resource group. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend since it re-sparked my passion for inclusion and diversity (I&D). I’ve noticed that in my engineering projects, sometimes someone will get shut down just because everyone else hasn’t caught up and that someone is in the minority, or because the assumptions that the rest of the group identified were wrong. You don’t get that chance to understand where that minority is coming from until you press further and try to understand their implicit assumptions. As a result, I try to be open-minded and receptive to people I don’t understand. Just because I don’t agree with where someone is coming from, who’s to say that I’m right and they’re wrong, when their values and how they prioritize those values differ from my own? Are they not human, and as such, valid? (Sometimes people have their facts wrong, but there’s no wrong or right as to how you value your priorities).


But first I’d like to talk about how I got interested in I&D during college, and how that resulted in my involvement in this summit despite being neither Hispanic nor African American. While this summit was open to all ethnicities since I&D is a topic for discussion indiscriminate of demographic, it was primarily intended for the constituents of HAERG and AARG. And I’m involved with HAERG, all because 2 people were inclusive when I joined the collegiate analog, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).


My junior year of college, a friend and chemical engineering classmate of mine was at the Activities Fair. Gaby was tabling for SHPE, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. While I was walking past, she said, “Patricia, you should join SHPE! You don’t have to be hispanic, this girl isn’t and she’s in it” and she pointed to the Asian girl standing next to her. I decided to attend the first GBM (general body meeting), and when I did, there were exactly 2 gals who made me feel welcome. They did so by not just tolerating me, but also actively making me feel welcome by talking to me, and taking an interest in my individual self. I strive to do that as well when there is ever a newcomer or stranger in a group where I’m an insider. 


Before I joined SHPE as a junior, I was also on the executive board for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) my freshman to junior years, and was really involved: sometimes I was the only one at our events who had had a genuine conversation with every single person in the room, since I was invested in personally making everyone feel welcome and as passionate about SWE as I was. By the second year I was on the executive board, I realized that I wanted to involve more men in the conversation, and to expose to them the conversations that I had been exposed to. Being a part of SWE and going to the workshops at the national conference made me more mindful of my social context, and consequently more deliberate in my actions and words. However, when I proposed we be more deliberate in recruiting men to my mini exec (president, VP, treasurer; I was secretary), they were polite enough to not say no to changing the status quo, but also indifferent enough to say that I could take that initiative, but implied that I was on my own. If I had more male friends at the time, I would have invited them to come to SWE events with me, but honestly most of my friends were female lol.


My experiences with SWE made me realize that promoting women in engineering also involved promoting D&I overall, and that I could promote women in engineering within SHPE, and ethnically diverse engineers within SWE. I also realized that the impacts that you have on people are at the ground level, and I strove to model inclusive behavior and to give others tangible examples.


One such example I’d like to share happened /within/ a SWE national conference, ironically. We were having a CMU section dinner at Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles, and we had three tables with 4, 6, and 6 people. As the night progressed, I noticed that my table and the table next to mine were having a good time, and that the table of 4 had dwindled to 3, since the president joined the table to my right. The 3 gals at their table were not talking, at all, which was weird since my conversations with vice president were also very forthcoming and she was good at “taking charge.” To be fair, the 2 other girls were freshmen and also very shy. I observed them for a few more minutes to see what what happen, when finally I decided to go up to them, and say “You should join us at our table!” Immediately their faces lit up. The invitation legitimately had a profound effect on their emotions, and it was empowering how much a simple offer made.


Being inclusive isn’t just along demographic divisors or socioeconomic boundaries. It lies along any social boundary, and even making eye contact with everyone in a group when telling a story–or talking about a problem, or discussing a solution out loud for collaboration–makes a huge difference as to making people feel included. My call to arms is to practice inclusivity in everything we do, and to be mindful of our unconscious biases to promote diversity.

Tactical Methods for Promoting Inclusion & Diversity

Originally posted on August 2nd, 2017, to my company’s internal blogspace. 

There have been times where I wish I did or said something, and hearing about tactics or phrases to use helps me to be more prepared. I would love to hear your stories and tactics, or of ones you’ve heard of, that have helped you to be more inclusive or to promote diversity. Please comment below!

Eye Contact:

Make eye contact with everyone when having a conversation or discussing a problem that you want others to collaborate on. You can also smile at them, being mindful not to take it to excess and make others potentially uncomfortable.


