Personel Changes

My supervisor’s position has been filled. I am so happy that one of our colleagues has stepped up to replace our previous boss. She is the new Assistant Dean for Library & Technology. She is young, flexible, and understandable. I have had a great working relationship with her; therefore, my position won’t change much.

My Web Content Specialist is moving on. I had a feeling that she wouldn’t stay long, but everyone loved her. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to the candidate that I wanted to hire and make the offer. She accepted the position. Unfortunately the Web Content Specialist position might vanish in the future.

We’re going through changes and turnovers. For now, I am still part of the Library and Technology group. I hope it will stay that way, but I am just a small fish in the pond. I don’t know where I will be moved next. I am not going to stress over it though. I’ll adapt or move on if necessary. Once the kids all grow up, I’ll have more options since I wouldn’t need the flexibility anymore.

The Law School, the Library and Technology group in particular, is still a fantastic place to work and raise my family. At this point of my life, my only concern and responsibility are my family. My career takes a backseat in term of trying to move upward. I am content where I am at.

Home Office

After two years of working from home, I finally put together an official office in my bedroom. During the pandemic, I just plopped my MacBook Pro on my ironing board, sat on a high stool, and worked. Last year, I broke the ironing board. I replaced the ironing board with a small glass table and the high stool with an Ikea’s stepping stool. I didn’t want to take up my entire bedroom with office desk and chair since I only work two days a week at home. I also want my bedroom to have as much space as possible.

Last week, my wife bought a used kitchen cabinet to replace another cabinet that looks like a table. The shorter sides of the the cabinet were narrow and the height is just right for a tall stool. I brought it up to my bed it flushed it right next to the dresser. Then I setup the Panasonic Home Sound System my next-door neighbor threw away last year before he moved.

I am using the sound system to play music and I am surprised how good it sounds. I like a bit of background music while I work and I also wanted some soothing jazz when I sleep. I have been listening to Bill Evan’s solo piano albums at a low volume at night. I was actually looking for a used CD player to play my CD collection and the sound system was just perfect.

I am now loving my simple office.

Work-Life Balance

I work Monday and Friday from home and Tuesday to Thursday at the office. On a typical day, I wake up at 7:00 am sharp to start my routine. Around 7:15 am, I wake up Đạo then head down the kitchen to prepare lunch for him and myself. We go out the door by 7:40 am.

On Monday and Friday, I drop Đạo off school then go back home to get Đán and Xuân ready for school. Then I take them to school as well. I then return home again to start my job. I work straight to noon then take Vương out to lunch and the playground during my lunch break. Then we return home. He takes a nap while I continue my work. Around 2:45 pm, I pick Đạo up from school then go back home to do more work until 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm.

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I drive to work after dropping Đạo off to school. I arrive at the office around 8:30 am. I drop my lunch off the fridge and make myself a cup of latte. I head into my office and work until noon. I heat up my food and head back to my desk. I have a quick lunch and watch some YouTube, mostly on figure skating or rollerblading tutorials. Then I get back to work to 2 pm. If the weather is warm and sunshine, I use my lunch break to go to the skatepark to rollerblade. If the weather is cold or rainy, I go to the ice skating rink. Both places are about five minutes from my office. I skate for an hour then head back into the office until 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm. That one hour of taking a break and getting some exercise has motivated me to come to work. It helps me stay healthy and rejuvenate my mind. I am grateful for that flexibility.

The best part of skating at 2:00 pm is that the skatepark or the ice skating rink is mostly empty. I get plenty of room to practice. Sometimes I skate with home-schooling kids. A while ago I met a mom who took her daughter to the skatepark to skateboard. After talking to her, I learned that her seven-year-old daughter snowboards and she has a big goal for her—like Chloe Kim. This afternoon I met another mom at the skating rink. Her kids had private hockey skating lessons. I asked her a few questions and learned that the private lesson cost $90 an hour. That’s not including ice time. The public session cost $15 per person and I thought it was already expensive. The money we spend on our kids is insane. We are spending the same amount each week for Đán and Xuân to take private piano lessons. Đán seems to be into it. He practices regularly. Xuân doesn’t practice that much. Last summer, I let Đạo and Xuân take private figure skating lessons. Unfortunately, they showed no effort or interest. I ended up dropping the lessons. Now they don’t even want to go ice skating for fun. I am debating whether I should take some private lessons for ice skating, but I don’t want to pay $90 an hour. I am learning to skate on my own because I am a cheapskate.

Work’s Going Well

My supervisor exited the building for two two weeks. I miss her every time I walk by her office, but my role hasn’t changed much. In retrospect, she had been hands off in the past few years and let me handle my business. My interim supervisor is one of my colleagues. She is super chill as well. I hope she will take over the role to lead the talented team that I am proud to be a part of.

