— Nina Mehta

These are very hard times. It’s easy to look away and even easier to get angry. I feel the delicious temptation to start brewing hate against people who don’t want me here. But that, my friend, is the most important resistance. We must resist to retaliate with hate. The disgusting demonstration in Charlottesville feels so far away from California. It may as well be another country.

It is not.

These people are real. This is happening at home. It’s happening right now.

Do not confuse their anger with strength. These people are afraid. Their statues are being taken down. Their values are being challenged. Their country is changing. More people, different people, are here. Their slice of the pie is getting smaller. Well, to them, it looks that way. It’s not. They believe they are protecting themselves, their beliefs, their families, and this country. Their slice of the pie.

I see it with my eyes, ears, and heart. I see it in Silicon Valley. I’m sure the Googler last week thought he was doing the right thing. Tech companies said to create a culture for vulnerability. Say what’s on your mind. We said all ideas are welcome. We said to accept different perspectives and share your wild thoughts. Be brave. Be bold. Move fast. Break things. That’s how we innovate.

That’s how we win.

We didn’t know to include an asterisk that said you must practice human decency and kindness. We forgot to say to use the intellect we hired you for. We forgot to tell you to think about the repercussions of your actions. We mistakenly thought that was implied.

We model behavior from our leaders. We model our parents, teachers, priests, managers, and too, our President. Be careful there. Many people in America are afraid right now. Some are afraid life will change and some are afraid it will stay the same. Show them strength and show them kindness. Show them what it looks like.

There is one thing, that I hope, to you, is self-evident. We are all created equal with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are in a deep conflict. This is happening at home. It’s happening right now. And these, unfortunately, are very hard times.

 

Read More

I love late night wandering through the Castro. On this particular Friday night my happy hour faded into a barbecue, faded into a stroll home through San Francisco’s the sparkling gay district. In this story, I could have been in a taxi or buying a pack of gum, or at the gas station. I’m buying drunk pizza.

Under purple florescent lights, I crouched down to meet the slices at eye level through the smudged glass. I pointed at the melty green onion and sausage pizza calling my name. I held up a peace sign to the scruffy pizza guy with rough dust-colored skin. “Two please. To go.”

He flings the slices into the oven and we move to the register to pay while I wait. He asks me “Where are you from?” while punching numbers into the machine. I usually enjoy these kinds of conversations, I have lived in this Castro for seven years and I’m proud of it.

“Oh, I live in the ‘hood,” I say with a little grin while digging around my wallet for loose change. I realize in that moment between lipstick and an eyebrow threading punch card I’m also out of cash. I won’t have more than 10 cents to tip the guy. Shit.

“No, where are you really from?” he asks.

We trade folded bills and loose change for the sausage and green onion slices now packed up in cardboard box that matches the color of his burnt skin as my buzz deflates. I know this question and it only comes from other foreigners. He’s asking me Why aren’t you white? and Are you the kind of different I am? Did our moms go to school together? Are we long lost family-friend-cousins? In this moment I feel challenged and more American than ever. I belong here. Aren’t we in the Castro? A neighborhood for others.

I know how this kind of conversation ends because I’ve had it hundreds of times in taxis and 711s. To the cashier, this place isn’t my home and isn’t my identity. We could talk about if I have family in the States, where my parents were born, where my grandparents live, when they immigrated, how often I go back to India, and whether or not I speak the language. The longer we talk the more it would feel like a test on how Indian I am. Ultimately with a self-imposed guilt trip for eating sausage pizza. In any other circumstance, these are not the kinds of questions for any other kind of customer. But I’m the other other kind of customer.

“I grew up in Chicago!” I squeaked as I tightened the grip on my leather crossbody bag while clutching the pizza box in the other. I look up and see tan muscular men with well groomed mustaches and tight sport shorts finding togetherness in their otherness. I squeezed past them in this particular pizza spot and fly past two ladies ladies going in for their first kiss on the sidewalk. I jam my debit card into the ATM to take out some cash that’s going straight to my wallet and not in his tip jar.