Explicit Invitations:

If you’re on the inside, invite those who might feel like they’re on the outside. I know it’s effort on your behalf, but it is much easier for you than it is for them to invite themselves. For example, I was a dinner for a student organization, and there were 3 tables: One with 4 people, two others with 6. The 6-people tables were having fun and there were conversations going on, however, looking over at the table of now 3 (since one person joined one of the other tables), no one was talking and people were looking down at their plates out of awkwardness. While it was so easy for their former 4th person to join another table, it wasn’t for them. So I went up to that table and said that they could join us, and as soon as I said that their faces lit up. The effect of an invitation was instantaneous and also much more positive than I expected, and the unexpectedness of their relief, in this situation which was physically obvious, motivates me to promote inclusion.


When People Say Stupid Things But You Want to Encourage Effortless Expression: 

If someone says something ridiculous, kindly ask them to explain what they mean. If they dismiss your request for an explanation, insist on it and explain that you’re not sure what they meant but you genuinely want to learn––hearing about their reasons and thought process is a learning opportunity for both parties, and you get to learn of a perspective that’s different from yours. They might have caught something that you didn’t––I’ve met some brilliant people who are frustrated when people dismiss an idea they’ve tried to share, because everyone else hasn’t caught up yet––or you can bring them up to speed so they can better collaborate with the rest of the team.


When People Say Stupid Things And You Want To Make Them Feel Stupid:

You can also ask for repeated further explanations when someone says something socially ridiculous or offensive. This will either make them think about what they said and immediately understand the ridiculousness of their behavior, or they will feel self-conscious trying to explain it.

Do not view this as an opportunity to correct people, and don’t be mocking with it either, but instead try understand where they are coming from and to enable them to understand where you are coming from. Also, no one is willing to change or admit to change when they’re feeling defensive. And sometimes you might find out that the explanation is low self-esteem, which isn’t an excuse but a directive for you to be even more a role model of appreciative and inclusive behavior.
Or, jokingly agree with and blow out of proportion what they said. Agreeing with them puts them off guard, and this tactic was inspired by friends who jokingly take things the wrong way deliberately: “Your hair looks good today!” “Thank you, I agree that it doesn’t look good outside of today.”

One time, a male colleague commented to my female manager that she wasn’t wearing makeup, and that it’s probably “because she’s married,” implying that the only reason why she would ever wear makeup is for a man (assuming heteronormativity). To be completely fair, in the past she’s joked about messy hair days not being a concern “because she’s married,” but there’s a difference between making that joke yourself and making that joke about someone else. She and her husband had recently wed, and were still in the honeymoon phase and giddy about their new marital status to each other.

So I immediately quipped, “Yeah Erica, why do you even have a job? You’re married!”

I love my manager and she responded instantly to that with, “Yeah, I know right––why bother trying at all––I’m married!”

Our male coworker felt so ashamed. He immediately realized how his words came off, and sinking into his cubicle, very obviously ashamed, he said he hoped no one heard him say that. (He is a great coworker and this was a one time faux pas).


Proactively becoming more open-minded
It’s okay to ask genuine questions. A few notes: Instead of asking “What gender are you?” you can ask what pronouns they use. Instead of asking “Where are you from/Where are your parents from?” you can ask for their ethnicity. I’ve met friends who complain that if they have a scar or something else that makes them stand out, that they would rather people ask about it than be stared out. This is not true of everyone, but hearing this has given me the courage to ask uncomfortable questions, for the sake of being less “ignorant.” For example, when I was corrected on how “Indian” isn’t a language, or Africa isn’t a country, I had to ask for an explanation to understand that different dialects are spoken in India, and that Africa is a continent (however South Africa is a country).

Be an ally
Join an ERG where you don’t identify with the minority demographic and be an ally. I forget if there’s a term for it, but there’s a psychological concept where something you believe in is more credible if it’s not something that’s obviously in your own self-interest.

For example, a politician talking about their plans for improving retirement benefits. In front of a crowd of geriatric folks, you’re not certain whether he’s saying that just to get votes. However, if they are talking about improved retirement benefits to young adults, then you can presume the politician has a genuine passion for better retirement benefits, and isn’t just talking about it for the votes.