One of my colleagues who works closely with me on a day-to-day basis is technical savvy, detail oriented, and reliable. She only started a few months ago, but she already knows the ropes and how we operate. She handles most of the tasks on her own, unless she has questions for me. I am so happy that she has come on board and I hope that she will stay. We work so well together.

So far my role and responsibilities seem to work out well. I am not sure about the future, but I am treating my job as a job. Everything happens for a reason. I can’t control what I don’t have the power to control. I am just going with the flow to see where life takes me.

A Letter to My Leader

Dear Deborah,

According to my LinkedIn profile, I have been working at the law school for 10 years and 4 months. In the web industry, a decade is eternity, but my work here feels just like yesterday because of you and your leadership. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done, not just for me, but for all of us at the Law Library.

When I applied for the position of web services developer at the Law Library, I was desperate to get out of a hostile, stressful environment at my previous job. During the interview process, I didn’t think I could handle the server administration part of the job and I was being completely honest with you about it in our conversation, but you took a chance on me. Through training and learning on the job, I picked up a new set of backend skills I would never have learned on my own. Thank you for placing your trust in me.

From day one, you gave me the flexibility I needed to achieve my professional goals as well as my personal life. When I wanted to pursue the graduate program in graphic design at Mason’s School of Art, you gave me support and motivation. As a result, I was able to apply my design skills to my job by offering print design services to the law school. When I took on this position, my wife and I had one son. In seven years, we grew to four. Raising young children while working was challenging, but your understanding and accommodating made it less stressful. I could take the time I needed, especially when one of our kids got sick, to tend to my family. In return, I always made sure that I was on top of my responsibility and productivity at work.

Your management style has made my time here enjoyable. By allowing me to take responsibility for my own work, I put my time and effort into areas that met the law school expectations and improved our user experience. I prioritized projects that needed the most attention as well as tasks that weren’t urgent but necessary. When it was my time to manage others, I treated them the same way you have treated me: trust, respect, and compassion.

Through your caring nature and fostering guidance, you have put together a diverse, dedicated, and talented team. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with and learning from my wonderful, friendly colleagues. We appreciated each other’s area of expertise and worked together to come up with the best solutions for our projects. When I needed help, I could reach out to any of my colleagues—not just work-related, but also personal development. The fact that our team feels more like an extended family than just a group of co-workers and the low turnover speaks volume about your leadership skills and your accomplishments. We stick around because we have an amazing leader. It will be hard without you at the helm.

While I am sad to see you go, I am happy for your retirement. Your dedication to this job and to all of us is deeply appreciated. You deserve the time off to focus on your life and your family. Your presence and influence will truly be missed, but I wish the next chapter of your life filled with joy, relaxation, and great health. Please stay in touch.

Sincerely yours,

Donny Truong

Transferring Tasks

As my boss is counting down to her retirement, she wants to make sure that all of her responsibilities are taken care of before she checks out. Although she is an associate dean, she has been very hands on. She is more technological savvy than her peers.

For instance, one of the tasks she took on was organizing and running the school calendars for over a decade. The program she had been using was no longer supported. She would have to pay $25,000 to get it upgraded to the cloud. As a result, she tasked me and the assistant director of technology to find alternative solutions. My first priority was to use the web to solve the issues. For public events, I turned to WordPress using the Events Calendar plugin. It worked out great. Instead of entering the events myself, I created accounts for stakeholders to post their events themselves. To solve class schedules and room reservations, we decided to use 25Live since the university already had a deal with the program. We just need to customize it a bit to match our brand. We saved the law school 25 grants.

Another item on my boss’s list was the TV screens around the building. She used a program that allowed her to display news via RSS feeds, weather forecasts, slideshows, and events. That program was also outdated and would cost $12,000 a year to keep it up to date. She assigned me and the director of technology to find a solution. In our initial meeting, I just asked if the screens could display the browser and the answer was yes. Once again, the web saved me. I recreated all the features using pages in WordPress. I created a page to parse RSS feeds, a page to display events, a page with slideshows. Once I had all the pages, I combined them together using the header refresh (via meta tag). We saved the school another 12 grants.

She was very pleased with the simple solutions we provided and they were free thanks to the beauty and flexibility of the web. She was also relieved that we took the weight off her shoulders. She has been an amazing boss and I wish she would continue, but she deserves her retirement. I will miss her dearly after she leaves. I am not sure what our future boss will be like, but I am not going to worry about it now. Que será, será.

Change is Coming

My supervisor announced her retirement at our staff meeting yesterday. When she told me a few weeks ago, before she made the official announcement, I was caught off guard. I was happy for her, but also devastated.