Read More

This post was originally written in 2010.

Anticipating response from an employer you desire is hard. Every day feels like a year. In the age of Likes and Retweets, we’ve become conditioned to expect instant gratification and feedback.

Almost all design jobs will ask for a portfolio and many require a design project. Seize this opportunity to not only show your design style, but also how to present information, how you write, how you research, your design style and your coding abilities if possible.

Now, take it a step further. Want to stand out from a sea of resumes? Build a 1-page site that speaks directly to the company you’re courting. Show the team you love, that you understand their vision, their values, their voice. Show them you care about those things too. Explain why you’re a good fit. Use it as an opportunity to show things that don’t fit in your portfolio or resume.

P1040425 I included photos of books I was reading and linked to relevant blog posts I had written that would speak to them. I did this for at least 10 companies while searching for jobs and internships over the last few years. From here I would link directly to the most relevant projects I had worked on so they wouldn’t even have to leave the page and visit my portfolio.

When you apply create a unique URL. I would store all my pages in a directory called /loves/. So site for Twilio would be at http://ninamehta.com/loves/twilio. From there I can see how many people saw my work, how long they spent on the page and how many people visited the page.

If you’re so lucky to be invited to come in for an interview, you can also see if anyone from the team looks at your work again before you come in and afterwards. This is also a secret clue to knowing how familiar they might be with who you are or what you’ve worked on.

If your link got zero hits, it’s something you can be mindful of when walking the interviewer through your portfolio. If you know they traversed every crevice of your site, that’s also good knowledge to have in your back pocket.

The goals remain the same. The application is to earn an interview. The interview is to goal a second interview. The second or third interview is to earn a job offer. All-the-while be sure you are interviewing the company yourself and determining if it’s a good place for you to learn and grown.

Save time, make a template. Most employers probably won’t know you are doing this for other companies. Well unless you tell them. Or you blog about it 🙂 I did once tell a team I made sites like theirs for a few companies. When I hopped onto my analytics dashboard, I could see other company URLs they tried. Tricky!

I did not make a custom site when I interviewed with Twilio. So this process doesn’t necessarily work for every company or every team. But sometimes it does work and it did lead me to offers otherwise.

Read More

Ditch your laundry list of topics you want to write about. Ignore all the outlines you started months, nay, years ago. They’ll be useful later. Maybe.

My biggest writing secret is getting down what I have on my mind the moment the idea strikes. Usually it’s in the morning when the internet is quiet and my mind has time to wander in the shower. Don’t worry about an introduction, conclusion, the flow, grammar, any of it yet. Just get your raw message down. Edit later.

Continue reading on Medium

Read More

All house dance classes are challenging. I've never been to one that's not. They're also a blast and a wonderful way to party early, sober. There are several studios in Berlin. I hoped to try them all and become a regular somewhere but never found a favorite. And to be honest, considering it's Berlin, I expected the music to be better.

Flying Steps Tuesday with Peeps (above)

This class is about DANCING. The class is influenced by salsa moves, teacher speaks in english french and german mix, hard to get into but is a lot of fun and a great work out. The music is ok, some unwelcomed pop tracks and no freestyle, there is a little dancing across the floor. There is a waitlist, so I highly recommend booking online a few days early.

D!'s Dance school: Monday at 19:00

This one is a bit technical. The music is better for people who like the more techno side of house music. This teacher focuses quite a bit on footwork and some on the soul of the music. The people in the class are not so expressive, but the end of the class ends with freestyle dancing and no choreographed dance. This teacher is clearly a house head and influenced by ballet. This class is taught in German.

MOTION * S Tanz

I heard good things about the classes here but didn't get to try it myself. It's around the corner from Flying Steps.

News Articles

Resident Advisor: Dancing in the Dark: Jon Hester & House Dance In Berlin

Meet Jon Hester, the Guy Who Teaches Berlin's Club Rats How to Dance

 

Read More

Sometimes I feel too busy to read too distracted to finish. That’s why I love work book clubs! They help me stay motivated, show me new perspectives, and create a shared point of view to reference in my working relationships.