For example, a male promoting women engineer makes people wonder/think about why he is doing so, and makes it easier to realize that increased diversity and inclusion leads to better results for the entire team.

Taking the Extra Time and Thoughtfulness to Encourage Diversity is Worth the Collaborative and Innovative Results:
The cost of increased diversity in thought and backgrounds is how it takes more time, which is part of the reason why some people haven’t allowed its benefits to manifest–you have more ideas to go through, but also, more ideas to choose and draw inspiration from. Not every collaborative effort is as seamless as when the master builders in the Lego Movie all build different parts of a submarine and seamlessly assemble it, with no part redundancies nor without getting in each other’s way, but it’s still worth the progress.

Engineer to Consultant – Credentializing different skills, ‘Conceptual details’

Originally published August 2nd, 2017 to my company’s internal blogspace.


My background was in engineering, and as an engineer all our interviews were behavioral. That was because our technical skills were assumed, and our interpersonal skills had to be credentialized. I remember being asked questions about a time there was a conflict and how I handled it, or what was a time when I made a mistake and what did I do, etc.


However, I’ve learned that as a consultant, it’s the flip: Your interpersonal skills are assumed, and your technical acumen is what you have to convey. This aha moment happened when I was helping with a PowerPoint deck that was to be presented to the client, and it contained a few 1-pagers. Mine was among them. What I noticed was that in everyone’s Background section, most people referred to themselves in the third person and summarized their technical experiences or skills. “So-and-so is an expert in this field having spent xx years in it.” Meanwhile, mine tried to showcase my ~personality~ and the very first sentence, verbatim, was:

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA; went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA; and now I’m here San Francisco!

Three main differences from the rest of the 1-pagers: I wrote in first person, I talked about my personal life as an ice breaker, and I used an exclamation mark. Noticing these differences made me more mindful of how I presented myself. What I also like is how the people I’ve spoken to at Accenture tell me to never change, whenever I’ve express concerns about being different. I really value that advice, and while I did edit my 1-pager to be more like the other’s, I modified it only so that I would come off as truer to how I want others to perceive me. For example, on my 1-pager I still kept the part about promoting inclusion and diversity in my Background section, because that’s something I value.


Staying true to yourself also allows you to contribute in ways that others can’t, because you are unique. I attended a case competition in college, and it was my very first time developing a pitch. I had 2 business majors on my team, and when I asked if we needed more details as to how our product worked, the response was that it wasn’t as important as the user story. I disagreed, but didn’t push it further to be able to compromise in the middle, since I had assumed that they had more experience with case competitions even though this was also their first one.


What ended up happening was that our team didn’t win despite our presenter’s excellent presentation skills, and when I asked one of the judges for feedback (the Deloitte judges encouraged us to ask for feedback after the judging was over, and I appreciate that Accenture also encourages us to ask for feedback), he said that they wanted to hear more about how the product worked. The panel of judges didn’t have enough confidence in our product because they didn’t know what features differentiated it from similar products. Upon hearing that, I was relieved, but also confused because I had also heard that investors aren’t interested in the “technical details.”


When I asked him about that discrepancy–“I thought talking about stuff like that was too technical”–he replied that to him, technical details is going into product specifications, numbers, materials. To me, technical details at their broadest describe how a product or piece of technology works, as opposed to the fabrication parameters for that technology. For example, I can describe how one of my engineering projects conceptually worked: “Our hydraulic cardiac sleeve consists of inflatable tubes that wrap around the heart. When these tubes are inflated with saline, they apply pressure to the external of the heart, compressing it and helping it to pump out blood when timed to the heart’s EKG.” versus “This hydraulic sleeve wraps around the heart and helps it to pump out blood.” The former sentence is not considered too technical, because I didn’t talk about how the silicone mold we used had a Shore hardness of 00 50, how the 3D-printed parts were printed with Ecoflex filaments, how the tubes each had an internal inflated diameter of 3mm, etc.


Realizing this, I gained a better understanding of what ‘technical details’ means, even though some people might use that phrase when they’re really asking for something to be ‘more technical,’ which means more technical but not necessarily as technical as ‘technical details.’ I think a good interim descriptor would be ‘conceptual details.’


I’d love to hear your thoughts and observations on engineer turned consultants, whether you identify as one or not.