She has been a caring, accommodating boss. She trusts me to do my job and supports me whenever I need her. She gives me the flexibility to take care of my family. In a decade working for her, she never said no when I needed to take time off, even on short notices. We never had any conflict or friction. She has been the reason I had stayed at the law school until this day. I turned down several opportunities because I didn’t think I could find a boss like her even if the pay was higher. Even my wife has encouraged me to stay for our kids.

I am not sure what the future will be after she’s gone. I might get pulled out of the library and restructure under the school communications office. Even though I don’t do anything related to the library, I have had a wonderful working relationship with my colleagues. They are a diverse group of talented librarians and technicians. With a supervisor who shields us from office politics, we are able to focus on doing our job. I hope that her successor will do the same.

Trợ lý đắc lực

Cuối cùng cũng tuyển được người phụ tôi trong công việc. Tuy cô chỉ mới bắt đầu tuần này nhưng tôi quý trọng cách làm việc của cô. Khác hẳn với cậu trước, cô làm việc tỉ mỉ và thận trọng nên tôi rất an tâm khi giao phó công việc cho cô. Hơn nữa, cô học tập rất nhanh. Tuy làm việc với nhau nhưng tôi với cô chỉ liên lạc qua emails. Tôi thích cách cư xử chuyên nghiệp của cô, không chỉ riêng tôi mà luôn cả những đồng nghiệp.

Thú thật lúc đầu tôi không chọn cô ta là vì tôi nghĩ cô quá dư tiêu chuẩn (overqualified) cho công việc part-time này. Khi xem qua résumé, cô có bằng cao học. Hơn nữa cô giỏi Anh văn, chụp ảnh với tầm mắt nghệ thuật, và viết code rất khá. Trong phần phỏng vấn, cô chậm rãi trả lời từng câu hỏi. Cô luôn suy nghĩ trước khi trả lời và câu nào khó cô càng ngẫm nghĩ lâu hơn. Những người phỏng vấn đều thích cô. Tôi cũng rất mến cô nhưng tôi nghĩ công việc này không xứng với tài năng của cô.

Vì đây là công việc part-time nên cô không được quyền lợi nhiều. Tôi không dám hỏi về đời tư của cô. Chẳng hạn như cô có bảo hiểm cho sức khỏe hoặc cô có đủ tài chính để xoay xở cho đời sống hay không? Tuy không phải là chuyện của tôi nhưng tôi cảm thấy không công bình cho cô. Tôi sẽ cố gắng chuyển cô qua full-time.

Migrated to the Cloud

After hitting the CPU limit on the shared server at HostPapa, I knew I needed to make the move for the long run. I am so glad that Thủy Nguyễn, a long-time reader of this blog, recommended DigitalOcean. I hesitated at first because DigitalOcean is a cloud-hosting service and I do not have much experience with cloud servers. Fortunately DigitalOcean has tons of tutorials to help me make the move. From setting up the LAMP stack to virtual hosts to SSH keys to Let’s Encrypt, I was able to follow along. I had to destroy several deployments and started over. I hadn’t worked with the command line in a while and it was like rediscovering an old love.

I created two Droplets: one exclusively for this blog and one for my static sites including Vietnamese Typography and I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Vietnamese Typography is the cause for the CPU shortage. The site hosts tons of web-font files. I was thinking of limiting the number of fonts being served on the site, but it would ruin the purpose of the book. I wanted to showcase as many Vietnamese typefaces as possible. Now that the web book is on the cloud, I hope the traffic won’t blow up my budget.

Migrating this blog was a huge challenge. Transferring the database over was time consuming. I tried SQL dump, but it didn’t work too well. I finally just use the export and import tools provided by WordPress. I can’t believe it worked great. I still have a handful of things to take care, but I need to get some sleep. I hope to get back to regular blogging schedule soon.

LinkedIn Recommendation for Matthew Krishnan

Matthew Krishnan joined George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School as Backend Web Developer in February 2017 and quickly became an essential member of our team. With his technical knowledge, including PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS, he played an important role in maintaining and managing our content management systems: MODX and WordPress Multisite.

His skills in communication were even more impressive. He worked well with everyone around him in a professional manner. He went out of his way to support any law school member who needed web-related help. He even offered WordPress training to faculty, staff, and students who would like to update their own website content.

As someone who had been working closely with Matthew in the past four and a half years, I appreciated his patience, independence, and reliability. These qualities were so crucial in a remote environment; therefore, we were able to work in an effective, sufficient collaboration during the pandemic.

In addition to his work for the law school, Matthew studied tirelessly to earn his BS, with Magna Cum Laude, in information technology from George Mason University Volgenau School of Engineering. I admire his hard work and educational dedication. I have tremendous respect for him not only as a colleague but also as a friend.