Continue reading on Medium

Read More

Losing a loved one is painful and personal. Figuring out how to grieve at work or support a colleague can be confusing. For me the heavy feelings come in waves, sometimes slow, heavy, and droning. Sometimes bright and sharp like a tiger in the face. It can change from minute-to-minute, hour-by-hour, and phase-by-phase. This makes it hard to know what kind of support to ask for, what to take, and how to describe my  experience.

I’m reading Sheryl Sandburg’s book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy about how she moved through the sudden death of her husband Dave. She’s right that “how are you” feels like a ridiculous, unanswerable question. But “how are you today?” or “how are you feeling right now?” is a much easier question to answer.

I lost several close friends in the last few years. That’s not supposed to happen this young. Going to work is so hard. In one case I was a manager spinning many plates and in the second at a new job still getting my footing. On top of the complexities of dealing with the actual grief, my internal dialogue was louder than ever in the office.

The internal dialogue

Am I acting weird? Can people tell something happened to me? Should I try to act normal? Will it be awkward if I bring it up? How many details are TMI? How much time off is too much? Should I feel guilty for trying to do daily normal things? If look happy at work, will people know I’m still in pain? Do they need to know? Is it ok to feel depressed at work? Do I have to explain my feelings to colleagues? 

When will it get easier? 

Story 1

At my last job, I didn’t tell anyone what happened until I snapped at someone in a meeting. It was pretty harsh and abnormal behavior for me. My manager was out of town but a thankfully mentor figure was in that meeting. She approached my outburst with compassion instead of blame. Once she learned I was grieving, I was immediately sent home with the pre-approved time off to get to rural Indiana for my friend’s funeral.

In some ways, that grieving process in the office was easier. There was a distinct period when I was off the clock. All my time and energy for the next week was focused on getting to her hometown and being with her people. After her funeral, I returned back to my daily life routine. The feelings of loss still showed up in unexpected waves but the world of her people lived in my phone, not in my daily experiences.

Story 2

More recently, while several weeks into a new job, I lost a long friend I recently rekindled with. We had a lot of history and future of friendship planned for each other. I messaged my manager over the weekend and attempted to come to work. Thankfully he and his manager also insisted I go home and take care of myself. My main function otherwise was a warm body in a meeting. The regular reminders from several people that it was ok to take time I need was really helpful, especially in a new environment. Also letting my manager handle communicating to the right teammates what happened was huge. It’s just a hard thing to talk about to people you just met, especially when the information is new. Talking about it makes it real. The personal outreaches were nice. It made me feel seen and felt and cared for. In this case, the friend I lost was part of the city’s fabric. People in unexpected corners of my network knew her and felt her passing. That makes it very hard to move on.

Confronting our mortality

The nature of death itself requires us to face our own aliveness. Our own fragility as a simple human being becomes real. Sheryl asks us to think of how the situation could have been worse. I think her sentiment is to help you be grateful for what you have. She talks about the relief she felt, and I agree, when other people acknowledged her pain and even better, shared their own experiences with loss.

Both friends I suddenly lost were artists. They were deeply connected to themselves but also relied on their art forms as a channel for their voice and personal challenges. The last memorial I went to had a guided meditation. He asked us to keep our eyes open, in a soft gaze. We made eye contact with others in the room and spent time seeing each other. During a time of grief, so much talking happens. Asking for support. Giving support. Recounting memories.

In this meditation, we all practiced being together, seeing each other, connecting with our pain, and also accepting something hard and unchangeable. She was a photographer. She said she wanted to make love visible, to help people see themselves as beautiful as she saw them, just the way they were. Some meditation practices say we cannot create (or destroy) space. But we can invite it and welcome it, which at least makes it possible to feel whatever the feeling is.

Read More

The easiest way to meet up with a friend is for a coffee, beer, lunch, or dinner. Here’s a list of alternatives outside the house I have actually done when I feel sober, full, and cheap. And really, if you’re in good company even shopping for carpet will be fun! So also checkout the sf.funcheap guide.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on


San Francisco Botanical Garden

This is not the Butterfly Conservatory in Golden Gate Park. It’s a huge garden with plants from Chile, South Africa, a bamboo forest, and a delicious sensory garden where you touch and smell the most wonderful plants. It’s free for SF residents with ID and a really nice relaxing walk.

10888423_10105087298644599_6996219831888381301_n

Play 50c games at the Brewcade

Hey children of the 90s, this jam is for you! Arcade games are about 50 cents and pretty fun if you’re looking to hang and do something more casual. Plus you can make Michael Jackson moonwalk again. Like Tutu Tuesday it will require some self control to avoid having a beer, it is the Brewcade after all. But if you’re hungry for Tacos, do not go to Hecho next door. Not tasty. But El Castellito around the corner on Church is my go-to spot and I think has a Taco Tuesday special.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

James Turrell Skygarden

One of my favorite indoor San Francisco views is hidden on the 12th floor of the Federal Building on Seventh and Mission. It’s free to enter but you must show a legal ID and go through a metal detector. Unfortunately it’s only open from 9am to 3pm Monday-Friday. But if you work in Soma it’s an awesome place for one-on-ones and rarely crowded. Here’s a great self-guided tour of the place including history on the elevators, architecture, and beautiful art in the basement.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Dollar Days at the Golden Gate Fields

Horse Racing isn’t first on my list either. But it’s actually really fun and kid friendly. I love this activity because you don’t really have to pay attention but can if you want. The races are short enough that you can get engaged for a few races then wander off and see the horses, get a dollar beer, dollar hot dog, or get distracted hanging out. If you might drink the beers, please take the bus or an uber there.

Hot tubs and yoga

The SF Fitness Fillmore location has a hot tub! If you and your homies have membership there it’s a nice free alternative when you don’t want an entire day at Banya. Here’s the cheap yoga in SF but you can’t really chat during yoga so it’s not a great option.

A photo posted by morgan sfunny (@morgansfunny) on

Flora Grubb Garden

This is a truly incredible flower nursery. The plants are very tempting to buy and way beyond my personal price range which makes it easy. I generally wouldn’t recommend hanging around in a shop if you don’t plan to buy. This is one of my exceptions. And if do want a coffee, there’s  Ritual Roasters in there.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Visit the Parks

I can’t not mention the parks, there are infinite choices here. Dolores Park is an obvious choice. Sometimes I bring my Doodles coloring book which is a easy alternative to an accidental $50 BiRite picnic. Duboce Park is great if you want to watch some cute pups. I love Twin Peaks on a sunny day and Corona Heights at night on an evening with a bright moon. Of course you can visit one of the many beautiful ocean-side spots like Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths, walk the Labyrinth and even the Embarcadero. There are enough guides to parks and nature in San Francsico. This is not that!

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Tutu Tuesday

Hosted on the second Tuesday of the month at Harlot SF in Soma is the cutest party with great Deep House in San Francisco. It’s $2 entry with a Tutu. The sparkling waters are free, hydrating, and come in the same glasses as cocktails so no one bugs you about not having a drink 🙂 But be sure to tip your bartender for the effort!

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Free Museum Days

Special exhibits are usually at a discount and most spots are free the first Tuesday or Thursday of the month. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in Soma has a beautiful well lit lobby with nice seating where you can bring your lunch or sit and talk for quite some time undisturbed. The Asian Art Museum is $5 every Thursday after 5pm. It’s a cool under the radar spot.

Read More

I came to Berlin with 4 things on my mind and now with some resolution.

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Do I want my next job to be running a design team?
The answer for me is no. Well. Not yet.

Hiring, shaping, and leading the Pivotal Labs Berlin design team is one of my brightest professional accomplishments. I wanted a highly talented team with diverse skills that compliment each other. I fantasized about a collaborative, caring, and resilient team that has fun doing great work far beyond my time. I loved unblocking my people and nurturing their strengths to become their best design self and started a related writing collection called The Ligature. When I look to my design mentors, I know the next step for me is to return making, designing, and doing great work.

 

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

 

What can I discover about myself as an artist?
The darkness of winter makes Berlin such a wonderful canvas for light artists. It’s the perfect landscape for the kinds of galleries, installations, and types of spaces I love. I visited old power plants, dilapidated breweries, and other vacant spaces. Spending more time with these kinds of installations and and artists helped me give new shape to my perspective as a participant and creator.

Living somewhere new also gave me so much to write about. For nine months, every Saturday I wrote and posted something here. Though, the readership was sometimes an audience of one, I have a more intimate connection with my internal and written voice.

And finally living alone deeply changed my morning and evening rituals. Unexpectedly, my yoga and painting practice became intertwined. I deep dived into the original texts from the Bauhaus School teachers and specific yoga practices and started my Bauhaus Yoga collection a medium. Nurturing these two practices together brought me a intimate connection to my mind and body as they relate to my creative and sensual self.

 

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

What can I learn from the minimalists?
This one is quite simple. I wanted to live, breath, and immerse in the home of minimalist architecture and design I wanted to see it show up in my design work, home, mindset, and way of solving problems. I sold nearly everything I owned when I came to Berlin and I’m going home with half that. I want even more of less.

Where is home?
My stylist told me it takes a year, a bike, and a breakup before you’re ready to really live in Berlin. He’s right. I surprised even myself when I felt called back to San Francisco: to my family, a place I understand, and where I can have an impact. But, I’m leaving a suitcase here.

Read More

A photo posted by Nina Mehta (@ninamehta) on

Summer has passed which means at least a third of San Francisco’s nomads have wandered though Berlin. The two cities are obvious matches for one another: both with their own versions of alternative lifestyles, young spirits, immigrants, and deeply complex socio-political issues.
Bay Area techies and house heads love coming to this cheap, spacious, creative, more underground, concrete version of San Francisco. Berliners regularly seem charmed by the optimistic dreamers and coastal views.

“When the wall came down, everything became possible.” That’s what native Berliners tell me about the magic of the German capital.

And it’s that very ideal seems to draw Gold Rushers to Berlin: possibility. I’m curious how many will stay. San Francisco used to offer creative, expressive, grand possibilities. Almost anyone could try on a new religion, new style, new sexuality, new job, new politic, new beliefs. The city would celebrate whoever you want to be this year, this day, this hour, and it didn’t matter how much money you had.

Silicon Valley looms over San Francisco like the evening fog. If you’re unprepared, you’ll be left shivering in Dolores Park. Even if you can pull off living in SF economically (hello rent control!) and will put up with smelly streets and sloppy public transit, the new rich culture makes many other city charms, that possibility thing I was talking about, much more difficult.

Which brings us back to Berlin. It’s an incredible place for San Franciscans to take a holiday. But living here is not so easy. We are not so patient with inconveniences. Rules, paperwork, structure, and formalities. Learning German is difficult but I believe is necessarily if you will actually LIVE here. If you’re not white, some things just won’t come easy. Most of you probably read my racism post and a lot of you disagreed so let’s not get too deep into that here.

Several of my German friends have sadly left this city because they couldn’t find a work. People in my demographic want to live here but the money and jobs are in Munich and Frankfurt. Good work seems to be hard to find in Berlin.

There is a tech scene here but VCs seem hesitant to take leaps on innovative concepts and practitioners are only now starting to get permission to do user research. And I hear my German startup friends complaining about legal barriers. It’s hard to launch in Germany! Techies need to ship. Things get pretty rough if you can’t move fast and break things.

I love Berlin. I love it so much. I think I’ll live here again someday. But despite all the problems in San Francisco, I haven’t found another city that has both a fetish for fetishes and Redwood trees on demand

Read More